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The Jewish Ministry In America.


In the Asmonean newspaper of January 11th, there is an article headed, “A Voice from the South—Elevate the Jewish Minister.” The writer professes to be a Southern Jew, a sexagenarian, and as anxious to elevate the Jewish character through the press; and hopes to see, before he dies, the American Israelites having daily, monthly, and yearly journals, on the subjects appertaining to their religion, antiquities, literature, men of genius, &c. We assent to this wish, and hope to keep alive one monthly at least, The Occident, to do service in the <<568>>premises; and whilst on the subject, we may as well say here, that we hope to carry it on, at least through another year, and this the eighth of its existence, if we be spared. But we have not the space this month, to discuss all the points which this writer touches upon; we will merely take a single remark and leave our readers to ponder on it. The Southern Jew says:

“It requires wisdom to make the American Synagogue as superior to all others, as are the glorious advantages of the American laws to the Jew immensely in advance of all others. Is there then anything in the constitution of our people, strengthened by the splendour of antiquity, to make the love of their faith and their Synagogue less than the love of the numerous sectaries around us to their churches and meeting-houses? Now there is not one among those that do not pay more respect to their clergy, than we find in the case among the Jewish laity everywhere. The Christian clergyman is better fed, better clothed, and better lodged, and made independent in the management of his flock—without waiting for orders—in every particular he is superior. No absurd mandate from secular ignorance or authority has he to obey; he is left to the dictates of his conscience in the exercise of his duties.”

There is more yet in the paragraph from which we quote; but as many of our readers take our New York contemporary, we refer them to its columns for other particulars. We assent to most of what the writer says; at least, in so far, that the Christian clergy in the larger cities of the country have a position in society far above that of the Jewish Hazanim, or officiating ministers, as they are called in France, in contradistinction to Rabbis and preachers. The cause of the evil lies on the surface; it is that their duties and relative rights are not understood, either by themselves or their flocks; they are dependent upon the authority of the Presidents and Trustees, without either knowing the limits of their respective lines of duty. The effects are, then, 1. Want of legislation; 2. Inadequacy of support; and 3. Uncertainty in the tenure of office, which will prevent the ministers from devoting their whole mind to the business of their office, as this is done among the Christians.

Now we hold it as self-evident, that if the Jewish ministers be placed on a certain and firm basis, they would become every way equal to those of other denominations,—self-respected, and esteemed by others. We may be allowed to have some experience in public business, and to have some common-sense views on the subject; and we say, without fear of contradiction, that a uniformity of legislation in all the various Jewish communities throughout the land, equalizing and <<569>>protecting their ministers, would work such a beneficial change, that no one would hardly be able to realize it. With this view, we beg leave to present to the consideration of all American congregations the following outline of a law, which could be readily modified to suit the different views and positions of the various bodies of Israelites throughout the land; at least, we trust that it will be read with due care, notwithstanding its being, perhaps, longer than some persons might think requisite. We omit all comments at present.—Ed. Oc.

Sketch of a Law Respecting the Hazan.

Sect. 1. The Hazan to be elected under Article — Section — of the Constitution, shall be chosen under the following regulations:

(a.) When first elected it shall not be lawful to elect him for a period exceeding two years, unless by the assent of two-thirds of all the mem­bers of the congregation, in order to afford ample opportunity to test by actual experience his qualification for the office.

(b.) Should he be reelected at or before the expiration of the said term of two years, he shall be chosen for an indefinite time, or during good behaviour.

(c.) In order, however, to guard the congregation against malpractice on the part of the Hazan, or incapacity arising from loss of physical or mental powers, it shall be lawful at all times to suspend or remove him by a vote of two-thirds of the members present at a meeting to be convened upon the requisition of at least five members, addressed to the Parnass in the usual manner, for the sole purpose of bringing charges of the above nature; but it shall be requisite to summon the Hazan to attend at the meeting, and he shall have the privilege of being heard by himself or counsel, in defence against any charges preferred against him for malfeasance in office or loss of capacity as aforesaid. When sentence has been decided on, the judgment shall be pronounced by the president in open meeting, upon which the Hazan is either to be suspended for a time or altogether removed, on the decision of the congregation; and no appeal shall lie, except to a future general meeting of the congregation, who alone shall be empowered to remove the sentence, either confirming, amending, or reversing the same.

(d.) The Hazan having accepted the office shall not be at liberty to resign without giving six months’ notice of his intention, so as to enable the congregation to engage a substitute in due time.

Sect. 2. The duties of the Hazan shall be as follows:

(a.) He is to read the prayers in the form and manner of the Portuguese [“or German”] Jews, as also the Sepher, Haphtorah, (when no one else is to read the same,) the Magillah, and all other prayers and lessons as pointed out in the form of prayers and directions of the Portuguese Jews, [“or of the German Jews,” as the case may be.]

(b.) He is to attend at Synagogue whenever it is open or prayers, <<570>>especially on Sabbath and holy-day eve, Morning, Mincha, and conclusion service.

(c.) He is to attend all funerals taking place in the burying-ground, except for those persons who are excluded from the right of sepulture or full honours by the laws of the congregation. He is to receive no fee whatever for any such attendance. The prayers, &c., on the occasion of a burial are also to be according to the Form of Prayers, and nothing else, unless it be a funeral address by the consent of the Parnass, or, in his absence, of a majority of the Adjunta. This attendance on the burial of a person entitled to it shall be limited, however, to a presence on the ground; but he shall not be obliged to go to the house of the deceased, unless a vehicle be furnished him by the family or others. He is also to attend at the house of mourning the first service after the burial, and in the evenings of the seven days, provided the family furnish him a conveyance if the house be more than half a mile from his residence. It shall be left to his own option to attend in the morning, unless it be the last of the שבעה. When several cases of mourning occur at once, he is to attend in rotation, unless, provided always, there be regular service at the Synagogue, when he is to attend there exclusively.

(d.) He is to perform all marriage services occurring in the congregation, upon the written authority of the Parnass previously obtained, or, in his absence, that of a majority of the Adjunta present in the city. His fee for writing the כתובה and performing the marriage service shall be — dollars.

(e.) The Hazan shall attend all circumcisions, where the mother is a Jewess, upon being required by the parents.

(f.) He shall be empowered at all times to exhort the congregation and to address them on the subject of religion; but he shall, if required, exhibit a copy of his address, if it be a written one, to the President, Adjunta, or congregation, as the case may be, if it be asserted that he has said anything deserving of censure.

(g.) He shall not absent himself from the city for more than twenty-four hours without the consent of the Parnass or Adjunta.

(h.) He shall call up to the Sepher and the performance of the Mitzvoth only those persons designated by the Segan; for a refusal he shall be subject to a trial by the board; but he may give in evidence the unworthiness of the religious character of the person designated, which, if sufficient, shall exonerate him from all farther blame. In case the board do not think the excuse valid, they shall report the case to the congregation, who shall take such order as they may think proper, by imposing a fine in money or suspending the Hazan for a period of not more than four weeks, or dismiss the charge.

(i.) In all cases of suspension, the salary is to cease for the whole period for which sentence has been pronounced.

(k.) In case of sickness of the Hazan, the salary is to be continued as usual. But should the sickness be of longer duration than six months, incapacitating the Hazan for his attendance on duty, it shall then be lawful for the congregation to declare the office vacant, and proceed to a new election of either a substitute for a limited period or of a perma<<571>>nent successor. The congregation reserve to themselves the subject of pensioning a disabled Hazan, according to the circumstances of the case.

(l.) Any pension granted to a Hazan whilst living, or to his family after his death, may be forfeited for improper conduct, upon trial, as above, for malpractice in office.

(m.) The Hazan shall keep a true and faithful record of all births, marriages, and deaths taking place in the congregation, of which he is officially informed, in separate books, to be provided by the congregation, giving at the same time, as near as may be, the age of the parties married or deceased, with other statistical notices. For any such entry he shall be entitled to a fee of fifty cents, and the same for every certified copy. It is, however, provided that the Board may appoint some other person to keep the records, if they deem it proper.

(n.) The Hazan shall have every year at least — weeks leave of absence, at such time or times as the Parnass, or, in his absence, the majority of the Adjunta, may direct.

Sect. 3. The salary voted to the Hazan shall not be diminished during his term of office without his consent. The salary shall be payable quarterly or monthly, at the option of the incumbent.

Sect. 4. He shall have the privilege of addressing by letter the Board or congregation, proposing for their action any measure which he may deem requisite.

Sect. 5. Every candidate for the office of Hazan shall furnish satisfactory testimonials from a competent ecclesiastical authority as to capacity, or be subjected to a strict examination by a committee of the congregation, either a standing one, or especially appointed, and be heard likewise for two successive Sabbaths in the Synagogue, in open public worship.

Sect. 6. The Hazan shall alone have the power, with the consent of the Parnass or Adjunta, as the case may be, to allow another person to read the prayers, the law, and Haphtorah, or to preach in the Synagogue; and no one not sanctioned by him shall be admitted so to read prayers, or preach, he being elected as the delegate of the congregation, to perform for and in their name the services and offices of the Synagogue.

Sect. 7. Neither the Shamas, nor Shochet, nor any other officer or member of the congregation, shall perform the marriage ceremony, unless the Hazan have previously relinquished his right. Any infraction of this rule shall subject the offender to an impeachment. It is likewise provided herewith that the Hazan is to perform the marriage ceremony gratis, in case the parties be poor and unable to pay the regular fee.

Sect. 8. The Hazan, at his election, shall subscribe a declaration, after having been furnished with a copy of this (or any other law affecting his office), that he will faithfully abide by the same, or any future law which the congregation may enact in regard to the office.

Sect. 9. The congregation may at any time alter and repeal this law, or any part thereof, with the exception of that part relating to the tenure and salary of office during the continuance in office of any one elected to serve as Hazan.

Sect. 10. The Hazan shall at no time be called upon to read any publication or notice whatsoever, except that relating to the time of commencing worship.

Sect. 11. Any by-law, or part of a by-law, inconsistent with this law, shall be and is herewith repealed.