Rabbi Jacob Joseph
Jacob Joseph (1840-1902) was the first and only Chief Rabbi in New York
The Jewish community of New York wanted to be united under a common
religious authority, although the Reform and Liberal factions
ridiculed the idea, the Orthodox Ashkenazi community sent a circular
offering the post throughout eastern Europe. Rabbi Jacob Joseph
answered the call and came in 1888. His tenure was marked by the
divisiveness of the New Yorker Jewry, and the polemic of the kosher
slaughterhouses of the city. And some of the factions did not
recognize his position and refuse to pay his salary.
Rabbi Jacob Joseph suffered a stroke in 1897 and fell into anonymity
in the Jewish community. After his death, a sucessory dispute diluted
the office of Chief Rabbi.
Rabbi Jacob Joseph (1843-1902) The famed Maggid of Vilna, he became
the first chief rabbi of New York in 1888. Rabbi Joseph was born in
1843 in Krozhe, a province of Kovno, where he studied in the Volozhin
Yeshiva, and was known as "Rav Yaakov Charif" because of his sharp
mind. He was one of the foremost talmidim of Rav Yisrael Salanter, a
great talmid chacham and speaker and a man of sterling character.
Rabbi Joseph hesitated in coming to America, aware that there were
less religious Jews. Nevertheless he accepted the challenge in order
to his support his family. The Association of American Orthodox Hebrew
Congregations – comprised of 30 congregations and headed by Beis
Medrash Hagadol – was thrilled when he accepted the position. They
attempted to create one central rabbinic authority in America to
maintain order in the field of Kashrus and expand Jewish education
programs. Unfortunately, their wonderful idea ultimately failed.
Although Rabbi Joseph certainly possessed the credentials needed, he
was confronted with many problems, primarily diverse group of Jews.
Because there were so many different types of Jews, not all of them
were receptive and he received a lot of backlash. Although he fought a
losing battle in the kosher meat and poultry industry, he managed to
achieve some notable accomplishments, including the hiring of
qualified shochtim, introducing irremovable seals ("plumba") to
identify kosher birds, and setting up Mashgichim to oversee slaughter
houses. He also took an active role in founding the first Yesiva on
the Lower East Side – Eitz Chaim. Rabbi Joseph tried to bring
structure to Jewish religious life but faced many obstacles,
especially from anti-religious factions and Socialists. Eventually,
after six years, the Association stopped paying his salary. The
butchers then paid him until 1895. Shortly after, he suffered a
stroke, which incapacitated him for the rest of his life. He died at
age 59 and his funeral was one of the largest in New York. Rabbi Jacob
Joseph Yeshiva (RJJ) is living tribute to his name – first located in
the Lower East Side, and now with branches in Staten Island and
Rabbi Jacob Joseph School was named after Rabbi Jacob Joseph
(1840-1902) He was the first Chief Rabbi in New York City. Born in
Vilna, he came to the United States at the request of the New York
Jewish community. After his death in 1902, Rabbi Joseph's son, Raphael
Joseph, and Samuel I. Andron obtained a charter from the Board of
Regents in 1903 to establish the school. The Rabbi Jacob Joseph School
was known for its rigorous Tamuldic curriculum and remains open to
students from nursery age through the eighth grade. Its founders
originally established the school on Manhattan's Orchard Street but
later moved it to Henry Street. In 1976, the school moved to the
Graniteville area of Staten Island with separate boys' and girls'
This playground, bounded by Henry and Rutgers Streets, is named in
memory of Captain Jacob Joseph (1920-1942, great grandson of the
Rabbi), a member of the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, and
scion of a family devoted to religious education and civic affairs.
Born and raised in New York, Joseph left Columbia University as a
junior in 1938 to enlist in the Marines. Joseph died in action at
Guadalcanal on October 22, 1942. Five years later, a local law named
this playground in his honor. The dedication ceremony was attended by
Mayor William O'Dwyer, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, Councilman
Stanley Isaacs, and Joseph's father, City Comptroller, Lazarus Joseph.
Parks also unveiled a bronze commemorative plaque on the flagstaff,
which celebrates the life and bravery of Capt. Joseph.
The city obtained the land that is now the site of this playground in
1930 for easement purposes for the construction of the Independent
Subway (IND), now known as the F line. Parks acquired the land by
permit from the Board of Transportation in 1934, but did not gain
official jurisdiction until 1961. The Board of Estimate transferred
the land to Parks to ensure the continuance of the playground.
Constructed in a neighborhood with a great need for open space, the
playground now provides play space for the children of Chinatown and
the Lower East Side.
In 1996, Parks completed a $59,000 renovation of this playground.
Sponsored by the mayor's executive budget, this reconstruction
included new safety surfacing and colorful modular play equipment. In
addition, the new turtle animal art provides a playful aesthetic and a
functional climbing structure for the children. This playground serves
as a lasting memorial to a World War II hero, as well as to notable
members of the Joseph family who have contributed to the surrounding
neighborhood and to the larger New York City community.