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This Day In Jewish History

by Mitchell A. Levin

388: Magnus Maximus, an Hispanic usurper to the throne of the western Roman Empire passed away. During his disputed reign Maximus issued an edict of which censured Christians at Rome for burning down a Jewish synagogue which was condemned by Bishop Ambrose who said people exclaimed: ‘the emperor has become a Jew’.

388: Magnus Maximus, an Hispanic usurper to the throne of the western Roman Empire passed away. During his disputed reign Maximus issued an edict of which censured Christians at Rome for burning down a Jewish synagogue which was condemned by Bishop Ambrose who said people exclaimed: ‘the emperor has become a Jew’.

430: St. Augustine of Hippo passed away. Augustine believed that Jews should be allowed to survive in a Christian world to provide credence to roots of Christianity. But Jews should live at best as “second class” citizens in that Christian world to serve as a reminder of their fall from God’s favor for rejecting Jesus as the Son of God and as proof that God had made the Christians the new Chosen People.

1189: The Crusaders begin the Siege of Acre under Guy of Lusignan. This two year long siege was part of the Third Crusade which is known as a confrontation between England’s King Richard I and Saladin. The siege followed the Crusader defeat at the Battle of the Horns of Hittin but was followed by Crusader victories near Jaffa. In the end, the Moslems kept Jerusalem, the Jews of England suffered under the rule of Prince John in the absence of the Crusading Richard and the Jewish population of Eretz Israel suffered further depredations and despoliation.

1349: Six thousand Jews are killed in Mainz after having been accused of being the cause of the plague.

1378: Having been promised the payment of 20,000 gulden in “voluntary taxes” in 1377 by the Jewish community, the city of Worms “was granted the right of extending protection to the Jews.”

1453: Zbigniev Olesnicki, Bishiop of Cracow and a heretic hunter named Capistrano, began a six month long campaign turn Poland’s King Casimir against the Hussite heretics and the Jews of Cracow.

1481: John II of Portugal who chose Abraham Zacuto to serve as Royal Astronomer, began his reign as King of Portugal. 

1511: The Portuguese conquer Malacca. “Malacca, Malaysia was in the 16th century a Jewish hub not only for Portuguese Jews but also for Jews from around the Red Sea and the Malabar. With its synagogues and rabbis, Jewish Culture in Malacca was alive and well. Visible Jewish presence existed in Malacca right up to the 18th century. Due to the Portuguese inquisition a lot of the Jews of Malacca assimilated into the Malacca Portuguese (Eurasian) community. They are a creole community often referred to as Kristang; and their Portuguese dialect Papia Kristang.”

1521: The Ottoman Turks occupy Belgrade. “The first written records of the presence of Jews in Belgrade date back to the 16th century when the city came under Ottoman control. “At that time Belgrade boasted a strong Jewish Ladino-speaking Sephardic community mostly settled in the central Belgrade neighborhood called Dorćol. The city's Ashkenazi Jews, many of them from Central Europe and nearby Austria-Hungary, mostly lived near the Sava river in the area where the current active synagogue stands.” Even with the official “second class” status accorded to Jews under the laws of Islam, the Ottoman Empire offered a haven for Jews who had been expelled from Spain and/or were fleeing the clutches of the Inquisition.

1565: St. Augustine, the oldest European settlement in what is now the United States, is established on the coast of Florida. According to Marcia Zerivitz, Founding Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Jewish Museum of Florida, "It is possible that Jews were living in St. Augustine as conversos or secret Jews when Ponce de Leon first discovered Florida. There are Sephardic names among those who lived there in the 1500s. This is nearly 100 years prior to the first settlement of Jews in New York in 1654. Documented Jewish history in Florida began in 1763 when the Treaty of Paris was signed at the conclusion of the French and Indian War. In that treaty, Florida was taken from the Spanish and given to the British. Until that time, Jews had been prohibited from living in Florida."

1619: Ferdinand II is elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The Jesuit trained monarch was an arch foe of the Protestants who ruled during the first 18 years of the Thirty Years War. His treatment of the Jews was uneven to say the least. It was influenced by his hatred of the Protestants, the needs to finance the war and his Jesuit training. He protected the right of Jews to live in Worms and Frankfort because the Protestants had tried to drive them out of the city. He warned his generals not treat the Jews harshly since they were a source of funds for their fight. This protection came at a high price as can be seen by the 40,000 florins that the Jews of Bohemia were forced to contribute annually to support the war effort. He did play a role in the unfortunate affair surrounding Lipmann Heller, but the original cause of the affair was one of jealousy in the Prague Jewish community. Once the emperor was involved no good could come of the matter. He did order the Rabbi brought to court in chains and even though he was found innocent of the charges, his Jewish opponents would not stop their attacks which resulted in the Emperor removing him as the Chief Rabbi in the Bohemian city. Now that the Jews had brought themselves to the Catholic monarch’s attention, he issued a decree in February, 1630, compelling the Jews to listen to conversation sermons every Saturday morning between eight and nine. Two hundred Jews of both sexes had to be in attendance and at least forty of them had to be between 15 and twenty years of age. The Jesuit trained monarch hoped these measures would lead to mass conversion of Jews. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for the Jews, the Jesuits to whom he entrusted this task were more concerned with fighting Protestants than converting Jews.

1655: Peter Stuyvesant barred Jews from military service. Asher Levy led the fight for Jews to able to serve as part of the local guard force. He rejected the notion of paying a special tax in lieu of military service. Service in the militia was the sign of first class citizenship. In a resolution of the New Amsterdam Council, Stuyvesant writes, "Whether the Jewish people who reside in this city, should also train and mount guard with the citizen's bands, this was taken into consideration, and deliberated upon…" The result was that the Dutch members of the citizen guard had a "disinclination" and "unwillingness" to be on guard with Jews in the same guardhouse. They also pointed out that Jews were "not counted among the citizens…"

1703 The Aleinu prayer was prohibited in Brandenberg, Germany. Aleinu,( עָלֵינוּ) composed by Rav (one of the great Talmudist (d. 247)) had been part of the ritual prayer for almost 1500 years. It served as a focal point for anti-Jewish attacks. Although the wording "For they bow down to emptiness and vanity and to a God that cannot save" which was taken from Isaiah (45:20) referred to idol-worshipers, some Christian leaders claimed it was an attack on Christianity. The part of the prayer was eventually eradicated from the Ashkenazic siddur (prayerbook) entirely and only reprinted recently.

1766: Birthdate of Simon Edler von Lamel the native of Bohemia who became a leading Austrian merchant while working to improve the conditions of his fellow Jews as could be seen by his efforts to reduce their taxes. (Something that was not intended to benefit him)

1789: In France, adoption of the declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

1797: Four months after the entry of the French army into Padua Italy, the provisional government decreed that "Jews are able to live in every part of the city." Jews enlisted in the National Guard and the main street in the ghetto was changed to Via Libera. Unfortunately as in most parts of Italy, the newly won freedom only lasted until the arrival of Austrian troops 8 months later.

1799: Birthdate of Immanuel Wolf who gained fame as German Jewish educator Immanuel Wohlwill.

1828: Birthdate of Count Leo Tolstoy. As one commentator has said, Tolstoy did not like Jews, but he did not hate them which made him a cut above other Russian authors such as Dostoyevsky. In 1881 he reluctantly signed a private letter to the Czar protesting a pogrom and publicly protested the infamous pogrom at Kishinev. On the other hand, he held Jews responsible, in part, for loss of the war with Japan. In the twilight of his career he expressed a desire to write how the teachings of Jesus, “who was not a Jew” were replaced by the teachings of Paul, who was a Jew.

1833: The British enact the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 which put abolished slavery throughout the British Empire. One of the driving forces behind this was William Wilberforce  who also was a leader of London’s Jews Society, a missionary Christian group who advocated the return of the Jewish people to Eretz Israel. 

1840: During the Damascus Affair, Mehemet Ali’s personal physician, who was Jewish, removed a boil from the royal buttock. During the procedure, the doctor is reported to have told the Khedive that he would soon need all of his strength including the support of six million Jewish voices raised in his support.

1840: In attempt to avoid appearing to be caving into pressure from the European powers, Mehmet Ali dispatched an order to Damascus order that the Jewish prisoners should be set free much to the joy of Montefiore, Cremiuex and the Jews of Egypt, where he three synagogues in Alexandria “resounded with prayers of thanksgiving and blessing for Mehment Al…” The joy of the Jewish leaders would be dampened when they read the text of the document which “implied that the Jews were guilty” and that they were being released as an act of mercy.

1845: French banker Jules Isaac Mires sued his brother Alphonse, a wine merchants and his brother Edward in the Court of Assizes.

1853: Henry David Thoreau’s journal entry described what would become “the ancestral vine to all of Lower East Side sugary sweet kosher wine.”  “I detect my neighbor’s ripening grapes by the scent twenty rods off, though they are concealed behind his house. Every passer knows of them. Perhaps he takes me to his back door a week afterward and shows me with an air of mystery his clusters concealed under the leaves, which he thinks will be ripe in a day or two—as if it were a secret. He little thinks that I smelled them before he did.” (As reported by Laurie Gwen Shapiro)

1860: A column entitled General City News published today reported that “a new Jewish Congregation has been organized in this City, which for now is worshiping in Cooper Institute, Room No. 24 in the Cooper Institute, under the guidance of Rabbi Bondi, “whose learning and popularity will no doubt tend to advance this organization to the foremost rank among the Israelitish Congregations in this City.”

1864: Ferdinand Johann Gottlieb Lassalle was mortally wounded when he fought duel with Count von Racowitza, the brother of Helene von Dönniges. The two had fallen in love, but her family opposed the marriage.  

1869: Twelve year old Gottlieb Schumacher, the son of Jacob Schumach, arrived in Haifa from Buffalo today.

1871: In New York, the B’nai Brith held their annual meeting at the Masonic Hall during which they elected officers for the coming year and heard the Treasurer reported that the balance on hand was $46,378.29.

1873: A man named Irving who was in a San Francisco jail confessed to being the killer of New York businessman and Jewish community leader, Benjamin Nathan.

1874: Based on information that first appeared in the London Echo, that Edgardo Mortara is now Father Pius Mortara, an Augustine friary in the Monastery of Notre Dame de Beacuhene. At the age of six, Mortara was secretly baptized by a servant girl and then “kidnapped: by agents of the Papacy who raised him as a Catholic.

1874: In New York Fabian and Theresa Saxe gave birth to Martin Saxe, the New York State Senator who introduced a bill that would have banned public announcements such as were used by numerous establishments stating that "Jewish patronage is not solicited." The bill was inspired by an episode involving Bertha Rayner Frank in which she was refused a room at a hotel in Atlantic City. (

1878: As Louisiana continued to grapple with the latest Yellow Fever Epidemic, it was reported today that Messrs. Levy, Loeb, Scheuer & Co. of New York has received and forwarded to Turo Infirmary and the Hebrew Benevolent Association of New Orleans the sum of $65.00

1878: The Hebrew Ladies’ Benevolent Society of Montgomery, Alabama, sent $100 to those suffering during the Yellow Fever Epidemic.

1880: Leopold de Rothschild was present at the cricket match played at Ascot House which lead to the family taking a leading role “in the formation of the Buckinghamshire County Cricket Club.”

1880: “Jews in Germany” published today cites information from the Pall Mall Gazette that “the silly season in Germany promises again to be enlivened by a crusade again the Jews.”

1881: It was reported today that Richard Andree, a German ethnographist who has been studying the world’s Jewish population for the last 11 years says there are 6,080,000 Jews in the world.  This includes 403,000 in Africa, 183,000 in Asia, 308,000 in American and 20,000 Australia.  His figures do include the Falashas or “pseudo-Jews.”

1882: The New York Times reviewed The Prophets of Israel and Their Place in History by W. Robertson Smith.

1882: It was reported that there 2,525 students enrolled in the various Sunday Schools hosted by New York’s Temples and Synagogues.  (This is a misleading number for anybody who knows how Jews educate their children)

1883: “Affairs In Foreign Lands” published today described riots against the Jews in Hungary and Russia where recent attacks on the Jews at Ekaterinoslav destroyed 346 houses and caused damage valued at 611,000 rubles and attacks on the Jews of Berchadi destroyed 80 houses leaving the inhabitants “without shelter and suffering great privations.

1883(25th of Av, 5643): Eighty-six year old Solomon Plessner whose controversial views forced him to leave Berlin and settle at Posen in 1843 where he served as a rabbi until he passed away today.

1883: As violence aimed at Jews worsened it was reported today that “the Russian government has made a serious effort “to suppress the outbreaks against the Jews” while “there are many indications that the authorities at Vienna and Budapest are not seriously trying to protect the Jews.”  (In other words, for once the Czar is trying to do something to protect his Jews, while Emperor Franz Josef is not) 

1883: Following their meeting last month at the British Museum where they discussed the antiquity of a scroll of Deuteronomy recently discovered by Moses Shapira, he wrote to Edward A. Bond from Amsterdam asking him to reconsider his evaluation of the scroll contending that “the sin of believing in a false document is much greater than disbelieving the truth.  The tendency of showing great scholarship by detecting forgery is rather great in our age.”

1884: It was reported today that Adolph Meyer, a wealthy Jewish cotton merchants, is challenging Representative Carlton Hunt for the 1stCongressional District in Louisiana.  Meyer is a Democrat while Hunt is a Republican supported by the sugar cane and rice planters.  (Meyer would have to wait until 1901 before he would win a seat in Congress)

1887: Lizzie Kauffman, the young German-Jewess whose body had been found floating in the river at Philadelphia is scheduled to be buried today by the Hebrew Association.

1888: It was reported today that Dr. John T. Nagle, the Deputy Register of Records at the Sanitary Headquarters has complained to Commissioner John Griffin that a Polish Jew was buried at Cypress Hills surrounded by “a few boards” rather than in a coffin.  He considered this burial, which is common among Polish Jews to be “unsanitary.”

1889(1st of Elul, 5649): Rosh Chodesh Elul

1890: As of today, it was reported that the Sanitarium for Hebrew Children has received donations totaling $8,000.17 including $309.70 from Isaac Stern, $306 from Benjamin Stern and $5 from Herman Mendel.

1890: Adolph Eisner who has been Superintendent of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in Brooklyn for the last six years left the asylum today “telling his wife that he was going to Coney Island.”

1891: Jewish immigrants from Russia, most of whom are penniless and do not speak English have begun arriving in Detroit, Michigan.

1891: A Jewish agricultural colony was established in New Jersey. This was one of several attempts at Jewish settlement in the Americas. The failure of most of these projects confirmed the view that Jews needed a historical and religious link to the soil upon which they would work in order for them to succeed.

1892: Today is the last day for the accused murders of Jake Marks to appeal for a writ of habeas corpus and avoid extradition from Canada to the United States.  The victim and the accused (Blank and Rosenweig) are all Jewish.

1892: Four year old Ida Samyan, the daughter of Russian Jewish couple who had just arrived in London from Hamburg was admitted to the London “suffering with the symptoms of Asiatic Cholera.

1892: “The Prophets of Israel” published today provides a detailed review of Prophètes d'Israel par James Darmesteter published by Calmann-Levy.

1892: In Deadwood, South Dakota, the Hebrew Cemetery Association purchased a section in the new cemetery for Jewish burials for the sum of $200. Hebrew Hill, as the Jewish area was called locally, is located at the top right-hand side of the cemetery and is accessible via a pathway marked "Jerusalem," which is most likely a Masonic, rather than a Jewish, reference. While there are more than 80 Jews buried up on Hebrew Hill, or Mount Zion as it was known among the community, Deadwood's most famous Jewish citizen, Sol Star, is not among them. In accordance with the wishes of his family, Star lies in the Mount Sinai Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. Two hundred and fifty meters up from the Jewish section lies the grave of Deadwood's first sheriff and Star's long-time friend and business partner, Seth Bullock. Among the Jews who are interred on Hebrew Hill is Harris Franklin, né Finkelstein. Franklin was said to have been Deadwood's wealthiest man, having made his fortune - estimated at $5 million - from the liquor business and the mining industry. Given his status and wealth, it is unsurprising that the Franklin headstone is the largest in the cemetery. His name is perpetuated in Deadwood through the Franklin Hotel in which he was the largest investor. The Franklin name is also prominent in the city's annals owing to Harris's son, Nathan, who became the second Jewish mayor of Deadwood in 1914, running on an anti-Prohibition platform. Also buried in the cemetery is the Colman family, who arrived in Deadwood from Germany in the spring of 1877. In 1878, Nathan Colman (born Kugelmann) was appointed justice of the peace, an office he held until his death in 1906. Colman was also the lay religious leader for the Jewish community and officiated at the first Jewish wedding in the Black Hills, when Rebecca Reubens married David Holzman

1894: It was reported today that there are 5,000 Orthodox Jews in Newark, NJ who worship at seven different synagogues. 

1894: As the leaders of the Central Labor Federation and the Central Labor Union compete for power and membership, Abraham Cahan, the leader of the Jewish Socialists has expressed his dissatisfaction with the leadership of the Central Labor Federation and wants his supporters to join the Central Labor Union.

1895: The Board of Health has been told to improve the safety of the bathhouse at 26 Ridge Street following the accidental drowning of 4 year old Sarah Rubin who had fallen into the tank that had no railing around it.

1897: At two o’clock this morning nephew of Charles Fleischmann” went to Bellevue Hospital and asked that a doctor come out to his yacht, the Hiawatha and examine his uncle who seemed to be quite ill.  After examining him, the doctor “intimated that his condition was serious.”

1898: “Many Themes Stir Paris” published today described the happenings in the French capital including Jules Guerin’s decision to start a new anti-Semitic paper L’Antijuif

1898: The Second Zionist Congress convenes in Basel and hears an address from Dr. Max Nordeau. Herzl's father is among the delegates.

1898: Abram Herschberger “installed as the rabbi at the North Side Temple on Goethe Street in Chicago, Illinois.

1899: “Light From A Russian General On The Dreyfus Case” published today provided information about the soon to be published memoirs of the late General Annenkoff which “include certain evidence tending to prove that Henry and Esterhazy delivered War Office documents to the agents of several foreign powers.”

1900: Birthdate of Alexander Zeitlin who was a leading figure in the Air Force’s Heav