Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The US Consulate Has Been in Trouble Before

My veteran readers know of my campaign to have the Jerusalem Consulate of the United States to act without discrimination towards the Jewish residents within its purvey and especially those residing in Judea and Samaria.

My research now has brought this to my attention with its strong reference to contemporary events:

One of the most fascinating of these meshulachim [emissaries collecting charity funds for the Jews of Eretz-Yisrael - YM] was Rabbi Chaim (Hayyim) Tzvi (Zevi, Zvi) Schneerson, who came to America in 1869...However, he did not come to America [only] to raise money. His goal was to improve relations between the United States and Palestine through his personal diplomatic intervention. On February 17, 1869, Rabbi Schneerson delivered a lecture at the New York Historical Society by invitation. Shortly thereafter, Rabbi Schneerson traveled to Washington, D.C. As told in Palestine and Roumania: ADescription of the Holy Land: “He lectured twice in the presence of large and appreciative audiences, among them the Turkish ambassador, members of the President’s family, and several of the Ministry and of Congress...

...He then managed to obtain an interview with Secretary of State Hamilton Fish. Rabbi Schneerson pointed out that the American Consul to Jerusalem had been mixing Christian proselytizing with his diplomatic duties. Indeed, the consul had personally tried to entice a Jewish girl to convert to Christianity. Not long after his meeting with Fish, Rabbi Schneerson was invited to meet the President of the United States. Meeting with President Ulysses S. Grant As told in The First Rabbi and Palestine and Roumania: “The story of his visit, reported in The National Intelligencer of the capital city, was that Schneerson, attired in his oriental costume, addressed the President  [on April 20]. Grant then rose courteously to receive the Rabbi who thereupon said: ‘Mr. President, permit me to give my thanks to the Alm-ghty, whose mercy brought me here to behold the face of the chosen by the millions of this great nation.... I come to your Excellency from the East, ... to entreat you in the name of G-d, who created all men equal, to listen to the prayer of your humble servant, standing before you to advocate the cause of his oppressed brethren in the Holy Land. ‘The Israelites in Palestine possess no political or civil rights whatever, and oftentimes deprived of protection by the representatives of the civilized nations which the Christians enjoy, are exposed to violence and arbitrary rule. The only shelter the Israelites occasionally find is in the courts of the different European consulates, where one of their co-religionists is employed either as interpreter or deputy consul, who convey their grievances to the proper channel. This free republic, alone, whose banner covers the oppressed, whose foundation is based on equality, toleration, and liberty of conscience, has no Israelites employed near the consul at Jerusalem. ‘I do pray, therefore, your Excellency, to turn your attention to the deplorable condition of my brethren in the Orient, that the principles of this Government may be truly embodied in its representatives...

...“At the close of his address, the President, evidently deeply moved by the Rabbi’s sincere and feeling words, inquired with interest as to the circumstances affecting the Jews at Jerusalem which might be guarded by the American Consulate; and replied, with his wonted quick decision, ‘I shall look into this matter with care.’ “The Rabbi then closed the interview with the following fervant invocation: ‘Before I part from you, Mr. President, allow me to offer my fervent prayer from the depth of my heart: Alm-ghty G-d, Whose dominion is an everlasting kingdom, may He bless and preserve, guard and assist your Excellency and your family. May the Supreme King of Kings grant you a long life, and inspire you with benevolence and friendship towards all mankind.’ “At its close, the whole crowd, who had forgotten each his own personal interest in the impressive scene which was passing, were seen to be affected, some even to tears; and from some lips a fervent ‘Amen’ was heard in response. The President replied, with evident feeling, ‘I thank you for your wishes and prayers.’...

...Amazingly, as told in Roumania, America and WorldJewry, “The erring diplomat was recalled, to the satisfaction of Palestinian Jewry and the delight of the meshulach who accomplished it...

See also pp. 107-109 of When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan D. Sarna.

The cause of his anger and demand for the Consul's removal was the assistance Victor Beauboucher gave to Protestant missionaries in the 1868 infamous Sarah Steinberg affair [although one source has her family name as Elkes].  After her parents and older sister had converted and then her parents and brother died (the father had returned to Judaism late in his life), her older sister urged the missionaries to  convert Sarah, who was a minor and hospitalized suffering from the same cholera that killed her brother.  

She was  spirited out of the hospital and hidden by a local 77-year old Rabbi, Aryeh Neeman. The consul himself, with the Consulate security personnel and his deputy, Finkelstein, came on a Friday night and removed her from the Rabbi's custody. The Rabbi was then hauled off to jail on a charge of kidnapping. The Consul's loyalty was first to the Christian missionaries it appeared.

Not only was President Grant involved in the efforts to protect the Jews of Jerusalem but also the German Chancellor (p. 225) as Rabbi Neeman was a Prussian citizen.

Here is a section of the newspaper account from HaLevanon, February 13, 1868 issue:


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