The Chief Rabbi's Funeral


The Chief Rabbi's Funeral

The Untold Story of America's Largest Antisemitic Riot

Scott D. Seligman

248 pages
20 photographs, 13 illustrations, 1 map, 1 chronology, 1 glossary, index


December 2024


$34.95 Pre-order

About the Book

On July 30, 1902, tens of thousands of mourners lined the streets of New York’s Lower East Side to bid farewell to the city’s chief rabbi, the eminent Talmudist Jacob Joseph. All went well until the procession crossed Sheriff Street, where the six-story R. Hoe and Company printing press factory towered over the intersection. Without warning, scraps of steel, iron bolts, and scalding water rained down and injured hundreds of mourners, courtesy of antisemitic factory workers. The police compounded the attack when they arrived on the scene: under orders from the inspector in charge, who made no effort to distinguish aggressors from victims, officers began beating up Jews, injuring dozens.

To the Yiddish-language daily Forverts (Forward), the bloody attack on Jews was not unlike those many Russian Jews remembered bitterly from the old country. But this was America, not Russia, and the Jewish community wasn’t going to stand for such treatment. Fed up with being persecuted, New York’s Jews, whose numbers and political influence had been growing, set a pattern for the future by deftly pursuing justice for the victims. They forced trials and disciplinary hearings, accelerated retirements and transfers within the corrupt police department, and engineered the resignation of the police commissioner. Scott D. Seligman’s The Chief Rabbi’s Funeral is the first book-length account of this event and its aftermath.

Author Bio

Scott D. Seligman is a writer and historian. He is the national award-winning author of numerous books, including The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902: Immigrant Housewives and the Riots That Shook New York City (Potomac, 2020) and Murder in Manchuria: The True Story of a Jewish Virtuoso, Russian Fascists, a French Diplomat, and a Japanese Spy in Occupied China (Potomac, 2023).


“A well-researched, well-written, and all-too-timely account of the antisemitic riot that marred the 1902 funeral of New York’s chief rabbi, Jacob Joseph. Prejudice, police brutality, and widespread corruption lay at the root of the riot, Scott Seligman shows. His analysis of how Jews held government accountable for punishing the rioters and penalizing the police who abetted them carries instructive lessons for our time.”—Jonathan D. Sarna, University Professor and Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University

“A fascinating and sad account of a low moment in the history of American Jews. To his credit, the author recognizes complexity on many levels. . . . Most significantly, Scott Seligman describes the new efforts of the Jewish community to stand up for itself, a harbinger of advocacy work on behalf of the community that remains so vital to this day.”—Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League

“Until now, no one has detailed this outbreak with such detail as Scott Seligman in his lively discussion of the story of victims, perpetrators, observers, police, and city officials. Individuals who previously were but names noted in a newspaper or police blotter come alive.”—Jeffrey S. Gurock, Libby M. Klaperman Professor of Jewish History at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies of Yeshiva University

“In this well-written book, based on a treasure trove of sources thus far overlooked, Scott Seligman revisits the events that took place at Chief Rabbi Jacob Joseph’s funeral, uncovers numerous aspects, insights, and unknown details, and provides an intimate, sensitive, and flowing narrative of this event. . . . [A] warmly recommended read for whoever is interested in the mass immigration era, the Jewish immigrant community in New York, and the history of Jewish Orthodoxy in the United States.”—Kimmy Caplan, professor of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Author’s Note
Dramatis Personae    
Chapter I: “Unite the Hearts of Our Brethren”          
Chapter II: “An Old Fogy in Their Eyes”     
Chapter III: “Protect Our Holy Faith”           
Chapter IV: “A Flower Transplanted to Uncongenial Soil”  
Chapter V: “One Solid Gang of Criminals”   
Chapter VI: “Disgusted With the Corrupt Methods of the Police”   
Chapter VII: “So Impressive a Funeral”        
Chapter VIII: “Get Out, You Sheenies! We’ll Soak You!”  
Chapter IX: “Club the Life Out of Them”     
Chapter X: “Commissioner Partridge is a Sleepy Old Bubbie”        
Chapter XI: “There Never Was Such an Outrage on Our Race”      
Chapter XII: “Action is Called for! Examples Should be Made!”    
Chapter XIII: “Cross is Cross With the Jews”          
Chapter XIV: “Driving Them Like a Lot of Hogs”  
Chapter XV: “The Well-Considered Opinion of a Committee of Citizens” 
Chapter XVI: “The Trouble Was All Over When We Got There”   
Chapter XVII: “The Attack Was Deliberately Planned”       
Chapter XVIII: “Because We are Hebrews and the Police are Irishmen”    
Chapter XIX: “A Direct Snub to the Commissioner”
Chapter XX: “These People are Ignorant”    
Chapter XXI: “I Don’t Need This Job”         
Chapter XXII: “I Withdraw the Statements Challenged”     
Further Reading         

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