|Vol. IV, No. 12
Adar 5607, March 1847
The Congregation Beth-El, At Albany, N. Y.
Albany, Feb. 1st, 1847.
As a friend to useful reform and religious enlightenment, and in order that the knowledge thereof should be spread throughout all the Jewish congregations of America, I avail myself, if you will permit me, of a small space in the pages of the Occident, (which journal has the reputation of being the organ of the above principles, which will best tend to bring about that unity and harmony which should prevail throughout all the congregations in America.) I would beg leave to give a few outlines of the rapid progress of the congregation Beth-El in this city, of which I am a member, and which was formed about nine years ago by a few German Jews, who settled here at that time. The congregation has increased now to about one hundred and thirty contributing members, mostly Germans; we have at present a very fine Synagogue, which was built in 1841. We have also a very prosperous benevolent society, (חברת אהבת אחים) consisting principally of members of the Beth-El congregation; the constitution provides a weekly allowance of three dollars to any member disabled by sickness or other accidents. The ladies even of our congregation have formed on their part a separate benevolent association.
Until the year 1842, nothing was done in ritual improvement, the old manner being adopted by the congregation, under the direction of the reader, Mr. Selling, who was then superseded by the present functionary, the Rev. Mr. Traup. In the above year the latter gentleman began to organize a better form of worship, by the introduction of an improved mode of singing, in accordance with the demands of the age. For the education of youth nothing was done by the congregation, Mr. Traup instructing merely a few children in writing Hebrew, and translating the prayer-book and Pentateuch in German; and several of the children were sent by their parents to the public schools. Notwithstanding the many exhortations of our worthy reader in his sermons which he preached, of the great necessity that something ought to be accomplished for the education of youth in English and Hebrew, nothing was done until last fall, when the Rev. Dr. Wise paid us a visit, and preached some excellent sermons; after which our congregation unanimously elected him as our rabbi, on condition that he should undertake to organize a school, for the instruction of Hebrew children in the Hebrew and English; and that the children of poor parents should participate in the benefits of this institution.
I must also inform you, that through the exertions of Dr. Wise, a better mode of public worship is about to be introduced. The Rev. Mr. Traup is preparing to form a choir for the proper participation in the same, as has been already done in several European congregations. The liturgy will be in accordance with the plan of Dr. Wise laid before the Beth Din for their approval; and we hope that other communities will follow our example, for the welfare of our holy religion; and that thereby the union and harmony, of which I have spoken, may be promoted among the various congregations in America.
And in the hope that the Lord may lead our brothers in this land, where freedom of religion is the birthright of every individual, and all partake of its blessings, in the path of righteousness, and strengthen them in the observance of his commandments, and prosper them in this country of their adoption, is the ardent wish of