Thursday, March 30, 2006

History of City Eruvin − Part 1: The Eruv in St. Louis


The Jewish Community of St. Louis

St. Louis’s Jewish history dates back to at least 1807 when Joseph Philpson, the earliest known Jew, settled there.[1] The first documented minyan was formed in 1837,[2] and by 1841, it had organized under the title United Hebrew Congregation.[3] In 1879, the oldest extant Orthodox congregation, Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol, was organized,[4] and in 1886, one of the most influential Orthodox congregations, She’eris Sfard, was established.[5]

In 1854, United Hebrew Congregation hired the first documented rabbi to serve in St. Louis, Rav Yissachar Dov Illowy (son of Yaakov Leib) who was born in Colin, 1814. His term of service lasted about one year, and in 1856, he left for Syracuse. He passed away on June 21, 1871.[6]

Another well known rabbi who served the St. Louis Community was Rav Shalom Elchanan Jaffe (son of Shimon Peretz) who was born in Vabalninkas (Vilnius Gubernia), 1858.[7] At the young age of 14, Rav Jaffe was learning in Yeshivas Volozhin, and when he was 19 years old, he received smicha from Rav Yitzchok Elchanan Spektor of Kovno, Rav Naphtali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin of Volozhin, Rav Refael Shapiro of Volozhin, Rav Shlomo HaKohen of Vilna, Rav Moshe Shapiro of Riga, Rav Yitzchak Yaakov Reines of Lida, and Rav Yosef Schlifer of Slonim. In 1879, he was invited to serve as rav of Upyna,[8] and from 1884-87, he served as rav of Zeimelis.[9] His stay in Zeimelis was marred by a dispute,[10] and by September 7, 1887, he left Europe, arriving in Chicago via New York.[11] By November of 1887, he was appointed as the unofficial Chief Rabbi of the St. Louis Orthodox Jewish Community[12] and served as the rav of Congregation She’eris Sfard.[13] Rav Jaffe’s stint was tumultuous[14] and a short time afterwards, he accepted an offer to be rav in his home town, Vabalninkas, where he served for about a year.[15] By 1891, he had returned to St. Louis,[16] and later that year, he was appointed the rav of Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol.[17] Rav Jaffe’s second stint in St. Louis was no less chaotic[18] than his first appointment had been, and some time later, in 1895, he left Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol.[19] By 1897, he was rav of a splinter minyan of She’eris Sfard[20] but left later that year[21] to serve as rav of Congregation Beth Hamidrash in Brooklyn, NY.[22] His stay in Brooklyn was marred by a feud,[23] and after the passing of the Chief Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Joseph in 1902, Rav Jaffe assumed his position as the rav of Beth Hamidrash Hagadol.[24] This prestigious position was Rav Jaffe's final one until his passing on November 15, 1923.[25] Additionally, Rav Jaffe was one of the founding members of the Agudas HaRabbonim and served at times as president and honorary president.[26] Rav Jaffe authored the following seforim: Peri Eshel, 1877, Siddur Tefila Shelema, 1886, Sho’el Ka’inyan, 1895, Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, 1896, and Siddur Sicha Shelema, 1896.

Rav Shalom Elchanan Jaffe


Another renowned rabbi who served the St. Louis Community was Rav Zechariah Yosef Rosenfeld (son of Moshe Gavriel) who was born in Turisk (Volhynia Gubernia) in 1847.[27] By 1870 he was already a rav in Kovel,[28] and by about 1879, he had assumed his father’s position as rav in Turisk.[29] Rav Rosenfeld was revered by the citizenry of Kovel and Turisk not only for his Torah scholarship but also for his knowledge in medicine.[30] Because of Rav Rosenfeld’s clandestine activities on behalf of his fellow Jews, he ran afoul of the authorities and had to flee Turisk.[31] He set out for America in 1893,[32] spent a short period of time in New York and then in Baltimore.[33] By early 1894 Rav Rosenfeld was elected rav of the United Orthodox Community [Agudas HaKehilos] of St. Louis.[34] He filled the position of rav over different periods of time for these congregations: Bnai Yackov,[35] Bnai Binyamin,[36] Tifereth Israel,[37] Beth Abraham,[38] and his central post, the Congregation She’eris Sfard,[39] where he served from 1897 until his passing on September 9, 1915.[40] Additionally, Rav Rosenfeld was one of the founding members of the Agudas HaRabbonim and in 1906 served on the Vaad HaKashrus.[41] Rav Rosenfeld authored the following seforim: Tikvas Zechariah, vol. 1 1894 and vol. 2 1896;[42] Yosef Tikvah, 1903, and Zichron Zechariah, 1916.

Rav Zechariah Yosef Rosenfeld

Continued here.

[1] See Donald I. Makovsky, The Philipsons; the first Jewish settlers in St. Louis, 1807-1858, p. 28.
[2] There is a considerable debate among historians regarding the exact year this minyan was organized. Makovsky writes that the date is between 1836 and 1838 (Origin and Early History of the United Hebrew Congregation, p. 167-171) while Walter Ehrlich maintains that it was definitely 1836 (Zion in the Valley, vol. 1 p. 49-50).
[3] Makovsky, Origin and Early History of the United Hebrew Congregation, p. 184-186. Unfortunately, by about 1880, this congregation identified with the Reform movement; Ehrlich, Zion in the Valley, vol. 1 p. 57.
[4] Hyman Flaks, Thirty Years Vaad Hoeir in Brocho L’Menachem, p. 26. For an extensive study of this congregation see Averam B. Bender, History of the Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol Congregation of St. Louis, 1879-1969 in The Bulletin of the Missouri Historical Society, October 1970.
[5] Z. Abrams, The Book of Memories, p. 67. However, in the St. Louis Jewish Voice (February 2, 1912, Twenty-Five Years Ago, p. 3) it is stated that the founding of congregation Shaarei S’phard (She’eris Sphard) was on February 15, 1887.
The first known use of the name She’erth S’fard was in the Voice on August 31, 1888 where there is an article regarding the Chevrah She’erth S’fard purchasing a building on 715 Carr Street and also in the same issue a listing in the Directory For The Holidays. In Gould’s St. Louis City Directory of 1888, p. 1665, the congregation is listed at the same address as She’erit Sphalt. Which congregation they split from (sphalt in Yiddish translates as split) is unknown.
[6] The most extensive study of Rav Illowy is Moshe D. Sherman, Bernard Illowy and Nineteenth Century American Orthodoxy, Ph.D diss., Yeshiva University. See also Henry Illowy, Sefer Milchamos Elokim.
[7] Rav Ben Tzion Eisenstadt, Chachmei Yisroel B’America, p. 60; Shmuel Noach Gottlieb, Ohalei Shem, p. 303; Sefer HaYovel Shel Agudas HaRabbonim, p. 147; Judah David Eisenstein, Ozar Zikhronothai, pp. 158, 342, 345, 349, 350, 352; Morgen Zhurnal, November 16, 1923, pp. 1-2, and Yudishe Gazeten, November 23, 1923, p. 1. There are many errors in these references which is unfortunate as they have become the de facto reference material on many rabbanim. I will try to correct the errors that pertain to our narrative.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Most sources claim 1886 as the date Rav Jaffe became rav of Zeimelis. However, there is mention of Rav Jaffe being selected as the rav of Zeimelis in HaMelitz, November 21, 1884, p. 1417.
[10] In the autobiography of Rav Eliyahu Dovid Rabinowitz-Teomim [Aderes] he mentions that between the years of 1885-1886 he was called to Zeimelis to settle disputes between the authors of the Peri Eshel [Rav Jaffe] and the Leshed HaShemen [Rav Shlomo Dov Shprints] (Seder Eliyahu, p. 90 and Nefesh Dovid, p. 119; see also HaMelitz, November 21, 1884, p. 1417; May 15, 1885, p. 530; June 5, 1885, p. 610, and Rav Gavriel Zev Margolis, Charuzei Margolios vol. 2, pp. 396-397 ― on Rav Shprints see Rav Eisenstadt, Chachmei Yisroel B’America, p. 108; see also Chachmei Yisroel of New England, p. 37).
[11] See ship manifest for the Suvia September 7, 1887, line 146, Scholem Jaffe.
[12] The Jewish Free Press, November 4, 1887.
[13] Gould’s, 1888, p. 1665.
[14] Voice, January 27, 1888.
[15] See references note 7. It is also possible that after St. Louis Rav Jaffe resided in Chicago (see Rav Margolis, Charuzei Margolios, vol. 2, p. 396). Professor Kimmy Caplan wrote (Ortodoksyah B’Olam HaCadash, p. 88, 110) that in 1889 Rav Jaffe [was in NY and] asked the Chief Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Joseph to help him obtain a position (cited from Eliezer Drucker Papers, American Jewish Historical Society, Collection P-42). This is incorrect since the Rav Jaffe mentioned in this letter was Yaakov Jaffe, not Shalom Elchanan Jaffe, and his father’s name was Chaim Zev, not Shimon Peretz. Additionally, this letter was probably written in 1896 (on Rav Yaakov Jaffe, see Rav Eisenstadt, Dorot Ha’achronim, p. 174).
The Voice mentions that Rav Avraham Eliezer Alperstein (1853-1917) was then engaged as the Chief Rabbi. He is listed in Gould’s (1888, pp. 86, 1664; 1889, p. 1683; 1890, p. 1744; 1891, p. 1827; 1892, p. 2204) as Rav of Congregation Chevra Kadisha. It seems that he commuted between Chicago and St. Louis (Voice, May 11, 1888).
[16] Voice, January 16, 1891.
[17] See Gould’s, 1891, p. 1513, under Yaffie, Solomon Rev; 1892, p. 2204; 1893, p. 1895; 1894, p.1978, and 1895, p. 2017.
[18] As we shall see further, this time the quarrel was with Rav Zechariah Yosef Rosenfeld.
[19] Bender, p. 76. By 1896, he is no longer listed as the Rav of Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol (Gould’s, 1896, p. 2163 see also p. 814 under Jaffe, Solomon Rabbi).
[20] Gould’s, 1897, p. 854, 2262 under Jaffe, Solomon E. Rev. The original congregation (led by Rav Zechariah Yosef Rosenfeld; see note 39) was situated at that time on 921 N. 9th and Rav Jaffe’s splinter group was on 1025 N. 9th. By 1900, the splinter minyan had disappeared (see Gould’s, 1900, p. 2459).
[21] Bender, p. 76.
[22] Upington’s Brooklyn City Directory, 1899, p. 1573; 1900, pp. 744, 1707; 1901, pp. 9, 629. While Gould’s 1898 (pp. 840, 2233) has a Rev. Abraham S. Jaffe, Rav Jaffe was definitely in Brooklyn by 1898 (see Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, Mahadurah Achron p. 3).
[23] Rav Jaffe quarreled with the Rav of Beth Hamidrash Hagodal Keser Torah, Rav Shabbsi Rosenberg (1851-1913); see Rav Jaffe’s obituary in the Morgen Zhurnal, November 16, 1923, p. 2 (see also note 132) ― on Rav Rosenberg see Rav Eisenstadt, Chachmei Yisroel B’America, p. 96 and Gottlieb, Ohalei Shem, p. 297.
[24] See references note 7.
[25] Obituary’s in the Morgen Zhurnal, November 16, 1923, p. 1; Yudishe Gazeten, November 23, 1923, p. 1; Der Tag, November 16, 1923, p. 1, and New York Tribune, November 17, 1923.
[26] Sefer HaYovel Shel Agudas HaRabbonim, pp. 29, 147.
[27] American Jewish Year Book, 1903-1904, p. 91; Gottlieb, Ohalei Shem, p. 308; Sefer HaYovel Shel Agudas HaRabbonim, p. 141; St. Louis Modern View, September 10, 1915 p. 44; Eisenstein, Ozar Zikhronothai, pp. 345, 349, 350, 352, and Turisk Yizkor Book, pp. 16, 178-179. The year 1850 is given by all sources as his birth date. However, on his tombstone it states 1847.
[28] See the teshuvos written to him by Rav Tzvi Hirsh Orenstein (Birchas Retseh, 1:50-51, 89). The Modern View, September 10, 1915 p. 44, mentions as well that he was first a rav in Koval.
[29] See Turisk Yizkor Book, pp. 16, 179. There is a teshuvah written to him by Rav Chaim Yehuda Litvin (Sha'arei Dayah, 2:173), dated 1882, calling him Moreh Tzedek of Turisk. Family members believe that his father, Rav Moshe Gavriel Rosenfeld, was nifter in the late 1870’s and that is when he assumed his father’s position. I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to the noted historian, Mr. Murray Darrish, for his invaluable assistance in researching the history of his relative Rav Rosenfeld zt”l.
[30] Turisk Yizkor Book, pp. 16, 178-179.
[31] Ibid., p. 16. Family members have mentioned to me that he issued adoption papers for boys showing that they were the eldest child in the family and therefore they were exempted from the draft (see also HaMelitz, January 26, 1883, p. 60).
[32] Family members believe that the Josef Rosenfeld on the ship’s manifest for the Weimer August 22, 1893, line 410, is Rav Zechariah Yosef Rosenfeld. Additionally, in the 1900 Census they wrote that his year of immigration was 1893.
[33] American Jewish Year Book, 1903-1904, p. 91. Polk Baltimore City Directory, 1895 p. 1205. Family members have confirmed this as well. I have a copy of a sefer with Rav Rosenfeld’s seal stating that he was a Rav in Turisk and presently a Rav in New York.
[34] See note 57 regarding the possible time of Rav Rosenfeld's arrival in St. Louis. Rav Rosenfeld is listed in Baltimore’s city directory in 1895, even though he was already a rav of the United Orthodox Community of St. Louis by February of 1894 (see Tikvas Zechariah, vol. 1 pp. 7, 52; see also vol. 2 preface p. {5}); therefore, it seems that in the beginning he commuted between Baltimore and St. Louis. By 1896, he had permanently settled in St. Louis and is only listed in St. Louis’s city directory; see Gould’s, 1896, p. 1360.
[35] Gould’s, 1894, p. 1245. (I believe the proper name given, Samuel, is an error.)
[36] American Jewish Year Book, 1900-1901, p. 310, and 1907-1908, p. 234.
[37] Ibid., 1900-1901, p. 310; 1903-1904, p. 91; 1907-1908, p. 234 and Gould’s, 1907, p. 2610.
[38] Ibid., 1907-1908, p. 233.
[39] Gould’s, 1897, pp. 1429, 2262, and American Jewish Year Book, 1900-1901, p. 309; 1903-1904, p. 91; 1907-1908, p. 234 (see also note 20).
[40] St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 10, 1915; St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 10, 1915; Modern View, September 10, p. 44, September 17, p. 2, 1915; The Sunday Jewish Courier, September 12, 1915, p. 1, and Voice, September 17, 1915, p. 3.
[41] Sefer HaYovel Shel Agudas HaRabbonim, pp. 29, 37.
[42] Both volumes of the Tikvas Zechariah are undated. The dates mentioned reflect notes 51-52, 89 and JNUL and Hebrew Printing in America 1735-1926, vol. 2 p. 973.