|Vol. VII, No. 7
Tishry 5610, October 1849
Philadelphia.—At the last annual election of the congregation Mikveh Israel, the gentlemen composing last year’s Board were reelected, Mr. A. Hart as Parnass, and Messrs. J. A. Phillips, M. Arnold, <<377>>A. S. Wolf, and I. J. Phillips, as Adjuntas; Mr. H. Gratz was re-elected Treasurer, and Mr. Simeon W. Arnold, elected Secretary. We regret at not being able to announce that some wholesome legislation with respect to the office of Hazan, and the commutation of the money offerings has not taken place; both the by-laws affecting the subjects not having met with the approbation of the members. They seem to be afflicted with a sort of nervousness whenever any measure somewhat new in its tendency is proposed; they go into meeting with the resolve of the English iron-clad barons, “not to change the laws” of their order, however useful, expedient, or even necessary the measure proposed may be, or however wrong and oppressive the old rule may have proved in practice. At present we do not think it requisite to say more; but a time may come, especially if a contingency should arise, which now seems possible enough, when we may deem it requisite to appeal to the public judgment for our own justification, when we shall have to lay some circumstances before the people which we now mean to let pass in silence, as it is probable that before many months some slight changes may be made in an obnoxious law; a consummation devoutly to be wished. Some may believe it imprudent in us to say even this little; but since, as said already, it may affect our personal standing in the community, in case that something is not done in the premises before the expiration of another year, we hold it right to forewarn our distant friends, not to throw any blame on us if we do not submit to a usage peculiar to our congregation, although we were twice over-persuaded to do so before this.—
We are at the same time gratified to announce that, as we learn, an appropriation was made of two hundred dollars towards defraying the expenses of a school for one year, should the Education Society succeed in establishing the same. But there are still many difficulties in the way, chiefly owing to the accessibility of the public schools; that we fear that the establishment of a seminary of our own will have to be postponed for another season. The society’s funds amount to about two thousand dollars, the accumulation of about three years’ saving; the income from this, and the annual contribution of the sixty members, even with the guarantied aid of our own congregation, are not enough to secure a successful beginning, unless parents should be willing to take their children from the public and private schools where they are now taught, and to pay a moderate sum for tuition, such as was fixed by the board of the society, that is, five dollars per quarter for one child of any family, and three dollars additional for every additional one. Small as these fees may appear, they would form a handsome aggregate sum, and would enable the school directors <<378>>to open one or more schools without delay. But we are deeply pained to say that, hitherto, the matter has not been taken up with the alacrity which it deserves, which it demands. We ascribe the decay of religion to the former great want of religious training among the Israelites in this country, and the wrong tendency which instruction often received in Europe; enlightened religious education, which will elevate the soul and direct the spirit, is alas, of but rare occurrence; and still it is the only method to fix religion in the heart of man, and to enable him to combat successfully with the dangers which it must meet with in the life of the best and wisest even. Now we acknowledge, that in the ordinary schools, education, such as it is, can be obtained; you can learn readily, reading, writing, and arithmetic, a little geography, and a little less grammar; but after spending seven or eight years on these momentous acquisitions, you have been left altogether uninformed of what religion demands of you, and you have no knowledge whatever of the sacred language of your people. It strikes us that all which is taught in public schools could be communicated to an intelligent child in half the time it takes there; whilst there will be ample opportunity to impart a great deal more than can be conveyed in establishments where three or four hundred scholars are gathered under one roof, and where a proper classification becomes absolutely impossible.
Besides all this, we think it best for Jewish children to become acquainted together in early youth, that they may be able to act in unison when they grow up, and acquire insensibly a proper respect for each other; whereas, under present circumstances, they imbibe not rarely that prejudice for Jews which they hear expressed, incidentally perhaps, by teachers and pupils, and which the school-books also inculcate. Should not something be done in this respect? Will the Israelites of Philadelphia, New York, and other large cities, not strive to establish among themselves a high standard of education, by which their children might be elevated to the proud distinction of well-informed and consistent followers of the God of our fathers? The means are at hand; the only question is, “shall they be used?” and we trust that the love of money is not so strongly rooted among us, but that those having the means will do a little to place their religion in such an eminent position in America, that we shall find among us men enlightened in their faith, its history, and duties, that not all the requisite learning will have to come from Europe and Asia. The present defect of our native Israelites in religious knowledge is far from creditable; it is time that it be altered.—More Anon.
A Descriptive Geography of Palestine.—Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, of Jerusalem, now a messenger to this country, is the author of a Geography of the Holy Land, written in the Hebrew language. The approbation which the work has received, owing to the rediscovery of many places mentioned in Scripture and the Talmudical writings, and the light it throws on many an obscure passage occurring therein, and the request addressed to him from various quarters, have induced him to issue an English translation of it. We have consented to undertake this work for the learned gentleman, and he promises to furnish us with all the aid requisite to do the subject justice. The brother of the author, Mr. Abraham Schwarz, of 244 Second Street, New York, is the publisher, and orders may be addressed to him or to the Editor. The price of the book, ornamented with maps and drawings, will be $1.50, and we have no doubt but that it will prove a valuable acquisition to all libraries. Rabbi Joseph is a man of high education, thoroughly familiar with the Hebrew and Arabic, and has been long a resident in Palestine; he therefore brings to the task all the elements of doing the work well. We trust that he will be duly appreciated.
WILKES-BARRE.—Consecration of a New Synagogue.—By invitation of the Israelites of Wilkes-Barre we had the pleasure of being present, on Friday, the 31st of August, at the consecration of the new Synagogue, B’nay Berith, just finished by the congregation which has been gradually assembling in the Valley of Wyoming for the last ten years. The ceremonies were conducted by the Rev. Moses Strasser, the local minister, and Rev. S. M. Isaacs, of New York. The service commenced about 3 P. M., and was concluded about 6. The Rev. Mr. I. delivered an impressive consecration sermon, which left as usual a very favourable impression on the audience, composed of numerous Israelites and many Christian inhabitants of the town and neighbour. hood. It is a commendable circumstance, which we record with more than usual gratification, that the Christian citizens of Wilkes-Barre contributed about one thousand dollars to the building of this neatly fitted up Jewish place of worship, amply redeeming the promise they made when advising our brothers to erect a suitable and permanent building; and the building committee deserve great praise for the manner in which they have discharged the duty devolving upon them. The building is situated on a lot of 50 by 100 feet, and measures on the outside 44 by 28, and on the inside 38 by about 26, the difference being occupied by the entry and thickness of the walls. The gallery extends only on one side, opposite the היכל; and the main building also is reached by a double flight of stairs, the basement beneath being in part fitted up as a school-room. The men’s Synagogue contains now seventy-eight seats, but there is full space for about fifty more with ease, and with a little crowding the seats could easily be doubled, thus giving ample room for the probable requirements of the congregation for several years to come. We think there must have been between fifty and sixty male Israelites over thirteen years present at the dedication, say about forty ladies, and a due proportion of children; from these data our readers will easily see that there is material enough to form a permanent congregation. The general conduct during worship was good, and the singing quite creditable to the choir, which had been <<381>>trained by the Rev. Mr. Strasser. The rain poured down in torrents the greater part of the day, which naturally prevented many from coming who otherwise would have been there; as it was, the Synagogue was nearly filled to its capacity by an attentive and gratified audience, and the collection which was taken up resulted entirely to the satisfaction of the directors.
On the following day the liberality of the members was displayed in liberal offerings, and they proved that they had not become wearied by the contributions they had already made. Near the conclusion of the service we addressed the assembly on the concerns of eternal life, and were rewarded with the devout and reverential attention of the auditors; and we express only our own honest sentiments and those of our friend, Mr. Isaacs, that we are jointly indebted to our brethren of Wilkes-Barre, for the manner in which they received the message in the name of the Lord, which we were permitted to bring them; and our earnest hope is that many blessed fruits may spring from the seed which was sown in an apparently very fruitful soil. There is ample scope for a worthy body of Israelites in that elegantly situated valley; and it depends altogether on the people themselves, whether they are to be respected as honest citizens and God-fearing men; and we trust that they will duly appreciate their privileges and liberties as freemen, to acknowledge the mercies of the God of their fathers who has prospered their labours, and cast their portion in pleasant parts. But we can hardly doubt that so auspicious a beginning must progress prosperously; and that we shall hear many good accounts of the new congregation, who have united themselves as “sons of the covenant,” to the general body of Israelites. We could furnish a few particulars of the exertions of individuals, but where all have acted so well it would appear invidious; but this much we may say without offence, that the hand of the “women of Israel” has been conspicuous in organizing and encouraging this community, for which we trust that many blessings may attend them. The curtain before the ark (the congregation follow the German Minhag) is also a gift of the ladies, and is quite creditable to their taste. We must record a pleasing instance connected with the consecration: several of the relatives of the residents of Wilkes-Barre, arrived from Germany on the night before the appointed ceremonies, and they brought with them a handsome Sepher, the gift to the Synagogue from Mr. Bernhard Meyers, of Bayreuth, Bavaria, the father of the Mrs. Martin and Marx, Long, and Mr. David Meyers, of Wilkes-Barre. The arrival of this sacred book was hailed with joy by the <<382>>community, and it was duly honoured in the procession at the consecration, there having been but one in town before its arrival.—The congregation have also a neat burial place on the outskirts of the town; it has a substantial railing in front, and is easy of access.—The officers of the congregation are, Martin Long, Parnass; John Konstein, Vice-President and Treasurer; Marx Strauss, Joseph Coon, and Joseph Schwabacher, Trustees. We have thus given all the necessary particulars of this new society of Israelites in the interior of Pennsylvania, and our scattered brothers can learn from it what can be done if the will be there to effect any good. Union is everything, and with it seeming impossibilities are often overcome, and beautiful results crown the labour of those who are earnest in their endeavours. We trust that this pious example may find many imitators in the many small communities which are springing up all over the land; and we can assure them that we will gladly aid them by all the means in our power.
After our services had been rendered we enjoyed yet another day the hospitality of our friends, and early on Monday morning we returned with Mr. Isaacs to our station; but we can never forget the hospitality and kindness we enjoyed during our stay of four days among those whom we met as strangers and parted from as friends.
Danville, Pennsylvania.—In this place, also, they were to meet for worship during the holy days. Our congregation lent them a Sepher; but we hope that they soon will acquire one for permanent use. In Lancaster, likewise, we learn that they meet weekly; in fact, they have done so for two or three years; but we have never obtained any particulars.—At Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Wheeling, Virginia, they were also to meet for worship.—Our readers will thus sec the leaven of Judaism is spreading.
Richmond, VA—At an annual meeting of the Kaal Kadosh Beth Shalome, held on the 9th of September, 5609, the following officers were elected for the ensuing year (5610):—Jacob A. Levy, Parnass; Isaac Schriver, Gabay; Jacob Ezekiel, Secretary; Ellis Morris, Hattan Torah; Naphtali Ezekiel, Hattan Bereshith.
This congregation has been without a Hazan for the past year, one of its members having officiated, to whom much credit is due. There is, however, a gentleman (Mr. Julius Eckman) of distinguished ability (with whom arrangements have been made) expected at Richmond in a few weeks, from Portsmouth, England; and there is great reason to suppose, from the various testimonials which have been received relative to his literary and religious acquirements, that his presence will <<383>>add another bright luminary to our hemisphere. It is contemplated to establish a Hebrew and English institute in this city, which Mr. Eckman will be the principal of; in this establishment will be taught every species of ordinary education, such as is imparted in similar institutions. The trustees of the institute have obtained an act of incorporation from the legislature of this state, on the 4th of April, 1848, and have been awaiting the opportunity of obtaining a qualified teacher in order to go into operation.