Page 52 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
undertaking aimed to meet what Krauskopf, in a sermon entitled
“The Need of the Hour,” spoke of as American Jewry’s top prior­
ity: “We need first and foremost a Publication Society.”2 Kraus­
kopf thought it would take “some modern Judas Maccabee” to
rouse American Jews to action, but as it turned out he did fine
himself. Working side by side with Solomon Solis-Cohen and tra­
ditionalist Jewish laymen in Philadelphia, he and the Knowledge
Seekers put out a call for a national convention in Philadelphia to
which “Jews of all shades of opinion and wherever residing”3
were invited. The meeting had but one purpose: to call a Jewish
publication society into being.
Sunday, June 3, 1888, was, according to contemporaries, “a
great day in Philadelphia Judaism, for there was gathered there a
convention which included the leading intellectual minds among
the Hebrews in America.” Rabbis and laymen, men and women,
young and old — about one hundred persons in all — crowded
into Touro Hall in the building of the Hebrew Education Society.
Never in memory had American Judaism “been represented by
so scholarly, thoughtful and intelligent a body o f men and
women coming from such diverse sections of the country and
holding such various opinions on subjects apart from that which
brought them together.”4 What made the national convention
particularly impressive was the “immense preponderance” of
young Jews among those assembled. It was they who carried the
day when the Jewish Publication Society was finally born.
Morris Newburger, a member of the Society of Knowledge
Seekers, and a leading Philadelphia clothing wholesaler, opened
the convention, summarizing what had transpired in preliminary
meetings. He then vacated his chair in favor o f Simon W.
Rosendale, a distinguished native-born Albany lawyer (he would
later serve as New York State Attorney General) and one of the
most widely respected American Jews of his day. At this point,
according to the account sent by Baltimore physician Aaron
2 Joseph Krauskopf, “The Need of the Hour,” A Sunday Lecture before
Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, December 11, 1887. See also
American
Jewish Year Book [ = AJYB]
26 (1924-5), pp. 4 3 1 -4 3 3 .1am grateful to Rabbi Sim­
eon J . Maslin for making a copy of this sermon available to me.
3 Ephraim Lederer, “The Origin and Growth of the Society,”
AJYB
15
(1913 -14 ), p. 63 ; Abraham J . Feldman, “Joseph Krauskopf,”
AJYB
26
(1924-25), pp. 433-36;
Jewish Exponent,
May 13-27, 1892.
4
American Hebrew,
June 8, 1888, pp. 70-71.