([New York: Johnstone & Van Norden], March 5583 ). 252 x 148 mm. (10 x 5 7/8"). 18 pp. FIRST EDITION.
Unbound as issued, UNCUT AND UNOPENED sheets held together by a single stitch. A couple of small brown stains affecting first four leaves, minor foxing, final leaf with small triangle missing from fore-edge margin, short tear at gutter margin (touching text but no loss), and four small holes in the lower third (no loss), fore edges a little frayed, but a very good, never-opened copy of an extremely fragile item.
This is an unread copy of the first issue of the first Jewish periodical to be printed in the United States, a work aimed at counteracting the efforts of a missionary society to convert Jews to Christianity--and a remarkable survival, given its fragility. Editor (and author of much of the text) Solomon Henry Jackson (d. 1847) emigrated from England to Pennsylvania before settling in New York City in the 1820s. There, he established a press that used both Hebrew and English fonts to print prayer books and the first Haggadah published in the United States. At that time, there were only about 3,000 Jews living in America, and nearly one-third of them lived in New York City. While there had been sporadic evangelizing to American Jews by Christians, organized efforts at conversion picked up in 1816, when Joseph Frey, a convert affiliated with the London-based Society for Conversion of the Jews, arrived in New York for that specific purpose. With the support of Rev. Elias Boudinot of the American Bible Society, Frey established the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews (ASMCJ) in 1820, recruiting dignitaries that included Secretary of State and future President John Quincy Adams to serve as directors. The society began issuing a monthly journal, "Israel's Advocate," aimed at persuading Jews to embrace Christianity. Jackson was alarmed by what he saw as a threat to Jewish identity, and responded within two months with the present printing, the first issue of "The Jew." In the text, Jackson defends what he calls "our peculiar religious tenets, and our character, as a people." He asserts the right of Jews in the United States to equality under the law, and calls upon his fellow Jews, especially rabbis, to denounce and fight the conversion efforts. He proposes guidelines for dialogue between Christians and Jews, asking the former to refrain from offensive language toward the latter; as he points out, "neither persecution or detraction ever yet made a single convert." Rather, he suggests an exchange of arguments about biblical interpretations and theology, without resort to anti-Semitism. Jackson declares his intention of publishing "The Jew" monthly, directly responding to the arguments in "Israel's Advocate." "The Jew" was published on that schedule for two years. Copies of issues are now rare: we were able to locate just two appearances at auction: a February 1824 issue sold in 2013 for $1,100 hammer, and a bound set of the first 12 issues sold in 2007 for $6,500 hammer. OCLC locates print copies of the periodical at fewer than a dozen libraries worldwide. To find an unopened copy of the first issue is very unusual. (ST16961)