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Vol. X No. 6
Elul 5612 September 1852

Letter From Cincinnati

MR. EDITOR:—Your editorial on my letter of the 8th ult. compels me to solicit again your and your readers’ kind indulgence. In writing the letter which called forth your remarks, and requesting its insertion, my object was not to publish to the world our advancement, to the disparagement of others, either congregations or individuals, but solely to correct some erroneous statements communicated to you by some individual, unknown to me; and, furthermore, to disabuse the mind of the public, as to the backward condition of the congregation B’nai Yeshurun, of this city, as compared to other congregations in the United States.

In the first place, I deem it my duty to state to you, in justice to my respected friend, the Reverend J. K. Gutheim, that his labours in the sacred cause of Judaism, during his stay in this city, had by no means been overlooked by me, when I spoke in praise of our present minister, as you, Mr. Editor, seemed to imply. On the contrary, I was always his warmest friend and supporter, while our minister, and have retained that feeling of respect due to his talented public services; and the friendship which existed between us is undiminished. But as regards <<311>> our local affairs, you must permit me to be a better judge than even yourself, considering that the reports you receive may be one-sided and defective, while I am on the spot, and know, and can investigate causes and effects. In the first place, it is now about three years since Mr. G. left this city, a period long enough for any one that might have succeeded him, to undo or obliterate anything good, bad, or indifferent, which he might have introduced or accomplished here. Secondly, the labours of our present minister are of a more extensive nature, requiring greater exertion, more perseverance and independence than those of any previous minister; for, while Mr. G. only read and preached for us, Mr. Rosenfeld not only reads and preaches every Sabbath, but devotes his already too much occupied time to the promotion of educa­tion and religious instruction, by being the superintendent of our school, and the sole organ of our Sunday-school.

Permit me, however, to correct a slight error that inadvertently occurred in my letter, which will express my ideas more clearly. When I said, “We never, till now, had a minister who could gain sufficiently the confidence of the people,” etc., I meant to say, that we never had had ministers like we have one now; referring to all the other congregations of the city. The Congregation B’nai Yeshurun have always striven to engage spiritual leaders possessing all the necessary qualifications required for the high and responsible station they hold. But, as an old adage will have it, that one swallow cannot make a summer, so can a minister who has gained the confidence of ONE congregation, no matter how talented he be, not effect much good, while other congregations are without qualified spiritual guides, and actually do nothing for the good cause; nay, frequently are counteracting the efforts made for the promotion of that which is wholesome and good. When I speak of congregations collectively, I mean to exclude a number of most worthy and respectable men, who are alive to the advancement of the age, but whose efforts have unfortunately never been seconded by the majority of the people.

And here allow me to point out to you one remark in your editorial, which I should particularly like to comment on. It reads thus: “We have also received a remonstrance in regard to a remark we made, that some pious persons had opposed the Sunday-school of which Mr. Mack’s letter likewise speaks. Two of the gentlemen alluded to have written to us that they opposed it, because they had asked for the use of the Synagogue-room on Sabbath afternoon, to teach the Hebrew to those who do not attend the Sunday-school, considering that the day of rest could not be better employed than in diffusing a knowledge of the <<312>> sacred language, and our laws, and were refused a compliance with their request.”

I regret exceedingly that I am compelled to contradict this statement, as far as it relates to our congregation, as they never applied to us, but to B’nai Israel, of which they are members.

Finally, I should not have commented on your exhortation, in the April Number of the Occident, had your expressions therein not made it requisite on my part. You say, “At the same time, we would urge on the projectors and supporters of the Sunday-school, not to rest satisfied with this fragment of religious instruction,” etc., etc. As our minister is the projector, and K. K. B’nai Yeshurun, with a few exceptions, its principal supporters, I felt it necessary to remind you that your exhortation is not applicable in this case. Hoping you will insert this in the next Number of the Occident, on your own principle, that truth must prevail,

I am, dear and reverend sir,
Yours respectfully,
Cincinnati, August 4th.

Note.—As we did not print a certain letter lately sent us from Cincinnati by the parties alluded to, we have deemed it requisite to omit a portion of Mr. M.’s communication, from the conviction that all statements reflecting on the conduct of others must be injurious to all concerned, not the least to an editor, whose business it is to promote peace, and not to foment strife. Whenever any vital principle of religion is concerned, our correspondents will find us ready to place our work at their free disposal to expose any and every delinquency; but surely, for the sake of correcting a local difference of opinion on a mere matter of expediency, we candidly think that the press will do more harm than good in discussing before the public a question which can be better settled in a friendly interview between the parties. If we understand the question of the opposition to the old Sunday-school correctly, it was that one or more of the books were not such as certain persons thought ought to be placed into the hands of children of our persuasion. This defect has been remedied to a great extent, if not altogether; the books having all passed through the press, if we mistake not, under the superindentence of the editor of this magazine, and we trust that his honesty, at least, will not be called in question. And as respects the present school, we believe that the difficulties, if they yet exist, are not of the kind but that all parties may yet unite to teach, both on Sabbath and <313>>the first day of the week, to all comers, the Hebrew and the principles of religion, preparatory to opening a general school for the Bnai Israel, as has been done by the other congregation, if they cannot unite their means and efforts. There should only be a rivalry to do good, and to extend the kingdom of Heaven; and those that do the most are then most to be praised. The means too ought to be commensurate with the end in view; and if it be apparent that a Sunday-school, by giving people a taste for religious knowledge, is a proper first step to a greater good, we beg our friends to forego their prejudices, though they be just (we will not discuss the matter with them), so that they may hereafter have a full right to call on others to second their measures for a more extended system of instruction. The times demand union, knowledge, and honest zeal; let us not therefore waste our strength by party divisions, especially as there can be no question that all mean it honestly, and only differ about the method. It is a pity that the best men are often estranged towards each other by a false conception of each other’s motive; we would, therefore, exhort all who may read these few words, whether in Cincinnati or elsewhere, to look only to the end which ought to be attained, and work together if even the men with whom they are to act are not such as they might associate with from choice. Friendships, moreover, are often formed by meeting and labouring together; while dislikes not rarely spring up by persons keeping aloof from each other, or endeavouring to be right at all hazards, to rule or rain, if their notions are not carried out. We again ask, that all who can should promote education as the only safeguard for our people; and that was the system of the ancient teachers of Israel at all times.