Important Judaica

Important Judaica

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 32. Prayer for American Victory in the Spanish-American War, Rabbi Joshua Seigel, New York: Eliakum Zunser, [1898].

Prayer for American Victory in the Spanish-American War, Rabbi Joshua Seigel, New York: Eliakum Zunser, [1898]

Lot Closed

June 16, 06:32 PM GMT


2,500 - 3,500 USD

Lot Details


Autograph copy of one of the few prayers composed by a Jew for the success of the American Armed Forces in the midst of the war.

Joshua Seigel, born in 1846 in Kuczbork, Poland, acquired a reputation early on in life as a great Talmudic scholar and was accordingly ordained by Rabbis Leibush Harif of Płock, Israel Joshua Trunk of Kutno, and Joseph Hayyim Kara of Włocławek. When his father passed away in 1871, he inherited his position as rabbi of the community of Sierpc, though the opposition of local Hasidim to his leadership, coupled with his meager salary, drove him to immigrate circa 1883-1884 to the United States, where he settled in New York. Here he would serve as rabbi of a number of congregations, including Chevrah Tehillim Anshei Viscover, located at 169 Clinton Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Seigel is best known as the author of a controversial 1905 responsum permitting the establishment of the first eiruv in Manhattan, on the East Side. Other important responsa of his were published posthumously under the title She’elot u-teshuvot oznei yehoshua (Jerusalem, 1914), and many of his writings remain in manuscript to this day. Seigel passed away suddenly of a heart attack on February 22, 1910 in his son Max’s home; his funeral was held two days later, with stops at both the Chevrah Tehillim and at Midrash Anshei Makover of Poland (203 Henry Street), and was attended by over one thousand mourners.

The present lot comprises autograph handwritten and printed versions of a prayer composed by Seigel during the Spanish-American War, which broke out in April 1898 and lasted until mid-August that same year. Seigel notes the cruel oppression of the Cubans at the hands of the Spaniards, “a dishonest nation, soiled with blood going back centuries,” and contrasts this with the uprightness and virtue of the “good, righteous people, namely [the Cubans’] neighbors, the residents of the United States of America.” He prays for divine assistance in the prosecution of battle both on land and at sea and adds a plea for the welfare of the president, vice president, Senate, Congress, and American military officers. Another hand attributes the document’s authorship to Seigel, and this is confirmed by comparison with the writing found in another manuscript (New York, Jewish Theological Seminary Ms. 2878). The later hand adds in Yiddish “200 leters af mitvokh,” apparently a request for a limited print run of two hundred copies of this special liturgy by Wednesday.

It is estimated that about five thousand Jews served in the Armed Forces during the hostilities, and much of the Jewish press in Hebrew, Yiddish, Judeo-Spanish, and, of course, English closely followed the developments. However, only very few Jewish prayers for American success at war are known, making this document an important historical source on early American Jewish patriotism.

Physical Description

2 pages (10 3/8 x 7 3/8 in.; 264 x 187 mm) on paper. A couple strikethroughs and one textual interpolation. Fold lines and slight smudging of ink. Leaves matted, glazed, and framed, with a small plaque below giving the name of the author and a description of the leaves’ contents; not examined outside of the frame.


Cyrus Adler, “Preliminary List of Jewish Soldiers and Sailors Who Served in the Spanish-American War,” The American Jewish Year Book 2 (1900-1901/5661): 525-622.

Anon., “Horav sigel toyt,” Yidishes tageblat (February 23, 1910): 1.

Anon., “Sherpser rov tsu zayn eybige ru,” Varheyt (February 25, 1910): 5.

Anon., “Throng at Rabbi’s Funeral,” The New York Times (February 25, 1910): 7.

Seymour Sy Brody, “Jews Who Served with Honor in The Spanish-American War,” in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America: 151 True Stories of Jewish American Heroism (Hollywood, FL: Frederick Fell Publishers, Inc., 1996), 104-105.

Adam Mintz, “Halakhah in America: The History of City Eruvin, 1894-1962” (Ph.D. diss., New York University, 2011), esp. pp. 229-282 (ch. 5).

Joshua Seigel, She’elot u-teshuvot oznei yehoshua (Jerusalem: Moriah, Schoenbaum, et Weiss, 1914), author’s introduction.

Ephraim Talmi (ed.), Kehillat sherps: sefer zikkaron (Tel Aviv: Ha-Irgunim shel Yotse’ei Sherps be-Yisra’el u-be-Huts la-Arets, 1959), 31-32.