Page 203 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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SARNA / THE LITERARY CONTRIBUTIONS OF NOAH
1 9 5
SE TTLEM EN T PROJECT
Noah manifested his concern for Jewry’s future a few years
later in his well-known Ararat plan, his effort to create a Jewish
colony on Grand Island, New York. The history o f this abortive
endeavor has been detailed elsewhere.18O f concern here are the
two literary remains o f the episode: Noah’s brief “Proclamation
to the Jews,” and his far more comprehensive address delivered
at Ararat’s elaborate dedication, on September 15, 1825. In his
proclamation, Noah, calling himself the “Judge o f Israel,” issued
a series o f decrees, apparently aimed largely at Jews in pre­
modern countries; those, for example, whom he described in his
Travels.
Among other things, he called on Jews to remain loyal to
the governments that protected them, to abolish polygamy, and
to learn how to read and write before entering into marriage.19
His Ararat decrees went further. He reviewed the state o f
world Jewry, explained his colonization plan in detail, including
its implications for Jewish restoration, and then justified his pro­
ject in terms that he hoped bothJews and non-Jews would under­
stand. In his Ararat address, as in so many o f his other pro­
nouncements on Jewish affairs, Noah sought to prove that he
could be a good citizen as well as a good Jew, helping his people
and his country at one and the same time.20
Noah is remembered for two other widely-publicized ad­
dresses on matters relating toJews: his
Discourse on the Evidences of
the American Indians Being the Descendants of the Lost Tribes o f Israel
(1837), and his
Discourse on the Restoration o f the Jews
(1845). In
both cases, Noah relied heavily on facts and theories developed
by others; his contribution was to popularize and Judaize the two
themes, setting them forth in a framework favorable to Jews, yet
still familiar enough to be acceptable to non-Jews.
In the case o f the Indians, Noah adduced the usual evidence
“proving” their Jewish heritage: Indian traditions, similarities be­
tween Indian and Jewish rituals, and resemblances between He­
18 Sarna
, Jacksonian Jew,
pp. 61-75; for earlier studies see pp. 221-222.
19 The Proclamation is reprinted inJoseph L. Blau and Salo W. Baron (eds.),
The
Jews o f the United States 1790-1840: A Documentary History
(New York, 1963), pp.
894-900.
20 “Address o f Mordecai M. Noah . . . Delivered at the Laying o f the Corner
Stone o f the city o f Ararat,” reprinted in
Publications o f the AmericanJewish His­
torical Society,
21 (1913), pp. 230-252.