Boston benefit concert for Jewish refugees from Russia
(Jewish Immigration & Philanthropy). Grand Concert in Aid of the Russian Jewish Refugees, Monday Eve’g, March 27, ’82, by the Handel and Haydn Society, in conjunction with Salem Oratorio Society, Lynn Choral Union, Taunton Beethoven Society, A Grand Orchestra…
Boston: Printed By Jewish Watchman Print[ers], 1882
5 x 8 1/2 in. 4pp. Very good.
This is the rare original announcement and program for a major early benefit concert supporting Jewish refugees from Russia. The pogroms carried out in 1881-82 drove countless Russian Jews to the West. This era marks the beginning of the period of the greatest Jewish immigration to the United States.
The concert was held at Mechanics Hall in Boston in 1882. The featured conductors are Carl Zerrahn and George Henschel. Henschel had become the first conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra a year earlier. Here he leverages his position to support Jewish refugees.
“Beginning in the 1880s, a much larger wave of Jewish immigrants arrived [in Boston] from the Pale of Settlement in Russia and Eastern Europe. During the nineteenth century, the Russian czars had confined Jews to this region and subjected them to religious persecution, expulsions, and forced military conscription. Passage of the May Laws in the 1880s made matters worse by forbidding Jews from owning or renting land outside of towns or cities and limiting their access to education. From 1881-1883 and again in the early twentieth century, Jews were also targeted in violent riots or “pogroms” that left thousand dead and caused many more to flee” (Boston College, 2018).
The concert program includes pieces by Jewish composers or with Jewish themes including selections from from Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Handel’s Samson, and Henschel’s “There was an Ancient King,” sung by Henschel himself, the finest baritone of his day. The performance concludes with Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus performed by the Salem Oratorio Society and the Lynn Choral Union.
The conductor featured in this program, Sir Isidor George Henschel (1850-1934) was a German-born Jewish baritone, pianist, conductor, and composer. He became the first conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1881. On his appointment, he sent his ideas for an innovative seating chart to his close friend Johannes Brahms, who replied in an approving letter of mid-November 1881.
Very rare. Not in WorldCat. Robert Singerman, Judaica Americana (2d ed, Penn Libraries website 2019) 3064 notes that the sole located copy, once ascribed to the AJHS, was “not found in either the Boston or New York collection, Jan. 2016.”