Newman, Selig

Newman, Selig a noted Jewish scholar, eminent as an Hebraist, was born in the city of Posen, Prussian Poland, in 1790, and received the best education that could be procured in various Jewish colleges in Prussia. He decided to devote himself to Biblical studies, and even at an early age his renown was so great that he was given an office in the chief synagogue of Berlin. He went to London when about twenty-eight years of age, and was soon afterwards appointed minister to the congregation at Plymouth by the late chief rabbi, Dr. Solomon Herschell. Afterwards, for many years, he taught Hebrew in the University of Oxford, and would have had the title and salary of the professorship had not his religion debarred him from accepting, there being an old law in that university which precludes all other than Protestants from holding that office. Yet for many years the heads of that university, by their own example, encouraged all requiring instruction in Hebrew to study under him. When at length several converted Jews came to the university, he was compelled to leave, and to seek a home in America at an advanced age. Among the eminent men who were his pupils in England was Dr. Tait, the present archbishop of Canterbury, who no doubt, had Newman been in England, would have placed him upon the mixed learned commission of Christians and Jews now engaged in revising the authorized translation of the Bible. Competent authorities pronounce him to have been the best Hebrew scholar of the present day, and learned rabbis did not think it derogatory to their position to take instruction of him in the higher branches of Hebrew literature. The late Rev. Dr. Raphall, Prof. Marks, of London, and other eminent Israelites, were among his pupils. In the United States Newman found no official employment. He had many pupils in the Hebrew, but busied himself mainly with his own writings, on which he was engaged until the hour of his death, Feb. 20, 1871, at Brooklyn, . Y. His works consisted of a Hebrew and English Lexicon, an English and Hebrew Lexicon, a Hebrew Grammar, a popular work, entitled The Challenge Accepted, being in the form of a dialogue between a Jew and a Christian, and Emnendations of the Authorized Version of the Old Testament. His last work, which he had but just completed, is still in manuscript, and is an abridged translation of the Bible, with copious notes, intended for the use of Jewish schools and private families. There is every reason to believe that, at his advanced age, the close application he gave to this work hastened his end. His intellect was clear and vigorous to the last. Selig Newman was an enlightened man, opposed to bigotry, but at the same time a staunch Jew, firmly wedded to the orthodox principles of his faith, and always ready to battle for Judaism. At one time, when the conversionists were most active in England, they selected their most competent advocate to challenge the Jews to a public discussion. Selig Newman was selected by such Israelites in London as felt an interest in this discussion to meet the Christian advocate, and he did so, the discussion being carried on for many nights in public at the Freemasons' Hall Tavern. He afterwards delivered sermons to the Jews for many Sabbaths at the Jews' Free School, the building being always crowded by anxious listeners, but his duties at Oxford compelled him to relinquish this, to him, pleasurable task. His views on Christianity are embodied in his The Challenge Accepted, a book worthy the study of Christian Apologists. (J. H. W.)

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