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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      News Items 


      Philadelphia. We learn that at the late election during Passover Mr Samuel Adler was elected President of the German Congregation Rodef Sholem, Mr Joseph Einstein was chosen Vice President, and Mr Benjamin Grünewald Treasurer.  The Synagogue of this congregation was filled to overflowing on the late holydays, and the attendance showed certainly evidences of a maternal increase, in great contrast with the state existing not ten years ago. [text is crossed out]

      New Haven, Connecticut. We see it stated in the papers that the Israelites of this place are about building a Synagogue, to cost about 10,000 Dollars. They have just elected the Rev. Leopold Sternheimer Hazan & Teacher.  We rejoice to chronicle the appointment & have no doubt that Mr S. will strive to do full justice to his constituents.  He will enter on the discharge of his duties about the first of May.

      New York. We found an advertisement in the Asmonean from which it appears that Dr. Simeon Abrahams, in connection with Dr. M. Michaelis, Dr. M. Danziger & Dr S Hirsch, aided by Mr A S Van Praag Surgeon-dentist & the Mr L. M. Peixotto as Chemist & Apothecary will open a Dispensary for the gratuitous medical & surgical treatment of sick and destitute Israelites in the month of May at No 31 Bleecker Street, [text is crossed out] Indigent married females [text is crossed out] properly recommended will be provided with physicians to attend them at their own residences.  The dispensary will be open for relief on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday afte[...] from 2 till 4 oclock. We are pleased 

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      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.

      A critical Review of the claims presented by Christianity for inducing apostasy in Israel by Honestus. New York 1852  8 v pp. 34.  The author of this pamphlet endeavours to show that the claims of Christianity to be called a religion of love & mercy are entirely unfounded, since persecution, especially of Israel, has characterized its followers of various denominations from its beginning to the present moment [text is crossed out].  It is the first time that we have met the author in a connected work; and though we could point out several defects in style and argument, it still contains much which will enable an Israelite to stand up in defence of his religion when assailed by others.  We would remark in this connexion [sic] that we are pleased to see every now and then a book or pamphlet on our religion making its appearance in England & America; and though we have as yet not been able to recommend the works very highly with the exception of those from the pen of Miss Aguilar, they betoken the happy fact that the mind of Israelites is at length awakening from a long slumber, and that they are the forerunners of something better hereafter. -- The “Review” can be obtained [...] the bookstore of Mr A Hart, in Philadelphia

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      Literary Notices

      The Key of David, David the True Messiah &c by Warder Cresson;  Philad.   5612 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 [text is crossed out] immediately upon  his return from Palestine, after his conversion to Judaism.  In the present publication which contains the above papers with many others superceded [sic] as Mr C endeavours to justify himself for the step he has taken in embracing our religion, and he moreover carries on the war vigorously against his former associates.  The work itself displays a great degree of shrewdness and not a small share of scathing argumentative powers; and though it is not written in the style usual among elegant writers, it is full of arguments not easily refuted.  Mr C. has not met with the blandest treatment from his relatives since his conversion became known, and [text is crossed out] a court of justice had even to decide upon the soundness of his intellect.  Hence we do not wonder that he has felt the desire of both vindicating his own right to choose the faith he deemed the best, and of showing off the weak points of the one he has left.  We do not wish to be considered as endorsing all Mr C. advances; nor are we inclined to enter into a

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      to lay this act of charity before our readers, and we are sure that they will agree with us in [text is crossed out] thinking that the benevolent gentlemen who have started the project could not be engaged in a more laudable undertaking, which if properly carried out will go a great way toward rendering a general hospital almost superfluous.  We shall be happy to publish from time to time the statistics of the Dispensary if the above gentlemen will communicate them to us; since such “charity exalteth our nation.”

      Boston Massachusetts.   Agreeably to the announcement in our last.  In lieu of a manuscript account of the proceedings we received two newspapers, evidently intended for us to copy and hence we comply with the understood request copy from The Boston Herald of March 27 following:

      CONSECRATION OF THE JEWISH SYNAGOGUE YESTERDAY AFTERNOON. The new synagogue on Warren street was consecrated yesterday afternoon, with appropriate exercises [...] The synagogue is a modest edifice, and will seat from three to four hundred people. The altar contains the tent which holds the sacred scrolls of the law, a desk fronting the congregation, and one fronting the tent. The folds of the tent are of beautiful crimson silk damask, tastefully fringed. The desks are covered with velvet. On either side was placed six candlesticks, with candles, each of which was brilliantly lighted.

      The body of the Synagogue was occupied by the male portion of the audience, who remained covered during the services. The galleries were filled with the fair daughters of Israel, presenting a splendid galaxy of beauty, and we must not omit to state that a variety of beautiful flowers ornamented the top of the tent, and were interspersed along the galleries.

      About half-past three the services commenced as follows:  Rev. Dr. M. J. Raphall,  Moses Ehrlich, Alexander S. Saroni, L. Oudkerk, Chas. Heineman, B. Fox, A. Prince, and J. Bornstien, trustees, appeared in the vestibule of the synagogue. They exclaimed:

      “Open unto us the Gates of Righteousness, we will enter them and praise the Lord!"

      The door is then opened and the bearers of the sacred scrolls enter, saying:

      “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob! thy tabernacles, O Israel!”

      "O Lord! I have ever loved the habitation of thine house, and the dwelling-place of thy [...]


      We likewis [...] bjoined proceedings, which were sent [...] word of comment; they however spe [...]