|Vol. VII, No. 4
Tamuz 5609, July 1849
We have received a communication of considerable length from Mr. Simeon Abrahams, lately returned from Palestine, concerning the poor of the Holy Land; but its length prevents us from giving it entire; we find it impossible to insert all the papers which have been sent us; we give, therefore, merely the most important parts, leaving out all such as bear, and we think unjustly, on some of the messengers who have been here from time to time to collect funds in person. Mr. A. says, “Now that <<220>>every one is satisfied that something ought to and should be done for the assistance of our suffering brethren in the Holy Land, and as all appear desirous of assisting in the good work of rendering more endurable the trials and afflictions which now lie heavily on these poor and oppressed men—men whose whole time is spent in the study and meditation of the Holy Law, the grand inheritance of Israel,—men who are living in the land of our fathers, labouring under every kind of privation and oppression, with scarcely the necessaries, not to mention the comforts of life: the question presents itself, ‘What is or can be done for our unfortunate brothers, who make such great sacrifices on account of that religion of which we of the seed of Abraham so greatly boast?’
“That they ought to be relieved, admits of no question or doubt; but the manner that the relief can or ought to be raised by their more favoured brethren in free America, who neither know nor feel religious oppression, appears to be a matter of debate. All appear willing, nay more, anxious to grant some aid; but unfortunately too many methods are proposed to render this assistance effectual. All admit that something should be done by which the whole amount raised for these poor people should reach them, without discount, drawback, or commission of whatever kind; whereas, by the system of accredited collectors who every now and then come over, a great portion is lost in traveling expenses, besides which, one-third of the net proceeds is retained by them for commissions, and thus nearly the whole amount collected is consumed without the least perceptible benefit to those for whom the donors intended their charitable gifts.
“This desideratum was in part successfully accomplished about sixteen years ago, when the society תרומת הקדש of the city of New York was established, under the auspices of the learned and venerable Israel B. Kursheedt, Esq., the principal object of which was, the collecting and forwarding of funds to the four cities (Jerusalem, Hebron, Zafeht, and Tiberias) of Palestine, but more especially that preventing the complete system of robbery and deception which before that period was so often practised on the Jews of the United states, by persons pretending to have authority to collect for the Palestine fund, who afterwards were proved to be rank imposters.*
“The funds collected by this society, have uniformly been forwarded to the pious and charitable Rabbi Hirsch Lehren, of Amsterdam, who so energetically attends << 221>>to the relief of the poor of Palestine, and the gifts were thus forwarded to the Holy Land to be equally distributed among the inhabitants of the four cities. But when a complaint was afterwards made about some neglect of the people of Hebron, a special remittance was made to Sir Moses Montefiore, of London.”
Mr. A. inveighs unjustly against the messenger from Hebron, of whom we have before spoken in the Occident. The sufferings of that city were dreadful through the civil war which raged between the rival sheikhs, who each wished to rule there.
This we knew before the messenger, Jechiel Cohen, arrived; and we are pleased that we contributed something towards the success of his mission. The extraordinary necessity of the Jews of that place, caused them to make a separate appeal, and it is no sin, surely, that they were aided to a greater degree than Rabbi Hirsch Lehren’s poor purse for general disbursement would permit. Equally correct was it for those who had the means to aid Rabbi Nissim of Shushan, in Persia. The Jews of that ill-fated country were dreadfully maltreated; many, to escape with their life, became Mahomedans; others were imprisoned till a ransom could be paid for them. All this we knew before the messenger arrived. He, we acknowledge, is not the most fit person to send on such a mission; his bad temper and want of knowledge of any European language, ill qualify him to make a successful appeal; but we pledge our word that he is no impostor. Teheran, Candahar, Ispahan, and Shushan, are in Persia, not in Palestine and it would be curious, indeed, to find either place on the map of Judea. But we approve, nevertheless, of Mr. Abraham’s proposition not to give to the messengers, should they come, anything except gifts for themselves to defray their personal expenses; and to send the donations collected for Palestine through some accredited friend of ארץ ישראל such as Sir Moses Montefiore or R. Hirsch Lehren.
This would soon stop the arrival of messengers, as thus they could not get any commissions for collections, and the funds would reach, undiminished, those for whom they are intended. For all that, agreeing as we do with Mr. A. on this point, we should be more pleased yet to see the giving of money altogether done away with. Let the effort of Sir Moses to establish habits of industry in Palestine be seconded, and thus they who now depend upon the pittance which cold charity can give, will be able to help themselves and become independent of the aid of others. Those who wish not to labour, deserve no sympathy; and for the aged and infirm, provision could easily be made, in case the able-bodied were compelled to support themselves. We invite attention to the subject, and will gladly admit any temperately written article which may be forwarded to us.
We also learn that two other messengers are now in New York, Rabbi Joseph Schwartz, and Rabbi Zadock Levy, who were sent by other bodies at Jerusalem to make an appeal in their behalf. Now, we deem it unwise to give any considerable sum to these truly worthy and honourable men, as they no doubt are; it is well to listen to their message, and then to make collections, forwarding them direct to Europe through bills of exchange, so as to clear the messengers of any suspicion that they might misappropriate the funds to their own use or distribute it among favourites only. We should not neglect those who still linger in our ancient inheritance near the graves of our ancestors; but we ought to take due care that whatever relief is granted should not be wasted by useless traveling expenses and burdensome commissions. The subject requires attention, and we hope that it will receive it from all who have anything to bestow in this direction, let the amount be ever so small; since the pittance on which the poor in Palestine live is almost incredible. We do not ask for large gifts; but surely a small sum almost every one can spare, and this is all which is needed. We may probably recur to this subject hereafter.