Friday, May 20, 2011

The First Bris in Ypsilanti

This May 20, 1905 Ypsilanti Daily Press article marks the birth of the first Jewish child born in Ypsilanti.

The celebration described here is actually likely the 8th-day bris ceremony at which the baby is circumcised, though the story omits that part.

This story interested me because it produced an "ohhh, yeah...." moment of realizing that in 1905, there were no synagogues in Ypsilanti. You can see that the family even had to import a rabbi from Detroit to preside over the ceremony. Given that Ypsi had Eastern European immigrants, it's likely there were other Jewish people in town...was there a minyan, the quorum of ten Jewish males needed to conduct services? If so, where did the men gather? It's nigh impossible to know; the census never recorded religious affiliation, though it certainly pried into other very personal areas of people's lives over the years.

The tone of this article is respectful, and the level of detail implies that there was a reporter present, versus a post facto report delivered to the paper. Taken together, this may imply that Judaism was not looked down upon or discriminated against in town. This is in stark contrast to the manner in which Catholics were treated in the paper a mere fifty or so years earlier, by Protestant editors who hated the idea of supposed sons of liberty in America subjugating their hard-won free will to a foreign authority.

Edited text of article: "What is said to have been the first ceremonial of this kind according to the full Jewish rites was performed yesterday at the home of Mr. Samuel Raport, 204 North Street, when his 8-day-old son was given the name of Edward, according to the Jewish service and creed, the rites of the church being performed by Rabbi A. Rubiner of Detroit, who came here for the purpose.

"Mr. and Mrs. Raport came to Ypsilanti about three months and Mr. Raport is in the employ of Mr. Thompson and is a paper hanger by trade and as he proudly announced, a member of the union.

"Yesterday, however, was a gala day in the little home and after the formal ceremony a feast was served to the participants, at which wines of choice vintage and various sweetmeats took a conspicuous place.

"Never was an 8-day babe better provided with sponsors than Master Edward, for in addition to the official witnesses of the naming he was further provided with three godfathers and a godmother. . . "

"Master Edward Raport has the honor of being the first child of Jewish parents born in Ypsilanti and although he has a small sister and still smaller brother, they claim the Empire State as their native heath. The young gentleman was the recipient of some pretty presents, among them being some beautiful dresses from his godmother."


Dusty D said...

The headline sounds harsh to modern-day ears, but given the tone of the article, I really don't think it was meant as disrespectful. Rather, I think that the presence of Jewish people in Ypsi was rare enough that this was the only way the editors knew to refer to it.

LaidOffTeacherPatti said...

I don't think they meant any harm either.
What I love though is how proud the guy is to be in the union! That's what I'm talking about! We need those days again...where people take pride in their work and in their unions :)