Did the reader ever try to compute what it has cost our Israelitish brethren to keep two Sundays a week, and four sets of holidays a year? Besides their own religious and national festivals, they have been compelled, generally under ruinous penalties, to abstain from business on those of the countries in which they have dwelt. Thus in Catholic countries, for several centuries, they were obliged to be idle:
2. Thirty holidays of obligation;
3. Fifty-two Saturdays or Sabbaths;
4. An average of twelve other holidays of their own: total, one hundred and forty-six days per annum, or about two days in every five!
In Protestant countries, the usual number of idle days, including their fifty-two Saturdays and twelve festivals and fasts, has been one hundred and ten, or about two days in every six. In other words, the Jews in Catholic countries have been obliged, by law and conscience, to abstain from business nearly three days a week, and in Protestant countries a little more than two. Of late years, since Catholics have become much less strict in the observance of Sundays and holidays, the Jews suffer more inconvenience in Protestant than in Catholic lands. The rigor of the Scotch and the Puritan Sunday is especially grievous to them, even to the present hour; while in Paris, Hamburg, and Vienna Sunday is, in some branches of business, the best day of the week.
This fact of the double set of holidays would alone have sufficed to exclude them from agriculture. A ripe harvest will not wait from Friday till Monday for any of our scruples; and two good planting days lost in a late, wet spring would often make the difference between a crop and no crop. Fancy a market-gardener in strawberry time, or a florist in May, obliged to cease work half an hour before sunset Friday afternoon, and unable to offer anything for sale till Monday morning! Even the thirty Catholic holidays of obligation placed the farmers of Catholic countries under a disadvantage that was obvious to all who lived near the line dividing a Catholic from a Protestant country. Voltaire, who lived for thirty years close to the frontier of France, within two miles of Protestant Geneva, dwells upon this in many a passage of exquisite satire. Readers remember the scene in which the priest rushes from the tap-room, "red with wrath and wine," to rebuke the yeoman who had "the insolence and impiety" to plough his field on a Saint's day, "instead of going to the tavern and drinking like the rest of the parish. The poor gentleman was ruined: he left the country with his family and servants, went to a foreign land, turned Lutheran, and his lands remained uncultivated for many years." If thirty extra holidays were a serious injury to French farmers, it will not be questioned that ninety-four made agriculture an impossible pursuit to Israelites.
Except where Jews lived together in large numbers, as in Poland and some parts of Germany, the same fatality of their lot sufficed to exclude them from most workshops, counting-rooms, and stores. Who could take an apprentice with the understanding that he was to be always absent on Saturdays? Who, a clerk, on the condition of not having him on the busiest day of the week? Even here, in these free cities of America, where Jewish merchants and bankers are often obliged to employ Christian clerks, they labor under the disadvantage of having to pay salaries for three hundred and nine days' work per annum, while only getting two hundred and fifty-seven days' attendance. In short, if the reader will take the trouble to trace all the consequences of the conscientious adherence of our lsraelitish brethren to their holy days, he will discover that during many centuries of their dispersion among Christian nations, that adherence would have been enough of itself to confine their able men to the trade in money and jewels, and their ordinary men to petty traffic and hard bargaining. Money at interest keeps no holy day. Like the trees of the Scotch laird in the novel, it grows while the owner sleeps. It earns revenue both while the lender prays in the synagogue and while the borrower worships in the cathedral. On Good Friday as on the Day of Atonement, through merry Christmas and joyous Purim, on the days of Passover, the fourth of July, the fifth of November, still it yields its increase. Hence strong Israelites usually deal in money; and as to the rank and file, we must allow, if we would be just, that the trader who has to keep his shutters closed two or three days a neck must, as a general thing, carry as business at small expense, and make the most of every transaction.
But if, a thousand years ago, the Jews had reached that point of development which would have enabled then with a good conscience to give up their seventh-day Sabbath, and rest only on ours, it would not have availed to give them a choice of occupations. In the night of superstition, no Jew could own or hold land on endurable conditions in any country of Christendom. Nor could he belong to any guild of mechanics; and hence he could not be himself a mechanic, nor apprentice his son to a mechanic. He could not lawfully hire a Christian servant in some countries. He could not enter a university or a preparatory school in any country; and so the liberal professions were closed to him. He could not be an artist, even if any Christian prince would have bought pictures of him, because, in the black ages, there were only two kinds of pictures that yielded much revenue or renown, -New Testament scenes, and indecent pictures from the Greek and Roman poets. The former a Jew could not paint; the latter he would not, for the Jews have preserved, through all vicissitudes, a certain chastity of mind and taste, which makes such subjects abhorrent to them. A good Jew knows better than must men the unutterable preciousness of an unprurient soul and an uncontaminated body; for there is nothing which his religion inculcates so sedulously and in so many ways. At the present hour they are probably the chastest seven millions of people under the sun.
The tory Carlyle, with the baser instinct of his party,—which is, to grovel before the strong and trample on the weak,—makes this exclusion of the Jews from all the more honorable and expanding pursuits the occasion of a most bitter taunt. The celestial powers, he says, when a people have become hopelessly debased, sometimes toss them in utter contempt a great bag of money, as if to say, "Take Eliot! Be that your portion!" How cruelly unjust is this! The Encyclopedia Britannica, an invaluable work, but uniformly narrow and reactionary on religious subjects, while admitting that, in the dark ages, Jews had no choice but to be money-lenders, while allowing that they had no means either of revenge or self-defence, except in extorting usurious interest from their plundering oppressors, stamps with reprobation their "meanness and injustice" in so doing. But the same writer on the same page (Vol. XII. p. 778) has no word of encomium for those heroic Jews, who he says presented their breasts to the sword rather than violate their conscience; nor for those high-minded Jewish maidens and wives, who fastened stones to their bodies and sought refuge in the river from the polluting touch of Christian soldiers. In one of our best periodicals, while I am writing these paragraphs, I read an impatient paragraph, complaining of the "obstinacy" of the Russian Jews in avoiding agriculture and sticking to petty traffic. As if, in all the empire of Russia, until very recently, an Israelite could own an acre of land, or till a farm to advantage, while forced to observe the numerous festivals of the Greek Church!
The Jews are, in truth, singularly adapted by natural disposition to agriculture, their skill in which once made Palestine a garden. At the present moment the attention of benevolent and public-spirited Jews is directed to the return of their people to agricultural pursuits, and the scene of the first experiment is Palestine itself. There are now thirteen thousand Israelites in that country, nine thousand of whom live in or near Jerusalem; and there is no reason in the laws or customs of the land why they should not cultivate the soil. But hardly a Jew in the world knows how to plough and reap, and the Jews in Palestine—pilgrims and descendants of pilgrims—have been steadily demoralized by the alms sent to them from orthodox synagogues in every part of the world. M. Netter, the agent of the Israelitish Alliance, who was sent to Palestine to inquire into the condition of the Israelites there, reports that this unwise, sentimental almsgiving paralyzes the arms and corrupts the hearts of his people. "As the elders," he remarks, "get a double portion of the alms, and as they themselves distribute whatever little may be left of it, the indigent and lowly get but a very small portion of it. We therefore see parents allowing their children to marry early, in order that the offspring of these marriages may share in these charities and increase the resources of the family. Children are also made to study the Talmud, a knowledge of which brings in an additional income. The weak and powerless are held in abject subjection by their superiors, and frequently seek relief from the English missionaries, who are always ready in such cases."
Here is another example of the pernicious consequences of ill-directed benevolence, from which the future is to suffer so much. The remedy M. Netter suggests is agriculture; although at present not a Jew in Palestine cultivates the soil. A few of them have tried gardening, and failed, as Christian amateurs generally fail, from ignorance. An agricultural school and experimental farm, in aid of which money has been subscribed in New York and other capitals, is about to be started in Palestine. All things must have a beginning, and the disuse of eighteen centuries cannot be overcome in a year or two, but there is reason to believe that the people who once made their land a proverb for its abundant harvests are about to recover their skill in the cultivation of the soil. In reading Jewish periodicals and in conversing with enlightened Jews, I perceive an impulse in this direction which will produce results where Sunday laws do not hinder.
Who can estimate the reparation which Christendom owes this interesting and unoffending people? How abundant, how untiring, should be our charity in judging the faults of character which our own superstition has created or developed!
Of the giant wrongs to which they have been subjected for the last ten centuries,—the huge Andersonville outrages,—few readers need to be reminded. In the slaughter of the Jews of Seville, in 1391, thirty-five hundred families were murdered. In 1492, under Ferdinand and Isabella, three hundred thousand heroic Israelites preferred exile to apostasy. Many of them found a resting-place only in the grave or in the depths of the sea; for neither Portugal nor Italy nor Mohammedan Morocco would tolerate the presence of a people who would not comply with their superstitions, and who, by their frugality, continence, temperance, and industry, absorbed the wealth of every country in which they lived. Those who remained in the Peninsula suffered baptism, and were obliged to conform to the outward observances of the reigning church. Far more enviable was the lot of those who had accepted banishment. The favorite office of the Spanish Inquisition for two centuries was to "question" the sincerity of those two hundred thousand Jewish converts; and the national amusement was to witness the burning of Jewish Rabbis and Jewish maidens. Similar atrocities were committed, as we all know, in England, Germany, and France.
Nor can we claim that Protestants have been guiltless toward them. Since I have been interested in this subject, I have found nothing more savage against the Jews than a passage from Martin Luther, in which he offers for the consideration of the Christian public seven propositions: 1. "That we should set fire to their synagogues and schools, and what cannot be burnt should be covered over with earth, that no man may ever discover a stone or brick of it; we are to do this for the glory of our Lord and Christianity." 2. Burn all their houses, and lodge them in stables like gypsies, "in order that they may know they are not lords in this land, but in captivity and misery." 3. Burn all their prayer-books and Talmuds. 4. Forbid the Rabbis, under pain of death, to give instruction. 5. Deny Jews the right of protection on the highways; "for they have no business with the land." 6. "Being neither lords, farmers, nor merchants, nor anything of the kind, they are to remain at home." "You lords shall not, and cannot protect them, unless you would take part in their abominations." 7. Put a flail, axe, mattock, or spindle into the hand, of every "young and strong Jew and Jewess," and compel them to manual labor. This was Luther's idea of the treatment due to the only body of religious people in Europe who could be in sympathy with him in his struggle with superstition. But Luther himself was only half emancipated: for he clung to that fatal, fatal root of bitterness, the belief that human souls can be eternally lost by erroneous opinions.
But we have done worse to these people than murder and torture them. Wrongs like these are occasional; the rack palls at last; and the most infuriate mob of Christians that ever hunted down an innocent people grows weary of massacre at last, and a long period of peace usually succeeds. In our own day I have seen Protestants in Philadelphia pursuing in blind fury harmless Catholics, burning their churches, and insulting their priests; and I have seen, in New York, Catholics rioting in the massacre of the most inoffensive laboring people in the world. In three days the fit passes; reason returns; and the very men who inflicted the wounds are ready to assist in healing them. But there is a wrong which all Christians, for many hundreds of years, have done to all Jews, all the time,—we have despised them. Having excluded them from the occupations most favorable to the development of human nature's better side, we have added to this giant wrong the crueller sling of despising them for not having their better side developed. Having kept them styed in Ghettos and in Jews' streets age after age, we loathe them because they are not all clean.
Human beings are so constituted and related, that among the most precious possessions any of us can have is the respect and good-will of our community. Happily, few are aware of this truth, because, like good digestion, the value of such a possession is not known until it is lost. Those quadroon and octoroon gentlemen of New Orleans knew it, who said to General Butler with so much passion; "We care not on which side we fight; we will fight as long as we can, and spend all we have, if only our boys may stand in the street equal to white boys when the war is over!" If the reader has ever happened to have his eye upon the face of a well-dressed person at the moment a policeman touched his arm, and he felt that he was arrested, no longer one of the passing throng, no longer a member of the community, no longer a man among men, but a detected thief, whom any boy might make faces at, a thing abhorred and despised, upon whom no countenance could cast a benignant nor even an indifferent look,—if the reader has ever noted the awful shadow that falls upon a human countenance at such a moment, he can perhaps form some idea of what it must be to feel always the contempt of men. Or still better, if the reader can look back to his school-days and call to mind moments or hours when, for some peculiarity of dress, person, or conduct, he was the object of general derision, either in schoolroom or playground, and can feel still the scorch of the old blush in his cheeks, he cannot be quite ignorant of the value of that unexpressed good-will which usually invests us like the air we unconsciously breathe.
And the Jews were never allowed to forget that they were a despised people. Contempt of the Israelite was embedded in law and exhibited in daily custom. In Protestant Holland, down nearly to the days of Louis Bonaparte, Jewish paupers were compelled to say their prayers bareheaded, and to work all day Saturday, although they begged the privilege of doing in five days their whole week's work. It was not till 1790 that this poor boon was granted them. Some of the watering-places in Germany could show, among their chartered privileges, the right to exclude Jews. At Strasburg, within the recollection of living persons, a Jew had to pay three francs a day merely for the privilege of staying in the town. In Switzerland, as late as 1851, the contemptuous law was re-enacted, imposing a fine of three hundred francs upon every Christian who gave a Jew employment. In Russia, at the present hour, the government presumes to prescribe what shall be the garb of a Jew. In New York, London, Paris, and other cities there is an alliance, or society for the sole object of promoting the emancipation of the Jews from the remaining disabilities which the aversion of Christendom has imposed. Without troubling the reader with a catalogue of similar facts, I can convey some idea of the scorn in which Jews were once held in a more convenient manner by showing how they are now treated in the city of Rome,—Rome being a fragment of the Past preserved, like an Elgin marble, for the inspection of the moderns. In 1860, when there was talk of a congress of European powers for the settlement of international questions, the Jews of Rome prepared a petition for presentation to it, in which some of their grievances were stated. From this paper we learn that no Jew in Rome can be an artist, nor be a pupil in a school of art, nor frequent a public gallery for practice in art. No college, medical school, law school, or scientific institution can receive a Jewish student. No Jew can exercise a mechanical trade, except cobbling shoes. Cruellest and absurdest of all, no Jew, fond as he is of music, and gifted as his race is in music, can sing in public or play on an instrument. "Woe to the Hebrew," says the petition, "who dares sing or play in public; for the police and the Holy Office immediately pounce upon him and punish the offence with severe penalties." This is the more abominable, because nature has signalized this people, not so touch by superiority of understanding, as by talent. The gifted among them are formed to sing, to play, to compose, to carve, to paint, to personate, to excel in all those arts by which human nature is enchanted and exalted by being exhibited to itself.
Edmond About's report of the condition of the Jews in Rome is fresh in the recollection of many. He glances backward at the time, not remote, when every evening at the hour Christians go to the theatre the gates of the Jews' quarter were locked for the night; when on days of holy festival Jews were made to run races for the amusement of Christians; when every year a city official gave them a representative kick, an honor for which they had to pay four thousand francs; when they were compelled to present publicly to every new Pope a Bible; when they were obliged to pay the salary of a Christian priest employed to preach a sermon to them every Saturday, and they could only avoid attending this service by paying a fine; when their Ghetto bred such deadly pestilence, that some of them almost lost the semblance of humanity, and "they might have been mistaken for beasts, if one had not known them to be intelligent beings, apt for business, resigned to their lot, simple in their requirements, kind-hearted, devoted to their families, and irreproachable in their conduct." Such was their condition in Rome. M. About tells us what it is. The present Pope, he reminds us, has indeed taken away the gates of the Ghetto, so that Jews can go about the city after dark; he has dispensed them from the annual kick and its annual price, and he has closed the church to which they were required to go on Saturdays to be converted.
But the author adds; "I secretly questioned two well-known inhabitants of the Ghetto. When they understood why I concerned myself with their affairs, the poor men exclaimed; 'For Heaven's sake, do not publish that we are wretched; that the Pope actively regrets his concessions of 1847; that doors invisible, but impassable, close the Ghetto, and that our condition is worse than ever. All that you might say in our behalf would be visited upon us, and instead of benefiting you would injure us."' The inquirer visited the Ghetto, in the low ground near the Tiber, and found it "the most horrible and neglected quarter of the town," in which not the humblest of the thousand prelates about Rome would set his foot, any more than as Indian Brahmin would cross the threshold of a Pariah's hovel. "I learned,” says this author, “that the most humble employment in the most humble office would as soon be given to a beast as to a Jew; that for a child of Israel to ask in Rome to be employed as a commissary, would he more absurd than for the giraffe of the Jardin des Plantes to ask for an under-prefectship in Paris.” No Jew can own a foot of land in the papal dominions, nor cultivate one, unless in the name of a Christian; and if a Jew, using this artifice, ventures to cultivate a garden or a farm, his harvest is safe from pillage only so long as the legal device remains a secret. Let but the Christians around learn that the harvest is the property of an Israelite, and “a rage for plunder” seizes them, which leaves the hapless proprietor with desolated fields.
This is the testimony of a witness who is prejudiced, as all modernized minds are prejudiced, against government by priests. Let me summon another witness, a Christian who writes to L’Ami d’Israel an account of his visit to the Roman Ghetto; “It is situated on the borders of the Tiber, in a place subject to inundations; the population is confined in narrow, dirty streets; and although the Jews are much too numerous for this small quarter, they are not allowed to take up their abode beyond the limits of the Ghetto. The closing of the gates is discontinued, but the prohibition as to residence remains the same. I was struck with the activity and industry of the Jews; for while one sees a great many idlers and crowds of beggars in Rome itself, in the Ghetto every one is at work, and there is not a beggar visible.” The struggle for life, this writer remarks, is so severe, that out of a population of more than four thousand, two thousand five hundred are extremely poor, and in part dependent upon the charity of their neighbors.
As Israelites are now looked upon and treated in Rome, so were they once regarded and treated in every capital of Europe; and their partial emancipation is a thing too recent to have more than begun to obliterate the effects of fifteen centuries of outrage and contempt. For the faults which we see in them, and which clearly result from the contracted Ghetto and the exclusion from the broadening employments, we should blame ourselves, not them; and when a Jew plays upon us a scurvy trick, let us go out straightway and kick a Christian for it.
In conversing upon this subject with the enlightened and accomplished Israelites now to be found in all our cities, I am amazed at the absence of everything like rancor and fury from their hearts when they dwell upon the wrongs of their race. A decent Christian boils with anger as he reads of the indignities they have suffered; but they, the victims of our insensate aversion, speak of these indignities with such calmness and good temper, that I have been ready to exclaim: The Jews are the only Christians! And certainly, if the peculiar virtue of Christianity is the patient endurance of outrage, then we must admit that they have excelled all known people in practising the religion which Christians have preached. But of course the patient endurance of outrage is not the great Christian virtue, nor is it a virtue at all, unless the outrage is irredressable. But that has been precisely their case. Usually a small number in the midst of a hostile population, they have been obliged to endure or perish; they have had such a training in some portions of the Sermon on the Mount as no other race has ever had.
If a Christian would know these people aright, that is, if he would know their best, he must observe their home life; for the great secret of Jewish persistence is the strength of that mingled affection and pride which binds families together. The family, the Sabbath,—in those two words are hidden the secret of Jewish history since their dispersion. Let us accompany a good orthodox Jewish family through their calm and cheerful Sabbath, and see how they keep it and enjoy it. I select an orthodox family, instead of a "Reformed," merely because the orthodox Jew is an historical person; as he keeps his Sabbath, his fathers have kept it for many centuries.
The Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday evening half an hour before sunset, and ends on Saturday evening half an hour after sunset, or when a star is visible in the sky. On Friday, the day of preparation, the women and girls of the family are busy in providing for the morrow the best food of the week; for whatever is eaten or drank during the joyous sacred hours must be the very best the family can afford. Poor Jews will pinch all the week in order that their wives and children may have something delicious to eat on the Sabbath. But that savory food must be cooked or prepared for cooking before the Sabbath begins; for our Israelitish brethren observe with just strictness the law which gives rest on the Day of Rest to their servants. They shame us in this particular. They will not use even their horses on their Sabbath. On a Sunday, about twelve, M., you may see in front of Dr. Adams's fashionable Presbyterian church in Madison Square, New York, or around Dr. Tyng's fashionable Episcopal church, in St. George's Square of the same city, from twenty to forty well-appointed equipages waiting for the last hymn to be finished; but you will never see a vehicle before the superb Temple Immanuel, a Jewish synagogue in the Fifth Avenue, although there are many families within who could ride home, if they would, in their own carriages. I do not say that the Christians are wrong or the Jews right in this. It is no one's business but their own. But if we borrow the Hebrew's word "Sabbath," and adopt, verbally, their Sabbatical law, our practice perhaps ought to conform in some degree to our profession. It probably does not severely tax those coachmen and footmen to show off their gay turnouts and brilliant liveries on a fine Sunday morning in the Fifth Avenue. But for the heavy-laden drudges of the boarding-house kitchen, and the maid-of-all work in average families, I could wish we were all Jews from Saturday night till Monday morning. It is a dastardly shame to compel or permit women, who have faithfully toiled for us from Monday's tub to Saturday's scrub, to work hard all through the best hours of Sunday merely that we may gorge ourselves with dainty food. The Jews avoid this barbarous meanness. Their servants rest on their Sabbath.
As early as possible on Friday afternoon the father comes home. As sunset draws near the family put on their best clothes, and father and sons go to the synagogue for the short Sabbath-eve service. His wife and daughters usually remain at home, where pleasing duties still detain them, though their arduous work is done.
The Jewish religion is a monotone; it is a religion of one idea, and that idea is God. Do you wish the most enlightening of all commentaries on the Bible? do you wish to know the original meaning of hackneyed Christian phrases? would you taste the savor and inhale the fragrance of celebrated texts? do you desire to see living descendants of the characters sketched in the New Testament? Then frequent orthodox synagogues, and observe the ways of those who attend them. The Jew "walks with God"; the Jew, "in everything, gives thanks"; the Jew "makes melody in his heart to the Lord"; the Jew "prays without ceasing."
A pious Jew of the old school utters in the course of every twenty-four hours as many as a hundred benedictions, ascriptions, and prayers. On waking is the morning he says: "I thank thee ever-living, ever-enduring King, that thou hast restored me unto life, through thy great mercy and truth." Whenever he enjoys, whenever he suffers, whenever he gains, whenever be loses, he has a form of Hebrew words ready in his memory in which to call upon his God. If he eats a fine peach he says: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hast caused us to be preserved, and permitted us to enjoy this season.” But if he were about to eat strawberries, the ascription would slightly vary; as it would also for bread, cakes, melons, vegetables, wine, water, oil. If he enjoys the fragrance of flowers; he will say: "Blessed art thou, O Lord God, King of the Universe, who createst aromatic herbs" and he has also a form for sweet-scented woods, fruit, gums, spice. On passing a synagogue in ruins, or one flourishing and handsome; on meeting Hebrew sages, and on meeting Gentile sages; when he hears thunder, music, rain, or wind, or sees a rainbow, a fine tree, a mountain, a river, the ocean, a handsome creature; on hearing good news or bad news; at the birth or at the death of a child, upon leaving and returning home - he utters his short thanksgiving in Hebrew. It is so, Mr. Hepworth Dixon assures us, with the Oriental religions generally; which at the present hour, as three thousand years ago have a strong family likeness. “An Oriental is a man of prayer," says Mr. Dixon. “If he rises from his couch, a prayer is on his lips; If he sits down in rest, a blessing is in his heart. When he buys and when he sells, when he eats and when he drinks, he remembers that the Holy One is nigh. If poor in purse, he may be rich in grace; his cabin a sanctuary, his craft a service, his daily life an act of prayer.” These words describe the pious Jews of our modern capitals. They "walk with God." “God is in all their thought.”
The father and his boys enter the synagogue, sometimes pausing in the vestibule, if they have touched uncleanness on the way, to wash their hands, conveniences for which are placed there. As they enter, they are required to bow to the ark containing the scrolls of the Law, and to say: “In the greatness of thy benevolence will I enter thy house: in reverence of thee will I bow down toward the temple of thy holiness." The "ark" is a closet at the eastern end of the synagogue, usually made of costly woods, closed with sliding doors, and approached by stairs. Within are scrolls of parchment, each of which contains one book of the Pentateuch, written with perfect correctness in Hebrew, by men whose profession it is to write them. One error, no matter how insignificant, condemns a scroll; for the examiners subject it to tests from which no error can escape. The letters of every line, division, and book are counted. In the exact middle of the synagogue is a somewhat spacious platform, raised four or five feet from the floor, and provided with a broad desk and a sofa. Most of the pews face this platform, but there are a few "chief seats of the synagogue," for the trustees and other officers. On the ground floor are men and boys only, all with their hats on; the women and girls being in the gallery. Israelites say that this exclusion of women from the floor of the synagogue - that is, from the synagogue proper - is an homage to their delicacy. Their law requires that, at various periods, women should not enter the sanctuary at all; and the subterfuge of the gallery was invented to avoid the necessity of asking disagreeable questions. In some countries women, for the same reason, assemble in an adjoining apartment, with a door opening into the synagogue, through which the voices of the reader and preacher can be heard.
The Friday-evening service, which lasts an hour and a quarter, consists of the chanting of prayers and psalms in the Hebrew tongue. Sometimes the Rabbi, seated on his sofa, with his hat on, clad in a black silk gown and a white silk tunic over it, intones a portion solo, the people responding with an occasional amen. Then the whole congregation will repeat a psalm; sometimes standing, sometimes sitting, bowing now and then and occasionally bowing very low. At intervals a highly trained choir of men and boys, from a gallery where they cannot be seen, burst into a song or breathe out a most melodious soft chant. No organ smothers the voices; for the orthodox Jew feels that the harp of his people still hangs upon the willow, and must not be heard again till the Temple is rebuilt. But this choir (Nineteenth Street, New York) needs no organ; it is itself one beautifully attuned instrument. As the service approaches a conclusion there is more responding and more simultaneous recitation, which sometimes swells into a loud chorus. In less polite congregations than this it is said some of the members become almost vociferous.
When the service is ended, while the men are shaking hands and cheerfully conversing, all the boys crowd upon the platform and gather round the Rabbi, who places his hand upon each little cap, and pronounces a word or two of benediction. To those who have had the profound misfortune of being reared in one of those creeds which repel the young soul, and make it loathe what its elders revere, this sweet spectacle reveals much of the Jewish mystery. They have known how to associate religion with the pleasing recollections of childhood.
Upon returning home, after the service, the father and his sons find their abode decked in its brightest attire, the table set in its goodliest array, the ladies in handsome Sabbath costume, and on the mantel-piece of the principal room the two wax-candles lighted, to symbolize the light and warmth shed on Israel by the Sabbath. In some families the old-fashioned "Sabbath lamp," with seven burners, is retained, and lighted only on this joyous evening. The family being now all assembled, the father places his hand upon the heads of each of his children, and invokes upon them the blessing of Jacob. Then they kiss one another, and each wishes the others "Good Sabbath," as we say "Merry Christmas." All join in a Sabbath hymn; after which the father pays honor to his wife by chanting the fine description in Proverbs of a Virtuous Woman, whose price is above rubies, in whom the heart of her husband doth safely trust, who looketh well to the ways of her household and doth not eat the bread of idleness. Next he takes a small silver cup, kept for the purpose, and pours into it some pure home-made wine, of grapes or raisins, and pronounces a blessing on the wine; after which he breaks a piece of bread, and utters the prescribed blessing upon the bread. A formal and longer grace is said for the meal, and then the family take their places at the table.
All this ceremonial, which seems long when it is related, occupies but a few minutes, for the Hebrew is a compact language, and our Israelitish brethren have little conception of what we understand by the word solemnity. There is something off-hand in the usual religious acts of the orthodox Jews. When the meal is ended, the family rise and remain standing about the table while a thanksgiving is pronounced and a hymn sung. In many families the father relates to his children on Friday evening some legend of their race, of which the stock is inexhaustible, for there are fifteen centuries of persecution to draw from, without counting the ages during which Israel had a national existence and a recorded history. Hence the collection of Jewish stories, recently republished in New York from the columns of the Jewish Messenger was happily entitled "Friday Evening." During the Sabbath no musical instrument is heard in the house of an orthodox Jew, nor does he entertain any company beyond the circle of his relations and nearest friends. But this seclusion of families has nothing in common with Sabbatarian gloom and isolation. It is more like a Christmas reunion, when families are happy enough without other friends, than a Sabbatarian withdrawal from cheerful society.
On Saturday morning the service at the orthodox synagogue begins it eight and lasts till twelve. It differs little in character from the service of the evening before, except that toward the close the minister, accompanied by two of the congregation, descends from the platform and walks slowly to the chanting of the choir to the closet where the scrolls of the Law are kept, the doors of which have been previously opened by two of the members. The scroll containing the portion of the Law to be read that day is taken from its place and carried slowly to the platform, where its gay covering is removed and the scroll laid out flat upon the broad desk. After the portion has been read, one of the gentlemen who has assisted in its conveyance from the "ark" lifts it by the ends of its two rollers, and holds it up, open, as high as he can reach, and turns it in various directions, so that all the congregation can see the Hebrew characters written upon it. It was perhaps this holding aloft of the Sacred Object which suggested the elevation of the Host in the celebration of the Mass. Indeed, there is many a rite, ceremony, and usage, of both Protestant and Catholic worship, the idea of which was furnished by the people whom Protestants and Catholics have agreed to revile and torment. Little boys, for example, assist in unrolling and rolling up again the scroll of the Law; and one boy stands upon the platform, in the course of the morning service, and pipes with his shrill tenor a few Hebrew sentences. Doubtless it was this usage of the Israelites, this habit of associating their boys with them in every religious act and ceremonial, that suggested the employment of boys in the altars of Christian churches.
The sermon is not regarded by orthodox Jews as a very important part of the Sabbath service. In some synagogues no sermon is preached; in others a short one is delivered in the German language; but it is rare indeed that a sermon in English is heard; for, to the present hour, no Rabbi lives in the United States who was not born and educated on the Continent of Europe.
Four hours seem to us impatient mortals a longtime to spend in a religious service; but only a small part of the congregation attends during the first hour the synagogue does not fill up before ten o'clock; and some leave soon after the service has reached its climax in the elevation of the scroll. A few sturdy old gentlemen are punctually in their places at eight, and go through the whole,—rising and sitting down, responding and reciting, bowing and standing erect, never faltering or shrinking, to the last amen. The secret of this persistence is, that the congregation take an active part in the worship. They do not sit passive more than four or five minutes at a time. At the conclusion of the services the assembly breaks into groups of cheerful talkers, and so drifts down stairs through the vestibule into the street, where there is abundant handshaking and friendly merriment. There is a short afternoon service, which is not more numerously attended than that of Christian churches; for after the bountiful Sabbath dinner, our Israelitish brethren are apt to abandon themselves, as we do, to the noble work of digestion.
The Sabbath to the Jews is wholly joyous! In all the tales, essays, treatises, catechisms, of this interesting people, which lie heaped up before me at this moment, I can find no hint of that strange institution which the Puritans called Sabbath. To the good Jew the Sabbath means rest, mental improvement, domestic happiness, cheerful conversation, triumphal worship. From a tract recently issued, entitled "The Sabbath, an Appeal to the Israelites of New York," I copy a short passage, to show how pious Jews regard their sacred day, and why they urge its observance.
"The family," says its writer, "in which the Sabbath is a stranger, -as it is, alas! the case with such a large number of our co-religionists,—is bereft of those beautiful ties which make the Jewish home a paradise to the poorest of its professors, is a desert with no oasis, an ocean of ever-contending waves, with no haven or shelter. O ye who yet remember the Sabbath eve in the old European home,—and there are many of you,--conjure up before your vision the little chamber with the seven-armed candelabra lit in honor of the Sabbath bride; the table spread, the spotless linen, your father coming home from the synagogue, his eyes beaming with satisfaction, his countenance expressing happiness and contentment, not a ruffle on his forehead which would indicate that care had ever dwelt in that soul, placing his hand on your head, blessing you, and then singing songs of welcome to the regular returning guest, the bride beloved so well! Did ever happiness enter your soul so unmeasured since you gave up all for a heap of gold? Will your children ever feel as happy as you did on that Sabbath eve, will your wife ever know the beatitude your mother felt, when she saw her husband joyous and happy?"
Here we have all that was good in the old Puritan Sunday, without its gloom, restraint, and terror. There is no terror in the religion of the Hebrews, no eternal perdition. They are all Univeralists. The Puritanism of two hundred years ago, as we find it in the works of the Mathers, was Judaism plus the doctrine of eternal perdition.
That was a happy touch of Mr. Henry Ward Beecher's, the other week, in his newspaper, The Christian Union, where, after having given the news of the various Christian denominations, he concluded by a few paragraphs, headed thus—
Whether we regard this as a mere stroke of journalism, or as a recognition of the claims of other religions to the regard and respect of Christians, it was worthy of the intelligence of the editor. Nothing is more startling to a student of religions than their likeness to one another, and the similarity of their effects upon the various minds. Men who have lived in the Eastern world, in Japan, Siam, India, China, and in the great islands of the Archipelago, have often remarked that the religions of those lands, however they may differ in name, usages, rites, costumes, traditions, have much more in common than they have of difference; and under them all can be found the same varieties of religious and irreligious character: the sincere and lowly worshipper; the man who expects to be heard for his much speaking; he who affects devotion, and lie who affects indifference; the rogue who uses religion as a cloak, and the politician who employs it as capital; the dealer in religious merchandise, who believes in religion as the servants of the Cataract House believe in the sublimity of Niagara;—all these characters, we are assured, can be found under all the religions of the Oriental world.
And, what is more interesting, it seems as if the religions of the world were in the same state of transition, and at about the same stage of progress. They are all anxious, all excited, all in movement. Orthodox, heterodox, ritualists, infidels,—we find them at Calcutta, in Japan, in China, in Barbary, as we do at London, Berlin, Paris, New York, and Boston. English residents in India tell us that in the higher society of Calcutta there are native young men who take precisely the same tone with regard to the Brahmins and the Hindoo sacred books so many of our young pagans do at Pads, Oxford, Cambridge, London, Boston, when the Christian religion is the subject of discourse,—a tone not of contempt, by any means; they are beyond and above that. They speak of the religion of their fathers as the son of an ancient house might descant upon the old family coach, which was excellent in its day, but is now done with, and kept as an interesting relic. Nor are there wanting, in those remoter capitals of the world, young men who surprise their companions, as some of our young ritualists do, by a sedulous imitation or revival of ancient methods and forgotten rites.
Mr. Beecher may well tell us, then, of "Other Religions"; for they are all in a similar critical condition. To the careless looker-on it seems as if they were all dissolving; but, in reality, they are only shedding their non-essentials, which is a painful and demoralizing process. When in the Arctic seas the sun gains power to soften the ice and melt the snows, the first effects upon the ice-bound fleets of fishermen and navigators are disagreeable, if not injurious. Everything is soft, damp, unstable; the snug snow-packing, which had protected and warmed the imprisoned mariners so long, becomes a source of discomfort; and the ice-roads which had borne them stiffly up are safe no longer. But the thaw is about so act them FREE, and send them careering over the boundless deep.
Our Israelitish brethren, besides sharing in the influences which are mitigating all creeds and liberalizing all minds, are now subjected to a trial peculiar to themselves. From being persecuted everywhere, they are beginning to be honored and sought. The grand example of the youngest of the nations in protecting all religions equally, while recognizing none, has had its effect in improving the condition of the Jews throughout the greater part of Christendom and beyond Christendom. Within the recollection of men still young, Jews have been admitted to the British Parliament, where, I am informed by a distinguished Rabbi, who gloried in the fact, no Jew has ever sided with the party of reaction, except one, and he a renegade. The Jews to-day in the House of Commons vote on important measures with John Bright. The professor of Hebrew in the London University is a Hebrew; and among the Jewish students last year at Oxford and Cambridge, one was a senior wrangler and another the crack oarsman of his college. In London one of the noted clubs is Jewish, and there are so many Jews in the city government that they may almost be said to have the controlling influence. Happily, the Jews are not proselyters, and can be aldermen without using their office to get a sly advantage for their synagogue. Among the seventy-five thousand Jews in London, there are many business men who, despite the double Sunday, hold their own against Christian competitors, to say nothing of the much greater number who have no Sunday at all. There is one Jewish clothing-house in London that has thirteen stores and employs eleven thousand people.
In France the Jews are fortunate in the free Sunday permitted both by law and custom; and as a consequence there is less poverty among them than elsewhere. The Rabbis are paid from the public treasury, as the ministers of the various Christian denominations are and the government courts their good will. The Jewish newspaper in Paris describes in glowing words the manner in which "the Emperor's fete” was celebrated at the principal synagogue. A detachment of chasseurs, commanded by an officer, was stationed in the temple opposite the choir, and while the "Halel" was chanted the edifice resounded with the blast of trumpets from a military band. At the moment when the scroll of the Law was taken out of its sacred enclosure the troops presented arms, the trumpets sounded, and the organ pealed its melodious thunder. Thus the host is saluted on festive days at Notre Dame. In Paris, among a large number of other charitable organizations of Israelites, I find two designed to aid parents who desire to apprentice their children to trades. These are societies for paying the premiums required in Europe when apprentices are taken.
Throughout Germany Jews at length stand upon an equality before the law with Christians,—even in Austria, so long the citadel of conservatism. Austria has abolished all Sunday laws that would prevent Jews from cultivating land, and the Emperor has sought to compliment his Israelitish subjects by appointing two young Hebrew gentlemen to positions on his personal staff. This in Austria, where until 1860 a Jew could not exercise many of the most usual avocations,—could not be a farmer, miller, apothecary, brewer; and in some wide regions and populous places of the empire could not reside at all! In Frankfort, where the Rothschilds originated, the Jews are masters of everything. Those great bankers, as all the world knows, live in luxury more than regal; but all the world does not know that several members of this family are persons of genuine liberality of mind as well as bountifully liberal in charitable gifts. It is a pity the bead of so conspicuous a house should not set a better example to Christians, by living more simply. But all things in their time. When the time comes for general reaction against the burdensome and immoral splendors of modern life,—such as are described in Lothair,—the Jews will not be the last to adopt a style of elegant and rational simplicity.
Spain, wonderful to relate, joins the nations in restoring to the Jews the rights of man, of which she despoiled them four centuries ago. The Israelites of the world are now joining in a dollar subscription to build in Madrid a temple, worthy by its magnitude and splendor to commemorate the abrogation of the edict of 1492, which silenced Hebrew worship throughout Spain, and dismantled every synagogue. Within these few weeks Sweden has swept from her law books every remaining statute which made a distinction between Jews and Christians and now, except in Russia and the Papal States, there is, I believe, no part of Europe where an Israelite has not the essential rights of a citizen, so far as they are enjoyed by the rest of the people.
If any one desires to revive his detestation of caste, the oppression of class by class, of color by color, of race by race, let him mark in the history of this people how uniformly they rise and expand and ennoble when the stigma is removed and the repressive laws are abolished. Always complying with the fundamental conditions of prosperous existence, that is, being always as a people chaste, temperate, industrious, and frugal, they have only needed a fair chance to develop more shining qualities. Americans need not recur to history to learn this. We need only to walk down Broadway as far as Castle Garden (where all the histories of all the nations come to a focus and show their net results), and compare Israelites fresh from the countries where they have been oppressed and despised for many centuries with Israelites who have lived in the United States for one or two generations. America can boast no better citizens, nor more refined circles, than the good Jewish families of New York, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Philadelphia.
Not that the repression of ages can be overcome in a few years. We must expect that many Jews will long continue to exhibit unpleasing traits peculiar to themselves; and in some instances we shall observe that those traits, subdued in a parent, will reappear in his children. We have a highly interesting example in the author of Lothair. The elder D'lsraeli, though descended from a line of moneyed men, was curiously devoid of the commercial spirit, caring for nothing but his books and his collections of literary curiosities—a guileless, unaspiring student. His gifted son revels is the external. After fifty years of familiarity with the sumptuous life of very rich people, he writes of jewels in the manner of a dealer, and of nobles in the spirit of a footman.
One of the happy effects of light and liberty upon a religious body is to divide it. It is only people who do not think at all that value themselves open thinking alike. Black night is uniform: daylight shows a thousand hues. Ignorance is a unit: knowledge is manifold. As long as the Jews were persecuted, they clung to ancient usage and doctrine with thoughtless tenacity; their whole strength being employed in the mere clutch. But when the repressive and restrictive laws were relaxed, the mind of the Jews resumed its office; divisions arose among them; and the world began to hear of the Orthodox and the Reformed. Women, for example, are profoundly honored by the men of Israel, as they are by all the chaste races (and by no others); yet they retained in their morning service that insulting thanksgiving: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hast not made me a heathen; who hast not made me a slave; who hast not made me a WOMAN!" While the men were uttering these offensive words, the women were required to accept their hard destiny by thanking God for having "made them according to his will," and imploring him to deliver them from “impudent faces," "a bad man," "an evil eye," "an oppressive lawsuit," “an implacable opponent," and other evils. All this had become unsuitable, but it was retained. Then, in ancient times when almanacs were not, the festivals (all regulated by the moon) were required to be kept for two days, instead of one, lest the time of the new moon should not have been exactly ascertained. This inconvenient custom was maintained in rigor, although the moment of the birth of the new moon was known to every family. In Palestine list eating of shell-fish and pork was forbidden, because in that country those articles were thought to induce leprosy; and so in New York and London not a Jew would eat an oyster or a sausage. For similar reasons, minute directions were given by the ancient lawgivers respecting the mode of killing animals, all of which were, doubtless, necessary or humane at the time; and down to a recent period every Jewish community had its butcher and no man would kill a chicken except in the authorized way. The service of four hours on the Sabbath was much too long; but on high days the pious Israelites were engaged in public worship for eight hours without a pause. Veritable rams' horns were blown in the temple; and every Jew who built a house left some visible part of it unfinished to denote that the Temple was still in ruins. All life was overlaid with minute observances, and religion was to many families almost as much a burden as a solace.
In one of the stories published in “Friday Evening," there is a scene which illustrates the ruthless tyranny of ancient custom when it has acquired the sanction of religion. A poor family of Jews had just seated themselves at the table to enjoy the Sabbath dinner, for which the father, in the midst of cruel misfortunes, had ventured to provide a fine, fat goose. The eagerly expected moment arrives; the children gaze breathless as the majestic bird is placed upon the table; and the happy father, with beaming countenance, begins to use the carving-knife.
"The goose was at length completely carved, and still rested in delicious morsels on the plate before him, when, suddenly, little Schimmele cried out: 'Look, look, there is a nail driven in the goose!’
“’Where? where?' demanded at the same time both father and mother. The child pointed to the place, and there, indeed, the nail was revealed.
"The knife dropped quickly from our Anschel's hand, who stood transfixed, his face paler than the cloth before him on the table. Esther at once removed the bird, and ordered Schimmele to hasten to the Rabbi's house, and Inquire of him if it were unclean or not. The boy seized the dish, covered it with a napkin, and staggered away under his tempting load as fast as legs could bear him.
"Meanwhile, gloomy and melancholy silence reigned throughout the house. The children gazed on with an expression of disappointment and dismay. Anschel lowered his eyes, whilst Esther sat immovably in her seat without uttering a word.
"A few minutes afterwards Schimmele returned, but his countenance foreboded no good; tears were in his eyes.
"'Well?' demanded Esther, as he stood irresolutely on the threshold.
"'The goose—the goose is unclean,' replied the boy, after a desperate effort, sobbing."
It was all over with the Sabbath banquet! No one thought of eating a morsel of the goose.
I have before me a curious narrative of a young Jewish lady in Southern Russia, venturing to carry a parasol in the streets on the Sabbath. Her mother, reproached by the stricter Israelites for allowing her daughter thus to transgress traditional law, forbade the young lady ever again on the sacred day to interpose a human invention between her fair countenance and the sun's rays. The daughter, offended, refused to go out at all on the Sabbath, and after four months the mother relented, saying: "I am not so strict as my mother is, and you will not be so strict as I am. You may, therefore, just as well begin now to practise your laxer principles; it is of no use trying to make you what I am myself." The grandmother, in fact, was a pilgrim in the Holy Land, whither she had gone to end her days; the mother was merely a good orthodox Jewess; the daughter was willing to carry a parasol on Saturday!
The recent movement among our lsraelitish brethren toward Reform is merely the revolt of emancipated intelligence against the rites, usages, and doctrines which had become unsuitable and obstructive. It is a reassertion of the supreme authority of human reason. The reformers, while clinging with the tenacity of their race to the two essentials, - God and the Sabbath,—demand and concede in all minor matters perfect liberty! Nor do they adhere to the weekly day of rest so much because it is commanded, as because it is best. The most advanced statement of the reformed ideas is a lithe work published a few weeks ago, "What is Judaism?" by Rev. Rafael D. C. Lewin of New York. Mr. Lewin, in discoursing upon the laws and rites ordained by Moses, asserts that they are obligatory only so long as they answer the end intended. "As soon," he remarks, "as reason has decided that the time for their observance has passed, that they no longer effect their purpose, that according to the age in which we live the religious Idea, if requiring an outer covering at all, needs one of different materials, then the observance of them has forever passed, and a continuance of them is but a violation of those grand eternal principles which constitute pure Judaism."
Sacrifices, according to this bold writer, were permitted only in condescension to the barbarism of primitive tribes, and he ventures upon the tremendous audacity of saying, that even the venerated rite of circumcision must give way before advancing intelligence! He evidently regards it as the merest relic of barbarism, and speaks of the coming abrogation of all such usages as "a glorious event." Again and again he holds language like this: "Judaism is religion, and religion is life, spirit; it is neither letter nor law. The Bible is the word of God only when it in construed from its spiritual signification. There in nothing supernatural about the Bible. It is not a revelation of God's will imparted to any certain man under mysterious circumstances, nor is it a direct communication from God to man. It is a book, and only a book; a book written by mortal hands, a book containing ideas, sentiments, and doctrines emanating from the brain of man." But, he adds, although the Bible is man's work, wherever in it the true spirit of religion is expressed, there, but only there, is it "the true inspired word of God."
Few of our Israelitish brethren are yet prepared to receive such advanced heresy as this. Perhaps one third of all the Jews in the United States are still orthodox; another third neglect religion except on the greatest days of the religious year, and are indifferent on the disputed questions; another third are in various stages of Reform, a few even going beyond Mr. Lewin. A very small number, both in Germany and America, are prepared, for reasons of convenience, to adopt the first day of the week instead of their Sabbath. They say truly that the essential thing is to rescue a day from business for the higher interests of man; and, that great boon being secured, the only other point of importance is, that we should all have the same day. The idea, however, is held in aversion by a vast majority of the Jewish people, and it will be many years in making its way to general acceptance. Meanwhile they employ our Sunday in holding their religious schools and in transacting the business of synagogue and charity.
The difference of opinion between the Orthodox and the Reformed does not create visible division among them, because the Jews are congregationalists. Each synagogue is independent in all respects. There is no ecclesiastical body nor Chief Rabbi in the United States, to interfere in the concerns, to criticise the ritual, or censure the belief of any congregation. If a congregation is in need of a minister, preacher, a reader, a sexton, it simply advertises for one, stating the salary to be given, and usually whether the congregation is Orthodox or Reformed. In almost any of our Jewish papers we can find a long string of advertisements like the following;—
WANTED. – The cong. Anshe Chesed, of this city, desire to engage a minister for the term of five years from August next, at the yearly salary of three thousand dollars. He is expected to deliver sermons in German, and to superintend the congregation school.
Applications and testimonials to be handed before the 8th of April next.
THE Congregation Anshe Chesed, of Vicksburg, Miss., desire to engage a gentleman to take charge of their new temple. It is requisite that he be able to lecture in the English as well as in the German language, and perform the functions of Chazan, leader and instructor of a choir.
A salary of $3,000 per annum will be paid.
Competent men are invited to correspond with the undersigned on the subject, and enclose references and testimonials.
TO CONGREGATIONS. – A gentleman, who has for a number of years filled the position of Chazan, Baal Korah, and teacher of Hebrew and German in a rather large congregation, but on account of religious principles has given up his situation, is anxious to meet with a similar position in a Orthodox congregation, in either city or country. He is well-qualified Shochet and practical Mohel, and, though not a professional preacher, able to lecture in both German and English languages.
The best of references can be given.
WANTED. – A CHAZAN and SHOCHET, (Orthodox) by Congregation K. Keneseth Israel, of Richmond, Va., within sixty days from date. Salary, $1,000. Applications must have the best of recommendations, and must be able to deliver discourse. No traveling expenses allowed.
WANTED. – A SHOCHET and CHAZAN (Orthodox) by the Congregation Beth Ee, or Buffalo, N. Y. Election to take place Sunday in Chalamood Pesach (April). Applicants must have the best of recommendations. No traveling expenses allowed.
In every congregation there in, of course, a party inclined to reform, and a party of sticklers for “the good old ways of our fathers." The occasional election of a minister furnishes an opportunity for measuring the strength of the two and each member has always the resource of joining another congregation more in accord with his own disposition. Nor can there be very bitter contentions in a religious body that never thinks of winning proselytes, and has only a faint and vague belief in retribution beyond the grave. Among the thirty-two congregations in New York, the two most conspicuous represent the extremes of Orthodoxy and Reform, but there appears to be good-will between them, and they unite in the support of charitable institutions.
The Sunday school of this spacious and magnificent temple exhibits two novelties worthy of consideration:
1. Every class has its own room;
2. The teachers are paid at the rate of five dollars for each Sunday.
Instead, therefore, of the Sunday school presenting a scene of chaos with Babel accompaniment, it is as quiet, efficient, and orderly as a well-arranged weekday school. At ten, the pupils assemble in a large room in the basement of the temple. The stroke of a bell calls them to order; one of the pupils—perhaps a little girl—is called to the platform, and the school rises and remains standing, while she says a very short prayer; all responding with a loud AMEN! When the school is seated again, another child is invited to the piano, and, as she plays a lively march, the classes, each in its turn, march to their rooms, where they remain two hours under instruction; at noon they march back to the music of the piano, into the large apartment, where another little prayer is said by one of the children, a hymn is song, and the school is dismissed.
To an outside barbarian it is sorrowful to see such bright young intelligences fed upon lists of ancient kings, Hebrew roots, and innutritious catechism; but we have to steel ourselves against emotions of that kind whenever we look upon such a gathering. The world is full of minds whose growth was early arrested by mere lack of nutrition.
In all New York there is no ecclesiastical establishment more vigorously alive than this Temple Immanuel. Free from debt, and even possessing a handsome surplus in the form of unsold pews, it expends annually about forty thousand dollars in salaries, repairs, and insurance, and gives away an average of thirty thousand dollars in charity. On one occasion recently it raised sixteen thousand dollars for a hospital, to which patients of all religions or of none are equally welcome. In this congregation, as in all others, there are societies for ministering to the sick, burying the dead, assisting the poor, and aiding oppressed Israelites in other lands. The ancient festivals are not neglected; but if you converse much with the fathers and mothers, you will suspect that the day of the year which really interests and kindles time people most is the one on which, in the presence of the greatest congregation of the year, the children are confirmed.
The Jews are happy in the United States. There are now two hundred congregations of them here, half of whom have arrived within the last twelve years. They are good citizens, firmly attached to those liberal principles to which they owe their deliverance from degrading and oppressive laws, and are rising in the esteem of the people among whom they dwell. Their attachment to the system of universal education is hereditary; it dates back three thousand years; and though their religious feelings are wounded by the opening exercises of many public schools, they would not for that reason destroy them. They prefer rather to rally warmly in their support, trusting to the magnanimity and growing good sense of their fellow-citizens to spare their children, at length, the pain of taking part in exercises which they regard as idolatrous. For this they are willing to wait. They hope, also, to see the day when the thanksgiving proclamations of governors and presidents will be so worded that they, too, can comply with them; though of late they have viewed with needless alarm the attempts, on time part of a few well-intentioned persons to break the silence of the Constitution respecting religion.
Our Israelitish brethren object, and with reason, to a thoughtless habit of some reporters in speaking of a person arrested for an infamous crime as "a Jew." They say that, before the law, Jews are citizens merely; the word Jew being now descriptive, not of their nationality, but of their religion. Why not, they ask, report that Patrick O'Mulligan, a Roman Catholic, was arrested for drunkenness, or John Smith, a Presbyterian, was tried for forgery?
But nothing irritates this good-tempered people so much as the societies maintained for the purpose of converting them to the faith which for so many centuries made their lives shameful and bitter. Amiable as they are, they really resent this effort with some warmth. They point with derision to the fact that the society in London expends fifty thousand pounds sterling per annum in converting a dozen or two poverty-stricken wretches, and sending abroad, on highly interesting tours, a few plausible renegades. The very organ of this society confesses that poor Jews in London are morally superior to poor Christians. "As to their moral qualities," says the editor of Jewish Intelligence, in the number for November, 1862, "the evidence seems to show that the lower class of Jews are decidedly superior to the same class among ourselves. They are far less given to drinking; their religious customs enforce a certain amount of cleanliness, both personal and in their dwellings; and two families are never found inhabiting the same apartment!" We can hardly be surprised at the Jews for regarding the maintenance of such societies as a standing menace and insult. Fifty thousand pounds a year, drawn from the limited benevolence fund of Christendom, is too much to waste upon such missionaries as write the reports in the magazine of the London Society for converting the Jews.
Our Israelitish brethren in the United States have their own battle to fight. It is substantially the same as ours. They, too, have to deal with overwhelming masses of ignorance and poverty, just able to get across the ocean, and arriving helpless at Castle Garden. They, too, have to save morality, decency, civilization, while the old bondage of doctrine and habit is gradually loosened. In this struggle Jews and Christians should be allies; and allies are equals.