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


Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia


The first annual examination of this Institution was held on Sunday the 16th of May, at the School-house, in presence of the school directors, as also of the parents and friends of the pupils, and of those who felt suffi­ciently interested in the progress of education to witness the exercises of the day. The attendance would no doubt have been greater, if the dimensions of the room had permitted the directors to use more active exertions to assemble a large audience. At it was, there were as many present as could be conveniently accommodated; and it is to be hoped that more ample space will be provided at the next public exhibition of the school.

The exercises commenced at ten o’clock, by prayer from Mr. Allen, the Hebrew teacher; after which the scholars of Miss Weil’s class were examined; next, those of Miss Murray’s; after these, of Miss Bomeisler’s; and lastly, Mr. Allen’s pupils in Hebrew and Religion. The examination was held by the teachers themselves, except Miss Murray, who was absent. We but express the general sentiment of all present, that seldom did scholars exhibit more proficiency, especially if we take into consideration the difficulty of bringing so many as eighty pupils, entered at such various periods of the year, and from all classes, and of all stages of education, from the first lessons in a b c, to a tolerable proficiency in Geography, History, &c., to a uniform system of <<154>> conduct and instruction. Enough has been done to show that the system of education, as established by the Society, is perfectly practicable; and that it will bring forth happy fruits, if only the Israelites of this place are alive to their own interests, and send their children and supply the necessary funds to carry the object in view forward, without taxing the ingenuity of the Directors too much to procure the ways and means.

After the examination proper was concluded, Mr. Leeser delivered a brief extemporaneous address, exhibiting the necessity of having Jewish children taught in Jewish institutions, as best calculated to produce a spirit of religiousness which will enable them, on the one side, to resist the temptation of forsaking the nation of Israel, and on the other, to be strict observers of all the duties demanded by our faith. He then appealed to those present, whether it was their wish that this enterprise should perish, as so many others had done hitherto, or whether it should live and be made a nucleus, with other schools to be started elsewhere, to found at length a Hebrew College, where many may be trained to become teachers and guides in Israel.

After the conclusion of the address, premiums, consisting of valuable books, were distributed to nine of the best and more proficient scholars; after which the assembly broke up, we trust sufficiently animated by what they had seen, to contribute all in their power to keep the school alive, and to aid it. to become a blessing to all whom it can benefit.

The fourth annual election of the Society was held on Sunday the 23d of May (5th of Sivan), agreeably to the charter, when the follow­ing officers were elected:—S. Solis, President; A. S. Wolf, Vice Pre­sident; A. Hart, Treasurer; A. T. Jones, Secretary; A. Finzi, Assistant Secretary; Mayer Arnold, I. Binswanger, M. Cauffman, M.D. Cohen, Z. A. Davis, M. A. Dropsie, Isaac Hyneman, Jacob Langsdorff, Isaac Leeser, L. J. Leberman, Joseph Newhouse, and H. Polock, Managers. The election being over, the subjoined report of the President, who is absent in England, was presented and read; and, on motion, was sent to the Occident for insertion. The feeling report of our President proves that his heart is with us, though absent in person; and we hope that his sentiments may produce, as they richly deserve, more than a passing impression on our readers, especially of those who are confederated in the same cause.

The Fourth Annual Report of the President of the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia

“In again meeting together, I have the satisfaction of placing before the members of this Institution, statistics of the last scholastic year, <<155>> which must prove to them, no less than to the managers of this Society, how much we are indebted to that Providence which ever prospers those undertakings which tend to raise our fellow-beings towards a higher state of social and religious advancement.

“But although we have much cause of self-congratulation, still our success should act as a stimulus towards a wider-spread and more energetic action. It is true, we have fulfilled one of the objects indicated by our association, by establishing a Jewish School upon such princi­ples, as by ordinary reasoning, may insure its success; but we have only inserted the edge of the wedge into the rock of indifference, and must renew our endeavours before we can accumulate sufficient force to drive it home.

“We have shown that we can establish a primary and grammar school, and carry it on as successfully as has been done in any school of like nature throughout the Commonwealth; and what is to prevent us, might be asked, but the want of means, from successfully establishing a High School or College After the noble answer to our appeal last year, which enabled the directors to meet their expenses without drawing upon their reserved funds, we might almost say that the means would not be wanting if each member of the Society was to use his exertions to advance its interests. There must be in our city upwards of a thousand persons who, upon persuasion, might be induced to become members of this Society, and take a part in its proceedings; and with an assured income of $3,000 per annum, raised from this and from other sources, I think, without boasting, the directors would soon prove to the community that their fears of the impracticability of the undertaking were illusory; and that they would show by practical results that a scholar of a Jewish High School need not blush for his diploma. The members of this Society have not as yet been called upon to exert themselves much; the managers wishing to make no calls upon their time, until they could show some fruits for their past labours; but it is time now, that each should feel that the success of the Institution tended to the advancement of his interests as a father in Israel, and as a member of the social community. We cannot advance one class of society in the social scale, without benefitting every class more or less; and it is full time that the stigma and associations attached to our name, as Jews, should vanish before the lights afforded by a sound and religious education. Let us cast our eyes backwards and trace what was expected of the descendants of Jacob, at a time when the majority of mankind were enveloped within the mists of ignorance and <<156>> superstition.

Every man in Israel (and every woman, too, I should infer) was enjoined to read—and having read, to understand the Pentateuch, and that, ages before the nobles and magnates of other lands or creeds, could read or write their own names. And now, when the so-called ignorant classes are possessed of a knowledge which would put to shame the acquirements of the refined of generations not long passed away, shall it be said that the descendants of the princely Abraham, know not the language of their forefathers, and that they hold many of the ordinances of their sacred faith (I trust, only from a want of knowledge of their intrinsic worth) in contempt?

“You, gentlemen, have a great, a glorious work before you. It rests with you and the members of the Jewish community of Philadelphia, to raise such a temple to God’s glorification, as to cast its luster over your names long after you have passed through the gates of eternity. It rests with you to foster and to extend the advantages which this Institution is capable of affording, until its influence shall be felt, not alone in this city, but shall spread throughout the length and breadth of this mighty republic, breathing forth the sweet incense arising from a thousand youthful hearts trained to virtuous principles; far more acceptable to the Most High than a holocaust of a thousand steers. And what great sacrifices are we called upon to make to enable us to obtain such soul-satisfying fruits?—a little time, a mere saying to ourselves, ‘We will do it!’ and the thing is done. The benefit accrues not alone to you and to me, but it is a universal benefit. To the German, to the Portuguese, to the American, to the foreigner, the portals are open. Come and drink! the waters are pure, enter and quench your long-endured thirst. No sectarian principles, no utopian measures enter into the management of this Institution. It has but one aim,—to give a moral and religious training to Israelites, whether they come from the icy North, from the fiery tropics, or are natives of our own favoured land; and all it asks of those who enter its gates is, to conform to the rules it deems necessary for its government.

“The total expense of the school for the year ending the 1st April, amounts to $1,747.60*. The estimated expense, per last year’s report, was $1,700; but since that report was delivered, the office of assistant <<157>> secretary has been made a salaried one, and that, together with the allowance made on the collection of dues long outstanding, will account for this increase of expenditure. Of the sum of $1,747 .0, but about $1,300 has been paid for the real expenses of the School, the balance having been appropriated for the payment of school furniture, books, &c., and we may estimate the real cost of the maintenance of our School for the year ending April 1st, 5613, at 1,300; to which, probably, we might add the salary of an assistant Hebrew teacher, whose services, I trust, will be needed ere the year passes away, by an increased number of pupils.

* Expenses from April, 5611 to April, 5612;—Advertising and printing, $42.11; school furniture, $234.28; books, $181.83; incidental expenses, $46.66; Messenger's salary, $16; Assistant Secretary's salary, $40; collections, about $40.28; rent of school-room, $126; salaries of Teachers, 1,012.60; incidental expenses and bills, from 16th March to 1st April, probably amounting to $19. Total amount of expenses, $1,747.60.

The number of scholars entered for the scholastic year ending April 1st was,............................................................................107

The number withdrawn by removals from the city and through other causes during the same time was........................................32

Leaving as the number receiving tuition at the commencement of this year,..............................................................................75

Of which number 37 are boys, 38 are girls—32 being full paying scholars, 20 part paying, and 23 free.

The income of the Society for the past year sprung from the following sources:

Received for: tuition of scholars, $568.00
" Books, 75.85
" Dues of members, 132.00
" Outstanding dues reverted to in our last report, 42.00
" outstanding donations, 152.50
" interest on city stocks, 114.00
" from the Portuguese congregation, 200.00
" Donations received this year, 371.00
Amounting together to, $1,655.35

“I would suggest that the Society pass a vote of thanks to the Portuguese Congregation, and to those gentlemen who responded so liberally to the call made on behalf of the Institution during the past year. I would also express on behalf of the Board of School Directors, their appreciation of the courtesy and efficiency of their Secretary, Mr. A. Finzi; and their satisfaction at the conduct and assiduity displayed by the teachers and assistant teachers of the School. I can make no re­marks upon the public examination of the pupils of the Institution, which was to take place on the 16th inst., distance precluding the pos­sibility of my attendance; but, I trust, that upon taking into considera<<158>>tion all the difficulties of the undertaking, and that a greater part of the year was spent in obtaining a complete organization, it was such as to add strength to the endeavours of those banded together in the cause of Jewish advancement, in the social and moral meaning of the words.

“In my last report, I reverted to the necessity of building a school house well adapted for the accommodation of both sexes, to give to our Institution that idea of permanence which such a proof of earnestness could not fail to produce. I perceive that the Directors of the Jewish Schools (German) at Liverpool and London, have both adopted this plan, and would suggest to the members of our own Society, whether it would not be expedient to open a subscription list headed, Building Fund of the Hebrew Education Society, for the purpose of raising an amount towards carrying this suggestion into effect?

“I would also observe, that it is the intention of some influential parties here (London), to establish a college for the education of young men for the Jewish ministry (a fact which you are no doubt aware of), and I have been informed by some of those who take a particular interest in the movement, that probably letters would be addressed to the various American congregations, asking their co-operation. I would demand of the members of the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia, whether, after having obtained from our liberal legislature, such a charter as we possess, we should allow by our supineness, the powers it places within our hands to lie dormant until by the well-prosecuted efforts of other institutions, they are rendered perfectly nugatory? I trust we shall not have to answer for opportunities misused. Time will not wait (especially in this age) any longer for societies than it will for individuals; and our success would give such an impetus to the cause, that the results would be incalculable. I should have felt pleasure in meeting you, personally, on this occasion; but, as that will be impossible, I can only pray that the Most High will help our sacred undertaking, and that when again we meet, we shall have new cause to acknowledge with thankful hearts, the blessings He has bestowed upon a scattered remnant of his chosen people.

“S. Solis.”
LONDON, the 14th of Iyar, 5612.”