Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

Basic HTML Version

KAGANOFF/RABBINIC LITERATURE IN THE UNITED STATES
4 5
nition in America. In fact, to many American Jews, Leeser’s
name was mostly widely known because of this achievement.
Mention should also be made of Kaufmann Kohler’s critical
edition and scholarly German translation of the Song of Songs
which was published in New York in 1878. Kohler was a prom­
inent American Reform rabbi who later served as president of
the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.
SERMONICS
Isaac Leeser was also the first rabbi to introduce the English
sermon as a standard part of Sabbath services. He first made
such an attempt in 1830 and delivered only an occasional ad­
dress with the approval of the synagogue board. Eventually he
succeeded in convincing those in charge that the sermons
should be delivered on a regular weekly basis. Two volumes
of sermons were published in 1837 entitled,
Discourses Argumen­
tative and Devotional on the Subject of the Jewish Religion.
A third
volume was published in 1841, and ten volumes consisting of
these two previously published series, plus a third new series
of seven, appeared in 1867.
Although delivered from the pulpit as part of the regular
service, these discourses are not really sermons in the traditional
sense. They are not based on a text that is subsequently de­
veloped, but rather are extensive essays describing and analyz­
ing basic Jewish philosophic and religious ideas and concepts.
They were delivered and subsequently published to educate the
Jewish masses in the basic tenets of their religion and certainly
should be included in any discussion of rabbinic literature in
the United States.
The first more traditional Hebrew book of sermons appeared
in 1881 entitled,
Marpe Arukhah
and was authored by Eleazar
Uri Phillips who lived in New York City and was well known
both as a scholar and a scribe of beautifully written Sifrei Torah.
TALMUD AND MIDRASH
In 1840 the
Book of Jasher
appeared in New York. A work
named “Book of Jasher” is mentioned twice in the Bible, once
in the book of Joshua and once in the book of Samuel. The
original book is lost, but in the medieval period a spurious ver­