Elias Abraham Rosenberg
AKA “Holy Moses” Rosenberg
Values Codes: H-E-L
Elias Abraham Rosenberg was born in Russia, in 1810.
Along the way . . .
Elias Rosenberg lived in England and Australia before moving to San Francisco, around 1880.
From 1880-1884, he worked as a peddler. He also sold lottery tickets – illegally.
In January 1887, Elias Rosenberg traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii.
There he became the Official Astrologer to King David Kalakaua.
He taught Bible and Hebrew to King Kalakaua.
In June of the same year, Rosenberg’s “predictions” of trouble for the king came true as Kalakaua was ousted from power, after presenting Rosenberg with a gold medal and silver cup.
A week later, Elias Rosenberg quickly returned to San Francisco.
Elias Rosenberg married for the first time in 1828.
In 1885, Rosenberg married Merriam Hyer.
He had 4 children: Rachel, from his first marriage, and Adolph, Sarah Rebecca and Mark from his second marriage.
Elias Rosenberg died in July 1887.
He is buried at Hills of Eternity Cemetery in Colma, California, just south of San Francisco.
Elias Rosenberg’s Torah Scroll and Yad
During his 1887 stay in Honolulu, Elias Rosenberg gifted the King Kalakaua the Sefer Torah and Yad that he had brought with him to the islands.
The Yad was inscribed:
“This is the pointer vowed by R. Elias Abraham Rosenberg in the year 5645.”
In 1891, King David Kalakaua died.
In 1899, his widow, Queen Dowager Kapiolani, died.
She left all her property – including the Torah and Yad – to her nephew, Prince David Kawananakoa and Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole
Around 1900, the Torah scroll was used during High Holiday services by Rabbi R. I. Coffee’s congregation.
In 1908, Prince Kawanankoa died, leaving all of his effects to Princess Abigail Campbell Kawananakoa.
Throughout her lifetime, Abigail lent the Torah Scroll and Yad to the Honolulu Jewish Community for Holy Day use.
In 1959, a Mrs. Katherine Johnson, gave the Yad to Rabbi Roy A. Rosenberg, the Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Honolulu. (Rabbi Rosenberg has no relationship to Elias Abraham Rosenberg.)
In 1960, Rabbi Rosenberg used the Yad in the ceremony to dedicate the Temple Emanu-El building.
The Torah Scroll disappeared for a while when Princess Abigail Kawananakoa died in 1945.
In 1972, it reappeared and, with the Yad, became a fixture in the synagogue.
For more information, see the following issue of Western States Jewish History:
- Hawaiian King Kalakaus’s Scroll and Pointer, by Jacob Adler, Western States Jewish History, Vol. 3, Issue #3.April, 1971.
- Hawaiian King’s Jewish Soothsayer. http://strangeside.com/hawaiian-kings-jewish-soothsayer/
Samantha Silver is Curator of this Elias Rosenberg exhibit.
Photo credits for the Yad and Torah: Courtesy: Bernard H. Levinson Hawaii Jewish Archives, Honolulu, HI
Thanks also to Larry Steinberg, Archivist for the Hawaii Jewish Archives for both additional information as-well-as the photograph of Elias Rosenberg’s Gravesite.
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