|Vol. I, No. 10
Tebeth 5604, January 1844
We welcome our friend and colleague, the Rev. Samuel M. Isaacs, of New York, as an able ally and correspondent to the pages of the Occident. We hail it as an auspicious sign of better times, when the ministers of our religion step forward to aid in the god cause of Israel's regeneration. Yet the exigencies of the day demand imperiously for every son of Jacob to do his duty, and we cannot doubt that when all who can, do aid in the holy work, that it will progress well to a happy consummation. What is it that we labour for? Is it for worldly glory? No; we seek not as a nation any distinction above our fellow-citizens of other creeds. Is it power? No; we would scorn to establish our religious system, even to render it triumphant, upon the ruins of public liberty. We seek only the triumphant rule of our faith over the hearts of our own fellow-believers, those who with us believe in the eternal Unity; who like us dwell in captivity; who like us are descendants from the imperishable stock of Abraham. We battle for the permanence of the law, for the truth of divine things as revealed through Moses and confirmed by the prophets; for that faith for which our armed men fought to the last, and for which our martyrs suffered in almost every land. It is the happiness of mankind for which we labour, by maintaining, so far as our feeble powers go, the cause of unimpeachable truth, of undying justice; and to this holy warfare we Israelites invite our brothers in faith, in hope, and sorrows; for this we fling our banner to the breeze, and call upon all to hasten forward to stand forth in defence of what is pure and holy. Long indeed has the cause languished; diminished has become the band of its defenders;—but shall it perish? Forbid it Heaven! the thought even would be treason, for it would be to doubt of the truth of the Most High! But it cannot be; the dark clouds of unbelief and indifference may for a while intercept the luminous rays of the sun of righteousness; but they will burst forth again, and dispel the mists which now lower upon the glory of our race, and great will be the renown of those who remained firm and true when others wavered.
With these few words of hearty welcome we give place to our reverend friend, and trust that his words will, under divine blessing, sink deeply into the hearts of our readers, and attune their souls to those high resolves and prompt actions which the times demand.
To the Editor of the Occident.
An article in No. 9 of the Occident, headed "Jewish Children under Gentile Teachers," is of too important a character to be permitted to pass as mere reading matter; it is a subject in which the immortal state of thousands of our co-religionists is concerned, and as such should be brought before the Jewish public in its various ramifications; it is not whether Jewish children shall be taught by gentiles, but whether Jewish souls shall be lost through the criminal neglect of parents, and the apathetic slumber of Hebrew ministers. As a parent and pastor, I for one lay aside my multifarious duties, and take up my pen, not to write an article of flowing diction, or elevated language; not to please the fancy, or captivate the feelings; but a dissertation on the subject propounded. Shall our system of teaching our offspring continue as it has hitherto been unfortunately the case, in having them taught by Christians, with an accidental Hebrew lesson by some Rabbi, or shall we use all the means our God has given us in this land of freedom, to prepare our children for earth, and qualify them for heaven?
Led by profession and inclination to guide youth and inexperience, I direct my attention to fathers of families;—would you not defend from danger, bestow every good thing, and implore Heaven's choicest blessing on your tender offspring? do you not rear and cherish their infant state; correct and educate their childhood; reprove and admonish the fault of manhood; would you not exert yourselves to the utmost to shelter and defend them from danger and harm; leaving no means untried to afford them ease and relief in anguish and sickness? Listen then to me, ye parents (and let me hear it myself,) if this is all we, do, if this bounds our parental love, then are we but monsters of cruelty. What! would we pluck our children from fire and water, and permit them to be in danger of a quenchless fire, "which burns to the nethermost pit?" would we deprive them of all dangerous weapons, and allow them to wound the soul with sin? would we chastise their disobedience to us, and tacitly allow or wink at the offence they commit against Heaven? would we teach the infant tongue to lisp father, totally regardless of our Father above? Would we do all this? then with truth might the fierce declaration of Jeremiah again be applied to us:
"Verily, the sea monster draws out her breast to rear her young, but the daughter of my people has become cruel even as the wild ostrich."
Would we escape this imputation? then should all our efforts be directed to give our children a better religious education. There never was a louder call than at present, when our apathetic indifference is proverbial, our lethargic inaction our reproach. We believe there is a God, or else why do we worship in a Synagogue ? we know that God guards us especially, or else why are we so proud of being Jews? Shall, then, that religion for which our forefathers fought and bled, be one of pride, and not of utility? shall the young scion of Judaism be taught the efficacy of his faith at a Christian school, by a gentile teacher? shall Judaism borrow from Christianity? Oh, no! you will say; we have given strict injunctions that our children are not to be to taught any doctrinal points of religion; we will look to that in time. Alas! You who profess to be fond parents, ye know not the danger to which you are exposing your children: there, is danger in every step; you teach them to disregard the prayer with which the teacher commenced his duty, because it speaks of a Trinity, thus paving the way for his doubting a Unity. Early lessons are lasting; they are engrafted on the tender mind of a child; he hears his nation reproached with cruelty to the Christian godhead, not by the teacher only, but by the companions of his boyhood, his schoolmates; and the consequence is, if not dangerous, at least hurtful.
But for the moment let us be blind to all this; and take your word, that your children are not taught the religion which is to guide them through the rugged paths of this existence, and to prepare them for a world of bliss; are you less culpable? Shall we teach our children how to live for this world only, and not see the extreme necessity of preparing them for the world to come? I say our children, including our daughters. It is to be lamented that the weaker sex is even more neglected in religious culture than our own, and how impolitic is such proceeding, considering how much depends on the rectitude, and how extensive the influence of the Hebrew females! Are we afraid that by a better religious education they will become superior to the feminine duties of life, when they already rise superior to us in economy and prudence? is this the cause why they are entirely educated at Christian schools, under the religious guidance of some worthy governess as regards morality; but from whom is she to obtain her faith? is it hereditary? or think you that the first fifteen years of a female's life is thrown away, that no habits have been formed, no principles adopted, but such as you may readily remove? why should we be so infatuated as to suffer puerile accomplishments to supersede a better acquaintance with the sacred word of God? (I would ask) is it fit that a favoured child of heaven and a candidate for immortality, should alone be guided by the world's law, seeing that earthly things have no more the power to satisfy the cravings of the heaven-born spirit, than salt water can allay thirst? Think also how irresistible is the judicious example of a parent in moulding the docile minds of his children to religion and morality; the force of his authority instructs even in silence, has due weight in absence, and is always certain in producing that filial love, the most powerful stimulus to obedience. If all this be true, what must be the guilt of that parent, who not alone fails to impress his offspring with the pure sentiments of religion, but by an utter dereliction of duty, trusts his children to the hands of strangers, and satisfies himself with the pithy sentence, "What harm?" Is there no harm, to use a mild term, in leaving our offspring untaught in that which is vital to them here and hereafter? is there no harm in their visiting church and chapel, to hear the pulpit orator speak of the blindness of the Jews, and his own superior light? To you and the thorough-paced Israelite there may be no harm, but to your offspring there is harm, there is danger; you contaminate that very heart you should embellish and purify!
Oh, you expect to guide them by the light of nature. How is it possible, with inordinate affections, our of the proper course, directed to wrong objects, through a wrong channel, a soul obscured by sin, the understanding warped, the conscience cauterized, and amidst al these counteracting effects, to become, as we are destined to be, "a great nation?" It is impossible. Arouse, then, your energies as parents, and avert the danger which must accrue to your offspring by a continuance in a system at once pernicious to them, and hurtful to the nation of which I am proud to be the humblest member.
S. M. I.
In my next I propose, with your approbation, to speak of the apathy of our ministers on this subject.