In 1851, Rabbi Gotthelf's Louisville Congregation Votes to Send $100 Per Year for Jerusalem's Poor

July 17, 1851

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In 1851, Rabbi Gotthelf's Louisville Congregation Votes to Send $100 Per Year for Jerusalem's Poor
Autograph Letter Signed
4 pages | SMC 137

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      Here is a letter that speaks directly to the American Jewish experience. A diaspora people, connected to an ancestral and spiritual homeland they will never see, agrees to send its hard-earned money to the poor in Jerusalem. But once that is done, they then set to building, contentiously, a new place for themselves in a new land.
      Gotthelf announces the important news that in response to a visit of Rabbi Zadok ha-Levi, his Louisville congregation has voted to send one hundred dollars per year “for the poor in Jerusalem." Rabbi Zadok, he adds, has “very flatteringly” asked him to “supervise the committee”… Then comes a volley of complaints. The synagogue school is a disaster: the teacher bad, the parents impossible, the students behind, “especially in Jewish.” Without a school, however, Gotthelf fears for his job: all he gets is criticism. Would Leeser please send him the educational plan used in Philadelphia? An election is at hand, in which every hypocrite, bigot and atheist can vote: would Leeser lend him some support? And there are problems with the Occident: who takes it, who doesn’t, and why Gotthelf “temporarily” had to add a charge for handling the paper. The letter ends with a laugh or, at least, the report of one: Leeser had attributed authorship of an incendiary article to Gotthelf’s schammes – a man, Gotthelf rebutts, who could neither read not write English. This, he says, amused him and Mrs. Gotthelf greatly.
      Autograph Letter Signed ("B.H. Gotthelf"), in Yiddish or German, 4 pages, quarto, recto and verso, Louisville, Kentucky. To Isaac Leeser.
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