Page 55 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

Basic HTML Version

4 7
ing accomplished by mail, and at the meeting of August 19, 1888,
the results became public. The nine-member committee would
consist of Mayer Sulzberger, Marcus Jastrow, Joseph Krauskopf,
and Simon Stern of Philadelphia; Cyrus Adler and Henrietta
Szold of Baltimore; Bernhard Felsenthal of Chicago; Charles
Gross of Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Abram S. Isaacs of New
York. Three of these nine also served on the Executive Commit­
tee, four were rabbis, three (including Isaacs who was also a rabbi)
were professional scholars, and all had themselves published
books or articles in English on matters of Jewish concern. Four of
the nine — Adler, Szold, Krauskopf, and Gross — were between
the ages of twenty-five and thirty-one.
Of all of these men, the one who wielded the most power was
Mayer Sulzberger, one of Philadelphia’s leading citizens, among
the best legal minds in America, and a highly cultured and knowl­
edgeable Jew, who had a traditional background, and belonged
to Philadelphia’s Sephardic synagogue, Mikve Israel.9 To
nobody’s surprise, he was elected Publication Committee chair­
man. From this position, which he held to his dying day, he
shaped the Jewish Publication Society’s direction during its whole
first period of activity.
The Publication Committee’s first accomplishment, a joint
undertaking, apparently, with the Executive Committee, was a
thirteen page circular setting forth the new Society’s aims and
aspirations, and appealing “for generous sympathy, active
encouragement and liberal support.”10 The circular elaborated
on the need for a publication society, and spelled out for the first
time the governing principles under which the new society would
operate. Reread now, one hundred years later, the circular is in
many ways surprisingly fresh. Most of the goals and objectives
discussed back in 1888 are no less valid today.
The document stressed first and foremost the Jewish Publica­
tion Society’s potential contribution to Jewish unity. Through its
publication program, the Society promised to show Jews how
9 For a capsule sketch of Sulzberger’s career, see Davis,
The Emergence ofConserv­
ative Judaism,
pp. 362-65.
The Jewish Publication Society of America
(Philadelphia, 1888).