Home page The Occident and American Jewish Advocate Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library Shopping Mall of Zion AHAVA Hero Products 250x250

בס"ד

Sunday School for Religious Instruction of Israelites of Philadelphia

The fifth anniversary examination of this interesting establishment took place, as usual, at the Portuguese Synagogue on Sunday the 17th of Veadar, 5603 (19th of March, 1843). The exercises commenced at half past ten, by the reading of a portion of the thirty-sixth chapter of Ezekiel, commencing at verse sixteen to the end of the chapter, being the Haphtorah פרשת פרה of the week. The beautiful words of the prophet, in which we are promised a cleansing from our sins through the mercy and saving grace of the God of Israel, seemed to tally well with the object of the school, which is to educate the young to be faithful to the law of this God, and to wait for his salvation, though the coming of the Messiah be delayed for our sins. At the conclusion of this lesson a prayer composed for the occasion was recited by the minister. Next followed the animal report of the superintendent, from which we extract the following portion, which we imagine will be truly gratifying to all our religious friends; as it presents a pleasing view in a few words of the progress of this good institution which, in the absence of regular day-schools for the religious education of Israelites, contributes, in an eminent degree, to disseminate much valuable and healthful instruction among a large number of children taken from all classes of our three congregations. If it be considered that the whole population of Jews in Philadelphia is scarcely more than fifteen hundred, an attendance of an hundred and forty in any one school is truly a surprising number.

"The superintendent of the Sunday-school in presenting the fifth annual report, has much gratification in stating that the course of instruction has been uninterrupted during the past year, that the number of pupils has varied from one hundred and ten to one hundred and forty; and that the most unwearied attention has been bestowed by the teachers to impress on their minds the importance of a religious education: the fruits of these efforts will be shown in the exercises of this day. But that which cannot be seen on a single occasion, and which gives the fairest promise of permanent good, is the mutual interest and kindliness that exists between the teachers and their pupils throughout the schools, making the giving and receiving instruction pleasant and beneficial to both, and illustrating the bond of union prescribed by our holy religion, where brethren of the house of Israel dwell together."

Next in order came the prayer usually recited at the opening of the school by the superintendent and scholars; and here we must remark, that the impressive manner in which the sublime wordsשמע ישראל ה' אלהינו ה' אחד were given forced an involuntary joining in the response ברוך שם מלכותו לעולם ועד So true is it that there is a blissful contagion in sincerity which communicates itself to those around, and that words proceeding from a faithful heart strike a responsive chord in the bosom of all that can feel. At the conclusion of the prayer, אין כאלהינו was sung by the congregation, teachers, and children, with a good deal of precision.--The preliminary exercises being over, the examinations were proceeded with; and we are sure that we do not exaggerate in saying that seldom did scholars, many of them scarcely five years old, answer more promptly and understandingly the questions which were propounded to them. Among the scholars are several German children, who have acquired nearly all their knowledge of the English in this school; and yet some of them answered as promptly as the natives, and we think that one or two received the premium in their respective classes. At the conclusion of the examination an intermission of about fifteen minutes took place, during which a collection for the benefit of the school fund was taken up, which amounted to one hundred and twelve dollars, and, it is believed, will be sufficient to pay all the current expenses and enable the superintendent to make some additions to the library during the next twelve months. Several of the scholars next gave recitations of pieces committed to memory, which were received with marked approbation by the audience; especially the performances of two little boys, one about six and the other about five years old, the first of whom recited a piece of poetry, describing the finding of Moses on the banks of the Nile, the latter the hundred and fifteenth psalm. One young lady, also a scholar, afforded a good deal of pleasure by the recitation of a poem in reference to the parting of Rebecca with Jacob. Several of the older scholars also read compositions of their own, on subjects connected with religion and biblical history; and we express but the opinion of all present, that, as a whole, they were highly creditable to the capacities and acquirements of the scholars, and afforded the best possible evidence of the care and assiduity of the teachers. The entire examination being at length over, a sermon* on the perfect efficacy of the religion of Israel and its consistent beauty and holiness was delivered by the minister; at the conclusion of which Yigdal was sung in a manner much more correct than has been usual with us, no doubt owing to the improvement several of our younger members have made in psalmody under the guidance of Mr. Roget, who has lately commenced giving then instruction in vocal music, with special reference to the hymns which are sung by the congregation. After the benediction תקבל ברצון the congregation dispersed much gratified with what they had seen and heard, convinced that the ancient spirit of Israel is not dead, and that it can, and will, and must revive, by the active energy of the sons of Jacob aided by the blessing of the God of their fathers.

*It will probably be given in our next number, unless excluded by something of more general interest.