Page 49 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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Jewish scholarly world at large, and especially the T o rah world.
We shall see, however, that American Jewry has not only been
very prolific but a good p a rt o f what has been published has
been o f significant substance and quality as well.
I. 1761 to 1881
The origins o f the American Jewish community can be traced
to the year 1654 when a boatload o f 23 Jews arrived in New
Amsterdam after an eventful voyage from South America and
the West Indies. The Jewish community in America was quite
small until well into the 19th century. At the time o f the Amer­
ican Revolution there were perhaps 3,000 Jews th roughou t the
th irteen colonies. By 1880 it is estimated that the number o f
Jews in the United States reached a qua r te r o f a million.
During these two centuries, the New World was considered
a place that would attract adven turers and the type o f individ­
uals who could survive in a fron tier society. Added to this was
the fact that there were no settled, organized Jewish commu­
nities in existence with any strong religious traditions. It is not
surprising that o f those Jews who arrived very few would be
proficient in scholarship, especially rabbinic knowledge. Despite
all this the interest o f American Jews in religious matters p e r ­
sisted even in this type o f fron tier society.
What could be described as the first volume o f T o rah schol­
arship published in America falls into the category o f liturgy.
It consisted o f an English translation o f parts o f the prayerbook
that was p rinted in New York City in 1761. Its title was:
Service of Roshashanah and Kippur, or The Beginning of The Year,
and The Day of Atonement.
It was published anonymously with
no indication o f authorship . T h e volume is very rare; only one
copy is known to exist. In 1766, a second volume appeared
Prayers for Shabbath, Rosh-Hashanah and Kippur, or The
Sabbath, the Beginning of the Year and The Day of Atonements Trans­
lated by Isaac Pinto.
I t is quite interesting to note why the first translation o f a
prayerbook into English should have appeared in New York
in the New World, ra th e r than in England. Several answers
have been suggested. The Jewish community in England was