Gutheim, James K. (1817-86). Two Autograph Letters Signed, each written to <<Isaac Leeser>>, in English and Hebrew.

AUCTION 80 | Thursday, March 28th, 2019 at 1:00 PM
The Valmadonna Trust Library: Further Selections from the Historic Collection. * Hebrew Printing in America. * Graphic & Ceremonial Art

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Lot 123

Gutheim, James K. (1817-86). Two Autograph Letters Signed, each written to <<Isaac Leeser>>, in English and Hebrew.

In the first letter Gutheim affirms his friendship with Leeser and discusses his feelings about embarking upon his next congregational appointment. In the second letter Gutheim writes of his recent arrival to serve as Rabbi in New Orleans (see below). One page (integral blank featuring address panel, portion cut but not affecting text of letter). Second letter: Twelve pages.

Louisville, 25th December, 1849: and New Orleans 28th November, 1853

Est: $3,000 - $5,000
In the second, lengthy letter, Gutheim reports to Leeser that matters in New Orleans were “in a deplorable state.” The synagogue was “miserable …its very appearance suggestive of disorder” and the congregation was most “uneducated and ignorant.” Other than the ability to read Hebrew very poorly, the children receive no Jewish education. Gutheim writes that he had been warned of this, yet “the reality far exceeded my gloomy expectations!” Optimistically, Gutheim writes that there is much he could accomplish. Indeed, he states that in his first sermon he informed the congregation what they should expect of him and what he hoped to expect of them; thereafter: “the congregation became attached to me and appeared to be proud of me.” Nonetheless Gutheim also complains here of some of the indignities he suffers, such as congregants regularly decamping the synagogue just as he ascended to the pulpit to deliver his Sabbath sermon. Overall, this letter is an unvarnished look at the realities of serving in the rabbinate in mid-19th century America. James Koppel Gutheim shared a similar biography, geographic background, and even a childhood Talmud teacher with Isaac Leeser.