Page 25 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 34

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America’s Pioneer Prayerbooks
The prayerbooks used in the synagogues of colonial America
were those gems of the Hebrew typographical art then being
produced in Amsterdam. Worshippers in need of a translation
could use the Spanish published in Holland, and after 1740,
the translation of the
High Holy Day Prayerbook
fashioned by
Haham Isaac Nieto of London’s Bevis Marks congregation.
In 1761, there appeared in New York a fifty-two page booklet,
Evening Service of Roshashanah, and Kippur, or The Beginning
of the Year, and The Day of Atonement.
(New York, Printed by
W. Weyman, in Broad Street, MDCCLXI.)1 This is the first
published translation into English of any part of the liturgy for
synagogue use.
In 1761, colonial Jewry may have numbered 1,000—1,500,
while the Jewish community of England was tenfold in size.
Yet it was in colonial New York, rather than in metropolitan
London, that this first translation was published. The little
volume contains neither the name of the translator nor an
explanatory introduction.
Five years later there appeared in New York
Prayers for
Shabbath, Rosh-Hashanah, and Kippur, or The Sabbath, the
Beginning of the Year, and the Day of Atonement, . . . Accord­
ing to the Order of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews. Translated
by Isaac Pinto. And for him printed by John Holt in New York,
A.M. 5526.
In this volume (which also precedes any London publication)
an Introduction explains:
(Hebrew) being imperfectly understood by many, by some
not at all; it has been necessary to translate our Prayers, in
the Language of the Country wherein it hath pleased the
l For a discussion of the identity of the translator, see Abraham J. Karp,
The Jewish Publication Society, 1976, pp. 1-10.