Notes on collections at the RIHS
In celebration of Hanukkah, here’s an important item of Rhode Island Judaica from the R.I.H.S. Collections: A Lunar Calendar, of the Festivals, and Other Days in the Year, Observed by the Israelites, commencing anno mundi, 5566, and ending in 5619, being a period of 54 years, which by the solar computation of time, begins September 24th, 1805, and will end the 28th of the same month, in the year 1859, together with other tables useful and convenient. (Newport: Newport Mercury, 1806 — Vault, CE 35 .L8).
A Lunar Calendar is the first Jewish calendar printed in America and only the second book printed for American Jews. (The Library also holds a copy of the first, A Sermon Preached at the Synagogue, in Newport, Rhode-Island, called “The salvation of Israel”: on the day of Pentecost, or Feast of Weeks, the 6th day of the month Sivan, the year of the creation, 5533: or, May 28, 1773. Being the anniversary of giving the law at Mount Sinai: /. (Newport: Solomon Southwick, 1773 — Vault, Alden 515)
Moses Lopez, the author of the calendar, was born in Portugal and apparently also held a patent for the manufacture of potash.*
This copy includes the following inscription on the front pastedown: “Presented to Jacob J. Cohen by Naphtali Phillips, New York 11th Ce Adar, 5570″ [March 17, 1810].” The image below (click for a closer view) provides an idea of the calendar’s contents and includes annotations by, perhaps, Cohen:
This calendar — used to determine holidays and other important dates — reflects Rhode Island’s long tradition of religious freedom. The Touro Synagogue is the nation’s oldest, completed in 1763 as a place of worship for a Jewish community that had already been in Newport for nearly a hundred years.
* See George Mason’s Reminiscences of Newport (Newport: Charles E. Hammett, Jr., 1884), pages 56-7.