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Doctor Julius Eckman,

Minister of the Congregation Beth Elohim, Charleston, S. C.

We have recently listened to several of the lectures of this gentleman explanatory of our faith, the ceremonial law, the Talmud, &c., and (although not a member of his congregation, but opposed to the innovations which have therein obtained), we must nevertheless own that we were both highly edified and instructed. Dr. Eckman is a zealous and honest labourer in the cause of Judaism. Not content with discourses on the Sabbaths and festivals, he devotes his time, talents, and energies, to the instruction of Jewish youth, during the week, and each Sunday afternoon lectures on subjects above named. He is a German by birth—an indefatigable and laborious student and a profound thinker. Devoted to the study of languages, he has mastered the ancient and modern tongues and their literature is as familiar to him as “household words.” His knowledge of the origin, etymology, combination, and definition of words is most extraordinary, and as a philologist we doubt if he has a superior. His mind exhibits a rare and beautiful, union of strength and harmony, where virtue and intellect are melodiously blended with imagination and piety. In his lectures we were struck no less with the subtlety of his power of analysis, the force of his under­standing, the critical acumen, and deep research of his learning, than the dignified and elevated tone of thought that pervaded all his sentiments. Armed with the panoply of religion, truth, and learning, he is ever ready and powerful in attacking grappling, and overcoming error in whatever form it may assume, or from whatever quarter it may proceed. His style of oratory is bold, fluent, persuasive, and at times eloquent, but above all there is an honest earnestness in his manner that

“Knows not how to spare,
Yet rarely blames unjustly.”

Dr. Eckman is an enlightened and pious reformer; not one of<<93>>your “modern school reformers” whose actions are guided by mercenary motives and selfish designs, both in the United States and Europe. His views of reform are based upon the principles established by those great intellects of Germany, Mendelssohn Zunz, and Salomon. His idea of reform consists in introducing order and decorum into the worship of the Synagogue, and likewise prayers and discourses in the vernacular, so as to reform the moral faculties,—to cultivate the heart and its holiest affections,—to teach the observance of the commandments and pre­cepts of our holy law—(both Divine and Rabbinical)—and to sow the seeds of religion broadcast, so as to produce an abundant harvest of virtue and social happiness. He wishes to reform his congregation by causing them to observe our religion and its ceremonies, and not to reform our religion by striking down its principal and fundamental supports. Although not opposed to the organ or the abolition of the second days of the holidays, he has publicly declared that, as we were a peculiar people, with one faith, one language, and one God, so should we be as one family living in concord and harmony, and if the above measures produced discord and division, they should not have been established, even if objected to by a single individual. But where many were opposed to these changes, and withdrew from the Synagogue, more evil than good was the result, and such measures became highly injurious. His work is “a labour of love,” (though we regret to say, is not so regarded by a portion of his highly respectable congregation) but his situation imposes upon him many painful and difficult obligations, which to fulfil requires courage, skill, and judgment. He nevertheless does not falter in his course, but grasping the Bible as his sword, and with truth for his shield, he wages with warmth and spirit an interminable warfare against apathy and skepticism. We trust that he will persevere in this glorious conflict and be supported by all good men, that immeasurable success may crown his efforts, and the approving smiles of God be his rich reward.


Note by the Editor.—In the above two communications received from persons of diverging opinions, at Charleston, our readers have a <<94>>reflex of the difference in views on the question of reform now agitating the congregation Beth Elohim of that city. We must be excused for not expressing any opinion on the merits or demerits of either Mr. Poznanski or Dr. Eckman, not having had an opportunity of satisfying ourself of the extent of the reforms of the first, nor of the reaction of the latter. One thing we may be permitted to say, that if Dr. E. is willing to go as far as Dr. Gotthold Salomon, of Hamburg, he goes much farther than legalized reform can extend, and though we may have to admit his merits, if he succeeds in bringing his flock nearer to the ancient standard, we can never be brought to confess that he places them on a safe and orthodox basis. We do not use this word orthodox in a sectarian sense, but as indicating pure biblical Judaism, to which we reckon the advent of the Messiah, and we regret to say that herein the great Hamburg preacher is, despite his great learning, ex­ceedingly unreliable, as his various sermons amply prove. It is on the whole exceedingly dangerous to belong to any school, whether you dignify it as that of Mendelssohn, or anybody else; we know of but one school which we can always rely on, and that is the BIBLE, as expounded by our teachers.

The question, therefore, to which we would call the attention of our correspondent, N., whose zeal and talents we greatly admire, is, “Does Dr. Eckman teach ancient Judaism?” If he does, he is a safe guide; if not, he must be judged as lacking of a full measure of the necessary elements of the character of a teacher in Israel. We trust, however, that the learned divine is all that his friends claim for him; but we confess that we should be more satisfied of his full ability to do good if he were to remove the organ from the Synagogue, and substitute a simple translation of the Maimonidean creed in place of the tablets now there, against the contents of which we have publicly protested in the fifth number of our first volume, not to speak of the restoration of the second day of the holy days, which it is evident that no single congregation have a right to abolish on their own assumed authority of reforming whatever they may happen to call abuses,—a mode of proceeding totally at variance with religious conformity.

We say all this in no spirit of unkindness towards Dr. E., for we wish him success in his labour of love, to which N. so eloquently refers; but we must not shut our eyes to the fact that Dr. E. entered office in a congregation acting on the principles which he now justly condemns, and he could not be sure beforehand that he could lead them back. We do not impute to him any bad motives, it is against our <<95>>usual method; but we insist upon it that we must first see consistency before we give in our adhesion to his supposed views. At the same time we hope to be favoured, either by him or his friends, with some of his lectures, from the tone of which we shall be able to form a more correct judgment in the premises.

As respects Mr. Poznanski, Mr. Newman assuredly referred to him in his article, though he did not name him; but we cannot agree with our valued correspondent C., that Mr. N. has done Mr. P. so great an injustice. Mr. N. complains of the ambiguity of Mr. P.’s words, which could be interpreted either way, and of his silence on the necessity of even great observances, which would also give room to fear that he thought them unnecessary. Mr. P.’s own hearers can judge better than Mr. Newman, an accidental sojourner in Charleston, how Mr. P. thinks on the subject; but surely a stranger in the country may be pardoned for publishing in a religious magazine, like ours, his fears that there is danger to be apprehended from a system of half way teaching which requires an explanation at every turn. This is not the system of the prophets, who taught fearlessly and directly what they meant to convey. We have accordingly no sympathy with your non-committals in religion any more than all honest men have in politics; let us know our men, without mask or disguise, that we may either esteem them as true shepherds, or avoid them as teachers of falsehood and error. For our part, no one can ever say that we have ever been among the detractors of Mr. Poznanski, much as we have disapproved of his course, nor should Mr. Newman have found a space in our pages had we thought that he meant to cast unjust censure on Mr. P. If we understand C. aright he does not assert that Mr. P.’s language is not ambiguous, and this is all we thought Mr. Newman intended to assert; and we really believe, from the little intercourse we had with him, that he is one of the last whom we should accuse of deliberately asserting an untruth.

Unpleasant as personal explanations are to us, and no doubt to our readers, the proceedings at Charleston are of that kind that they ought to be placed before the public eye. We have ourself watched the gradual development of the reform question there for near eleven years, and after raging violently for a number of seasons, we are happy to present our readers with the sure indication of a sober return to first principles, as related by N. Mr. Poznanski and Dr. Eckman are, therefore, not individual reformers, who are nothing to the public, but embodiments of ideas in whom all have a deep interest, and who are <<96>>thus amenable for what they do and teach. It is idle to advance that Mr. P. has retired to private life, and should therefore be no longer amenable to censure or loaded with praise; since his reform did not die when he quitted office; and whilst these remain he must not complain if allusion is made to him by writers who discuss the propriety of measures in which he bore a prominent part. If Mr. P. had not wished to occupy a space in the public view, he ought never to have placed himself there; he may now be willing to withdraw; but others have also to decide whether they will let him. But we say in truth we make no war on any man, and we shall take care also that our correspondents shall not do it; but principles are represented by men; hence both may be fitly discussed together, in a temperate way, without infringing on propriety, and we really thought that Mr. Newman had confined himself to his point. Hence we regret that his remarks have excited unpleasant feelings in the bosom of any one, especially our correspondent C., whom we never thought to be of the irascible kind.

As regards our own person, we confess that we are a reformer if viewed one way, and a decided opponent of reform if viewed from the other. Whatever is permitted by Talmud and Scripture, that we will labour to introduce, if even mediaeval customs have substituted something else, and we have expressed this opinion frequently in our correspondence and conversation; but we will strive with all our energy against that reform which would rob the LAW of the least of its weight and FAITH of the smallest of its requirements. The religion of the Schools of Palestine is good religion for us, and we care not whether this is attacked by sticklers for abuses or philosophers; we must at length come back to old principles, and we might as well do so first as last. And well may we ask, as the great prophet, “Who is for the Lord?” and whoever he be let him join this standard, to restore the LAW to its first strength, and doctrine to its pristine glory, for this is true, ancient, unmixed, pure Judaism, and under its banner alone can we conquer! But we fear that both reformers and their opponents are too timid to join the middle ranks, and they will both stand aloof, while odium is heaped on the small number of moderate men, from all sides. But be this as it may, this shall not terrify us from discharging our duty fearlessly; and whilst we retain the control of our pages, we shall give expression to our sentiments to the best of our knowledge, and leave the issue in the hands of the ONE whose approbation alone we strive to obtain.