Sheftall’s Tefillin

Thank you for publishing the wonderful article on Mordechai Sheftall and his adherence to kashrus. I would like to add some information regarding his bar mitzvah.

A fascinating letter found in the Sheftall papers collection in the repository of the Georgia Historical Society was written by Mordechai’s father, Benjamin Sheftall, describing his distress in 1748 over the fact that he still had not received the tefillin (gauntlets) or the sefarim that he had ordered to be shipped from England for the bar mitzvah of his eldest son, Mordechai Sheftall. He writes that the ship that was bringing them could have been taken by the enemy or lost at sea. The enemy he was referring to in his letter was the British during King George’s War. According to Louis Schmier, a professor at Valdosta State University in Georgia, this letter regarding Mordechai’s tefillin was “the first recorded observance of this rite in America.”

Pearl Herzog, Lakewood, NJ