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Hendla Jochanan van Oettingen

Little is known of (Rabbi? Cantor?) Hendla Jochanan van Oettingen aside from the prayer that he composed for the Sepharadi congregation in New York, Shearith Israel, in 1784.

תפילה לשלום המלכות | Prayer for the Welfare of George Washington, George Clinton, and the Thirteen States of America by Hendla Jochanan van Oettingen (1784)

Contributed on: 15 Feb 2016 by Aharon N. Varady (transcription) | Lyons Collection Committee (translation) | Hendla Jochanan van Oettingen |

Prayers recited on special occasions and thus not part of the fixed liturgy offered America’s foremost Jewish congregation far greater latitude for originality in prayer. At such services, particularly when the prayers were delivered in English and written with the knowledge that non-Jews would hear them, leaders of Shearith Israel often dispensed with the traditional prayer for the government and substituted revealing new compositions appropriate to the concerns of the day. A prayer composed in 1784 (in this case in Hebrew) by the otherwise unknown Rabbi (Cantor?) Hendla Jochanan van Oettingen, for example, thanked God who “in His goodness prospered our warfare.” Mentioning by name both Governor George Clinton and General George Washington, the rabbi prayed for peace and offered a restorationist Jewish twist on the popular idea of America as “redeemer nation”: “As Thou hast granted to these thirteen states of America everlasting freedom,” he declared, “so mayst Thou bring us forth once again from bondage into freedom and mayst Thou sound the great horn for our freedom.” . . .

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