John Moss (1771-1847) was an English-born Jew who immigrated to the United States as a boy and would go on to become a major American shipping magnate and insurer. Aside from various other business- and civic-related activities, he was also an active and dedicated member of the Jewish community of Philadelphia, serving as trustee of the Sephardic Congregation Mi(c)kveh Israel, contributing significantly to its building fund of 1818, laying the cornerstone for its new structure on Cherry Street in 1824, and presiding over a gathering of Philadelphia Jews protesting the Damascus Affair in August 1840. He died Monday, April 5, 1847 and was buried three days later in the old Jewish cemetery on Spruce Street.
Presiding over the funeral was Isaac Leeser (1806-1868), one of the major builders of American Judaism who also served as the cantor and acting rabbi of Moss’ synagogue. Moss had been a supporter of Leeser’s, including by helping him found the short-lived American Jewish Publication Society in 1845. The present lot, dated “Tuesday, Nissan 20th, April 6th, 5607,” contains the text of Leeser’s eulogy for Moss. (It seems Leeser wrote the address two days before delivering it.) In it, he reflects on the transient nature of life, praises the departed as “ever proud of being a Jew,” encourages his descendants to continue in Moss’ ways, and prays that his loss will inspire those he had left behind to lead virtuous, God-fearing lives.
The Occident and American Jewish Advocate 5 (May 1847) (http://www.jewish-history.com/occident/volume5/may1847/life.html).
Lucien Moss, “Memoir of John Moss,” Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society 2 (1894): 171-174.
Robert Singerman, Judaica Americana: A Bibliography of Publications to 1900, vol. 1 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990), 197 (no. 975).
Lance J. Sussman, Isaac Leeser and the Making of American Judaism (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1995).
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