Page 54 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

Basic HTML Version

46
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
sion replaced the lost original. An English translation o f this
spurious version was reprinted in 1840 in New York; it was
published by Mordecai Manuel Noah. Part o f the purpose in
publishing this work was Noah’s belief that the Bible could serve
as a basis for a common civil religion for both American Jews
and Christians. Until recently it was maintained by many that
Noah himself was the author o f the translation. The latest re­
search indicates that Noah served only as a publisher; the trans­
lation was prepared by Moses Samuel. In addition to a preface,
Noah supplied a “large sum o f money for the original and trans­
lation.” Unfortunately, the reaction to this publication was quite
different from what Noah anticipated. There was not much
o f a Jewish community in America to respond and the large
proportion o f the American Christian community reacted neg­
atively. The volume, in fact, became a center o f heated con­
troversy and one prominent Christian accused it o f being a “libel
on the Christian Bible.”
Interestingly, another translation o f the same version o f the
Book of Jasher
appeared in New York in 1876, translated by
the colorful Reform rabbi and editor, Dr. Edward B.M. Browne,
popularly known as “Alphabet” Browne.
In this category would fall the publication o f what is usually
listed as the first work o f rabbinic literature in America. A re­
flection on the poor state o f American-Jewish historiography
is the very fact that we are not certain, even at this point, which
was the first traditional rabbinic book to be published here. The
honor o f being the first rabbinic Hebrew book published in
the United States has generally been assigned to Rabbi Joshua
Falk for his work,
Avne Yeshoshu°a,
a commentary on Pirke
Aboth which appeared in 1860. Even the typesetter at the con­
clusion o f the work expressed his appreciation to the Almighty
that he was given the privilege o f setting in type the first book
in Hebrew in America, and he gives his name as Naftali, the
son o f Kasriel Shmuel, from the community o f Thorn (Torun),
Poland.
In reality, at least two earlier traditional rabbinic books ap­
peared in the United States prior to
Avne Yehoshu°a.
The first,
entitled fTON '’pHD —
Sayings of the Pharisees,
was published in
Philadelphia in 1858. It consisted o f the original text with an
English translation o f Pirke Aboth and was prepared by I.L.
Lermant, o f whom we know nothing other than that he was