The Beurei Hatefila Institute is pleased to announce that in honor of Presidents’ Week, it has uploaded to its website: www.beureihatefila.com, two special prayers that were composed on behalf of American Presidents. The first was composed by Congregation Beth Shalome in Richmond, Virginia, to commemorate the election of George Washington to be the first President of the United States. The second was composed by Isaac Goldstein Ha’Levi (about whom little is known) as a memorial prayer to President Lincoln after his assassination. The original copies of both prayers are available for viewing at the new Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania, a very worthwhile trip.
Presidents’ Week is a good opportunity for schools to open a discussion with their students about the long standing practice of reciting prayers on behalf of the local government as part of our Shabbos morning prayer services. That same discussion should include a talk about the importance of American Jews praying for the welfare of the State of Israel. These discussions are necessary because some Orthodox synagogues in the United States follow the practice of not reciting a prayer on behalf of either the United States or Israel as part of their Shabbos davening. In addition, some editions of Siddurim published by one major United States Hebrew printing house do not include a prayer either for the welfare of the United States or Israel.
The two prayers that were composed for the American Presidents should not be considered unusual liturgical compositions. Thanks to a question asked by one of the subscribers to my weekly Tefila newsletter, I discovered a genre of Jewish liturgical prayer that was previously unknown to me; i.e. Patriotism Prayers. Digitized copies of examples of that type of prayer can be found at the website of the Center For Jewish History: www.cjh.org. The collection includes prayers for Frederick II of Prussia, Catherine II of Russia and Franz Joseph of Austria.