Search By:
This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 2/28/2006
It was this letter by the first and earliest Jewish congregation in America that precipitated George Washington’s famous reply in which he expressed appreciation for the support of the American Jewish community and reassured the Jews that they were in fact, full-fledged American citizens and not merely a tolerated minority. Not only exceptionally rare American Judaica but a significant document in the history of American religious tolerance and freedom ! (A copy of Washington’s words accompanies this document.) Congregation “Shearith Israel” of New York was established in America in 1654 (in what was then “New Amsterdam”) and endures to present-day in New York City; their first synagogue was erected 1729. Following the election of George Washington as President, the directors of the congregation took the unparalleled, independent initiative to write to the few other Jewish congregations then existing in the newly formed United States, asking their support and collaboration to address and congratulate the President as a united voice on behalf of all the Jews of the nation. This venerable document is the exact letter written by the president of Congregation Shearith Israel, on behalf of himself and the committee composed of six notable members (all named) of the Jewish community of New York. Addressed to congregation Beth Shalome of Richmond, Virginia, dated June 20, 1790. THE LETTER: two pages (8 x 12) in bold, neat hand with fine signature of then President SOLOMON SIMSON (of noted N.Y. merchant family) who writes: “…It was agreed that the following circular letter be wrote to our bretherin [sic] of the different congregations in the United States…GENTLEMEN…We are desirous of addressing the President of the United States in one general address, Comprehending all the Congregations professing our holy religion in America, as we are led to understand that mode will be less irksome to the President then troubling him to reply to every individual address. …We should have given a previous invitation, had not our local situation for this sometime passed prevented us. That obstacle being removed we are now authorized in behalf of this Congregation and others who may unite with us for the purpose, to request you would join by giving us permission to include you in the address. …We will be thankful if you would transmit us a draft in what manner you would be desirous of having the address worded [so that] we may collect the different ideas of the congregations in whose behalf we may address. …We do not by any means conceive ourselves well-treated by the Georgians [the Savannah congregation had set forth on its own, writing a separate letter !]…who have officiously come forward, without any previous notice, and any essential service to themselves [as well as] hurtful to our feelings, as nothing of that nature could have been required of them unless done on a general scale. …Your answer as soon as possible will be acceptable.” The back sheet (pages 3/4) act as cover; addressed to “MR. JACOB COHEN, MERCHANT, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA” complete with “New York” postal surcharge. (Jacob Cohen in partners with Isaiah Isaacs were the first Jewish merchants in Virginia, playing influential roles in community life. Considerable mention is made of Cohen in works on American Judaica; he had served in the Revolutionary War and was recorded to have advanced substantial sums as a loan to James Madison in 1782. Documents in the archives confirm that he had direct dealings with Daniel Boone’s land surveys in Kentucky. Of the names of the committee which appear at the heading of the letter, a number are equally prominent in both Jewish and civic affairs in New York, including Uriah Hendricks, patriarch of the famous Hendricks dynasty and responsible for founding the copper mining and refining business in America in the 18’th century; Isaac Moses, colonial merchant and patriot of the American Revolution (listed as “Past President” of the congregation). The document shows typical aging but may be considered as exc. condition; few minor ink spots (original to it) and some light browning in areas, but all sharp, clear and readable. Encased in a custom leather, hard cover binding with gold embossed titling. Following receipt of this letter the congregations of Philadelphia, Charleston and Richmond responded by sending drafts to Manuel Josephson of congregation Shearith Israel in N.Y. who then took their suggestions and drafted a single letter (photostats of letter included) on behalf of the four congregations and sent a single congratulatory letter in December of 1790 to President Washington; to which his famous response was soon made. ALSO INCLUDED: copy of the handsome, recently published history: “Remnant of Israel: A Portrait of America’s First Jewish Congregation Shearith Israel” by Rabbi M. D. Angel, 2004. (It includes mention of Washington’s response and how it came about.) This remarkable letter by Solomon Simson 1790 is indeed one of inestimable historic and Judaic significance.
Click on a thumbnail above to display a larger image below
Hold down the mouse button and slide side to side to see more thumbnails(if available).


Click above for larger image.
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $15,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $31,725.00
Estimate: $30,000 - $40,000
Auction closed on Tuesday, February 28, 2006.
Email A Friend
Ask a Question
Have One To Sell

Auction Notepad


You may add/edit a note for this item or view the notepad:  

Submit    Delete     View all notepad items