“What dignity in its appearance! How lordly in its bearing!”
“When full grown it rises about twenty feet from the ground without branches. Then for about ten feet more it throws forth beautiful and finely curved branches in all directions, and on the very top stands forth a straight stalk pointing upward.”
“That tree (royal palm) preaches a sermon to all mankind; those branches, spreading on all sides, manifest the people on this earth, settled in every clime …”
“… the stalk, projecting from the midst of these branches, and shooting upwards, is Israel, the connecting link between earth and heaven. Israel’s mission is to link the people of this earth to their Father in Heaven.”
“It is a powerful sermon that this royal palm teaches. May the moral not be lost on us.” (Rabbi Rudolph Coffee, in the Islands in 1902)
Shaloha is a conjunction of Shalom and Aloha – (the former is Hebrew, the latter Hawaiian) they each can mean peace, completeness, prosperity and welfare and can be used idiomatically to mean both hello and goodbye.
The conjunctive word is used by many of the Jewish faith in Hawaiʻi, and the word serves as the basis for the website of Temple Emanu-El (a synagogue community and a center of Jewish life in Hawaiʻi.)
Recorded history notes that the 1798 diary entries of Enbenezer Townsend are indicated as the first references to Jews in Hawaiʻi. Townsend, the principal owner of the ‘Neptune’ was at the time one of the most extensive ship owners in New Haven. They were on a sealing voyage under the command of Daniel Greene and were in Hawaiʻi from August 12, 1798, to August 31, 1798.
“At about sunrise, the king, whose name is Amaiamai-ah (Kamehameha) came on board in quite handsome style in a double canoe, paddled by about five and twenty men. … While we lay there I proposed learning him the compass, which I had some reason to regret, for he kept me at it continually until he learned it.”
“One of his wives (Kaʻahumanu) came on board with him; she was a large woman, with a great deal of the cloth of the country around her … He also brought a Jew cook with him, and if he remains here I think it will be difficult to trace his descendants, for he is nearly as dark as they are.” (Diary of Ebenezer Townsend, Jr, August 19, 1798)
It is believed that Jewish traders from England and Germany first came to Hawaiʻi in the 1840s. Jews from throughout the world were attracted to California and in most cases they tried it there before they came to the Islands. (Glanz)
The first Jewish mercantile establishment was a San Francisco firm, which opened a branch in Honolulu. As with many other Jewish families of merchants in California, it was a large family which could well afford to staff the branch of the firm in the islands with a partner, while other family members remained in San Francisco. Subsequently other Jewish firms in California did the same thing.
AS Grinbaum is to be regarded as the first founder of a firm of this kind; he arrived in Honolulu in 1856, where he remained for about seven years. At the end of this time, after having acquired a small fortune through carrying on a general merchandise business, he returned to the United States, and later to Europe.
Grinbaum’s success led him to induce one of his nephews to settle in the Islands. Encouraged by the financial success of Grinbaum, another German Jew, Hirsch Rayman, went to engage there in business in the early 1860s. He was also successful and after a sojourn of five years, he returned to Posen. (Coffee)
The firm of M. Phillips and Company was founded in 1867 by Michael Phillips of San Francisco, who owned an importing and jobbing firm there. The Honolulu branch of the firm was headed by Phillips’ brother-in-law, Mark Green. The Phillips Company was mainly active in the export of sugar, rice and coffee. (Glanz)
Another firm founded in the 1860s was that of the Hyman Brothers. There were five brothers, one of whom was Henry W Hyman, who engaged in a mercantile business with his brothers as “Hyman Bros., Importers of General Merchandise and Commission Merchants,” filling orders to the sale of Consignments of Rice, Sugar, Coffee and other Island Produce.”
The Grinbaum, Hyman and Phillips firms were the outstanding Jewish-owned companies prior to the annexation of the islands by the US in 1898. (Glanz)
The Odd Fellows had been established in the Sandwich Islands in 1846, and Jewish names can be seen in their membership rosters. The report of a picnic held on April 25, 1885 in Waikiki, by the Excelsior Lodge, noted among others, the presence of the “following brethren with their lady guests:” L. Adler, I. S. Ginsbergh and M. Louisson.
There was at least one Jew who played a prominent role in the political history of the islands; Paul Rudolph Neumann, lawyer and diplomat, was one of the Jewish leaders in Hawaiʻi. He served as Attorney General under King Kalākaua (1883–1886) and Queen Liliʻuokalani (1892,) became a member of the House of Nobles, and later became Liliʻuokalani’s personal attorney.
About 1901, the Hebrew Benevolent Association was formed, the purpose of which was to acquire a cemetery. It numbers forty members, and represents the male population of Honolulu, with the exception of about ten men, who have refused to affiliate.
Immediately subsequent to annexation, the islands began to do a very large mercantile business, and the Jewish community was enlarged. But, by 1902, business was at a standstill and lots of folks returned to the mainland – with just about 100-staying; they are engaged chiefly in mercantile pursuits. (Coffee)
“This community of one hundred, which is found in a city whose population numbers forty-five thousand people, represents more wealth, as far as I am able to judge, than any other Jewish community with ten times the number of people in this country.” (Coffee)
In the years before World War I, the growing importance of the islands as a military base brought Jewish members of the American armed force in numbers which created an entirely new picture for the Jewish community there. (Glanz)
To care for Jews in the military stationed in the Islands, the National Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) established the Aloha Center in 1923. The community began to flourish and the Honolulu Jewish Community was established in 1938.
Today, there are at least 9 congregations serving the Jews of the Hawaiian Islands. According to The American Jewish Year Book (2012,) there are approximately 7,000 Jews residing in the state of Hawaii. (NJOP)
Lasting legacies of early Jewish presence in the Islands are gifts from Elias Abraham Rosenberg (Rabbi ‘Rosey,’ Holy Moses) to King Kalākaua: a Sefer Torah (Pentateuch) and Pointer; they were brought to Hawaiʻi in 1886 by Rosenberg, who came here from San Francisco.
“The king received the Torah scroll and yad … over the years that followed, the scroll and yad gradually made their way to Temple Emanu-El, where they remain to this day, safely ensconced in a glass cabinet.” (Canadian Jewish Chronicle, August 4, 2011) Rosenberg left the Islands June 7, 1887 and returned to San Francisco; he died a month later.
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