Blowing the Shofar in 1879 – with some Anti-Semitism Thrown In

Max Rossvally blowing the shofar 
(1879, Library of Congress)

Searching for historic photographs of Rosh Hashanah and blowing the shofar (ram's horn), we discovered a poster showing Jewish pictures of Jewish festivals. Starring in the 1879 photo gallery was a man named Max Rossvally.

He appeared as a pious man even though, judging by the photos, he didn't seem to know laws of tefillin (phylacteries) or lulav (a grouping of flora, including a palm branch, used in Sukkot prayers.)

Who was Rossvally?  A Jewish man originally from Germany named Mordechai Rosenthal, a Civil War veteran who claimed he was a surgeon, a convict, and a evangelical convert to Christianity.

Here are the poster and his pictures with a lulav and tfillin:

Rossvally's gallery of pictures

Rossvally and misplaced tfillin

Rossvally with a few extra branches and misplaced tfillin, usually not worn on Sukkot (Tabernacles)

Here's what we know about Rossvally:

(From a description of Jewish converts to Christianity and Rossvally in "United States Jewry,  1776-1985,"  by Jacob Rader Marcus)

A description of a meeting of an American anti-Semitic group attended by Rossvally who converted while serving a sentence in prison (American Jewish Archives, 1964)

Today, shofar-blowers are known for their piety and observance of Jewish commandments.

Shana Tova! Happy Jewish New Year! The Shofar Resonates from the Past. Jews Will Blow the Shofar in Synagogues Next Week

 The pictures below are re-posted from last year:

Yemenite Jew blowing the shofar (circa 1935, all photographs are from the Library of Congress archives)

The American Colony photographers in Jerusalem recorded pictures of Jewish elders blowing the shofar in Jerusalem some 80 years ago.  The horn was also blown in Jerusalem to announce the commencement of the Sabbath.  During the month prior to Rosh Hashana, the shofar was blown at daily morning prayers to encourage piety before the High Holidays.  

Ashkenazi Jew in Jerusalem blowing the shofar to announce the Sabbath


Yemenite Rabbi Avram, donning tfillin for his daily prayers, blowing the shofar


Man blowing the shofar in Mandelkern, NY, 1901


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *