Translating the US Constitution to Hebrew and Yiddish

Translating the US Constitution to Hebrew and Yiddish

Credit:Library of Congress

In 1864, when Julius Eisenstein was just ten years old, his father became the first Jew to immigrate to the United States from the village of Mezritch, Poland. Eight years later, Julius followed him to the new world, along with his mother and sister.

Like many new Americans, Julius loved his new home and the freedoms and opportunities it provided him. He worked hard, selling handkerchiefs and suspenders on street corners. What money Julius made he invested in a plan to found a Jewish farming community in New Jersey. Alas, that did not happen, to which Julius later said, “Perhaps if I had succeeded in my business I would not have turned to writing.”

But Julius did not succeed in business, so he did turn to writing. And write, he did.

Two of the projects Julius undertook were because of his beloved America — he was the first to translate both the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence into both Hebrew and Yiddish (called “Jewish-German” in the Library of Congress’ 1891 copy shown above). He also founded the first society for Hebrew in the U.S., penned more than 150 entries in the Jewish Encyclopedia, and wrote thousands of articles in newspapers, magazines, journals, and anthologies by the time he passed away at the ripe old age of 101.

Aside from his writing, Julius raised nine children and helped raise money for impoverished Jews in what was not yet the modern state of Israel, living a life that upheld the Jewish ideals with which he had been raised, as well as the American principles he came to adopt and cherish.

Tags: Government Hebrew History Judaism Julius Eisenstein Language US-Israel Relations Yiddish

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