Magazines like this one owe their existence to the work of Solomon Jackson
Solomon Henry Jackson was born in late 1700s England to parents of Sephardic origin. At a young age he immigrated to the United States, settling in Pennsylvania where he got married. Noticing a great lack of Jewish texts in the New World, Jackson moved to New York and established the first Hebrew printing press in the country. With this press, he was able to publish the very first siddur/prayer book in America (a Sephardic one, catering to the majority of the Jews in the U.S. at the time, who were of Spanish and Portuguese descent), as well as the first Passover Haggada. He also started the first Jewish periodical in the U.S, a magazine called ‘The Jew’. This magazine was primarily an anti-missionary journal, published to counter the dramatic wave of missionaries that targeted poor immigrant Jews for conversion. At the time, approximately 3000 Jews were already living in the U.S., with many more arriving on its shores each day. The magazine thus helped disseminate information that prevented countless Jews from leaving behind their religion, traditions, and heritage. He was also an active leader in a nascent organization called Hevrat Hinukh Na’arim, which strove to promote Jewish education in America. In 1837, Jackson started a movement to bring more Jews to America (saving many from persecution in Europe), and settle the vast expanses of virgin land in the New World. He passed away in 1847, having built a strong foundation for Jewish life to flourish in the United States.
When it comes to Passover, most of the attention is placed on Moses (realizing this, the Jewish Sages who composed the Passover Haggada omitted any mention of Moshe!) Few give credit to Moses’ elder siblings (and prophets) Aaron and Miriam. It was the prophecy of the eldest Miriam that inspired the Israelites in Egypt to start procreating again, after they had previously decided not to bring any more children into such a cruel existence. That stimulus gave birth to Moses. It was Miriam who ensured the basket stayed afloat in the Nile, and who made sure Moses received a Jewish wet nurse (his mother!) even though he grew up in Pharaoh’s palace. Later, we are told that Miriam had a mystical well that supplied the Israelites with all their water needs during their travels through the wilderness. The Talmud explains Miriam was nicknamed Azuva (“left behind”) since she was physically unappealing and had a hard time finding a husband. However, a great man named Caleb married her for her spiritual holiness. Miraculously, she transformed into a very beautiful woman, and was thus renamed Efrat (which means “beauty”). This marriage gave birth to the ancestor of King David (and therefore Mashiach)!
Meanwhile, Aaron was the leader of the Jews in Egypt. Because Moses had a speech impediment, Aaron was the official mouthpiece and spokesperson of God. He also carried out the first three of the 10 plagues that struck the Egyptians. For his peace-loving and self-sacrificing ways, Aaron was later granted the high priesthood, and all his descendants became Cohanim. Amazingly, scientists have discovered a gene on the Y-chromosome that is shared by cohanim around the world, whether Ashkenazi, Sephardic or other. The gene traces back 3300 years, which is precisely the time of the Exodus!
Words of the Week
There are none so hopelessly enslaved as those who believe they are free. – Von Goethe