Thursday, May 04, 2006

History of City Eruvin − Part 2: The Eruv in St. Louis

Continued from part I


The Jewish Community of St. Louis

Most of St. Louis’s Jews up until the 1920’s, lived in an area referred to in the press as the Jewish Ghetto. This crowded rectangular area in the near north side of St. Louis, was roughly bounded on the east side by the Mississippi River, on the west side by Grand Avenue, on the north side by Cass Avenue, and on the south side by Delmar Boulevard. By the 1930’s, most Jews had already abandoned the Ghetto by migrating westward, forming an area called the “central corridor.”[43]

From the year 1807, when the first Jew settled in St. Louis until 1925, St. Louis’s Jewish population grew to approximately 55,000.[44] At the time, it had the tenth largest concentration of Jews in the United States.[45] The Jewish population has held steady at fifty-five to sixty thousand since then.[46] The general population in 1890 stood at approximately 452,000 and reached its peak by 1950 at about 857,000; it has since declined considerably.[47]

An Overview of the Controversies

When Rav Rosenfeld came to St. Louis in late 1893, his first order of business was eruvin and mikvaos.[48] He ruled that the area in St. Louis where the Jews lived was encompassed by mechitzos, and that it was permissible to carry therein. Additionally, Rav Rosenfeld published his first kuntres, Tikvas Zechariah, where he declared that the manner in which the existing mikveh was constructed made it unkosher.[49] In his sefer Sho’el Ka’inyan, Rav Jaffe, the baal machsher of the mikveh, lashed out and declared that Rav Rosenfeld’s eruv was not kosher[50] and also refuted the charges leveled against his mikveh.[51] Sometime later, Rav Rosenfeld published a second kuntres also called Tikvas Zechariah elucidating his heter for the eruv.[52] Rav Jaffe then published a rebuttal, Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom.[53] Judah David Eisenstein wrote of two other halachic conflicts between Rav Jaffe and Rav Rosenfeld.[54] However, this is questionable since the dates of these controversies predate the year that Rav Rosenfeld came to St. Louis.[55]
[43] Zion in the Valley, vol. 2 pp. 29, 46.
[44] Ibid., p. 28 n34.
[45] After New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Newark tied with Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh (American Jewish Yearbook, 1928-1929 pp. 180-196).
[46] Zion in the Valley, vol. 2 p. 28, n34.
[47] See United States Census, 1890, 1950. As we shall see further, there was a disagreement regarding the actual population in the 1890’s (see notes 57, 135, 175).
[48] Regarding eruvin see Tikvas Zechariah, vol. 2 preface p. {5}, and on the subject of mikveh see ibid., vol. 1 pp. 3-7.
[49] Tikvas Zechariah, vol. 1 pp. 3-7 (see note 51).
[50] Sho’el Ka’inyan, pp. {1-12} 1-23.
[51] Ibid., pp. 24-{23} 45, 204-227. The main issue surrounding the use of this mikveh was whether it was regarded as tevilla b’keili. Rav Jaffe, the baal machsher of the mikveh, retorted that Rav Rosenfeld had never seen the workings of the mikveh to make such an assumption and was instead relying on the word of untrustworthy people. Therefore, Rav Jaffe declared he would not allow Rav Rosenfeld to step into the mikveh at all (ibid., p. {114} 227).
Rav Jaffe wrote his defense of his mikveh in January of 1894 (ibid., p. {19} 37) but the sefer was not published until 1895 (see ibid., title page). The Kuntres Tikvas Zechariah, vol. 1 on the subject of mikveh could not have been written earlier then February of 1894 (see introduction, p. 7) but was published soon afterwards. Since the Tikvas Zechariah on the subject of mikveh was published first, Rav Jaffe was able to peruse it and insert in his Sho’el Ka’inyan (pp. 204-227) along with his earlier original defense, an actual word for word rebuttal.
[52] Rav Rosenfeld’s Tikvas Zechariah, vol. 2, illuminating his heter for an eruv, was not published until 1896 (see ibid., preface p. {6}) while Rav Jaffe’s Sho’el Ka’inyan, where he first argued against Rav Rosenfeld’s eruv, was already published in 1895 (see title page). Since Rav Rosenfeld published his heter for his eruv after Rav Jaffe printed his arguments against the eruv, Rav Jaffe later inserted an Addendum in to his Sho’el Ka’inyan, called Rishfei Eish, where he disputed Tikvas Zechariah, vol. 2. Later when Rav Jaffe published a second kuntres called Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom in 1896 (see title page, and note 142) he included in it the Addendum (pp. {15-16} 29-32) along with more material against the Tikvas Zechariah, vol. 2.
[53] See note 142.
[54] Ozar Zikhronothai, pp. 158, 350.
[55] Eisenstein stated that Rav Jaffe and Rav Rosenfeld disagreed on the Hebrew spellings for St. Louis and the Mississippi River when writing a get (ibid., p. 158). Rav Jaffe maintained that St. Louis ended with a zayin instead of a samech, and that Mississippi was spelled without a double samech and peh. Eisenstein is in error since this conflict happened in 1892, and, as I will demonstrate later, Rav Rosenfeld did not come to St. Louis until late 1893 (see note 57). The date of this conflict can be discerned from a teshuvah regarding this issue in Rav Jaffe’s Sho’el Ka’inyan (Addendum p. {7} 13), which is dated the second day of parshas Sh’mini, 1892. [Since in 1892 the second day of parshas Sh’mini fell on Shvi’i shel Pesach, it is possible that the date of the teshuvah is a typo; however, I still maintain that this disagreement was with a different rav, as discussed further.] Rav Jaffe did comment in passing (Teshuvah KaHalachah VeDivrei Shalom, p. {14} 27) on the spelling of the Mississippi River in Rav Rosenfeld’s eruv teshuvah, and there is a letter from Rav Willovsky [Ridvaz] to Rav Jaffe dated September 1894 (ibid., p. 12) stating that Rav Jaffe is correct regarding the Hebrew spelling of the Mississippi River (see also ibid., p. 42, for Rav Jaffe’s remark dated December 12, 1894, in his correspondence to Rav Yosef Zechariah Stern that Rav Stern agreed with him regarding the Hebrew spelling of St. Louis). However, the fact that Rav Jaffe did not mention Rav Rosenfeld by name in his Sho’el Ka’inyan teshuvah regarding the Hebrew spellings for St. Louis and the Mississippi River when writing a get as he did by the mikveh and eruv conflicts where he ruthlessly condemned him, leads me to believe that Rav Jaffe had this conflict previously with a different rav.
In fact, there was a letter at Kestenbaum & Company’s Fine Judaica Auction (November 21st, 2006, lot number 227) regarding this issue. In the auction catalog they state “Jaffe, Shalom Elchanan (Chief Rabbi of St. Louis, 1858-1923). Autograph letter signed to R. Shmuel Salant, Chief Rabbi, Jerusalem. Concerning a judicial dispute Jaffe had with R. David Rudensky concerning the correct spelling of “St. Louis” in a bill of divorce (“Get”). Jaffe felt it should be spelled “Sant Louiz” with a “Zayin” as the final letter, rather than “Samach” as his opponent had written. St. Louis 1893.” In the catalog they added a bibliographical note, “Chief Rabbi of Saint Louis, Missouri, Jaffe’s vitriol, accusing his opponents as being “scornful jesters and liars,” even “full-fledged heretics.” R. Shmuel Salant had previously written Jaffe protesting his aggressive ways and Jaffe acknowledges here, he may have overstepped his bounds of decency in his tirade, however he unequivocally states he is more distinguished than any other American Rabbi and has no need to consult with them.” I will discuss at a later date my evidence that this argument with Rav Rudinsky started already in 1891 (there will be more about Rav Rudinsky when I write about the 1905 New York eruv).
To this day, the accepted way to spell St. Louis on a get is with a samech instead of a zayin and the Mississippi River with a double samech and peh (see Kuntres HaShemos HaChadash, pp. 12, 17). Rav Sholom Rivkin, the current Chief Rabbi of St. Louis, states that the way that the gitten are written today is based on the previous Chief Rabbis of St. Louis, going as far back as Rav Yissachar Dov Illowy (Kuntres HaAretz L’Areha, p. 39).
The other contentious issue according to Eisenstein (Ozar Zikhronothai, p. 350) was regarding a shochet who forgot to mark an animal kosher after slaughter; Rav Jaffe did not want to rely on the fact that the shochet can distinguish that he slaughtered this particular animal. While Rav Jaffe doesn’t give a date on this teshuvah (Sho’el Ka’inyan, pp. 47-68) his letter of support from Rav Shmuel Salant regarding this issue is dated April of 1892 (Sho’el Ka’inyan, p. 68). Therefore, it is not possible that Rav Jaffe was disagreeing with Rav Rosenfeld who first came in late 1893. The fact that Rav Rosenfeld is not mentioned by name lends support to this conclusion as well. Additionally, when this argument broke out, Chief Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Joseph, of New York wrote a scathing letter regarding Rav Jaffe. Actually, I have proof that this disagreement was also with Rav Rudinsky. I will write more about all of this at a later date.