Page 52 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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in 1856, in addition to adding prayers and translations from
Hebrew poetry, eliminated all references to Jerusalem and the
resurrection of the dead, and changed the concept of the Mes­
siah. Prayers were rewritten to express a concern for mankind
in general rather than for the Jewish people in particular. Fi­
nally, Wise’s
The Daily Prayers fo r American Is­
published in 1857, eliminated all references to sacrifices,
the six days of creation, natural wonders, and the Davidic au­
thorship of Psalms.
Elements of these various efforts were incorporated into the
most important liturgical Reform prayerbook, the
Prayerbook fo r Jewish Worship
, which appeared in 1894. During
the period under discussion there also appeared at least 14 dif­
ferent editions of the Passover Haggadah, either with English
or German translations. The first to appear was published by
Solomon Henry Jackson in 1837 and contained David Levi’s
English translation.
Isaac Leeser’s greatest accomplishment was undoubtedly his
translation of the Bible into English, which first appeared in
1845. In that year there appeared the text of the Pentateuch
in five volumes in the original Hebrew, with an English trans­
lation. The entire Bible in English translation appeared in 1853
and a second edition in 1857. This translation occupied Leeser
for 17 years. Leeser did not claim to be a biblical scholar, or
a philologist, and he made great use of the translations and
work of other Bible specialists. He himself notes that he based
his style on the King James version of the Bible which “for
simplicity cannot be surpasssed.” But he introduced so many
changes that the translation can virtually be considered an in­
dependent work. He made great use of the German translations
that had been prepared by Jewish scholars in the preceding
half-century, especially by Leopold Zunz and Ludwig Phillipson.
Leeser may well have been the first Jewish translator of the
Bible into English. He certainly was the first American Jew to
accomplish this task, and his work became the standard Amer­
ican Jewish translation of the Bible in English until the appear­
ance of the Jewish Publication Society translation of 1917. No
English version of the Bible gained such wide use and recog­