|Vol. IV, No. 8
Heshvan 5607, November 1846
Forming Of A Congregation At Augusta, Georgia
(For the Occident,)
Augusta, October 25th, 1846.
I have been assigned the pleasing duty of announcing to you the progress which the Israelites of Augusta have recently made towards the public observance of their religion, and the establishment of a congregation. The partial success with which our efforts have been crowned, may be mainly attributed to the zeal which has been so generally manifested, and which if unabated will ultimately accomplish all that we desire.
For many years the Israelites of our city, though ever adhering to their faith, have been so thoroughly mingled with the Christian population, that their identity as a religious sect has been entirely destroyed, and no united effort has hitherto been made to restore it. It was reserved for our generation to effect a separation, and the worshippers of the true and only God now constitute a distinct class. The establishment of a Hebrew Sunday School, about eighteen months since, and the consequent intercourse which it produced among the Jewish families, paved the way to this gratifying result; a result which must gladden the heart of every Israelite who loves his time-honoured and holy religion. To those ladies who originated and have since presided over this valuable institution, the meed of praise must be awarded. The usefulness of that school has been fully tested, and while it has realized the most sanguine expectations of its friends, its founders have been richly rewarded by the enthusiasm it has kindled in the cause of Judaism.
After ascertaining that a sufficient number of Israelites could be convened for the celebration of public worship, a meeting was called on the 12th September last, to make arrangements for keeping Roshashana and Kippur. Committees were appointed to make the necessary regulations. The full attendance and lively interest displayed at this, our first meeting, encouraged us to renewed exertions, and another meeting was subsequently held for the purpose of forming the Israelites into a body. Resolutions to that effect were proposed and adopted, and a Hebrew Society, under the name of the “Children of Israel,” was finally organized. The performance of public worship on all occasions possible, and the relief of our sick and suffering brethren, were the ends designed in its formation, as embodied in the following preamble”
“The scattered Israelites of Augusta, Geo., and Hamburg, S. C., desirous of uniting as a band of brothers, with a view of publicly worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of extending charity towards our needy brethren, do agree to form themselves into a society with that. object.”
A vote for officers was then taken, which resulted in the election of the following gentlemen: John I. Cohen, President; Sam. Levy, Vice President; Lewis Levy, Secretary; Sam. Lilienthal, Treasurer. Committee on charity: the President, Marcus Schiller, Isaac Levy.
Temporary laws were enacted for the government of the society, and a committee appointed to draft a constitution, which, at a succeeding meeting, was adopted with some unimportant amendments. Twenty persons came forward and joined the society, of whom nearly two-thirds are residents of this city and Hamburg. The late holy days, Roshashana and Kippur, were celebrated by our people in a room procured for the purpose, and fitted up as nearly as possible in conformity with the Jewish customs. The service was conducted with great solemnity and decorum, and gave general satisfaction. To Mr. Lewis Carr, of Madison, who was selected as Reader on both occasions, our united thanks are due. He went through the ritual in a dignified and impressive manner. Since that time we assemble for service weekly, Mr. Samuel Levy officiating as Reader. The prayers are said in Hebrew and English, equal portions of each, and are interspersed with Hebrew and English hymns, sung by a choir of ladies and gentlemen organized for the purpose. An application was lately made by our president to the authorities of Augusta for a section of land to be used as a Jewish burial-ground. With characteristic liberality, the City Councils have granted it, and a committee are now soliciting contributions for the erection of a suitable wall or railing. The Jews of our city are so limited in means as well as numbers, that the they will be enabled to contribute but a very small portion of the necessary amount. It is, therefore, our intention to appeal to the different congregations in the United States for pecuniary aid, as well for the above-mentioned purpose as for the building of a Synagogue. I cannot commend too highly the generosity of our Christian brethren. The calls which we have made upon them have been promptly responded to, and a just God, whom we worship in common, will reward their liberality. The work of benevolence and charity, which we can accomplish unaided, it will be the aim of our society to encourage and promote. A portion of the members will always act as a charitable committee, to relieve the indigent and suffering Israelites who may be thrown among us; and we entertain the pleasing hope that in time to come the widow and the fatherless will have cause to bless the “Children of Israel.”
It will be seen, Mr. Editor, by the foregoing brief transcript of our proceedings, that the Jews of Augusta have effected much for the temporal and spiritual welfare of their brethren. They have established a house of worship, in which the Israelite may unite in prayer to the God of Israel; they have appointed individuals of a kindred faith to watch over his couch in sickness, and smooth his dying pillow, and when his eyes have closed in death, and his spirit has winged its flight to the regions of immortality, they have prepared a repository for his earthly remains, wherein they can be interred with all those rites and solemnities to which the followers of Judaism are so devotedly attached.
T. J. M.