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The Jew Street

translated from Les Matinées du Samedi

In the street inhabited by Jews at Frankfurt (on the Main), surrounded by gothic fronts, black gable ends, and gloomy alleys, a small house of mean appearance is distinguished from the others by an air of cleanliness that enlivens it. The brasses of the door are polished, the window curtains white as snow, and the steps, (a remarkable circumstance in the moist atmosphere of this muddy quarter,) are generally dry and clean.

The traveler who visits with some curiosity this street, (a faithful specimen of the time when the Jews of Frankfurt, submitting to the most intolerable vexations, were packed in this infected quarter,) involuntarily stops before this house, so plain and neat, and asks with apparent interest, who that good old lady is, with so venerable an aspect, who is seated in a large arm-chair beside the small but bright panes of glass in the window of the first story, and receives the following reply from one of the inhabitants:

"In this house lived, towards the end of the last century, an Israelitish merchant, named Rothschild. He here acquired a good name, a large fortune, and numerous offspring; and after his demise, his widow declared that she would only leave for the tomb the modest dwelling that had served to cradle this name, this fortune, and these children."

This resolve was happily approved by the sons of the meek and pious widow, and their name has become European, their riches proverbial. They now inhabit sumptuous palaces in the most beautiful parts of London, Paris, Vienna, Naples, and Frankfurt; but their mother, persisting in her admirable resolution, has never wished to quit her humble and unostentatious abode, where her children often visit her, evincing towards her the utmost respect, and present, in the remembrance of their respected father, an example for the rising generation.

This profound depth of feeling is characteristic of the noble and generous sentiments that animate this illustrious family, and which have rendered it the succor of the unfortunate, the sustainer of the persecuted, and the support of the feeble.