Books in the Jewish mindset are more than just inanimate objects; they are respected and revered as if they have a soul. This elevated status of the written word reached its apex in the Talmud and in the medieval codifiers, who established various laws to protect the sanctity of books. A scroll of Prophets may not be placed on top of a Torah scroll, as the latter has a higher level of holiness (Megillah 27). If a house is on fire, one must rescue books before valuables (SeJer Hasidim, sections 275, 923). When two people approach a doorway, the one who carries a book enters first (regardless of the relative qualities of the two individuals) (Likutei Maharil, section 118). When a book is no longer fit for further use, it may not be disposed of disrespectfully but should be buried.
Considering this millennia-old veneration for books, it is not surprising thatJews embraced printing shortly after the technology became available. The first book printed with movable type by a European, Gutenberg's Bible, was completed in 1455. Only fifteen years later, Jews began printing Hebrew books in Italy. Hebrew printing soon thereafter spread to Spain and Portugal, and from there to the Ottoman Empire with the exiles of 1492. Hebrew incunables (books printed prior to 1501) generally consisted of the classic legal codes and Bible commentaries of the Sages of previous generations. Some had been authored almost half a millennium earlier. The only contemporary rabbinic work printed in this period was R.Jacob Landau's ha-Agur, which he issued in Naples in 1491. Landau,
Like their non:Jewish counterparts, the earliest Hebrew books were printed without title pages or any statements of where and when the printing was executed. This information-which can be determined today only by studying the type of paper and watermarks-was irrelevant to contemporary readers; only the content of the book was of any importance. The first book containing information about the book itself was Rashi's commentary on the Pentateuch, which was printed in Reggio di Calabria, Italy, in 1475. A colophon in the volume supplies imprint information, but makes no mention of the contents of the volume or its author.
With the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian peninsula in the last decade of the fifteenth century, entire communities-not just individuals and families-were uprooted and forced to relocate to distant lands. Upon resettlement, the Sephardic exiles immediately began to reconstitute their old communities and institutions, including the yeshivot. To satisfy the demands of these yeshivot and of learned individuals, the Nahmias family established the first Hebrew press in the Ottoman Empire in Constantinople. Their first publication, Jacob ben Asher's Arba'ah Turim, appeared in 1493 and was an immense undertaking. That the impulse to establish a new Hebrew press was felt even during a period of stressful transition is a testimony to the commitment of the exiled Sephardic community to traditional learning.1
The volumes published in the early sixteenth century lacked any personal statements or direct references to current events. For example, one must look long and hard in the books printed by exiled Sephardic printers in Constantinople to learn anything about the upheavals of the expulsion that ultimately brought them to the Ottoman Empire. Italian presses finally began to issue the works of contemporary authors in the middle of the century; a number of volumes by R. Joseph Caro in particular were printed at this time in Venice. Nonetheless, these works did not refer to the contemporary
environment. Only with the rapid growth of Hebrew printing by Jews at this same time in Prague, Cracow and Lublin, did authors begin to refer on occasion to their surroundings. Most notable are the works of the Maharal of Prague and his disciples, which occasionally mention developments in their communities (e.g., regarding education and life-styles). But still, as in the earlier period, the publications were generally texts for study and ritual use; books were not printed in response to contemporary developments or for ephemeral use.
With the development of Hebrew printing in German lands in the eighteenth century, Hebrew printing assumed a new mold. Traditional texts continued to dominate new publications, but it became commonplace for the contemporary environment to be expressed in Hebrew books, whether in a preface or in the text itself. A new style of homiletics in particular began to develop at this time. As can be seen in the derash of R.
Jonathan Eybeschutz, references and mussarpertaining to the contemporary environment increasingly found their way into the homiletics of the period. A great conflict between Eybeschutz and R. Jacob Emden, and between their respective followers, also provided material for a flurry of polemical pamphlets, which signified the emergence of a press that gave expression to the most recent developments in the Jewish community. But despite these new trends in Hebrew printing, the vast majority of the output of the presses remained works for scholarly and ritual use.
The second half of the fifteenth century inaugurated two great epochs in world history: the dawn of printing and the age of exploration. Just as printing attracted Jewish participation soon after its development, Jews also played a role in the early colonization of the Americas. Among the lands in which Marranos sought refuge during the sixteenth century was Brazil.3 Although Brazil was a Portuguese colony, the Inquisition was never introduced there on a formal basis, and the great distance between the colony and Europe afforded Marrano refugees a certain degree of security against persecution.
The Dutch conquest of the northeastern region of Brazil in 1630 paved the way for some of these Marranos to resume openly Jewish lives. Together with coreligionists from among the soldiers and suppliers of the invading forces, they established the first Jewish community in the New World. Hundreds of new immigrants-mostly from Amsterdam, but from the rest of Europe, North Mrica and the Ottoman Empire as wellgravitated toward this newest ofJewish communities. Brazil's Jewish population peaked in 1645 when it numbered almost 1,500 souls, representing perhaps half of the colony's European population. The community thereafter began to decline until it was dissolved abruptly when Portuguese forces reconquered the region in 1654.
The rapid growth of the Brazilian community was due first and foremost to the decision of the Dutch West India Company to issue an edict guaranteeing freedom of religion to all colonists. Additionally, Sephardic families involved in international commerce understood the crucial importance of establishing a wide network of representatives all over the world. Attracted to the manifold economic opportunities in Brazil, they did not
3 On Brazilian Jewry, see Marcus, CAJ, 1:67-84; Wiznitzer.
forgo the opportunity to establish their presence in the colony once the Dutch flag was raised and Jewish merchants quickly dispatched agents to further their interests. Finally, Brazilian-bound Jewish immigration was encouraged and well organized. The arrival in 1638 of two ships carrying two hundred Jewish settlers, for example, was the culmination of a project that an enterprising Amsterdam Jew, Manoel Mendes de Crasto, had first proposed three years earlier. Another large contingent ofJews arrived in 1642.
As small as a community numbering just 1,500 individuals may seem today, the Brazilian community rivaled most European communities of the period not just in size,4 but in infrastructure as well. Institutionally, the Jews of Brazil supported synagogues, mikva 'ot and schools; in terms of religious functionaries, the community counted among its members teachers, hazzanim, shohatim and rabbis. In 1642, during the second decade of the community's existence, its prestige was greatly enhanced by the arrival of Isaac Aboab da Fonseca, a prominent Amsterdam rabbi who had been invited the previous year to serve as the community's hakham.
Unlike later immigrations to the New World, which were haphazard and unorganized, this early Brazilian experiment was an impressive attempt to transplant an entire fullyfunctioning community over a distance extending thousands of miles to an uncharted part of the world. Such a development was unprecedented in Jewish history, and its magnitude and appeal is fascinating considering that DutchJewry was the most comfortable community in that period.
With the forced dissolution of the Brazilian community in 1654, most Jewish colonists returned to Amsterdam. Others resettled in the Caribbean, and one group of twenty-three hapless refugees ended up in the Dutch colony of Nieuw Amsterdam (soon to be renamed New York after passing into British hands). These twenty-three Jews are credited with establishing the legal precedent for Jewish life in North America, yet this incipient community dispersed within a short time and only one of the original members is known to have remained on the continent. The Jewish communities thereafter grew at a very slow pace for the next century, as individuals came and left. Even as late as the end of the eighteenth century, only about two thousand Jews lived in the new republic, and they were spread out in five states.5
Jewish settlement in Brazil had largely been an organized affair and care was taken to transplant all the institutions necessary for communal life, including synagogues, schools and rabbinic leadership. New immigrants came to partake in a grand experiment of community building and within a short time they succeeded in creating what was essentially a suburb of Amsterdam. In America, however, Jewish immigration was undertaken on an individual or family basis. The few attempts at organized immigration
4 Amsterdam Jewry itself consisted of no more than 1,800 individuals in 1655, including refugees who had fled Brazil a year
earlier. 5 Established Jewish communities existed in New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, Richmond and Savannah. The earlier community in Newport ceased functioning in the 1790s.
were drastic failures, from the initiative of the London community to divert indigentJews to Savannah in 1733, to the late-nineteenth-century Am Olam movement that sought to establish agricultural colonies in rural areas. Furthermore, many immigrants were uninterested in reproducing the communities they had left behind in Europe; in some cases the decision to come to America was based on an individual's desire or need to escape from Europe, whether because of a failed marriage, military conscription or simple economic deprivation.6
This anarchy had a deleterious effect on the development ofAmerican Jewry and organized communal infrastructure generally developed very slowly. Most colonial communities, for example, lacked organizedJewish schools and the Jews of Philadelphia lived for decades without a mikvah. Qualified religious leaders were almost non-existent; the first ordained rabbi did not settle in the country until 1840, almost two centuries after the arrival of the twenty-three refugees from Brazil.
The birth of the United States promised to herald a new era inJewish history. The federal constitution promised full equality and the Founding Fathers looked favorably upon theirJewish neighbors. George Washington himselfobserved approvingly in a public letter to Jewish citizens that the new nation "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance." Although many Americans viewed theJews through the prism of traditional and contemporary anti-Semitic stereotypes, tlle fact remains that Jewish immigration was unrestricted for a century and a half after the founding of the new republic andJews were generally welcomed in their adopted land. Jewish immigration to America began to increase in the 1820s, driven primarily by arrivals from Central Europe. On the eve of the Civil War there were 50,000Jews in the country, and by 1880 the number had increased to a quarter of a million.
Despite this general American consent for open immigration, not all Jewish leaders in Europe were ready to endorse Jewish life in the New World. As Jewish life became more difficult in Eastern Europe in the last decades of the nineteenth century, one would have expected America, which became known in the popular imagination as "di goldene medina" (the golden land), to have served as a natural refuge. TheJewish leadership in Eastern Europe, however, vehemently opposed immigration to what they considered to be the "di trayfe medina" (the non-kosher land).7
This opposition notwithstanding, more than two million Jews-most of whom hailed from Eastern Europe-decided to try their luck on American shores between 1881 and 1924. Restrictive immigration quotas passed by Congress in 1924 effectively dried up the flow of new arrivals. A few lone European rabbis, cognizant of the realities of the age,
6 Circa 1700, Ansel Katz, an AshkenazicJew, was arrested in London for a debt he owed. He was granted bail on condition that he remain in England. Despite the terms of his release, Katz made plans to sail to the West Indies and issued his wife a gel with a clause stipulating that it would take effect only if he did not return to England. This is the earliest known reference to an Ashkenazi Jew planning to travel to the Americas. See Yohanan b. Isaac, :::11 mUJJlJ (London, [l705?]), ff. 3-4.
7 An unusual exception was R. Meir Simah ha-Kohen of Dvinsk [Daugavpils], who recognized a positive element in American Jewish life. See his ,ilJ:m 71ZllJ l!JD (Riga: E. Levin, 1927), 207 (commentary on Lev. 19:18, "1'/:);) 1~l7 n:lOlN''').
recognized that European Jewry was shirking its responsibility to provide for Jewish continuity in America. R. Israel Salanter, for example, feared that European rabbis would be called to task in a Divine court for their apathy.8 The individual who bequeathed the greatest legacy to American Jewry in terms of spiritual leadership was R. Isaac Elhanan Spektor of Kovno, who encouraged young rabbis to serve American congregations and ordained those planning to settle in America.9 Similarly, R. David of Karlin counseled one young rabbi who hesitated to immigrate to irreligious America by recalling God's blessing: "In every place that I permit my name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you" (Ex. 20:21).10
From its inception, the Hebrew press in America was markedly different from its European predecessors. American publications almost always bore the mark of their environment. The first book with extensive Hebrew text printed in America,Judah Monis's Hebrew grammar (#171), appeared in 1735. Monis's book, however, was not published for Jews. Not until the following century did Hebrew presses in America begin catering to the Jewish market. Nevertheless, Monis's book already set the precedent that differentiated American Hebrew books from their European counterparts: Monis was a living author and he published his own work in response to local needs at Harvard College. (Following in the tradition of the early Puritan settlers, colonial Americans venerated the Old Testament and the Hebrew language.) The products of the later Jewish presses also served local and immediate needs. These works-many of which were of low literary and intellectual caliber, or were of an ephemeral nature-were infused with much material that reflected the American environment. They teem with locale-specific material in a way tl1at theJewish press of no other country ever did.
The periodization of Jewish printing in America may be arranged along lines similar to the periodization of Jewish immigration. The first period of printing commenced in the 1760s with the publication of Isaac Pinto's English translation of the liturgy for worshippers who did not understand Hebrew. The appearance of this volume, which lacked a Hebrew text, set a precedent that characterized early Jewish publishing in America: books were printed either in English (or German) only, or in Hebrew accompanied by a translation. The ready acceptance ofvernacular translations in America stood in marked contrast to Europe and the Ottoman Empire, which witnessed a centuries-long debate over the permissibility of publishing translations ofJewish texts.' 1
8 See #613, p. 193, no. 3.
9 R. Simeon Isaac Finkelstein, for example, consulted with Spektor on whether he should immigrate to Germany or America (see #705). 10 See #784.
II Rabbis in the Ottoman Empire even disagreed about whether it was permitted to publish u"anslations in Ladino, a distinctly jewish vernacular printed in Hebrew characters. See, for example, the preface to I:J'J!),7 Tn/no (Salonica, 1569), a Ladino u"anslation of tlle Shu/han Arukh. R. jacob Culi, tlle author of T.ln; 1:J.lJJ:J, a popular Ladino Bible commentary, was disturbed by the fact that he was publishing such a work in Ladino. He finally found a justification in tlle Bible to proceed: "It is time to act for tlle Lord; they have broken Thy law" (Ps. 119:126). On opposition in nineteentll-century Europe to vernacular translations, see Yekutiel judah Greenwald, 7J:JnJ iYlN (New York, 1942),81-3.
The first period ofJewish printing in America continued until the 1820s and was marked primarily by publications of an ephemeral nature. The tiny community of this period continued to rely on Europe for any books it required. With the arrival of increasing numbers of immigrants from Central Europe in the 1820s, a new market developed for English and German-language educational, liturgical and other materials suited to the American environment. The challenge of meeting this need was met by various authors and printers, none more important than Isaac Leeser.
Leeser was the most outstanding figure in the movement to strengthenJewish life in America. His activity on behalf ofJudaism spanned almost the entire second period of Jewish immigration and the allied publishing, and he may be credited with assuring the survival of Judaism in America while the community expanded from a few thousand individuals living in the major coastal cities to about 200,000 living in cities and towns across the country. Although Leeser lived in Philadelphia for most of his life, he was not a local leader; all of America was his field of operation, and communities from all over the country turned to him for help and guidance. Unlike any other contemporary Jewish clergyman in America (or in Europe), Leeser contributed to every aspect and stage of a jew's life, from childhood to old age.
Most aspects of Leeser's activities somehow involved printing. He published a litanyof"firsts"notjustforAmericanJews, butforJewsingeneral. Hisgreatest endeavorliterary or otherwise-was a translation ofthe Bible into English (#12). Leeser was the first Jew to accomplish such a colossal project, but his accomplishment is all the more outstanding considering that it was undertaken in America. The community in England would have been the natural place for the advancement of a Jewish translation, as the community there was older, better organized, more affluent and led by clergymen of much greater stature. Nonetheless, EnglishJews continued to use the Christological KingJames Version until Leeser's edition became available. (Leeser's version was reprinted in London in 1865.12 ) Despite the fact that Leeser had such an impact on the lives of more than 150,000 American Jews living across the expanse of the continent, largely through his dozens of publications, none of the classic bibliographers of Hebrew printing ever studied his works or even bothered to refer to him.
Only a few years after Leeser died in 1868, immigration from Eastern Europe began to increase. Centered on New York's Lower East Side, the East European community began to grow in the 1870s, and it then increased exponentially during the mass immigration era of 1881 to 1924. Its initial growth in the 1870s coincided with the onset of the third period ofJewish printing in America. This period, which was marked by the emergence of a vibrant culture of Hebrew and Yiddish printing, began with the launching of the first Hebrew periodical published in the land, m)7Jm i7rI.Jin,7 pICJ (#897). While ,7!mm was preceded during the previous decades by English and German-language journals, it was novel because it represented the insular concerns of the immigrant community and catered to its needs exclusively.
12 See #13. A pirated edition of Leeser's translation of tlle Pentateuch alone was published earlier in Europe (see #7).
The Hebrew periodical press developed first in Eastern Europe in the 1850s and 1860s, and the publication of ,iD7:!IJi, which mimicked these journals, must be considered within the same context. The environment in which ,iD7:1Ji emerged, however, differed from that of its European counterparts. Whereas the European papers were the products of a firmly-rooted, centuries-old Jewish community, ,iD7:!1Ji was unique in that it gave voice to an infant community in the process of defining itself in a strange environment. ,iD7!1,i and its successors contain an important record of the debates, tensions and products of this process, but they did not just report on the contemporary community. Rather, they were active participants in deciding its future, and it was through these early periodicals that American Jewry developed as it largely came to be known in the twentieth century.
The first Hebrew bibliography prepared by a Jew was Shabbetai Bass's Siftei Yeshenim, which was published in 1680. He was followed a century later by Hayyim Azulai (Hida), the rabbi and traveler. Scientific Hebrew bibliography awaited the emergence of modern Jewish scholarship in nineteenth-century Germany, and this movement reached its apex with Moritz Steinschneider (1816-1907). The center for Hebrew bibliography eventually expanded to Eastern Europe, and finally shifted to Israel after the Holocaust. Scholars in America also contributed to the field throughout the twentieth century.
All these bibliographers shared one common bond, i.e., irrespective of when and where they worked, they were utterly uninterested in American imprints. One can study the many volumes of bibliographic studies on Jewish printing by Habermann, Yaari and Ben-Menahem, as well as more than eighty years of Kiryat SeJer (the journal of bibliography published by Hebrew University), and assume that no Hebrew press was ever established in America. Collectors too have mostly disregarded American Hebraica. In the foreword to Ginzei Yisra'el, the catalogue oflsrael Mehlman's collection of Hebrew imprints that he donated to JNUL, Malachi Beit-Aryeh described Mehlman as "a bibliographer wise in all the highroads and byways of Hebrew printing and all the varieties ofJewish literature." Such a statement seems to be substantiated by the fact that Mehlman's collection includes the rarest imprints from Europe and every corner of the world (including India and China). Yet this impressive collection includes only one late American imprint. Just as the luckless Jews who immigrated to America were bereft of leadership, so too were the Hebrew books of America cast aside and ignored by the custodians of the Jewish book.
While the history of Hebrew printing in America has generally been neglected, non-Hebrew Judaica has received much attention. American Jewish bibliography e~oyed an auspicious beginning in 1926 with the appearance of A. S. W. Rosenbach's An American jewish Bibliography, "alist ofbooksandpamphletsbyJewsorrelating to them printedin the United States from tlle establishment of the press in the colonies until 1850." The gaps in Rosenbach's bibliography were later filled in with supplements prepared by Jacob Rader Marcus, Edwin Wolf II and Nathan M. Kaganoff, and an attempt to extend the terminus ad quem to 1875 was made by Allan E. Levin with his survey of the holdings of Hebrew Union College. The work of Rosenbach and his successors was integrated and greatly augmented
most recently by Robert Singerman, who once more extended lie terminus ad quem, this time to 1900.
These bibliographers recorded all items of Jewish-related interest, and in fact many of the entries were not the products of the Jews themselves, but rather of their Christian neighbors. Although these works are important indicators of attitudes toward lie Jews, they do not generally shed light on the activities and dynamics of the Jewish community itself during the mass immigration era (1880s-1920s). For studying the internal aspects ofJewish life during this period, Hebrew publications, particularly sermons and responsa, are indispensable. Few volumes of liis nature, however, are listed in the bibliographies prepared by Singerman and his predecessors, as the vast majority of these works appeared after 1900. Also, the pre-1901 Hebrew books that are listed in the bibliographies are buried among thousands of non-Hebrew entries.
The first American who actively furthered the study of American Hebrew bibliography was Ephraim Deinard (1888-1926), a cantankerous immigrant book dealer from Latvia. Aside from his literary contributions, he did more than any other individual of his time to rescue Jewish books from oblivion. By amassing huge collections in Europe to serve as the nuclei of what are today the major Judaica collections in American institutions, he saved countlessJewish volumes that would have been destroyed by nature, overuse or Nazi wrath. His most important publication remains Koheleth America (#1208). Published in 1926, the same year as Rosenbach's pioneering work, it contains a list of about one thousand Hebrew works printed in America between 1735 and 1926. 13
The usefulness of Koheleth America, however, is marred by numerous faults. The entries contain many errors, the volume is not indexed and many works were omitted-a conscious decision whenever Deinard held the author in disfavor. 14 Additionally, the annotations are polemical rather than scholarly. Despite all liese faults, the bibliographic data in Koheleth America has made it the standard work on Hebrew typography in America for almost eight decades. 15 The time has come to complete the task and the present work at last gives American Hebrew books the forum they deserve. Ajustifiable terminus ad quem for this work would have been the 1940s, when a new period in American Jewish history commenced. However, since the current project was originally initiated as a revision of Koheleth America, the 1926 cutoff date has been retained.
Bibliographies that list books and describe basic features such as title page information, collation and format shed light only on lie physical features of the books. They do not illuminate the soul of the book, thereby hiding the essence and importance of each individual book as it relates to its age and place. Entries in the present work have therefore been arranged by subject so that one may easily chart the development of a
13 Deinard published a preliminary edition in 1904 (#1130) and an expanded one in 1913 (#1153), but each pales in comparison to
14 Nehemiah Libowitz, for example, published more than a dozen works, but Deinard recorded none of them because of a running feud
between the two. 15 A few bibliographies of imprints from a particular city, of a particular genre or of individual authors have been published by Leah Mishkin, Eliezer R. Malachi, Sharona Wachs and others.
particular subject and its implications for understanding American Jewish history. The history of the Lower East Side, for example, cannot be understood properly without considering the derash books as one unit.
In this work, each entry has also been annotated with a biography of the author and a discussion of the book. This information places the books in their contexts and demonstrates their indispensable value toward reconstructing the saga of American Jewry. Without this contextual information, a bibliography remains just a list of books.
The American Jewish community is unprecedented and unique in that it has enjoyed equality before the law from the first day of the founding of the republic. Because of this equality, American Jews from the beginning have been involved in every aspect of American society. For the first time,Jews were free to participate in politics, reside where they pleased, engage in any economic enterprise and develop their full academic capacity without restrictions. Most importantly, for the first time Jews could write and print what they pleased and in their books one can hear the true voice of American Jewry from its founding.
The books recorded in the present work tell the story of how a people blossomed uninterruptedly from just one thousand souls to the largestJewish community in the history of the Diaspora.
Brooklyn, New York
15 Tevet 5766