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Leeser first published his own major theological work, The Jews and the Mosaic Law, in 1834. Here can be found his expressed belief in the divine origin of the Pentateuch as well as his defence of Judaism, expanded upon from its earlier voicing in the Richmond Whig (1828). Over the next thirty years, Leeser produced a flood of sermons and theological works, including his two-volume (later a third volume was added) Discourses, Argumentative and Devotional, on the Subject of the Jewish Religion (1837) and his massive ten volume Discourses on the Jewish Religion published at the end of his life in 1867. In 1837, Leeser completed his English translation of the Sephardic prayer book in use at Mikveh Israel, The Form of Prayers According to the Custom of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews and two years later in 1839 published a new http://archive.org/details/catechismforyoun1839lees.
During the 1840's, Leeser began working as an editor and publisher. Among his many contributions to American literary culture were his editions of Louis Salomon's The Mosaic System in its Fundamental Principles (1841), Grace Aguilar's The Spirit of Judaism (1842), Benjamin Dias Fernandes' A Series of Letters on the Evidences of Christianity (1859), and Hester Rothschild's "Meditations and Prayers" (1866). In 1843, Leeser began publishing what would become perhaps his greatest literary achievement: The Occident and American Jewish Advocate, a monthly (with the exception of a brief and unsuccessful appearance as a weekly) journal of news and opinion, which he was to edit and publish until his death in 1868.
Leeser continued to play an unceasing role in creating the cultural foundations of Jewish life in Philadelphia and throughout North America. In 1845, Leeser founded the first American Jewish Publication Society and in the same year published his translation of the Pentateuch entitled The Law of God, a bi-lingual edition which included the unpointed (unvocalized) Hebrew text. Three years later, in 1848, Leeser published with a local Episcopalian minister, Joseph Jacquette, a masoretic (pointed) Hebrew edition of the entire Hebrew Bible, Biblia Hebraica, the first of its kind to be printed in America. That same year, Leeser also managed to issue his translation of the Ashkenazic prayer book.
In addition to his professional activities as minister, educator, writer, translator, editor and publisher, Leeser also played a fundamental role in either proposing, founding, or leading many significant civic, religious, and charitable institutions. Leeser was the proposer of a "Plan of Union" of American Hebrew congregations (to be based on shared traditional principles and featuring a "Central Religious Council" modeled after the concept of the Bet Din); the proposer of the first Union of Hebrew Benevolent Societies; founder of the American Jewish Bible Society; founder of the Hebrew Education Society; founder of the Philadelphia Jewish Hospital; supporter of the Jewish Foster Home of Philadelphia.
Leeser was also a member of the Jewish Order of B'nai Brith; member of the Board of Hebrew Ministers; member of the committee of the Hebrew Fuel Society; vice-president until his death of the Board of Delegates of American Israelites -- the first American organization devoted to the cause of Jewish defense; founder, first provost, president of the faculty, and professor of Homiletics, Belles Lettres and Comparative Theology, at Maimonides College, "The First American Jewish Theological Seminary."
Leeser's stormy relationship with the Congregation Mikveh Israel lasted through 1850, at which point he left his ministry. Undeterred by this setback, Leeser embarked on an extensive journey across the United States, travelling over 5,200 miles from November 9, 1851 through February 27, 1852. He visited isolated and emerging Jewish communities, where he lectured on a variety of topics and spoke out on behalf of Jewish causes. After returning to Philadelphia, Leeser continued his work as editor of The Occident, publisher, bookseller, dealer in Judaica and translator. In 1853, Leeser completed his monumental English translation of the entire Hebrew Bible, known popularly as "The Leeser Bible." In 1857, the same year in which the second (folio-size) edition of the "Leeser Bible" was issued, a new congregation was formed for him in West Philadelphia, where he served until his death eleven years later. The congregation, called Beth El Emeth, was composed chiefly of supporters of his who had formerly belonged to the Congregation Mikveh Israel. From his new pulpit, Leeser continued to advocate his longstanding goal of bringing unity to the American Jewish community under the banner of traditional Jewish practice.
In many ways, Leeser's personal life was filled with quiet anguish. He led a lonely, often sickly life. Reports have it that he caused a stir by living in a boarding house run by a non-Jewish woman, and he was rumored to have been eating there non-kosher food. According to several accounts, one of his ill-fated romantic hopes was dashed by the father of his beloved, Simha Peixotto. Conflict was characteristic of much of Leeser's public life as well. During the divisive Civil War years, to cite one example, Leeser feared he had been placed on a "suspect list" of southern sympathizers, and was warned by his friend Moses Aaron Dropsie that he might have to flee the city.
Isaac Leeser died in Philadelphia on February 1, 1868, at the age of 61, and was buried in the Beth El Emeth congregation cemetery in West Philadelphia located at 55th and Market Sts.