Auction No. 113

Famous personalities, Art, Seforim, Letters from Rabbis and Rebbes

Apr 8, 2019

Auction No. 113

Opening $ 3,000
Estimate $ 6,000 - $ 8,000

Fascinating archive of dozens of letters by rabbis and personages of the Old Yishuv, of the Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities alike, which reveal for the first time a warm and appreciative relationship between them and the English consul. Late 19th Century.

Dozens of consuls of the various powers were positioned in Jerusalem towards the end of the Ottoman rule, ever since the establishment of the British Consulate in 1838. However, none of them earned a reputation like James Finn (1806-1872), who served as the British consul for 17 years (1846-1863). He left his impression on the history of the Land and the Jewish settlement and there was no other consul in Jerusalem who received such extensive publicity in his lifetime and about whom so much was written, especially what he did for the Jewish settlement.

Even before he received the position, he was interested in the Jews and their history and contacted the heads of the British Mission, which was then just beginning, and even took part in its activities. However, at the eve of his departure to Jerusalem, he severed his relations with them.

His interest in Judaism led him to methodologically study the Hebrew language and he could read the bible and other holy scriptures. He was even able to conduct a simple conversation in Hebrew and read a letter that was written in simple Hebrew. These facts removed the barriers between him and various apostates as well as Jews who appealed to him in times of need, thus increasing their trust in him. Moreover, his amity towards the Jews was reflected in his devoted efforts to help the Yishuv in times of distress with remarkable devotion, by creating employment opportunities, helping the poor, defending the Jews against evildoers and more. His most well-known enterprise was the establishment of the 'Kerem Avraham' neighborhood (1852), which was meant to provide means of sustenance to poor Jews, an idea that was brought up during the Crimean War crisis. This philanthropic enterprise saved hundreds of families and provided many with a profession and skills in the fields of construction and agriculture.

His missionary activity is controversial. The fact that he acted for the benefit of apostates caused various scholars to determine decisively that he indeed engaged in missionary activity. During his lifetime he was already accused of this by Jews and non-Jews alike. On the other hand, there are scholars who claim that he never tried to convince anyone to convert nor was he involved in any other activity related to conversion. While it is true that he took care of converts and tried to supply their needs, and joyously participated in conversion ceremonies, he did all this without being a missionary himself.

On the other hand, already during his first years as consul, Finn worked diligently to tighten his connections with the leaders of the Jewish settlement. He visited many synagogues, took part in celebrations of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem and established friendly relations with them. The consul had two translators, one Ashkenazic, an apostate who had repented, named Shimon Rosenthal, and the second a Sephardi named Raphael Avraham Meyuchas.


The collection contains rich material for studying the consul in particular and the old Yishuv in general. The scholar, Prof. Mordechai Eliav, who studied the British consul, considering the two positions, the one that suspected he was a missionary and the other that cleansed him of any sin, determined that despite his vigorous activity for the Jews and "despite his good deeds," concerns about his missionary activities overpower the goodness of his deeds. This collection, which contains many letters of gratitude, from all kinds of people of the Jewish settlement, and which are phrased in a most warmhearted style, proves otherwise.

* Letter of appreciation for the help given in the past and a request for the future by Rabbi Yaakov Slonim: "And our request and certainty that in the future he will protect us at any time ..." Rabbi Yaakov Slonim, patriarch of the Slonim family, son-in-law of the middle Admor Rabbi Dov Ber Schneersohn of Lubavitch, son of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, author of the Tanya, immigrated to Hebron according to the instruction of the 'Tzemach Tzedek' c. 1843 was one of the founders and leaders of the Chaba"d settlement of Hebron.

* Letter of appreciation on behalf of the Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities of Hebron, for his help in saving them from the enemy: 'And by his strong hand they were humiliated …'

* Letter of appreciation by Rabbi Yosef Yom Tov Meyuchas, one of the activists of the city, for agreeing to accept his son Raphael Avraham as his translator.

* Letter with a request for help by Chaim Weisman for the Jews of Österreich who had yet to establish an independent Kollel. Tiberias 1857. Weisman was born in Brody in 1803. He studied medicine in Bucharest and then moved to Tunis to practice medicine. From there he immigrated to the Land of Israel in 1828 and settled in Tiberias. He lost his wife and two sons as well as all of his many possessions in the earthquake of 1837. After the earthquake, he built a hotel for travelers and visitors to Tiberias, some of whom described him in their books.

* Secret letter by the emissary of the Chaba"d Kollel Rabbi Shneur Zalman son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel to the consul. He traveled as an emissary of Chaba"d, mainly to Arab countries. In 1864, he printed the book Chemdah Gnuzah in Jerusalem, which contains responsa by the Geonim from manuscript and he certainly sold it to the communities he visited on his trips as an emissary. In 1866, he printed the book Kol Aryeh in Jerusalem, novellae on the Talmud by his grandfather Rabbi Aryeh Leib Charif, Av Beit Din of Homel. In the preface of the book, he recalls the routes of his missions, a most fascinating journey indeed. In 1876, he printed his book Zichron Yerushalayim, together with the book Em LaMassoret by his grandfather Rabbi Aryeh Leib Charif. The aim of the book was to invoke love for the Land of Israel. In it, he described in detail the yishuv and the cities he had gone through on his way. He is the one who succeeded in soliciting donations from the Sassoon family of India for building Chaba"d synagogues in Hebron and in Jerusalem.

In this letter, he updates him about secret issues related to his mission. [India], 1859.

* Interesting letter by Rabbi David Sasson of Jerusalem [not Rabbi David the son of Rabbi Suleiman Sassoon of India] in which he reveals nasty business that occurred at the consul's house and for which he was not responsible. Rabbi David Sasson of the Jerusalem sages, signs in 1859, a 'letter of appointment' of Rabbi David Aryeh HaCohen, a gabbai and treasurer of the Jerusalem Fund in Trieste. [Jerusalem], Rosh Chodesh Nissan 1858.

* A letter of plea by the workers of 'Kerem Avraham' about the strict hand of their employers. Jerusalem 1904.

* Letters of protest against the Mission, and more. Letters by the leaders of the Yishuv and by laypeople, such as: the rabbis of the Meyuchas family, Rabbi David Tevele of Lomza, the heads of the Warsaw kollel, and more.

* A Ladino confirmation by the Sephardic community to the emissary Raphael Avraham Pinchas for the consul.

A total of 24 letters, all of them written in Hebrew and approximately eight additional letters in Ottoman language. Very fine overall condition.

Historic Documents and Miscellaneous