Monday, August 20, 2012

Rabbi Judah's Will

In 1859 a translation of Judah Touro's Last Will & Testament was printed in Hamaggid, with a clever title, showing how he charitably disposed of $458,000:


  1. touro was a great jewish personality whose biography remains fulls of ambiguities that await fleshing out for the historical record.

    just to note, the will here is not a full translation, although it gets most of it.

    i wonder if it would have been clear to hebrew readers how many of the beneficiaries were christian (or just non-sectarian).

  2. The donation to the Beth El congregation (not mentioned by name but the only synagogue then) in Buffalo (14th line from the bottom of the last page) was a life-line to a congregation that was on the verge of bankruptcy. See the Hebrew and English plaques made in Touro's honor:

  3. ABUL:

    likewise with a local church that was on the verge of bankruptcy. he bought the building and then gifted it back to the church. (and then he named the pastor as a beneficiary in his will.)

  4. The donation of $20,000 to the Jewish Hospital in New York (now Mount Sinai) is also noteworthy! Contrary to the legend that jewish hospitals were founded by reform Jews interested in social welfare and not by a desire to observe mitzvos, we know that Isaac Leeser was among the founders (and among the individual beneficiaries of Judah Touro). And he espoused orthodox Judaism and protested when a ball was held to raise money for the hospital. We also know that Mount Sinai sent at least one halachic question to the Chief Rabbi in London around 1853. The early American Jews were much more ambivalent about religious observance than is generally conceded.

  5. Speaking of Touro, my family and I visited the Touro Synagogue last week. In its Visitor Center was a facsimile of a 1773 letter from Rev. Ezra Stiles to Rabbi Isaac Carigal. I mention this because the above-posted tzava'ah spells the "New" of "New Orleans" as nun-ayin-vav-vav and "America" with a kuf -- the Stiles letter (pic. upon request) spells the "New" of "Newport" as nun-yud-vav (the way I've seen the "New" of "New York" spelled) and "America" with a chaf.

    1. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)3:01 AM, August 26, 2012

      If you look in the Touro Synagogue itself, there are donated objects (candlesticks IIRC) engraved with the name of the town in Hebrew, spelled clearly nun-vav, NOT nun-yud-vav. Seems like the Jews spelled it what became the traditional American spelling (ex. New York = nun-vav-alef etc), as opposed to the British-style "nyu" spelling that the Christian Rev used, which ended up being adopted by Israelis.

  6. See The Man Who Brought Judah Touro Back To Judaism at



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