The Last King of Hawai’i and his Jewish Fortune Teller


How does a Jewish peddler with a shady past become the trusted adviser to the king of Hawai’i? Apparently by getting him drunk, chanting in Hebrew, and casting rosy horoscopes about his future.

Elias Abraham Rosenberg was probably born in Russia, and seems to have lived in Australia and England before arriving in San Francisco in the late 1800s. From there, he might have hopped a whaler to Hawai’i, because he was almost certainly on the lam for selling illegal lottery tickets.

His past is somewhat of a mystery, but what is known is that he became a close friend and fortune teller to King David Kalākaua, the last reigning king of Hawai’i. Rosenberg, with his long white beard and trademark optimism, spent hours with Kalākaua, reading to him from the Talmud and encouraging him to revive traditional Hawai’ian culture and religion. He even gave the king an ornate silver yad and a Torah scroll. But not even the soothsayer dubbed “Holy Moses” was able to save the kingdom from its ruinous end.

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