Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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Friedenwald to his son Harry, Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler “took to
the floor and talked until everybody got tired of listening to him.
He spoke o f storms likely to arise, and tried to conjure up all sorts
of improbabilities.” Kohler, German-born, German-trained, the
son-in-law of Rabbi David Einhorn, and one of the most radical
(and most brilliant) of America’s Reform rabbis — a man who
would eventually play an important role in the Jewish Publication
Society — believed that prior to any formal organization o f a soci­
ety there needed to be a specific plan “as to the literary work to be
done and the method of securing and selecting the right men for
the work.” He was also miffed that the organizers of the society
included only “a sprinkling of such whose position ought to offer
a certain guarantee that Jewish literature is well taken care o f ’—
men, for example, like himself and his fellow New York rabbi,
Gustav Gottheil.5 Many of the rabbis present agreed with Kohler;
they felt that those planning the new Society meant to exclude
them. Some even threatened to walk out.
In the end, however, cooler heads prevailed. David Teller,
president of Rabbi Marcus Jastrow’s Congregation Rodef Sha­
lom, effectively appealed for harmony. Rabbis Jastrow, Gottheil
and Kohler agreed to have their names added to the lay
committee planning the Society’s constitution, and Rabbi Joseph
Krauskopf had his name added to it as well. After that it took only
one hour for all the necessary documents, most of them carefully
prepared in advance, to be agreed upon. In the meanwhile, a
cablegram from Jacob Schiff, away in Berlin, brought welcome
news of the philanthropist’s first major donation to the society:
$5000 in honor of the recently deceased polymath and tireless
communal worker, Michael Heilprin. Following a well-earned
supper prepared by Philadelphia’s foremost Jewish caterer,
5 For accounts of the national convention that created the Jewish Publication
Society, see
American Hebrew,
June 8, 1888, pp. 70 -71 ; letters of Aaron
Friedenwald to Henry Friedenwald quoted in Alexandra Lee Levin, “The
Beginnings of the Jewish Publication Society” (typescript in author’s posses­
sion); the Philadelphia
North American,
quoted in Edward Wolf II, “The
Annual Report of the President [of the Jewish Publication Society] For the
\ 9 b l A J Y B
60 (1959), pp. 377-380; Ephraim Lederer, “The Origin and
Growth of the Society,”
15 (1913-14), pp. 62-65.