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


News Items


Cleveland, Ohio [Get (divorce) given].—During our recent journey we paid a visit of a few days to this beautiful city, on the shore of Lake Erie. We found there two congregations. The eldest organized under the charge of Rev. B. L. Fould, and the other. under that of the Rev. Isidore Kalisch. We delivered, by invitation, a lecture la the Synagogue of the latter, on Wednesday evening, the 19th of November. This place of worship is a large room in the Seneca Block, situated on Superior Street, and is handsomely fitted up. The President of the Bola is Mr. Joel Engelhart. We had no time to visit the other Synagogue, but several of its members were present at the lecture. We would merely state in this connexion, without any desire to re-open the question, and leading to a controversy, that notwithstanding the slurs cast upon the transaction in the public press and the Jewish paper, of New York, the divorce granted by Mr. Joseph Levy was, to our apprehension, entirely conformable to the Jewish law; as Mr. L. showed us documents which testify to his full capacity to decide disputed questions, by dispensation from Rabbi El’eazer, of Piseck, in 5588 [1828], and Rabbi Menachem Falk, of Bresnitz, in Bohemia, under date of Tamuz 16, 5605 [1845]. The person who wrote the divorce is Bernhard Weidenthal, who is an authorized scribe by certificate of the celebrated Rabbi Nehemiah Trebitsch, of blessed memory, Grand Rabbi of Moravia. The reason which induced Mr. Levy to lend his aid in merely granting the husband a religious divorce, leaving it to the courts of the land to decide on the merits of the application on merely legal grounds, appeared to us sufficiently weighty to justify his course. It must not be forgotten, that though we Israelites go on the principle, דינא דמלכותא דינא, “The laws of the country are binding,” it does not say that therefore we may dispense with the observance of our own laws. So in regard to divorces. It would be wrong here, when both parties live in America, to let a divorce take place without final action on the part of the courts or legisla­tures, as the case may be. But, as Jews, we cannot recognize any separation so obtained; as by the law of Moses no marriage tie, if once legally entered into, can be dissolved, except by the death of the husband, or by his absolving the wife in the legal form from her obligation to him (והרי את מותרת לכל אדם). Anything short of this would expose <<46>> the wife, if she marries again, to the sin of adultery, and her children would be excluded from the congregation of Israel for ever.

Now, as we understand the case, there was danger to fear, that should a divorce be pronounced by the court, it might happen that the parties could not then be brought together to consummate the separation by our laws; wherefore, if the facts are as represented to us, and thus far we have had no reason to doubt them, the preliminary divorce on Jewish grounds was not alone proper, but highly praiseworthy. Mr. Levy, it is true, occupies in the Synagogue no salaried position; he is practically, like we are, a man of the people; but he, like us, also teaches when called on, and, we believe, lectures in the good old fashion, perhaps, every Sabbath, and is will supplied with books of the highest authority, and has, probably, the best rabbinical library, in the country. It is, therefore, nothing to the subject that he is engaged in business; Judaism knows nothing of idlers, of men who merely teach for money; and though it is perfectly consonant both with common sense and our practices, to support from the public purse those who devote themselves to the public service as Rabbis, teachers, ministers, Shochatim and Synagogue servants, of whatever kind; it does not say that rabbinical functions appertain alone to those who hold office, or that none but those elected by especial congregations for particular purposes to teach in public, for no other reason than that they have to support themselves by commerce or labour. Rabbi Joshua, the celebrated antagonist of Rabban Gamliel, was a smith; and still this great chief of our Sanhedrin disdained not to seek the humble roof of the mechanic, to ask his forgiveness for the, perhaps, unintentional wrong done him. We hope the day may never come when we shall have privileged classes among us, other than those owing their claims to superior knowledge of the law. This is the standard, and beyond this nothing is required to render a man’s acts valid and recognisable in Israel. In saying the above we do not wish to interfere in any congregational business of Cleveland or elsewhere; but merely to express our opinion in regard to the impropriety of the question, “Who is authorised in Cleveland to grant a divorce?” as though all the rights of the Jewish Church were inherent in New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia only. Away with such arrogance; wherever our Torah has plashed her tent, there is authority; and we would respect the decision of a wayfarer in the western wilds, the moment he has produced his certificate of qualification, and is known to be in possession of an unblemished character. And as regards the matter at issue, Cleveland may well be <<47>> proud that both congregations can boast of men fit to represent Judaism and its interests anywhere all over the land. Mr. Levy has sent us a long communication written in pure Hebrew, which we would have spread before the public had our magazine appeared at the usual periods. But so much time has since then elapsed, that it would be, perhaps, exciting a long debate, which would be, practically useless. The above must, therefore, suffice; but if necessary we shall recur to the subject hereafter. We shall be pleased to hear from Mr. Levy again on any topic he may be willing to discuss.

Columbus, Ohio,—On the 18th of November, the day we spent in the capital of Ohio, the Israelites of the city, to the number of thirty members, adopted a series of laws, reported as a constitution by a committee previously appointed, and finally organised as a congregation. They have adopted the German Minhag. The officers are, the Rev. Selig Lazarus, Hazan; Joseph Gundersheimer, President; Samuel Amburg, Gabay, and N. Gundersheimer, Secretary.

Zanesville, Ohio.—Here we found but few Israelites; but the facilities for commerce are so great in and around this place, that we cannot doubt but that in a short time a considerable congregation will assemble here.