|Vol. VII, No. 2
Iyar 5609, May 1849
Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia.
We have the pleasure of announcing the passage of a bill by the Pennsylvania Legislature, incorporating the society for the fostering of education, which was established last summer, as we announced to our readers at the time. It was deemed advisable, for various reasons, to obtain a charter with ample powers from the Legislature of this Commonwealth; but proper steps were not taken before the beginning of February to accomplish it, when a committee was appointed to draw up a petition, frame a bill, and to correspond with members of the Senate and House of Representatives, in reference to the object in view. We had the honour to be the chairman, and the task of drafting the papers, therefore, devolved on us; and it is truly a satisfaction we experience to announce that though so great a portion of the time of the session had elapsed before our petition was presented, the bill passed triumphantly both the Houses. The bill was read, after being slightly amended by the proper committee of the Senate, on the first of March, and finally passed the House on the fifth of April, though several hundred bills, as we believe, failed of being reached. The Society is indebted to the courtesy of Mr. Benjamin Matthias of the Senate, and Mr. George T. Thorn of the House, for the kindness with which they introduced the bill to the respective bodies, and the promptitude with which they called <<102>>it up for action, by which alone its passage was secured.
There could be of course no objection made to the principles of the bill, which also asks for nothing which could be denied us as equals and citizens; but when it is taken into consideration that at the close of the session there are always multitudes of private bills which are pressed on the attention of members, it speaks well for the sense of justice of the State Legislature, that this measure was taken up and carried when so many were left over for a future day.—It will be seen that by section three we are empowered to establish a college, in the full sense of the word, for the instruction of Hebrew literature in connexion with the sciences, within the limits of the Commonwealth, not confining us even to this city. Of course the provision was introduced only for the future, as at the present we have not the means of making use of the privilege; we asked for it merely that we might, have before us a high aim to be attained hereafter. It is left to the Israelites of America too say whether it shall be merely a legislative grant, or be employed for the advancement of our religious interests. Pennsylvania is the centre of the Union, by its geographical position, and easy accessibility at all times of the year. It is therefore the very spot where a high school, if it should be called into being, ought to be established. It is evident that something must be done to supply the demand for religious training; many congregations are now seeking for proper ministers, who can speak of the word of God in the English language; and where are they? whence can we obtain them? We beg the reader to look at the letter from Cincinnati regarding the consecration at Louisville, and then let him answer to himself, Can I not do something to remedy the evil? Congregations are daily multiplying; there is a pressure in Europe which will drive many away from their native homes to seek for a shelter here, where they can seek a living without the dread of war, of popular tumult, or the oppression of tyrants; if not themselves, their children will require to be instructed not in the languages of France, Italy, Germany, and Russia, but in the vernacular of this country. The ministers we therefore require, prospectively, if not at the present day, must be those educated in this land, in the midst of us, known to us from their youth for probity of character and an elevated moral standing. All we require to accomplish this are ample means, the full privilege both by the constitution and the law of the land being at our command. Now we ask those whom God has blessed with plenty, with superabundance, with more than they or their families can conveniently consume, whether they will do that for Judaism which so many Christians do for Christianity? In every direction colleges and schools are rising <<103>>up, even in the far off Wisconsin, to teach sectional theology, supported by the munificence of churches or individual endowments. Jews alone stand aloof; they do enough if their children are taught what can be picked up at public or private schools, founded and controlled by others; they seem to feel no shame at the humiliating spectacle of their spiritual dependence on the efforts of others. Now we should like to know where the rich Jews are, of whom this country has its full proportion, that they do nothing to glorify their religion. It would not be, surely, difficult to do what is needed, if they only felt correctly and justly on this all-important subject; and we are almost led to believe, that they would be active in it, if they only thought their efforts would lead to some good result; for we will not believe that it is hostility to religion which stays their hand.
We hope, therefore, that, the matter will not be allowed to drop to the ground without a powerful attempt being made to attain success, which to command is not in our power, though we may deserve it by striving to do our duty. For these twenty years, nearly have we urged the subject of religious education as paramount to all other spiritual improvements; no reformation is equal to it; no sacrifices are too great for it; and whilst we have the power to write or to speak shall it be the theme of our declamation. Compared to it all the effort at reform, whether it be to shorten the prayers, to abolish certain observances, or to have instrumental music at worship, are but as baby play; all of them combined, or each singly, never yet converted a single soul, nor withdrew one from the path of sin; this is a broad, a sweeping declaration, we admit it, but one true nevertheless in the strictest sense of the word. We are, therefore, radically and unchangeably opposed to all such tinkerings with religion; it has lived without them and will survive them long and long, when their very memory is forgotten. There will be progression in religious affairs with the change of the times, as in all things entrusted to human care; so was there a gradual change in our position during the first and second temple, whence resulted the prophetic writings in the one period and the rise of the Talmudists in the other. The Biblical canon, and the Mishna anal Gemara, are the fruits of this mental upheaving of the elements, and to them we owe the preservation of our people under the guidance of an all-wise Providence. So we believe that the present agitation will also have its good results; but these will not be owing to the silly reforms (we ask pardon of our reform doctors and their friends for using so irreverent a term) just now proposed, but an effect arising in despite of them. The friends of religion must educate; this is the mighty oar which will safely navigate the ark of <<104>>faith; without it it perishes on the rocks which beset its onward path.—Shall we seize it? Answer this question, ye ministers, governors, and members of congregations and societies; for this movement we will labour with you, and for this the promised reward is ample and the blessing of God will not be wanting to urge it forward.—When all are educated the rage for untried experiments will perish for want of fuel on which to feed, and all will unite harmoniously on the broad platform of enlightened religion, then freed from the superstitions and abuses sprung up during the long ages of oppression and mental darkness.
But we are launching out unconsciously into a long argument, when we merely wanted to introduce the bill of which we spoke with a few lines; but we always are roused when we think of the deplorable state of religious information among us. Let it be altered, and we shall be silent, and utter few complaints on other subjects.
An Act to incorporate the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia.
SECTION 1.—Be it enacted by the Senate and Rouse of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in General Assembly met, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That Solomon Solis, Simon Elfelt, Abraham Hart, Moses A. Dropsie, Solomon N. Carvalho, Isidore Binswanger, Marcus Cauffman, Lewis J. Cohen, Simon M. Klasser, Jacob Langsdorff, Isaac Leeser, Moses Nathans, Joseph Newhouse, Hyman Polock, Julius Stern, Herman Van Beil, Abraham S. Wolf, Lewis M. Allen, Mayer Arnold, Simon W. Arnold, David Barnett, Leon Berg, A. I. H. Bernal, Bernard Blum, Myer D. Cohen, Julius Davidson, Zadock A. Davis, Henry De Boer, Solomon Eckstein, David Eger, William Florance, P. Friedenberg, Solomon Gans, J. Geissenberg, M. Gertsley, Jacob Gumpel, Selig Hohenfels, Aaron lsaacs, Solomon Isaacs, Julius Jacobs, Israel Jacobs, B. Klein, Henry Lazarus, David Levin, N. E. Nelson, Joseph A. Levy, George Phillips, Michael Reinhard, Joseph Schonemen, M. Seidenbach, Henry Simson, David H. Solis, Meyer Sternberger, L. Sulzberger, David Van Beil, Simon Sternberger, Moses Vanderslice, Abraham Wolff, Isaac Tassner, and Doctor Samuel Wolff, and all and every other, person or persons, who shall hereafter become members of the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia, be, and are hereby created and made a corporation or body politic, and corporate by the name and style of “The Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia;” and by that name, shall have perpetual succession, and be capable in law to take, hold and dispose of estates real and personal whatsoever, and to sue and be sued and to receive and make all deeds, transfers, contracts, conveyances, and covenants whatsoever, and to make, have, and use a common seal, and the same to change and renew at pleasure, and generally, to do every other act or thing necessary to carry into effect the provisions of this act, and to promote the objects and designs of said corporation.
SECTION. 3.—It shall also be lawful for said corporation to establish, whenever their funds will permit the same to be done, a superior seminary of learning within the limits of this commonwealth, the faculty of which seminary shall have power to furnish its graduates and others the usual degrees of bachelor of arts, master of arts, and doctor of law and divinity, as the same is exercised by other colleges established in thin commonwealth.
SECTION 4.—The society shall have power to adopt a constitution and make by-laws, and the same to amend, alter, or repeal at pleasure.
SECTION 5.—The said society shall not at any time have, hold, enjoy, or receive a clear yearly income exceeding twelve thousand dollars, without first obtaining authority from the legislature of this commonwealth.
SECTION 6.—The legislature shall have power at any time when the privileges hereby granted shall appear injurious to the public, to repeal, alter or amend this act, but no such repeal, alteration or amendment, shall affect any engagement to which the said corporation shall have become a party previous thereto, and in case of such repeal, the said corporation shall have a reasonable time to bring their accounts to a final settlement and termination.