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.
Born in Baiersdorf, Germany, Joseph Seligman (1819-1880) showed a creative entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. As a youth he would earn money by exchanging foreign coins for travellers while working at his family’s goods shop. At 17, Seligman decided to go out on his own, boarding a steamer for America. In Pennsylvania he worked as a cashier for a salary of $400 a year. From his earnings, Seligman started a small business delivering goods to rural farmers, saving them from having to travel to the city. His first $500 in savings was used to ferry over two of his brothers from Germany. After building a successful clothing business, the brothers went into banking, opening branches across Europe and America. Their wealth continued to skyrocket, so much so that during the Civil War Joseph Seligman disposed $200 million in bond loans to allow the war effort to continue. Historians have called this “scarcely less important than the Battle of Gettysburg”. Seligman was later offered the position of Secretary of the Treasury, but turned it down. He would go on to invest heavily in the development of the United States (as well as Russia and Peru), pumping money into railroads, bridges, shipbuilding, steel, oil and mining, even bicycles and communication lines. Together with the Vanderbilt family, Seligman financed much of New York’s public utilities. In one of the country’s most controversial events of the time, Seligman’s family was denied residence at the Grand Union Hotel by Henry Hilton, on the grounds that Jews were not welcome. Of this H.W. Beecher wrote “When I heard of the unnecessary offense that has been cast upon Mr. Seligman, I felt no other person could have been singled out that would have brought home to me the injustice more sensibly than he.”
Haym Solomon (1740 – 1785) One of the major financiers of the American Revolution, he was born in Poland to a family of Sephardic Jews, and later immigrated to New York. (His father was the rabbi of the Sephardic community in Lezsno, Poland.) At one point imprisoned and sentenced to death by the British for being a member of the revolutionary Sons of Liberty, Solomon ultimately died in poverty for his incredible devotion to the founding of the United States. He single-handedly raised the equivalent of $100 million (in today’s value) to pay for the Americans’ final campaign against the British at Yorktown, which turned out to be the last battle of the war. Later, he lent what some estimate to be the equivalent of $40 billion to establish the United States and keep it from going bankrupt in its early years – money which he was never repaid. Many believe that the United States would not exist were it not for his efforts.
Words of the Week
It is a special kindness that God made man to walk upright, so that he looks upon the Heavens; unlike beasts that go on all fours and see only the earth. – Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789-1866)