Monday, February 22, 2010

An invitation by Abraham Jacob Leon, the Meah Shearim proselyte.

I came across a very interesting little pamphlet on called הגרים - גרי הצדק בארץ ישראל, which was published in 1932. On page 4 Rav Kook writes about a ger he knew named Abraham Jacob, who had been a minister in New York. He and his family converted, and moved to Jerusalem. He was known as Leon the Ger Zedek. Rav Kook recounts meeting him in 1906.

Interestingly enough, the 7th volume of the New Era Illustrated Magazine (1905) includes a picture of his son Benjamin, along with his wedding invitation:

This invitation and photo was owned by J. D. Eisenstein. Although the invitation does not have the year, the Friday in which August 12 and the 10th day of Av coincided was 1894. The wedding took place in the relatively new Jerusalem neighborhood Meoscheorim.

The groom was 16 years old.


  1. I am looking in

    on page 4 but I don't see anything

  2. Sorry, I linked to the first volume by mistake. I'll fix it, but this is the second volume:

  3. Actually, my link was correct. Click the Hebrew title in my post -- it's a link.

  4. I'm suprised that the groiseh yakhsinteh Mrs. Kaufman agreed to do a shiddukh with a Ger!

    At least he made no bones about it. he did not try to "pass". Could it be that Meah Shearim society then was more open and tolerant than Five Towns society now? Or is it just that Gerim were more for real back then?

  5. Actually, I was noticing that there wasn't a Mr. for the Mrs. Being that Miss Tziviah was a partial yesoma, maybe this was a subpar shidduch for both? Or, hopefully, we're just projecting the state of affairs as we see it today onto the past.

    I also noticed that the Ger himself had no wife. I wonder if that's because 1) she had died or 2) she didn't convert with him.

  6. Any word about his descendants?

  7. And mess up their good name? Chalilah.

    Actually, no. So far I haven't gone beyond what you see here.

  8. can you explain the timing involved in how 4pm = 9 turkish? thnx
    also, have you come across any minister/father etc Leon who converted to judaism ca 1900? if you havent, can you recommend ways to ascertain what his biographical details were? thnx again

  9. Funny that you mention it, because just last night I was reading a book which included an account in Turkey in the 1890s, and the author mentioned the confusion that Turkish time raises in all foreigners.

    Basically sunset was always 12 o'clock, which meant that sunrise was always 12 o'clock as well, with the intervening time period being divided into 12 parts. Evidently on August 12, 1894 9 o'clock Turkish time was 4 o'clock European time.

    So far I haven't come across other references to him. Since there's no telling what his original name was, and it's uncertain if Leon was actually his last name it's not necessarily so easy to research. However, what I would recommend is searching google books with terms like proselyte + judaism, or apostate + judaism, or pastor + jew, jerusalem, etc. along with leon, let's say beginning in 1875 (presumably his conversion wasn't earlier).

  10. Rav Kook's account of Abraham Jacob says that "he and his family" converted, so it seems most likely that his wife's name would have been included in the invitation if she had been living at the time.

    How many invitations to a Meah Shearim wedding nowadays would include English?



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