Thursday, November 23, 2006

Galut Sefarad asher bi-Mueva York

Happy Thanksgiving!


This morning I went to the special Thanksgiving Shahharit service of Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese synagogue of New York. Although I've known about the Spanish-Portuguese shul for a number of years now, and went twice during college to see a friend's mother perform in their לאדינו (Judeo-Spanish) drama festival, I had never made it to attend an actual tefilla.

I found out about it a little over a week ago, when I was getting ready to go down to Philadelphia for Shabbos. I looked at the website of Mikveh Israel, the Spanish-Portuguese shul there, and found out that both communities celebrate Thanksgiving in an official way.

The davening proceeded in a brisk weekday manner, with a number of changes that I saw:
  • Shirat Hayam (Az Yashir) was sung.
  • No Tahhanun, as well as other prayers associated with Tahhanun in the Sefardic tradition, such as Lamnatzeiahh between Ashrey and Uva’ Letziyon.
  • Before the Torah reading, the rabbi said the prayers for the Government of Here and for The Medina. As I noticed on Shabbat in Philadelphia last week, the Prayer for Here lists in a highly specific manner not just the President and Vice President, as in other shuls' traditions, but also the local officials including Mayors and members of the State Legislature (no names, just titles).
  • Torah reading? For Thanksgiving?! No, silly — just your normal weekday Thursday leining (since after all, Thanksgiving always falls out on Thursday).
  • Ein Keiloheinu was sung.
  • After the regular davening was finished, one of the rabbanim announced from the bima that in accordance with the custom of Shearith Israel dating back to the first Thanksgiving as proclaimed by President Washington, we would then say some of the sections of Tehillim that make up Hallel.
  • Halelu Et H' Kol Goyim (appropriately enough) was sung, followed by the rest of the body of Hallel (no berakha).
  • Breakfast of cupcakes and cookies.
  • It is also the minhag to drink cocoa.
  • Then people went out to the front steps of the synagogue to watch the Parade go by.

26 Comments:

Blogger Joe said...

cool

11/23/2006 3:08 PM  
Blogger Neil Harris said...

That's one of the coolest things I ever heard of. What an interesting postings.
Did the cupcakes look like turkeys?

11/24/2006 12:18 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

joe:

i agree!

neil harris:

the cupcakes did not look like turkeys... just normal cupcakes with multicolored sprinkles. they were good.

11/24/2006 1:04 AM  
Blogger Lipman said...

Very interesting, really. Not sure if I think this is kosher, especially dropping tachnen, but that's really interesting, in particular that they've been saying Hallel since the institution of your holiday.

11/24/2006 4:00 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

lipman:

it's not quite Hallel, just *some* of the mizmorey Tehillim that Hallel consists of. No berakhot were said before or after, and the Tehilllim were sung at the very end of davening, not after the ‘Amida where Hallel would be placed.

11/24/2006 12:02 PM  
Blogger Lipman said...

Yesyes, I understood that. I didn't mean "interesting" in a would-be ironic way, meaning "intolerable". :-)

11/25/2006 5:45 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Not sure if I think this is kosher, especially dropping tachnen, but that's really interesting, in particular that they've been saying Hallel since the institution of your holiday.

According to one understanding, the practices should be binding on all us NYC Jews, since the first people who came established minhakh [sic] hammakom, no?

(Anyone care to understand my spelling minhakh?)

11/25/2006 8:10 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

(Anyone care to understand my spelling minhakh?)


Either it represents the Dutch pronunciation of 'g', which is like the pronunciation of 'ch' (and since the Sfardim had an Amsterdam (Mokum Alef) connection, it follows that certain mispronunciations might have been borrowed from the BneiOlland, OR quite a bit less likely it references the Arabic term 'hak' for a judicial decree.

My groshn is on the first - I offer the last merely because I'm never at a loss for two answers (which nevertheless may both be wrong).

11/25/2006 8:53 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

It is also the minhag to drink cocoa.

That is absolutely charming.

11/25/2006 8:54 PM  
Blogger Amishav said...

Nice! We don't have a sephardic minyan here in Denver- at least that I know of. It would be cool to attend one and see how it is really different.

11/25/2006 9:10 PM  
Blogger Lipman said...

the first people who came established minhakh [sic] hammakom, no?

You wisely said "according to one understanding". The usual understanding is that minnek hammokem doesn't exist in countries like the USA, or is used to mean a specific shul's minnek only. But even in the olden times, in places where there were both Sforaddem and Ashkenazzem, there were two sets, so it might still not be obligatory for all. And then again, it might. It also depends on the legitimacy of the minnek in the first place.

(Anyone care to understand my spelling minhakh?)

BOTH's explanation suggests itself, though I'd have expected menhakh.

A more detailed guess is that you combined a traditional ("inner-Hebrew") spirant pronunciation of ג with a later syllable-final devoicing as in certain Germanic languages such as WY and Dutch. Only, as far as I know, the spanisch-portugiesische pronunciation didn't have a spirant ג anymore at the time of devoicing. Pre-A probably neither, and that doesn't have much to do with NY's Sephardic Jews.

So?

11/26/2006 7:03 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Sounds cool. It's cool that you got up and went to see it. So often we hear about cool things and never check them out.

11/26/2006 8:51 AM  
Blogger Ari Kinsberg said...

mar:

"According to one understanding, the practices should be binding on all us NYC Jews, since the first people who came established minhakh [sic] hammakom, no?"

then we should all be davening sephard.

and as far as trying to reproduce contemporary pronounciation/transliteration, the majority of jews in america by the 1730s were askenazi and would not likely have used a dutch/spanish/portguese pronounciation. instead they would have pronoucned hebrew based on their mame lashon--yiddish.

11/26/2006 7:11 PM  
Blogger Ari Kinsberg said...

steg:

1) very cool

2)the brachaless "hallel" is cute (what do they do on 5 iyyar?), but i'm not at all comfortable with skipping tachanun (unless of course it falls out on rosh chodesh, which it sometimes does) or otherwise altering the regular tefillah. america is great, but it is not the final redemption.

3) jews particiapting in national holidays has parallels in certain parts of europe, but i wonder if in europe the the regular tefilah was likewise altered. (i know that novel supplementary prayers composed for the particular occasion were offered.)

4) i responded to your comments on this topic at hirhurim

5) "the Prayer for Here lists in a highly specific manner not just the President and Vice President, as in other shuls' traditions, but also the local officials including Mayors and members of the State Legislature"

it was almost de regiur in siddurinm and epehereral liturgical publications in 19th c. america to acknowledge congress and local authorities. this was an age when the president was impotent compared to the 20th c. president and that the average american in the 19th c. had almost no interaction with the federal government altogether. so it was only natural to pray for those who really had an impact on your life.

also, the prayer for government in the first american siddur (jackson/lazarus, 1826) distinguishes when congress is in session and when in recess.

6) "in accordance with the custom of Shearith Israel dating back to the first Thanksgiving as proclaimed by President Washington"

there was actually a thanksgiving service in ca. 1760 (?) which resultued in the first published jewish work in america. on the other hand, as i mention on hirhurim, there is no direct tradition back to washington to celebrate thanksgiving. we owe this development to lincoln.

7) finally, in retropsect america has been the best home for the jews since antiquity, but i don't think that in the 1770s it was appropriate for american jews to celebrate thanksgiving (other than for the reason of looking good in the eyes of the general community):

a) probably only a minority of jews actually supported the revolution, so why make a communal holiday out of it.

b) the position of the jews was not appreciably (in practice) any better in the new republic than it had been under colonial government. (and at this early junture it was probably not too clear altogether what the status of the jews would be altogether in the nascent nation).

11/26/2006 7:32 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

pronoucned hebrew based on their mame lashon--yiddish.

Is this intentionally discordant (instead of "mamme loshn-- yiddesh")?

11/26/2006 9:36 PM  
Blogger Ari Kinsberg said...

mar:

no. i don't know enough yiddish even to pretend that i take it that seriously.

11/27/2006 3:02 AM  
Blogger Lipman said...

Ari,

my guess is the Ashkenazim would probably have used the Western European Ashkenazic pronunciation, while mame is rather Eastern Yiddish, and lashon is Christian/Israeli. Also, what the WA pronunciation has different from the Sp-P one isn't simply based on Yiddish.

But anyway, was 1730 a typo? In 1830, a considerable amount of German Jews were there already, but in 1730, as far as I know, there were less than 2000 Jews in North America, almost exclusively Sefardic Jews.


Mar Gavriel,

nu?

11/27/2006 3:39 AM  
Blogger Ari Kinsberg said...

lipman:

"But anyway, was 1730 a typo?"

no.

"but in 1730, as far as I know, there were less than 2000 Jews in North America"

the 2000 estimate is from the revolution period. there were probably much fewer jews in 1730.

"almost exclusively Sefardic Jews."

this is a common misconception. even thought the shuls were sephardic, by the 1730s more jews were ashekenazi. in philadelphia, for example, "sephardic" mikveh israel had an (overwhelmingly?) ashkenazic membership, an
ashkenazic parnas and a yiddish constitution.

i'm not sure of the exact breakdown. but while a majority were probably from central europe (what people like to generalize as "germany"), there were also poles (hyman salomon for example) and it is now assumed that the first jew to settle permanenly in america (asser levy) was from vilna. score one for the litvaks!

11/27/2006 9:49 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

A more detailed guess is that you combined a traditional ("inner-Hebrew") spirant pronunciation of ג with a later syllable-final devoicing as in certain Germanic languages such as WY and Dutch. Only, as far as I know, the spanisch-portugiesische pronunciation didn't have a spirant ג anymore at the time of devoicing. Pre-A probably neither, and that doesn't have much to do with NY's Sephardic Jews.

Right. Freg Steg.

11/27/2006 1:01 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

and lashon is Christian/Israeli

We say 'loosjn' (transcribed pronunciation: 'low-shun' - emphasis on the penultimate syll.).

So, de heilige taal becomes 'loosjn kodusj'. Or sometimes 'kadusj'.

[I have an odd affection for the Dutch 'j' in lieu of the Anglish 'y'. But 'ş' (ess with a cedilya) is actually a cleaner transcriber, no?]

11/27/2006 1:08 PM  
Blogger thanbo said...

Evidently the minhag has changed. 20 years ago I used to go regularly on Thanksgiving (my old scoutmaster, Arnie Goldfarb, was the shamash). At the time, the cake of breakfast was brownies. But the cocoa remains the same.

1730 is, I think, when the Mill Street synagogue was built. The little synagogue (light blue walls), where you probably davened, is a replica of its interior. My parents were married there.

Was Jeff (R' Hayyim) Angel there? His father (R' Marc) gave the same Thanksgiving sermon every year - about how the synagogue has been doing Thanksgiving since the beginning.

11/27/2006 4:33 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Ari Kinsberg:

I got the impression that the S-P Jewish community generally supported the Revolution... or at least the British thought they did, since they desecrated one of their Torah scrolls.

Thanbo:

We davened in the main part of the synagogue building, but i think i saw the one you're describing.

Both of the R' Angels were there; both of them hhazan'd, and i talked to R' Hayyim afterwards during breakfast.

11/27/2006 4:47 PM  
Blogger Ari Kinsberg said...

steg,

i would have to go back and check up specifically how different parts of the jewish community reacted to the revolution (you refer in specific to the s-p), but overall the jewish profile at the onset of the war resembled the general american one: 1/3 in favor, 1/3 opposed and 1/3 sat on the fence to see who would win. at shearith israel you may have heard about the gershom seixas mendes, the "patriot patriot" of shearith israel who closed up the shul, packed up the ritual objects and led the community into exile rather they remain under british occupation during the war. the truth is that some remained in the city (and i think that services continued, but i'm not sure where).

the early (filiopietist)writers of american jewish history preferred to stress the patriot jews rather than the loyalist ones, in large part because they wrote to prove that jews deserved to live in america.

11/28/2006 1:19 AM  
Blogger Lipman said...

Ari,

thanks, I had no idea, other than presuming there were less Jews there in 1730 than at the time of the revolution.


MG,

I'm still not sure if you're talking about the general development of older Dutch [g] -> [χ], or a continuation of the massoretic spirant g.

11/28/2006 4:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darn, I'd heard they do hallel with a berakha, so this is actually sort of a let down.

11/28/2006 6:24 PM  
Blogger tikkunger said...

hey steg i thinks you gave my the wrong coordinates!!!

Me sad!

12/05/2006 6:15 PM  

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