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 קול מצפון
A Voice From the North.

To the Rev. Gustavus Poznanski, Charleston.

Sir,—Before this shall have reached you, you will have been glad to enjoy a little repose from the many congratulatory themes which admiring friends will leave addressed towards you, pleased to have had a little rest from the mental fatigue which you must have recently endured in preparing, watching and tending your case, to bring it to a successful issue. Imagining that your wishes have in these particulars been gratified to your heart's content, that adulation and sycophancy have exhausted their potent charms, that your point has been gained, and that you have now enjoyed your wonted repose: I deem the present moment well befitting and opportune to address you on the subject of your present position as regards the Jews in your city, their dissension and disorder, the means yet at your disposal to restore harmony amongst your late flock, the chance still in your power to serve your God in faithfulness, your co­religionists in love. In order to stimulate you in some measure for so hallowed and glorious a scheme, I ask you to take a retrospective glance, not at the triumph you have achieved, but at the ruin you have effected. In this view, I require your memory with reverted eye to look at Charleston as it was, and as it is. If I am rightly advised, when you, sir, were elected Hazan of the congregation, the greatest confidence was reposed in you, the greatest respect paid towards you. Rabbinist and liberal, orthodox and waverer, paid you the same attention, not on account of your personal qualifications only, but in consequence of your being strictly orthodox from your profession as Shochet, and, judging charitably, doubtlessly from inclination. A few years' residence in New York had joined you the confidence of its Israelites, and in good faith they recommended you to the Charlestonians, as a good man, a Pious Jew.

Calumny was silenced; the breath of slander was stifled in its own pestiferous effluvia; liberalism veered about to orthodoxy; laxity in attending to religious observances gave place to a strict attention to time-honoured observances; your people were united; you, sir, became happy, seeing that your position enabled you to confer true happiness on others. Your state was enviable by all Israel's ministry, seeing that in your position there was a capability which, if rightly directed, would enable its votary to bring שה פזורה ישראל "the scattered lamb Israel" to its peaceful fold. In order as it were to afford you still greater scope for action, the God of Israel caused you to find favour in the sight of a lady of your faith who is reputed to be extremely wealthy; you were united; and by this union, and your attitude in the ministry, you were placed on a pedestal which, like the beacon-light, would have afforded you the power to guide the wayfaring traveller to the haven of repose. You were placed in a situation seldom enjoyed by Israel's teachers; you were wealthy and respected; you had the means to serve your fellow-creatures, and to love your God; you had the opportunity to exalt your nation, the power to exhort them to their heaven-born duties.

In fine, as a minister over an intellectual and favoured people you had the chance to maintain an equilibrium, to stand firm in your position, to close your eyes against all attempts at reform, by informing those changelings, who desired alterations, that they required more reforming than the noble system which had withstood the ravages of time. You, sir, if I am rightly informed, disregarded the means in your possession, and became a violent partner in the firm of "innovation." Changes were mooted, חשבו להם כלי שיר "they devised instruments of music," the polity of other systems was consulted; and amidst those attempts at changing Judaism for something more congenial to man's beclouded reason, it was left for you to confirm the position assumed, or to deny the authenticity of the stand taken. You, sir, however, saw no harm in this, no wrong in that; and, if the world be not uncharitable, you stand accused of being the master-spirit that wrought the revolution. Now then behold the work of your hands; do you not recoil from the contemplation? Your late flock have no shepherd to guide them, but they graze כשה אבד "like perishing sheep." The respect that other sects have borne towards them is considerably diminished; the father is armed in religious strife against his son; collision takes place amongst the members of the same family; dissension is of daily recurrence; the social bond is severed; the scions of Judaism become waverers in their own faith; and your late united, respectable, and harmonious congregation is scattered in fragments.

This, sir, is your work! Before the God of Israel I charge you with a gross dereliction of duty, which you will have reason to regret all the days of your life, without speculating on the night surrounding death. I know you glory in your present position, your friends condole, nay they idolize you; they consider you a saint, and flattery has so captivated you, that in the words of Samuel, with a slight variation in the stops,— אם קטן אתה בעיניך ראש שבטי ישראל . "If you are humble, you imagine yourself the chief of the tribes of Israel." 

Yet mistake not your position; imagine not that an ephemeral popularity is an eventual triumph. Look at the temple at Hamburg, from which you have drawn the materials with which to build your fabric. But twenty-five years since its friends were sanguine that it would regenerate the house of Israel. Has it done so? I say it unreservedly, that it has brought forth a generation of Deists, whilst the temple itself is neglected by its former votaries. Contemplate the situation of Glogau in Silesia. It is not many years since they too were seized with a spirit of innovation. Where is it now? Orthodoxy again occupies its proud position.

But why enter into details? let me rather look at Charleston; can nothing be done to improve her present wretched position? can things remain as they are now? You surely will not maintain so impious a declaration. You do not expect that those who have done so much for conscience' sake, will desert the banner they have so nobly unfurled. What then? Conscientiously I assert, you have the power to restore union, by making a plain declaration, that seeing so much misery engendered where you expected support, you will forego all your new opinions about the power of music waking the soul (as if the spirit ever slept), and use all your exertions to remove the "Baal from their sight." You will change your opinion about other matters, removing the Hebrew to make way for the English, altering the leading articles of our faith, and putting in the background the Psalmody of Israel's shepherd king to give place to some poem composed by modern minds. Let a reaction seize your heart on all these matters, and place things as they were; and thus all the good desired will at once be effected.

But perhaps you will assert that in so doing you would act inconsistently with your publicly declared principles. "Tell it not in Gath;" your whole life has been an inconsistency, and the plea under the present circumstances would be of no avail. Have you not been trained in a rabbinical school? Was not your former course or life marked for your pertinacity in adhering to the most minute forms? and can there be a greater inconsistency than to throw off early habits through which you have been successful, and put on a habit which so ill becomes you! Then, sir, if by the means of a trifling inconsistency, you can cause jarring elements to subside into uniformity, it would be the acme of folly to disregard the means in order to obtain so glorious an end.

In concluding, let me entreat you to ponder well on this effusion. You and I, Mr. Poznanski, have been extremely fortunate in being appointed ministers to the house of Israel; you excel my position in being wealthy, whilst I am what the world terms poor; yet in the face of that world I make a solemn asseveration that I would not exchange my condition with yours for all that which the world terms wealth. Look at my flock and then at yours, mine is happy and united, religious and prosperous. With a sigh contemplate yours,—how has this been effected? I work at their hearts, I tell my people their transgressions; and thus I bear myself, I change not the outer forms, I labour at the internal disease, I endeavour to reform the inner man; and thank Heaven! I have been successful beyond my humble expectations; our shrine is well attended, we pray to our God in simplicity but with devout hearts; we instruct our children, and we can afford to relieve distress. And to this your energy should be aroused, look not to the fabric with "golden eyes" but with "mental gaze." Thus you will be happy yourself, because you will confer it on others. Act thus, and you will confer the like blessing on Israel, as now felt by

S. M. Isaacs.

Note by the Editor.—The Rev. Mr. Isaacs desires us to say that he assumes the entire responsibility of the above letter. If Mr. Poznanski feels himself aggrieved, we again offer him the use of our work to reply in whatever manner he may desire.