Rabbi Isaac Leeser's Review of Convert and Early American Zionist Warder Cresson's "The Key of David"

c. May, 1852

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Rabbi Isaac Leeser's Review of Convert and Early American Zionist Warder Cresson's "The Key of David"
Autograph Manuscript
4 pages | SMC 1921

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      Background

      That Isaac Leeser influenced Warden Cresson to become a Jew, and Warden Cresson influenced Isaac Leeser to become a Zionist, seem fairly straight-forward propositions. But whereas the life history of the Philadelphia Rabbi was largely without controversy, that of the missionary-convert's history was largely without accord  - Leeser being, chiefly, a respected religious leader and Cresson, a despised religious dissenter. He may also have been quite mad. What was indisputable, however, is that his "eccentric" behavior caused him endless troubles. First there was the loss of his Consulship within a week of its bestowal - by which time, however, he was on his way to Jerusalem, blithely unaware of the reversal. Then there was his trial, on the grounds of insanity, in Philadelphia - a case he won, having proved  that despite having been a Quaker, Shaker, MiIlerite, Mormon, Irvingite and Campbellite, his conversion to Judaism was not evidence of lunacy. Finally, he became, on his return to Jerusalem, a figure of picturesque, rather than significant, interest. Yet for all his notoriety, his tireless efforts on behalf of his envisioned Jewish agricultural colony were prescient, and legitimized by Leeser, in the pages of The Occident.

      Leeser, who published Cresson's writings, also favorably reviewed his magnum opus, The Key of David: David the True Messiah, or the Anointed of the God of Jacob. That review is present in this manuscript, amid news of the American Jewish community, and touches upon, the trials and tribulations of Cresson's conversion:

      "The Key of David, David the True Messiah. &C by Warder Cresson; Philad. 5614 12 mo 344. Our Readers here had in former years several specimens of Mr. Cresson's style in various papers which he communicated for our pages, immediately upon his return from Palestine, after his conversion to Judaism. In the present publication which contains the above papers, with many others superadded, Mr. C. endeavors to justify himself for the step he has taken in embracing our religion and he moreover carries the war vigorously against his former associates. The work itself displays a great degree of shrewdness and not a small share of scathing argumentative power, and though not written in the style usual among elegant writers, it is full of arguments not easily refuted...We do not wish to be considered as endorsing all Mr. C. advances; nor are we inclined to enter into a regular review of the work; but we must refer those of our readers who are fond of high-seasoned polemical writings, to the pages of Mr. Cresson."

      Cresson died in Jerusalem in 1860, and was buried, as Michael Boaz Israel, with honors befitting a prominent rabbi, on the Mount of Olives.

      Autograph Manuscript, being text and a review for Leeser's newspaper "The Occident" May 1852 issue, 4 pages, recto and verso, octavo, no place or date (circa May 1852); with a newspaper clipping, apparently from "The Occident." Containing a review of Warden's Cresson's book, The Key of David, David the True Messiah, (circa 1851).
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