The Life of the Synagogue

From the William A. Rosenthall Judaica Collection
Marlene & Nathan Addlestone Library,College of Charleston

Obsequies of the late Dr. Edward Lasker, at Temple Emanu-El, cor. Forty-Third Street and Fifth Avenue, January 10th. The remains lying in state.

Obsequies of the late Dr. Edward Lasker, printed illustration of casket surrounded by flowers

Obsequies of the late Dr. Edward Lasker, at Temple Emanu-El, cor. Forty-Third Street and Fifth Avenue, January 10th. The remains lying in state.Wood engravingFrank Leslie’s Illustrated NewspaperJanuary 19, 1884

On January 5, 1884, Eduard Lasker, a prominent German-Jewish politician, died in New York City at the end of a six-month visit to the United States. His funeral, held at Temple Emanu-El on January 10, was attended both by leading members of New York’s Jewish society and members of the city’s immigrant German population. Pallbearers included such notable figures as New York’s mayor Franklin Edson, Jesse Seligman, Carl Schurz, William Steinway, and Jacob H. Schiff. The Menorah, a Jewish magazine, reported: “When Eduard Lasker died in this city in January 1884, the Jews paid to him a tribute such as never before or since has been rendered a Jew in New York. Temple Emanu-El was crowded with humanity, while, without, the whole block was filled with a multitude standing reverently as the service within proceeded.”

Addresses were given by Carl Schurz, a former German revolutionary and American politician, and Andrew Dickinson White, former ambassador to Germany and president of Cornell University. The Menorah notes Schurz requested that the religious nature of the funeral be emphasized, in response to the anti-Semitism that Lasker frequently faced. Schurz denounced those who would vilify Lasker for his Jewishness, proclaiming, in contrast: “All the more willing and proud are we to stand here, American and German citizens of a free country, not of his faith…and remembering the noble heart, the great mind and lofty ambition of the departed, we reach the hand of brotherhood to him even beyond the grave.”

Andrew Dickinson White similarly emphasized both Lasker’s commitment to the Jewish people and his sense of communion with those of other faiths. White spoke of Lasker’s love for the former, and with the same tone commended the fervor with which he stood up for the rights of Catholics during his time in the German Parliament: “Here lies one born far from us, separated from many of us by abysses of race, language, creed, and custom—yet one whom we are proud to call in the highest sense our brother. This brotherhood he recognized. No barriers of creed could shut out from him the view of it.” As shown here, Lasker laid in state at Temple Emanu-El, surrounded by the trappings of a Christian funeral service—flowers and memorial wreaths, including one contribution in the shape of a cross. Lasker’s synagogue service signifies not only his devotion to his Jewish faith, but the reach he had beyond it.