Vol. I, No. 1
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH.
The Jews of the East
A correspondent of the "Universal Jewish Gazette," has written from Constantinople several letters, from which we give the following extracts :
After having established the fact of the entire absence of mental progress in the eastern Jews as a nation, he adds: "The Jews have no conception of any other state of society different from that in which they now exist. What eastern Jew can imagine that he has a right to expect any thing but the rod--the oppression--the contempt of those around him? Our ancestors said: 'We are now in exile;' the Hebrew of the East knows not even the consolation of this thought; for it supposes the consciousness of past happiness--it breathes of present misery, it is true, but looks to a future blessedness. The Jew of the East; however, knows only that he is a Jew, and therefore doomed to wretchedness. The first step towards the amelioration of his condition, is to inspire him with the pride, the dignity of manhood."
To accomplish this desirable end, two means are proposed. Either to open schools among them for the instruction of the young, or to send them to Europe to receive a liberal education. The correspondent does not approve of the first of these plans; he does not think it could be successful. Their masters would have either to be all Jews, or else they must be taught by missionaries, in whom they could not feel that unbounded confidence, which is so essential in the relative position of teacher and pupil. The correspondent of the Gazette prefers the plan of sending the young eastern Hebrews to Europe, to receive there their education; after which they should return to their home, and thus establish a sympathetic bond of union between the European and eastern Israelites. It would be requisite, during many successive years, that fresh candidates for European instruction should replace those who return to their native country; thus, by degrees, the condition of our eastern co-religionists would be greatly ameliorated.
It is a great mistake for Europeans to regard the late persecution at Damascus as an isolated occurrence. In 1839, more than two hundred Jews were put to death in a small town in Central Asia, because, a short time before Passover, a Jew was seen dipping his hand. in a vessel containing blood. It was afterwards ascertained that the poor man was suffering with rheumatism in his hand, and had been advised to bathe it in the warm blood of a dog, which he had killed for the purpose.
A few days before the sad occurrences at Damascus, the sixty thousand Jews residing at Constantinople were in the greatest peril from the following incident:--A Turk, with his little son, was in a store kept by a Jew; having occasion to leave for a few moments, he begged the Jew to take charge of the child; but being busily occupied, in attending to his customers, he forgot the boy, who ran out. The Turk returned, and asked for his son. The Jew laughed, and jokingly said, “I have killed him for the Passover." The Turk immediately fell upon him; a tumult ensued, the guard was called, and the poor Jew, under a shower of blows, was carried before the cadi. The Greeks and the Armenians, (sworn enemies to the Jews,) loudly vociferated, "throw him into the Bosporus." The cadi immediately ordered an inquiry as to the cause of the alarm, and soon learned that the child had quietly returned to his home, unconscious of all the trouble his short absence had excited. The Jew was released, and the crowd soon dispersed. The Grand Rabbi sent for the Jew, and reprimanded him for his frivolity, and sentenced him to receive two hundred stripes; "for," said he, "if the child had been lost, who knows what might have happened?" This event, however, was not unproductive of a good result; for a few days afterwards, when tidings came of the reported occurrences at Damascus, the Turks, remembering their too hasty decision in the previous case, were not disposed to give a too ready belief to an unauthenticated report.
"I have lived with the Jews of the East," continues the correspondent, “I have felt all that they feel, and more; for the worst feature of their deplorable condition is, that they feel nothing."
Three hundred years ago the Jews came from Spain to Constantinople, and begged permission from the Sultan to reside there. The request was granted, but restricted, by a singular condition. They might live at Constantinople, and there enjoy the privilege of observing all the forms of their religion; but they should not revenge an insult received from a Turk. If a Turk should choose to throw the carcass of a dog at a Jew, he should not dare to throw it back; but were the dog alive, he might do so if he were willing to pay a fine for the privilege. These unfortunate outcasts, driven from place to place, were obliged by their necessities to accept these humiliating conditions. They either bought or built houses at Chashioi, and were declared to be on an equality with the other Rajahs (not Turks). They were then, and still are, obliged to pay a capitation tax. Fortunately they brought riches with them from Spain; for their Greek brethren, consisting of about a hundred families, were very poor. Among the Spanish Jews were many distinguished physicians, astronomers, bankers, &c.; but in 1827, Kamonho, who was quite a remarkable person, was put to death one Friday afternoon by the order of the Sultan, because he had thwarted him in the execution of a sentence of death. the corpse of this unfortunate man remained before his door all, the Sabbath day.