One of Britain’s Oldest Printed Jewish Books, and Its Author

In 1772, the Jewish printer L. Alexander of London produced one of the country’s first Jewish books: an English translation of the talmudic tractate Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”) along with the commentary of Moses Maimonides. Jeffrey Maynard describes this work, and its historical context. (Reproductions of some pages can be found at the link below.)

The Ashkenazi community in London started to flourish under the . . . rabbinic leadership of Rabbi David Tevele Schiff, who was appointed chief rabbi in 1765. The rebuilt Great Synagogue was dedicated in 1766, and Hebrew printing in London started in 1770 with what was probably the first book by Jewish printers and typesetters, [an edition of the penitential prayers known as sliḥot]. At about the same time (1770), the first siddur in Hebrew with an English translation was printed in London by Alexander Alexander and Baruch Meyers. This was followed in 1771 by a set of Hebrew maḥzorim (festival prayer books).

The translator, the English scholar Abraham Tang (d. 1792) was a grandson of the [rabbinic judge] of Prague, Abraham Tausig Neu-Greschel. Like his grandfather, the author signed his name with the Hebrew initials TN”G, and is thus generally known as Tang. Tang wrote a number of other works, all unpublished, and his manuscripts were until recently in London. . . . In addition to his rabbinic knowledge, Tang was an enlightened scholar, well familiar with secular writings. He cites “a noble passage of my countryman, Milton” as an introduction to a comment by Maimonides. The late Cecil Roth described Abraham Tang as “the first Anglo-Jewish scholar of modern times.”

Abraham Tang was born in England, and we notice interesting accents in his transliterations. He drops his h like a London Cockney, and calls himself an “Ebrew.”

Read more at Jewish Miscellanies

More about: Anglo-Jewry, Moses Maimonides, Rare books

Spain’s Anti-Israel Agenda

What interest does Madrid have in the creation of a Palestinian state? Elliott Abrams raised this question a few days ago, when discussing ongoing Spanish efforts to block the transfer of arms to Israel. He points to multiple opinion surveys suggesting that Spain is among Europe’s most anti-Semitic countries:

The point of including that information here is to explain the obvious: Spain’s anti-Israel extremism is not based in fancy international political analyses, but instead reflects both the extreme views of hard-left parties in the governing coalition and a very traditional Spanish anti-Semitism. Spain’s government lacks the moral standing to lecture the state of Israel on how to defend itself against terrorist murderers. Its effort to deprive Israel of the means of defense is deeply immoral. Every effort should be made to prevent these views from further infecting the politics and foreign policy of the European Union and its member states.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Anti-Semitism, Europe and Israel, Palestinian statehood, Spain