This week we remember Hazzan Abraham Lopes Cardozo. Rev. Cardozo was Hazzan of Shearith Israel From 1946 until his retirement in 1984. He was the embodiment of the Western Sephardic liturgical tradition that was brought to North America from Amsterdam via Recife, Montreal, and the Caribbean, among other places. He was the spiritual and musical teacher of the present Rabbi of Mikveh Israel, R. Albert Gabbai, bringing some of his rich influence to Philadelphia. Rabbi Gabbai would often invite Rev. Cardozo to come to Philadelphia for High Holidays and other occasions after his retirement.
Rev. Cardozo was born on September 27, 1914. His father, Joseph Lopes Cardozo, was the leader of the boys choir at the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam. He was also a violinist, and along with Cardozo and his two brothers, the foursome formed a band that played at various gatherings and communal holiday celebrations. They all could play keyboards and also string, reed, and brass instruments. Of course, Bram, as Abraham Cardozo was known, grew up completely immersed in music of all kinds and had a natural talent. He even played piano as a toddler. As he grew, he could play any piece he heard by ear.
At 18, Bram Cardozo earned his degree as a Hebrew teacher from the Ets Haim Seminary in Amsterdam. A few years later in 1938, he answered an advertisement for a Hazzan who was needed for a congregation in Surinam, Zedek Ve-Shalom. The ad was placed by his future father-in-law, Judah Robles, who was Parnas of the synagogue at the time. After much deliberation over different candidates, Bram Cardozo was chosen because of his credentials and also because the salary, paid for by the Dutch government, and living conditions were appropriate for a single young man. He arrived in Paramaribo, Suriname on September 9, 1939. As it turned out, this appointment saved his life. All of the rest of his family in Holland perished in the Holocaust. Throughout his life, he observed Tisha B’Ab as the Nahalah (anniversary) for all of his relatives that were murdered, as this is the national Jewish day of mourning.
In 1945, Rev. Cardozo took a six-month leave of absence from his job as Hazzan in Suriname, and headed to New York. The Suriname community was declining in the wake of the war, and he wanted to expand his horizons and look for other opportunities. New York City provided the perfect vibrant Jewish community for him to spread his wings. Of course, Rev. Cardozo found his way to the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue, Shearith Israel. There, as a visiting Hazzan of a sister synagogue, he was invited to lead services. This led to an offer to join the congregational staff as an Assistant Hazzan, which he accepted. After returning to Suriname to give notice to a very disappointed Mr. Robles, be began his long tenure at Shearith Israel on January 1, 1946.
Immediately on starting as Hazzan, Rev. Cardozo reunited with the daughter of his former Parnas in Suriname, Irma Miriam Robles, who was working in New York and attending Shearith Israel regularly. They shared many of the same friends and grew close over the next few years. In December of 1950 they became engaged, and had a beautiful wedding on March 11, 1951, officiated by Rev. Dr. David de Sola Pool of Shearith Israel, assistant minister Rev. Dr. Louis Gerstein, and Rev. David Jessurun Cardozo, the Rabbi of sister congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia. Of course, the first piece of furniture they acquired for their new home was a piano – a Baldwin Acrosonic upright. The Cardozos had two daughters, Debby and Judy born in 1952 and 1955.
Rev. Cardozo was devoted to and strictly upheld the Spanish and Portuguese minhag, though in his private life he also appreciated other traditions. In many ways he was a living bridge between the Old World represented by the Amsterdam Sephardi community which was made up of descendants of refugees from the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal, and the New World in the first congregation in America. As the Amsterdam community was being decimated by the Nazis, Cardozo escaped just in time and continued the traditions in the New World. Rabbi Marc Angel, long time Rabbi of Shearith Israel speaking at his funeral in 2006, said that Rev. Cardozo was an ember that survived the ashes of the Holocaust.
Rev. Cardozo’s passion in life was Hazzanut, and there was nothing he enjoyed more than leading the congregation in prayer using the tunes he knew and loved so well. Sadly though, as he was required to strictly maintain the Shearith Israel minhag, he was prevented from introducing some of the other Spanish and Portuguese melodies from the mother synagogue in his native Amsterdam that he so eagerly wanted to keep alive. Though he was not given the title of Minister of the congregation until late in life, he performed weddings, funerals, and gave eloquent eulogies.
After he retired, he wrote two books, each with an accompanying CD of music. The first was Sephardic Songs of Praise, followed a couple of years later by Selected Sephardic Chants. Many of his friends collaborated to present a petition to Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, nominating Rev. Cardozo for the title of “Knight in the Order of Orange Nassau” for his service during World War II, his preserving the traditions and minhag as practiced for hundreds of years in Amsterdam, and his loyal and proud representation of the Dutch Jewish Heritage. He was officially knighted in the year 2000.
In March 2005, Rev. Cardozo fell and broke his hip. Unfortunately, he never fully recovered and passed away on February 21, 2006 (23 Shebat 5766) at the age of 92. Hundreds of people came to the synagogue to attend his funeral and pay their respects to this great and humble man and leader of the community for 60 years. Eulogies were given by dozens of leaders, rabbis, colleagues, close friends and family. Rabbi Angel led the hakafot (circuits) around the coffin in a very moving ceremony, after which the coffin was draped with his Talet (prayer shawl).
I just want to share one very small personal anecdote. I used to lead the Friday night Shabbat service at Mikveh Israel. One time when Rev. Cardozo was visiting for Shabbat at the invitation of Rabbi Gabbai, he led the Friday night service faster than I have ever heard it done. It was so fast, I could hardly follow along. After the service, as I was wishing him a Shabbat Shalom, I remarked on the speed with which he read the service. He replied, with a twinkle in his eye, “they don’t call me the Flying Dutchman for nothing!”.
- Irma Miriam Lopes Cardozo, As I Lived It, 2010
- Shelomo Alfassa, Reverend Abraham Lopes Cardozo z”l, The Jewish Voice – March 3, 2006
- The New York Times, Ari L. Goldman, Published February 23, 2006
- Yedeabraham.com, People Identified on this Site
This week we remember the Hashcabah of Manuel Josephson, one of the original members of Congregation Mikveh Israel at the time of the construction of the first synagogue building in 1782. Josephson was born in 1729 in Germany, and died on January 30, 1796 (20 Shebat 5556). Josephson married Rachel (Ritzel) Judah, daughter of Baruch and Sarah Helbert Judah in New York City on Lag Lahomer, 15 May 1759.
When he first came to the America, Josephson became a merchant, supplying the armies in the French and Indian War in 1757. He settled in New York and joined Congregation Shearith Israel. Josephson soon became a prominent member of the congregation. Shalom Goldman notes that Josephson “owned the best library of rabbinic texts in colonial times and was well versed in rabbinic Hebrew”. He served as one of the judges on the Shearith Israel bet din (rabbinic court). On many occasions, Josephson articulated religious questions addressed to rabbinic authorities in England and Holland. Occasionally, he also rendered his own halachic decisions. In 1762, Josephson was elected as Parnas of Shearith Israel.
The 1760s and 1770s were times of great contention in Shearith Israel. There were numerous fights and disputes between members and between members and the leadership of the congregation. Much of this has come down to us through history because the synagogue started keeping secret minutes to record the worst of the issues. Some examples include Isaac Pinto, who in 1767 was fined for “abusing” the Parnas. A Shamash was suspended for insubordination. In 1771, a general meeting of the congregation had to be called because the Parnas-elect, Moses Gomez refused to assume his position. Largely, the infighting and questioning of the governing body of the congregation was a reflection of what was going on in the streets of New York and the other major cities in the colonies as the people rejected the authority of the British monarchy.
As the issues escalated, two of the disputes ended up in public civil trials. One of them involved Manuel Josephson, who in 1770 publicly criticized 84 year-old Joseph Simson, who was the father of Josephson’s merchant colleagues Solomon and Sampson Simson. As Howard Rock describes the scene, Josephson berated Simson “because the elder Simson’s prayer shawl was unkempt and because of his flawed speech and unseemly gestures.” The insults flew back and forth with the younger Simson calling into question Josephson’s business practices and his humble origins and scolding him for picking on an old man. In the end, the court found for the synagogue and against Josephson. Incidents, disputes, name-calling, and fights continued this way in the congregation until 1776, when the British occupied Manhattan and the congregation decided to close the synagogue and disperse. Most of the members either joined the military on the side of the colonists or dispersed northward to Newport or south to Philadelphia and Congregation Mikveh Israel. Manuel Josephson was part of the latter group, which also included the Hazan, Gershom Mendes Seixas.
Josephson arrived in Philadelphia as part of the New York contingent and set up shop as a merchant with a store at 144 High Street, later in about 1800 called Market Street. Aside from quickly becoming one of the leaders of Mikveh Israel, he was also held in very high esteem in the general community by Jews and non-Jews alike.
Josephson was a very traditional and observant Jew. In 1784 he petitioned the board of Mikveh Israel asking that a ritual bathhouse (mikvah) be built for the women of the congregation, in order that they observe Jewish law. Accordingly, the mikvah was built in 1786, while Josephson was Parnas of the congregation, and the board placed it under his supervision. Josephson was elected as Parnas in 1785, and served through 1791. His most famous accomplishment, however, came in 1790.
Shortly after the US Constitution was ratified in 1789, George Washington was elected as the first President of the United States. Moses Seixas, the brother of Gershom Mendes Seixas who was the minister of Shearith Israel at the time and was the minister of Mikveh Israel during the war, wrote a beautiful letter to the new President, filled with warmth and eloquence. He famously noted that the new Government of the United States of America gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, and considers all of its citizens of all religions equal under the law. Washington’s famous reply repeated the eloquent words of Seixas and affirmed the equality of the Jews, and declared that America was different from other nations of the world because “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship”.
This was to be the second of three letters that Washington wrote to different Jewish communities during that year, mainly because of discrimination and infighting among the Jews. Shortly after the inauguration in April 1789, the presidents of the six congregations in the US – New York, Philadelphia, Newport, Charleston, Richmond, and Savanna – agreed to send a joint letter. Then they spent the next year and a half arguing over who would sign it! The original plan called for the letter to be sent from Shearith Israel in New York, as this was originally the capital of the fledgling country. But there were months of delays and meanwhile, Congress moved the capital to Philadelphia in January of 1790.
Then Manuel Josephson, Parnas of Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia, offered to write the letter on behalf of the other congregations. However, the Spanish & Portuguese Sephardic elite who dominated the other congregations objected to the Ashkenazic Josephson, of humble Eastern European origins, considering him unworthy to speak for them. A few months passed in which nothing was done, so finally in May, the Savanna congregation, noting and apologizing for the delay in writing, presented a letter to Washington. Washington was gracious in his eloquent reply. In August, Moses Seixas and the Jews of Newport also tired of waiting and presented their own letter, certainly the most famous of the three, along with its often-studied reply.
Finally, in December 1790, Josephson, in a short meeting with Washington, presented a letter from the four remaining congregations from Philadelphia, New York, Charleston, and Richmond. Josephson apologized for the delay in adding their congratulations to those of the rest of the nation. Washington’s reply was shorter than the other two, but was nonetheless warm and appreciative, stating that “The affection of such a people is a treasure beyond the reach of calculation” and conveyed how much pleasure he received from the support and approval of his fellow-citizens. He thanked the Almighty for intervening on behalf of the Americans in the “late glorious revolution”, and promised to work just as hard for the country in times of peace as he did during the war. He closed by saying, “May the same temporal and eternal blessings which you implore for me, rest upon your congregations”.
Manuel Josephson died on 30 January 1796 and is buried in the Mikveh Israel Spruce St. cemetery. His wife, Rachel died on the same Hebrew date, 20 Shebat, a year later and his buried beside him.
- Howard Rock, Haven of Liberty: New York Jews in the New World, 1654-1865, 2012
- Shalom Goldman, God’s Sacred Tongue: Hebrew & the American Imagination, 2004
- Jacob Rader Marcus, The American Jewish Woman: A Documentary History, 1981
- Jeffrey S. Gurock, Orthodox Jews in America, 2009
- Wolf, Edwin, II, and Maxwell Whiteman. The History of the Jews of Philadelphia from Colonial Times to the Age of Jackson. (1957)
- American Jewish Historical Society Quarterly, Volume 11. Cyrus Adler, President, 1903
- Henry Samuel Morais, The Jews of Philadelphia, 1894
- Jonathan Jeremy Goldberg, Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment, 1996
This week we remember the Hashcabah of Isaac Hyneman. Mr. Hyneman was a prominent member of Mikveh Israel. He was Born in 1804 in Hofgeismar, Hesse-Cassel, Germany and died on January 14, 1886 (8 Shebat, 5646). He came to Philadelphia in the early 1830s. Soon after, he moved to Richmond, Virginia and in 1834 married Adeline Ezekiel, who was born in Philadelphia May 10, 1815, but was at the time living in Richmond, VA. Together they had five sons, Augustus, Leon, Jacob, Herman, and Samuel, all of whom were prominent in the Congregation Mikveh Israel and in the secular community. They lived in Richmond until 1850, when the family moved to Philadelphia. In their adult lives Leon, Jacob, and Samuel lived in Philadelphia, and Augustus and Herman resided in New York.
In 1836, Isaac entered into the dry goods business with his brother-in-law, Adeline’s brother Jacob Ezekiel, under the firm name of Ezekiel & Hyneman. The business was very successful and gave Isaac the resources to give generously of his time and money to many Jewish Educational and Charitable associations in Philadelphia. He was on the Board of Offices of the Hebrew Education Society.
Adeline Hyneman was very active in the affairs of the Jewish community and contributed her time and concern to a number of charitable organizations. She was a manager for the Jewish Foster Home and Orphan Asylum.
Isaac’s son, Herman Naphtali Hyneman, born July 27 1849, was quite an accomplished painter. After studying painting in Germany and France for 8 years, he returned to Philadelphia where he opened an art studio. His works have been displayed in Paris, Philadelphia, and New York City. To this day, several of his paintings are displayed at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the National Academy of Design in NYC. Some of his paintings can be seen in the American Gallery, Greatest American Painters: http://americangallery.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/herman-n-hyneman-1849-1907/
Son Samuel Morais Hyneman was a lawyer of some renown, having been admitted to the Philadelphia Bar in 1877. In the 1880s and 1890s, he was a director of the Hebrew Education Society. A few years later, in 1893, the large Hyman Gratz trust came into the control of Mikveh Israel with the expressed purpose of establishing and maintaining a Jewish College in Philadelphia. Samuel Hyneman served on the Permanent Committee to establish Gratz College and make Gratz’ dream a reality. He also helped establish the Association of Jewish Immigrants. Samuel Hyneman also served on the Board of Managers of Mikveh Israel, elected in 1894 as one of the Adjunta (Directors).
Son Jacob Ezekiel Hyneman was born in Richmond, Virginia on August 5, 1843, but moved with his family to Philadelphia in 1850. Jacob Hyneman became a military man. He received his college education at Strasburg Academy in Lancaster County, PA and enlisted in the army to fight for the Union in August 1862. He fought and was wounded in numerous battles of the Civil War, including Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Appomattox Court House. He was present at Lee’s Surrender on April 9, 1865. After the war, he joined the National Guard of Pennsylvania, where he rose to First Lieutenant in 1880, and Quartermaster with the rank of Captain in 1883. He resigned from the National Guard in 1891 and started an Insurance Agency, which grew to be one of the largest in Pennsylvania. He devoted much time and money to furthering many of the principal Jewish agencies in Philadelphia. Jacob and Samuel both were long-time members of the Union League of Philadelphia. He also served with Samuel on the Board of Managers of Mikveh Israel.
In Samuel Hazards United States Commercial and Statistical Register of 1840, published in Philadelphia, he notes a Meeting of the Israelites in Richmond, August 18, 1840, in which four resolutions were adopted. These were described in detail. The first was that “the Israelites of the State of Virginia unite in sentiments of sorrow and sympathy, for the unparalleled cruelties and sufferings inflicted on their innocent and unoffending brethren of Rhodes and Damascus”. Another expressed gratitude toward their Christian brethren for helping to prevent future aggressions. The third resolved that the Israelites of Virginia would unite with their brethren throughout the Union in diffusing the blessings of civil and religious liberty. The last resolved to appoint a committee that would meet and confer with other Israelite groups in order to carry out resolutions. Isaac Hyneman was appointed to this committee, and his partner and brother-in-law Jacob Ezekiel was appointed Secretary.
- Robert P. Swierenga, The Forerunners, Dutch Jewry in the North American Diaspora, 1994
- Henry Samuel Morais, The Jews of Philadelphia, 1894
- Fifty Years’ Work of the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia 1848-1898
- Samuel Hazard, Hazard’s United States Commercial and Statistical Register, Volume 3, Philadelphia, 1841