A Review of the Late Controversies between the Rev. Isaac Leeser and the Congregation Mikveh Israel

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A. Phillips. Esq. ?



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The late controversies between the Rev. Isaac Leeser, Hazan
of the congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia, and the offi-
cers and members of that body, are now brought to a close, by
the voluntary withdrawal of the former, and his authorized
announcement that he will not be a candidate for re-election.
At the same time, Mr. Leeser and his friends are endeavoring
to make an impression that he is an ill-used man; and many
well-disposed persons, in ignorance of the facts, have brought
themselves to believe that the congregation have treated him
badly. To correct these erroneous impressions, and to diffuse
the light of truth, is the object of this publication.

It is proposed to give the reader a brief review of the late con-
troversies between Mr. Leeser and the congregation, which, if
read without prejudice or passion, but with a sincere desire to
arrive at the truth, will satisfy any candid person not only how
groundless are the complaints of the reverend gentleman, but
that the congregation and its officers are the parties aggrieved,
and, under the repeated provocations they have received from
him, have manifested no small degree of forbearance.

It is not a pleasant duty to be under the necessity of putting
such matters in print; but as Mr. Leeser has not hesitated
editorially to review and censure the congregation through the
columns of a periodical, he cannot complain if those aggrieved
by his course shall seek, through the Press, to disabuse the minds
of the members of our congregation and our co-religionists else-

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The principal subjects of dispute between him and the con-
gregation were threefold.

1. That he insisted upon being elected Hazan for what he
called during good behaviour,—or in other words, for life.

2. His expressed determination not to sign a contract for the
faithful performance of his duties, as required by the by-laws.

3. His disrespectful and uncourteous bearing towards the
officers of the congregation, and towards the congregation them-



The regular Hazanim of the congregation who preceded Mr.
, were, the Rev. Gershom Mendes Seixas, Jacob Cohen,
Emanuel Nunes Carvalho, and Abraham Israel Keys—all men
of unaffected piety, great moral worth, learned in our laws,
thorough-bred Portuguese Hazanim, familiar with all the duties
of their office, which they so exercised as to deserve and win the
love and respect of the congregation. Of them it might truly
be said, “There were giants in those days.” Yet no one of
these pious and learned divines was ever elected for life. Some
of them held their offices at the will of the congregation, or
from year to year, and others for limited periods. Our congre-
gation always repudiated the life tenure of the office, and the
correctness of the doctrine is at this time sustained throughout
the length and breadth of the land. We have seen State after
State cast off the life tenure of their Judges, because those Judges
felt themselves wholly irresponsible; and no matter how gross
their official or personal misconduct might be, if it was not such
as to consign them to the Penitentiary, the idea of an impeach-
ment was a burlesque,—it seldom or ever amounted to anything.
So would it be with any other officer with a like tenure; it is at
best but frail human nature, and the sarcedotal (sic) character of the
office would not tend to make the incumbent less arrogant or
presuming. This principle of the limited tenure of office, was
not first called in requisition towards Mr. Leeser, but was acted
on by the congregation before he was born. The early records

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of the congregation are imperfect; but we all know that the
good behaviour, or life tenure, was never recognised; and the
records of the congregation for more than thirty years, shew
the constant assertion of the opposite principle. A few extracts
will shew this:

1815. July 30. At a meeting of the congregation, (Hyman Marks, Parnas,) a
communication was received from A. H. Cohen, offering to serve for one year, or
from year to year, at $600 per annum, if regularly invested with the office of Hazan;
but this proposition was refused, the congregation not being willing to consider him
a regular Hazan.

1815. Oct. 29. The Rev. E. N. Carvalho was engaged as Hazan, at a salary of
$800 per annum, with a dwelling-house, and the usual perquisites. Nothing was
said about the term of service.

1824. April 25. Mr. Hyman Marks moved that the Committee on the subject of
a Hazan, should be authorized to engage such person as may be elected by the con-
gregation at their next meeting, for any term not exceeding two years, at a salary
not exceeding per annum, free of perquisites. While this motion was under
consideration, the meeting adjourned until May 2.

1824. May 2. This resolution was adopted, and the blank filled with $700. Mr.
A. M. Cohen
, seconded by Mr. Isaiah Nathans, moved a reconsideration, so as to
reduce the term to one year.—Lost. The meeting then went into a ballot, when
Mr. E. S. Lazarus, of New York, was unanimously elected.

1824. May 23. Mr. Lazarus declined the office; but a resolution was adopted,
authorizing the Committee to engage him on such terms as they shall think proper,
not exceeding two years. Carried—yeas 21, nays 4.

1824. June 6. The Committee reported that Mr. Lazarus declined any engage-
ment, except during good behaviour, and at a fixed salary, and recommended the
following resolution, which was adopted:

Resolved, That it is inexpedient to engage any person as a Hazan, except for a
stated number of years.

1824. June 26. The Rev. A. I. Keys was elected Hazan; and after his election,
a resolution was adopted to take him up for five years, at $1000 per annum, his
salary to commence from the time of his leaving the island of Barbadoes (sic).

1828. Oct. 26. The death of Mr. Keys being announced, resolutions of condo-
lence were adopted, and the sum of $1000 was voted to his widow.

1829. April 12. The congregation voted a pension of $8 per month to the widow
of Hazan Carvalho; and at the same meeting, the following resolution was adopted:

Resolved, That the salary which shall be allowed to the Hazan who may be
elected by his congregation, shall not exceed $1000 per annum, and that his engage-
ment shall not be for a longer period than five years.

1829. Sept. 6. A ballot being taken, Mr. Leeser was elected Hazan. After his
election, a resolution was passed to engage him for two years, at $800 per annum.

1829. Sept. 20. A letter of acceptance was read from Mr. Leeser, in high terms
of compliment, and containing no allusion to the tenure of his office.

1831. May 15. A Committee was appointed to confer with Mr. Leeser on the
subject of a re-engagement for a period not exceeding five years, at $800 per annum,
with power to engage him accordingly.

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1831. Sept. 4. The Committee reported that Mr. Leeser could not serve at that
salary, and laid his letter to them before the congregation, when it was

Resolved, That the Parnas be requested to engage the services of I. Leeser as
Hazan for the term of five years, at a salary of $1000 per annum.

1836. Sept. 4. A ballot being gone into, Mr. Leeser was elected Hazan.

1836. Oct. 2. A resolution was passed, fixing his term at one year, at same

1837. Sept. 24. Isaac Leeser and Jacques Lyons presented themselves as candi-
dates for the office of Hazan. The following resolution was first adopted:

Resolved, That the Hazan to be elected shall serve for three years, and at a salary
of $800 per annum, payable quarterly.

A ballot was then gone into, and Mr. Leeser was elected.

1840. May 17. A resolution was adopted to re-engage Mr. Leeser for ten years
from September 29, 1840, at $1250 per annum.

1840. Sept. 26. The Committee reported Mr. Leeser's acceptance of his re-

1842. Nov. 20. The Committee on the subject of certain com-
plaints against the Shohet, made a report, in which they recom-
mended that the tenure of his office, which before that time was
during the pleasure of the congregation, should be turned into
an annual term. This report was adopted without a division,
and, it is believed, unanimously. The following extracts from
it are in point:

“A frequent recurrence to elections of their [the congregation's] officers, is the
best check upon them, and the best guarantee for good conduct.”


“It has always been the policy of the congregation to elect the Hazan for a stipu-
lated period, and the principle is the same as to the Shohet.”

1850. March 24. The following resolution, after many
amendments were previously disposed of, was adopted:

Resolved, That a special meeting be held on the third Sunday of June next, for
the purpose of electing a Hazan to serve for ten years, at a salary of $1300 per an-
num, if a single man, or $1700 per annum if a married man; that the Hazan so
elected shall execute a contract similar to the existing one, with this addition, that he
shall in all things conform to the Jewish law; and that the Parnas give notice of
this election in the Asmonean, and such other Jewish publications as he may think

Before this resolution was adopted, an unsuccessful effort was
made to strike out the words, “for ten years,” and insert the
words, “during good behaviour;” and pending the discussion of
this amendment, Abraham Hart, Esq., Parnas, announced from
the Chair that he was authorized by Mr. Leeser to state to the
congregation, that if they adopted any other tenure of office

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than during good behaviour, he would not be a candidate for
re-election; but adding, in substance, that if he were elected
during good behaviour, he was willing to hand in a written re-
signation of his office, to take effect whenever called for by the
congregation. He also stated, that Mr. Leeser was willing to
remain with the congregation for six months after the expiration
of his present term, in order to afford them an opportunity of
selecting a successor.

From this it will be seen that the congregation acted through-
out with the utmost good faith in the assertion of a principle
sound in itself, and peculiarly applicable to the present state of
society. The predecessors of Mr. Leeser acted under it; he
himself took five engagements under it without complaint on
that score; and no better evidence of the good disposition of
the congregation could be shewn than this, that with many pro-
vocations induced by the reverend gentleman himself, they,
during five successive terms, retained him for twenty-one years,
and it is believed that a majority of the members would have
been willing to have elected him for ten years longer, if the
other causes of complaint on their part had not induced the
same state of feeling towards him that he continually appeared
to manifest towards them.

He assigned two reasons for insisting on the life tenure, first,
because the congregation could and ought to trust him, to which
the answer was obvious, that he also might safely have trusted
them, the bond that could most closely have bound him and
them together, would have been on his part, attention and
fidelity to the duties of his office, courtesy, kindness and good
feeling towards his flock, and the capacity to think that those
who differ with him on questions of policy or principle, might
honestly differ, and that such difference was not of itself an act
of personal hostility towards him; this line of conduct would
have ensured him a voluntary and not a coerced life tenure, and
what is better, would have carried with it the love, respect and
confidence of those under his pastoral charge. His other reason
was this, that most other congregations elected their Hazanim
for life, and that he being the only exception, would be degraded

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by being chosen for a term of years; all this is sophistical and
unsound, even admitting, as we do not, that other congrega-
tions choose their Hazanim for life, it does not follow that we
should on that account give up the assertion of a sound principle
working well in practice, we believe that some congregations who
elected a Hazan for life, have regretted it, and would gladly
undo that which they are now convinced they ought not to have
done. But the inconsistency of Mr. Leeser is here very glaring,
he was willing to hold himself out of the world as elected for
life, and yet take the office under a secret written engagement
with the congregation, converting its tenure into a tenancy at
will, subject to be determined at any given time by a bare majority
vote;—which was the more degrading position, an open honora-
ble engagement for ten years, or a false representation to the
world of engagement for life, with the reality of a secret un-
derstanding, that it was but a tenure at will? The congrega-
tion very properly refused to become a party to such a hypo-
critical proceeding.



The 27th by-law directs that “the Hazan and Shohet, shall
enter into written contracts under a penalty for the faithful per-
formance of their respective duties, which shall be particularly
expressed in each said contract.”

This is a very harmless by-law, and in the opinion of any
right-thinking person a very useful one, it was adopted in the
year 1824, and through negligence or inadvertence, was not
sought to be enforced until the year 1837; Mr. Leeser himself,
fulfilled three terms without being required to enter into a con-
tract, and but for his own conduct the by-law might to this day
have remained a dead letter; but after his election in 1837, he was
in the habit of denouncing this by-law, and avowing his deter-
mination never to obey it; and the Board of Managers charged
with the enforcement of the by-laws were bound to compel
obedience; accordingly a meeting of the Board was held on the
10th of December, 1837: present, Lewis Allen, Parnas, A.

A. Hart

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Hart, J. A. Phillips, and J. L. Hackenburg, Adjunta, when the
Parnas informed the Board that he had presented to Mr. Leeser
a draft of a contract for his signature according to the 27th by-
law, which Mr. Leeser had refused to sign, and in reply ad-
dressed a letter to the Parnas, which being read, it was

Resolved, That the Parnas convene the congregation this day
four weeks, and lay the whole matter before them.—This decisive
movement, aided by the proximity of Mr. Leeser's late competi-
tor had the desired effect, he signed the contract on the 27th
December, 1837
, and the meeting of the congregation was not

His re-engagement in 1840 was the signal of a fresh outbreak,
no competitor was now at hand, and he peremptorily refused to
enter into the contract, having as afterwards appeared, taken a
VOW to that effect; accordingly a stated meeting of the Board
was held on December 13th, 1840, at which Messrs. L. Allen,
Parnas, J. L. Moss, J. L. Hackenburg, and A. Hart, Adjunta,
were present; the Parnas reported that he had handed Mr.
for his signature a contract similar in all respects to the
one he had previous executed, except as to the term of office
and rate of compensation, both of which had been increased by
the congregation, and that Mr. Leeser refused to sign it—where-
upon it was

Resolved, That a communication be addressed to him on the
subject.—And accordingly a most respectful letter was prepared
on the spot, and signed by the members present, tendering him
the contract for execution, and requesting him, if he did not
sign it, to give a written reply setting forth his reasons for such
refusal, that the same might be laid before the congregation.
To this respectful and kind letter, Mr. Leeser returned a long,
indecorous and disrespectful answer, giving the most flimsy rea-
sons for his disobedience, and casting the grossest imputation
of the honor and veracity of the lamented Allen, then Parnas of
the congregation. The contract and the Board's letter to him
and his answer, were laid before the congregation at a special
meeting, held January 3d, 1841, the following being a copy of
the contract which he refused to execute.

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ARTICLES of agreement between Isaac Leeser of the one part, and the Portu-
guese Jewish Congregation, of the City of Philadelphia, incorporated by the name,
style and title of “KAHL KADOSH MIKVEH ISRAEL,” of the other part, made and en-
tered into, at the City of Philadelphia, on the Eleventh day of the month of Decem-
ber, 1840
, corresponding with the as follows, to wit:

First. The said Isaac Leeser doth covenant on his part to serve, act, and officiate
as Hazan or reader to the said Congregation, from the 29th (twenty-ninth) day of Sep-
tember, 1840
, last past, for and during the full term of Ten years thence next ensuing,
and to be fully complete and ended; during all which period, he will well, and truly
and diligently, and faithfully perform all the duties, usually belonging and incident to
said station.

That he will on every Sabbath Eve, Morning and Night, and on all Holydays and
Festivals, attend at the Synagogue, and then and there, in a devout manner, read the
prayers in the “Original Hebrew Language,” according to the custom of the “Por-
tuguese Jews.” That he will attend all funerals that take place in the burial ground of
the Congregation, and perform the funeral and subsequent mourning service. That
he will not at any time perform any marriage or funeral rites without the consent of
the Parnas or of the Adjunta. That he will support and abide by the Charter
and By-laws of the Congregation, and implicitly obey them, so far as they may be
properly applicable to him. That he will obey all lawful orders of the Parnas for
the time being, so far as is consistent with Jewish laws and usages.

Second. In consideration of said services, the said Congregation agrees to pay the
said Isaac Leeser, as a full compensation therefor, the sum of twelve hundred and
fifty dollars per annum, during each of the ten years before mentioned, in equal
quarterly payments of three hundred and twelve dollars and fifty cents each, on the
days and times that the same may grow due, and payable respectively, or when law-
fully thereafter by the said Isaac Leeser required.

And for the due and faithful performance of the foregoing covenants, each party
doth hereby bind himself unto the other, in the penal sum of one thousand dollars.

In witness whereof, the said Isaac Leeser hath hereunto set his hand and Seal,
and the said “Kahl Kadosh Mikveh Israel,” have caused their Common or Corpo-
rate Seal to be hereunto affixed, attested by their Parnas and Secretary, the day and
year first herein before written.



For his disrespectful behaviour he, on that occasion, received
a sharp vote of censure in the adoption of the following resolu-

On motion of H. M. Phillips, seconded by E. L. Moss,

Resolved, That in the opinion of this meeting the Rev. I. Leeser has been guilty
of disrespect towards the Parnas and Adjunta of this congregation, in this communi-
cation with the Parnas, in relation to the contract of re-engagement as Hazan.

YEAS 12—NAY 1—excused from voting 4.

On motion of A. Hart, seconded by D. Pesoa,

Resolved, That in the opinion of this meeting the contract tendered to the Rev.
Isaac Leeser
, by the Parnas and Adjunta for signature, is in strict accordance with
by-law 27 of this congregation, and as such is by this meeting deemed correct.

Yeas 15—Nay 1—excused 1.

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On motion of H. M. Phillips, seconded by B. B. Hart,

Resolved, That unless the Rev. I. Leeser shall and do, on or before the 29th
March, 1841
, execute and deliver to the Parnas the bond as tendered by the Board
of Adjunta, and approved by a meeting of this congregation, for his re-engagement for
ten years, made with him in May, 1840, said bond or his re-engagement be annulled
and made void, and that the Parnas pay him for his services at the rate of $1,250
per annum.

Yeas 16—Nays none—excused 1.

Resolved, That there be sent to Mr. Leeser a copy of all the resolutions passed at
this meeting.

Notwithstanding these preceedings, he clung to the office, but
refused the contract; matters had now grown very serious, and
the forbearance of the members was severely tried; the 29th of
arrived, but the contract remained unexecuted; a stated
meeting of the congregation was held on April 4th, 1841, when
Mr. Leeser sent to the meeting the form of a contract dictated
by himself, which Mr. Hackenburg moved should be accepted in
lieu of the other, this was negatived, and then

On motion of D. Samuel seconded by H. M. Phillips,

Resolved, That the contract offered by Mr. Leeser, not being according to the one
adopted at the meeting of the members on the 3d of January last, cannot be accepted.

Yeas 13—Nays 4—excused 3—retired 2.

On motion of A. Hart, seconded by J. A. Phillips,

Resolved, That the time for signing the contract by Mr. Leeser as passed at a
special meeting on the 3d of January, be extended till the 1st of July next, inclusive,
and that the Parnas be authorized to continue his engagement in the mean time.

Yeas 13—Nays 7—retired 2.

Still the troubles thickened, the congregation would not re-
lieve the Hazan from the dilemma in which he had placed him-
self by his rash vow; he now turned his attention to the Parnas
and Adjunta, whose authority he had previously contemned and
whom he had treated with contumely; accordingly, Mr. Allen,
the Parnas, convened the Board on May 11, 1841, when the
whole Board, consisting of Messrs. L. Allen, J. L. Moss, A.
, J. A. Phillips and J. L. Hackenburg were present. The
Parnas stated that he had convened the Board in consequence
of a number of letters received from Mr. Leeser, and proceeded
to read them, being four in number, with the Parnas's replies;
but the Board declined interfering and passed the following
significant resolution.

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Resolved, That the Board are of opinion that they have no cognizance of the sub-
ject matter of said letters, in consequence of the proceedings of the Corporation at
their stated meeting of 4th of April last, and that this Board declines taking any
action on said letters, or giving any advice or opinion thereon.

The agitation continued until a special meeting of the con-
gregation was called, on the requisition of ten members, to take
into consideration the differences existing in relation to the Bond
of the Rev. I. Leeser. This meeting took place on the 16th
May, 1841
, when the various communications from him to the
Board were read, as also a letter to the congregation of the
most unbecoming character, winding up with an offer to sign a
Bond if the penalty were reduced to five hundred dollars. This
letter elicited much debate and angry feeling, and after several
resolutions and amendments were offered the following was
adopted—(the words in italics being offered by A. Hart, Esq.)

Resolved, That the Parnas be requested to tender to the Rev. I. Leeser, for his
signature a Bond, in conformity with his engagement as Hazan by this congregation,
under a penalty of eight hundred dollars, for the faithful performance of the duties of
his station; and in consideration of the Rev. I. Leeser having taken a vow that he
would not sign a contract which this congregation at a meeting held the 3d of Jan-
, 1841
, decided was the correct and only contract to be entered into between
them and the Reverend Isaac Leeser, and that in order that he may conform to the
spirit of said contract without invalidating his vow, therefore Resolved, that the
words “sickness or accident excepted,” be inserted in said contract.

Yeas 17.—Nays 11.

This is the whole history of the “contract” controversy,
showing on the part of Mr. Leeser, a determination to set up
his unbridled will as a standard, regardless of the wishes of the
congregation of the existence of a law which could not be re-
pealed but by a vote of two-thirds of the members present.
There never was any oppression in the contract, he was not
asked to give security, and the penalty in itself not large, be-
came null and void, if he performed his duties with fidelity.
The time-honoured Gabay of the congregation, (who under an-
nual elections has now held his office for nearly twenty-six years,
discharging its duties in a manner to make all regret the day
when they may have to look for a successor,) is obliged to give
Bond with approved security and under a heavy penalty; yet
who ever heard a murmur from this venerable man whose solid-

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ity, integrity, punctuality and devotion to his duties are univer-
sally acknowledged?


The last and by far most unpleasant division of this subject
relates to the deportment of Mr. Leeser, towards the constituted
authorities of the congregation and towards the congregation.
This has been of such a character as to have brought upon him
votes of censure from the Board of Managers and from the
congregation on three different occasions, which will be alluded
to in the order of time in which they occurred.

In the latter end of the year 1831, a seat-holder of the con-
gregation having been guilty of misconduct and disturbance in
the Synagogue during worship, and of an affront to the late
Jacob Phillips, Esq., one of the Adjunta, standing as Segan in
the absence of the Parnas, and of indecency and indignity to
our Holy Religion, was at a Board meeting on the 13th of No-
vember, 1831
, unanimously placed in Harem, and the Hazan
directed to announce this censure from the Tebah for three suc-
cessive Sabbaths, as a warning to all evil doers.

1832. Feb. 12. At a meeting of the Board, it was stated that the Hazan had
not complied with the directions to announce this censure from the Tebah; where-
upon it was

Resolved, That the Parnas inform the Hazan of the great dissatisfaction of the
Board, at his not having complied with the directions of said resolution, and to en-
quire of him what reasons, if any, he had for non-compliance with the orders of the
Board of Managers.

Resolved, That this Board will adjourn to meet on Sunday, 11th March, at 10
A. M., at which time the Hazan is required to attend before the Board, on the sub-
ject of the foregoing resolution.

An adjourned Board meeting was held March 11, 1832.
Present the whole Board, to wit: Z. Phillips, Parnas; Jacob
, Lewis Allen, Simon Gratz and J. A. Jacobs, Adjunta.

The Parnas informed the Board that agreeably to their reso-
lution of last meeting, he had informed the Hazan thereof, and
required him to be and appear this day before the Board, and
that the Hazan had addressed a letter to him denying the
authority of the Board of Managers and refusing to appear
before them, and expressly declaring that he will not by any

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act of his, acknowledge the Board of Managers to be his con-
stituted judges—which letter being read, it was on motion

Resolved, That the Board of Managers have by the Constitution and By-laws of
the Corporation, full power and authority to manage the affairs of the congregation,
and that all the officers are bound by the orders of the Board and the directions of
the Parnas, and that this Board will exact from the officers of the congregation a
strict compliance with all their orders.

Resolved, That the Parnas make a full report of all the facts connected with the
Hazan's conduct, and lay the same before the congregation at their next stated

These proceedings were laid before the congregation on the
8th of April, 1832, and the following resolutions were adopted
in relation thereto.

Resolved, That it is the opinion of the congregation, that the salaried officers
always have been, and are under the control of the Parnas and the Board of Mana-

Resolved, That this meeting approve of the proceedings of the Board of Mana-

And thus ended this matter, producing to the Hazan two
votes of censure from the Board of Managers, and one from the
congregation at its meeting. The writer is unable to divine
Mr. Leeser's motive for refusing to obey a plain duty; he did
not appear to put it upon any footing except a determination
not to recognize the authority of the Board; with how little
foundation may be seen by reference to the second section of
Article first of the Charter of the congregation, setting forth
that “the Parnas and Adjunta shall form a Board of Mana-
gers; they shall be entrusted with the management of the
affairs of the congregation, they shall see that the provisions of
this Constitution and of such By-laws as may hereafter be
adopted are properly observed and administered, they shall have
the control of the annual income of the Corporation,” &c.

The next vote of censure came from the congregation on the
3d of January, 1841, and has been already referred to, it re-
lated to the Hazan's disrespectful letter to the Board, and to his
pertinacious refusal to sign the contract which was declared to
be the correct and only one.

During the whole period of Mr. Leeser's sojourn among us,
various unpleasant emeutes were constantly taking place; he

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set a particularly high value on his English discourses, so much
so as to render nearly all his official duties subordinate to this
one engrossing fancy; it was the theme of constant remark in
what an undignified and unimpressive manner he hurried through
our beautiful Hebrew ritual, how unintelligibly he mumbled the
offerings, and with what impatience he bore with any one who he
thought detained him too long with offerings; this produced on
the part of himself and his friends repeated attempts to abolish
the free-will offerings; this subject was often discussed, the
members having no particular attachment to the system of free-
will offerings, but looking upon it as a financial measure, did not
wish to throw away this source of revenue without providing a
substitute, as the expenses of the congregation were heavy;
the substitute was tried and failed, and the congregation on
several occasions refused by decided votes to abolish free-will
offerings; many other matters might be stated, but they would
unnecessarily swell this publication; the free-will offerings are
alluded to in order to elucidate what is to follow.

It is matter of notoriety that Mr. Leeser, is the editor and
publisher of the Occident, a monthly periodical published in this
city, in which the editorial and communicated articles can be
distinguished apart with as much facility as in a daily news-
paper. In the last October number of this magazine, there ap-
peared under the editorial head an article too long to publish
entire, but from which the following extract is given as applica-
ble to the congregation.

NEWS ITEMS.—PHILADELPHIA.—At the last annual election of the congrega-
tion Mikveh Israel, the gentlemen composing last year's Board were re-elected, Mr.
A. Hart
as Parnas, and Messrs. J. A. Phillips, M. Arnold, A. S. Wolf, and I. J.
, as Adjuntas; Mr. H. Gratz was re-elected Treasurer, and Mr. Simeon W.
, elected Secretary. We regret at not being able to announce that some whole-
some legislation with respect to the office of Hazan, and the commutation of the
money offerings, has not taken place; both the by-laws affecting the subjects not
having met with the approbation of the members. They seem to be afflicted with a
sort of nervousness whenever any measure somewhat new in its tendency is pro-
posed; they go into meeting with the resolve of the English iron-clad barons, “not
to change the laws” of their order, however useful, expedient, or even necessary the
measure proposed may be, or however wrong and oppressive the old rule may have
proved in practice. At present we do not think it requisite to say more; but a time
may come, especially if a contingency should arise, which now seems possible enough,

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when we may deem it requisite to appeal to the public judgment for our own justifi-
cation, when we shall have to lay some circumstances before the people which we
now mean to let pass in silence, as it is probable that before many months some slight
changes may be made in an obnoxious law; a consummation devoutly to be wished.
Some may believe it imprudent in us to say even this little; but since, as said already,
it may affect our personal standing in the community, in case that something is not
done in the premises before the expiration of another year, we hold it right to fore-
warn our distant friends not to throw any blame on us if we do not submit to a usage
peculiar to our congregation, although we were twice over-persuaded to do so before

There could be no mistake as to the character of the article.
Mr. Leeser undertook to hold up the congregation to public cen-
sure, because they would not abolish free-will offerings, and pass
a very ridiculous by-law which had been offered by a member,
but was believed to have been framed by himself; and it is not
difficult to understand his threat of appealing to the public in
case the congregation refused to elect him for life, or dispense
with the Bond. He himself, a professed opponent of innova-
tions and reforms, could see no sincerity in his congregation
thinking on that subject as he did; and his sneering expression,
“that they seem to be afflicted with a sort of nervousness,” was
in the very worst spirit. His allusion to the iron-clad Barons
was, as was afterwards remarked by a member in debate, “sin-
gularly unfortunate, as those old feudal Barons were, in the early
days of England, the conservators of the public liberty, who
resisted King John at Runymede, and wrung from the reluctant
tyrant MAGNA CHARTA. Their memorable declaration—
bold defiance to the power of PRIESTCRAFT, that endeavoured
to force on them a portion of the canon law tending to licenti-
ousness and immorality.”

It is not to be supposed that the constituted authorities of the
congregation would pass over in silence an article like this; ab-
solute impunity would have only emboldened him, and the future
numbers of the Occident would have teemed with similar attacks
upon the congregation. Accordingly, a Board meeting was
held on October 21, 1849, when the whole Board were present,
consisting of A. Hart, Esq., Parnas; J. A. Phillips, M. Ar-
, A. S. Wolf, and I. J. Phillips, Adjunta. The following

[Page 17]


preamble and resolutions, offered by J. A. Phillips, and seconded
by I. J. Phillips, were unanimously adopted, the whole five
members voting for them:

WHEREAS, There appeared in the last number of the Occident—a periodical pub-
lished here by the Hazan of this congregation—an editorial article, reviewing, in
terms of censure, the business proceedings of the congregation, and containing a
threat to appeal to the public, unless certain things were done which the editor wishes
done: And whereas, such misconduct on the part of an officer of the congregation,
deserves the severest animadversion and reproof. Therefore—

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Board, that the conduct of the Rev. Isaac
in the premises, is highly censurable, as tending to provoke irritation, create
bad feeling, and as interfering in matters with which he hath no rightful concern.

Resolved, That his threat to appeal to the public, shews an absence of the good
feeling that should exist on the part of the Reader towards his congregation.

Resolved, That the Parnas transmit a copy of this preamble and these resolutions
to Mr. Leeser, and also report the same to the congregation at their next meeting.

This preamble and these resolutions were officially communi-
cated to Mr. Leeser; who never to the Board or congregation
offered any explanation, palliation, or apology. They were laid
before the congregation on the 24th of March, 1850, and would
have been read, and filed away in silence, and without further
action, but for an onslaught on the Board, made by one or two
of the Hazan's indiscreet friends. This brought the members
to their feet, and the following resolution was adopted:

Resolved, That the action of the Board be approved.—Yeas, 20; Nays, 7; Ex-
cused, 2.

This brings to a close the unpleasant review we have felt it
our duty to make. It is matter of painful notoriety, that
during the long sojourn of Mr. Leeser among us, his personal
and official career has been signalized by repeated outbreaks
similar to those already sketched. Our business, however, has
been with him as a Hazan, and not as a man, and it has been
no part of our purpose to dilate upon the numerous objections
to his personal deportment, they will readily occur to all who
know him; and his best friends are always obliged to admit,
that he is an indiscreet, imprudent man. It is certain that he
never loved his congregation, and in turn they could not love
him. His office was a respectable one, the salary liberal, and

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his position one that would have enabled him, if rightly dis-
posed, to have done much for his flock, and for the Jewish com-
munity. That the congregation has flourished, in spite of their
past withering connexion with him, is to be attributed to the
high respectability of the members, and seat-holders generally,
the good dispositions of the elective officers, and the influences
of education upon the rising generation.

But the connexion between Mr. Leeser and the congregation
is ended—severed by his own involuntary act. His errors were
fatal, but might have remained unnoticed but for the ceaseless
attacks of himself and his friends upon the congregation and
its officers, rendering necessary this review of his official career,
and shewing, as it must, to ever unprejudiced mind, that the
minister, and not the congregation, has been invariably in the
wrong. It is hoped that this exampled will be a salutary one,
and that his successor will learn that he will best promote a LIFE
TENURE of office by a single-minded and faithful discharge of
his duties—by obedience to the constituted authorities in the
exercise of their legitimate functions—by deferences to the will
of the majority—by non-interference in the business proceed-
ings of the congregation—and by cultivating kindly feelings
and agreeable intercourse with the members. This line of
conduct will be appreciated, and the connexion between the
Pastor and his flock will be happy and instructive, bringing
back the agreeable reminiscences of the earlier days of the

Philadelphia, April 9, 1850.