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Examination of the Sunday School at Columbia


The annual examination of the Hebrew Sunday School of Columbia, South Carolina, took place at the Hall of the Hebrew Benevolent Society on Sunday, May 6th, 1849, and it afforded more than usual satisfaction to all present. The hall was previously arranged to afford room for a large number, yet it was densely crowded with persons of all religious denominations, and a great many were compelled to leave, unable to gain admission. The exercises commenced at 10 o’clock, with a prayer by the Directress, Miss Julia Mordecai, whose untiring perseverance in behalf of our holy religion and the dissemination of its principles, fully entitle her to the high respect entertained by our community. This was followed with English hymns by the various classes from the lowest to the highest in Bible questions and Sacred History, the repetition of the creeds, commandments, &c., in all of which they displayed unusual proficiency. The promptness and accu<<176>>racy of their answers to the most difficult questions relative to our doctrines proved conclusively, that those doctrines had not only been instilled, but deeply impressed on the mind; the correctness and apparent depth manifested in the answers of children so young, caused both surprise and pleasure to our visitors, while pride and admiration were shown in the countenance of their parents and friends, to whom, as Israelites, it was the promise of future maturity emanating from tender but wholesome branches.

Next in order were recitations by several of the pupils, appropriately commencing with that of the “Holy Bible,” by Master Edward Nathans, poetically explaining its objects, describing its attributes, and enumerating its benefits. The pieces were all carefully selected by the directress, in reference to Scriptural History, and in vindication of our faith, subjects entitled to the full justice they received at the hands of the youthful orators; indeed there appeared to exist a noble emulation as to who should best please, consequently all did well, some of them so well, and so true to nature, as to draw tears from many stern natures “unused to the melting mood.”

Among such may be mentioned, “Miriam,” by Miss Louisa Lyons, a child but six years old; “The Destruction of Jerusalem,” by Master Theodore Polock; “Hagar in the Wilderness,” by Miss Frances J. Levin; “Come forth sweet Sister,” a dialogue in reference to Purim, by the Misses Carolina and Olivia Polock, and “Absalom,” by Miss Rachel Lyons. The latter piece abounds in feeling and sentiment, and was delivered in the most perfect manner, regard being paid both to rhetoric and gesture; it caused great satisfaction. The recitations were succeeded by Yigdal, sung by the Hebrew class, now under the tuition of Mr. Philip Jacobs, and Ayn Kaylohenu, by the choir, after which an address was delivered by Mr. Henry S. Cohen, suited to the occasion.

Mr. C. commenced with the subject of social intercourse as connected with the happiness of mankind, showing that union of effort in connexion with the attainment of knowledge was necessary to that end; he pointed out the benefits and blessings to be derived from education in general, and religious education in particular; the importance of the holy Scriptures to the Israelites; their firm belief in its truths, and entire dependence on its promises; proved that this belief and dependence had sustained them in all their vicissitudes, and during ages of cruelty and oppression. He spoke gratefully of the changes constantly taking place in favour of our people, reviewed their past and present condition, as well in Europe as throughout the world; and paid a just tribute of praise to our own beloved country, as the first that publicly acknowledged their claim to equality. He alluded to the futile efforts <<177>>of the “few misguided and mistaken individuals” in attempting our conversion by the formation of societies, &c., and advised their efforts to be directed to objects that require them more than ourselves, and where success is not so difficult. This part of the address was induced by the formation of a society for our conversion, established here a short time since through the exertions of a converted Jew; its few members will discover that their object can never be attained here, and it must consequently soon be abandoned. Mr. C. proceeded with a history of the School, paid a just compliment to the ladies connected with it, and spoke at some length of the influence and responsibility of woman; and after addressing separately the parents and children, he concluded with an acknowledgment to our Christian friends for the interest manifested by their attendance.

After the address, “Israel to holy numbers” was sung by the choir, and the exercises were concluded by the distribution of premiums among the pupils. The proceedings throughout were entertaining and gratifying in the extreme, and to our own people in particular it afforded a source of pride, when viewed as a means of giving respectability and perpetuity to a faith that has already sustained and improved its position amidst the storms and convulsions of ages.

On the following afternoon the pupils were again assembled, together with a number of their youthful friends, all in appropriate costume for the celebration of a May festival. A large number of our congregation, and invited guests of various denominations, were likewise present, and participated in the pleasures of the evening. The lower room of the hall was elegantly decorated with flowers, and when filled with the fragile and joyous forms of the children, likewise decorated with Flora’s choicest gifts, reminded the beholder of some fairy grotto; indeed the entire scene allowed full scope for the imagination; the expressive features of the Queen of May, reminded us of the times of our people’s triumphs, and served to tempt the illusion that we were then in presence of Israel's royal daughters. The ceremony, together with the poetic addresses delivered on the occasion by her fairy like subjects, were both entertaining and impressive; the whole was concluded by an elegant entertainment, prepared in a larger arbour just erected, and intended for a Succah by our congregation, for which, together with the few hours of social enjoyment, we are indebted to the directress and a few ladies of our congregation, whose efforts in sustaining the respect of our people, and imparting gratification to all, have met with the most decided success. On the whole, the celebration or this season will long be retained with pleasure in the minds, not only of the pupils, but likewise their parents and friends. C.