The Testimony: An Address Delivered at the Schoolhouse of the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia

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    THE TESTIMONY:

    AN ADDRESS

    DELIVERED BY THE REV. ISAAC LEESER.

    NISSAN, 5611.

    PHILADELPHIA,

    C. SHERMAN, PRINTER.

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    THE TESTIMONY.

    AN ADDRESS, DELIVERED AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE OF THE HEBREW EDUCATION SOCIETY
    OF PHILADELPHIA, AT THE FIRST OPENING OF THEIR SCHOOL, ON SUNDAY, THE
    4TH OF NISSAN, 5611, (APRIL 6TH, 1851,)

    BY ISAAC LEESER.

    MY FRIENDS,—

    Although we are not assembled this day in a house consecrated
    to God, still we have met for the purpose of doing honour to our
    Everlasting King, and to labour in His name. It has always
    been the custom of Israel, on all occasions of public assembly,
    not to let the words of prayer be wanting; it is הקול קול יעקב
    “The voice which is the voice of Jacob,” which is ever accep-
    table on High; in this is our strength, in this our victory; herein
    angels of mercy join us to do honour to the Creator; and of
    this, in our deepest affliction, tyrants in all their power, nations
    in all their tumultuous wrath, could not rob us. Let us, then,
    not be unmindful of this our potent weapon, the two-edged sword
    of God's praise, which is in our mouth, and let us reverentially
    and with deep humility invoke the aid of our Father in heaven
    on the work which we are about to begin, in order that He may
    be with us at our first starting, and not withdraw from us His
    grace and aid till our task be accomplished.

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    O Lord Eternal! Thou has commanded us in thy law, that we
    should propagate the doctrines Thou has bestowed on us; since Thou
    has ordained, “And ye shall teach them to your children, to speak of
    them when thou sittest in thy house, when thou walkest by the way,
    when thou liest down and when thou risest up.” It is in obedience to
    this behest that we, thy servants, have striven to establish a seminary
    where the children born unto Israel might be taught of thy laws, and
    acquire a knowledge of the sacred language of thy people, without
    being exposed to the danger of contamination, by instruction which is
    hostile to the faith which we derive from Thee. Long has our striving
    been in vain, our words fell on ears deaf to admonition; but at length,
    for which we bless thy Name, we are at the eve of commencing the
    work which is so necessary to the well-being of all descendants of
    Jacob. But, O! how feeble is this beginning—how small the number
    of those who have inscribed their names unto Thee; but we entreat
    Thee, do not despise the offering which we bring unworthy, though it
    be, of thy acceptance; and cause it to prosper and flourish, since Thine
    is the power to bless and perfect what man begins in doubt and sorrow.

    Long has thy Name been profaned among the gentiles, when they
    saw that they who were called thy people were untrue to their calling,
    and faithless to the mission Thou has assigned them, to be a guide to
    the nations. The knowledge of thy word and thy ways has fearfully
    diminished, and many have fallen off, because they know not the prin-
    ciples of thy faith, and the duties incident to its followers. Grant
    then, O most merciful Father! that this school may become a shining
    ledge the minds of many who otherwise would grope their way in dark-
    ness; that its scholars may become quick in the spirit of salvation, and
    stand forth as Israelites in whom Thou art well pleased; and that
    through them many others may be drawn into the sacred influence, to
    devote to Thee their life, their best exertions, and their whole soul.

    Upon the teachers who are to engage in the holy work send, we
    beseech Thee, thy gracious beneficence; inspire them with meekness,
    to labour in the arduous task which they have assumed, and with per-
    severance not to flag amidst discouraging trials to which they will be
    exposed. Lend eloquence to their tongues, and deep persuasion to
    their words, that they may be able to enchain the youthful hearts, and
    bind them indissolubly to thy service, so that in after years they may
    rejoice over the multitudes they have brought under the overshadowing
    wings of thy Providence.

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    And upon us, and all the well-wishers of this institution, pour out
    the spirit of liberality and devotedness, that we may not be weary in
    our struggle, nor become faint-hearted, if immediate success crown not
    our enterprise. Yea, teach us to wait for thy aid, in meekness and
    submission, and not to expect too much from our own strength and
    our own endeavours; so that, persisting to work in the cause of thy
    religion, we may be strengthened with the hope that Thou wilt guide
    us aright, and make everything eventuate for the best, to the extension
    of thy kingdom, and the spread of thy glory, and the joy of the holy
    ones on earth, in whom Thou feelest delight. Be it thus thy will to
    establish the work of our hands, and to let thy beauty be revealed
    over us. Amen.

    LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—

    When Joshua, the successor of Moses, was nigh the end of
    his mortal career, he assembled the whole tribes of Israel at
    Shechem, and addressed the elders, captains, judges, and officers
    of justice, in a heart-stirring appeal, relative to their duties to
    their God, in reminding them how mercifully He had brought
    them and their fathers to be his servants. He left them, how-
    ever, the choice of remaining faithful to the Lord, or to select
    some of the various idolatries which were then in vogue, either
    that of the Mesopotamians, or of the Emorites, near whom they
    then dwelt; but whatever the people might resolve on, he de-
    clared his firm determination that he and his household would
    serve the Lord. The Israelites, however, who had been the
    witnesses of the mercy and might which had been displayed
    before them, had no doubt of the truth of their religion in their
    heart; they therefore chose the same worship which their leader
    had chosen, and they declared, “We also will serve the Lord,
    for he is our God.” After again receiving an affirmation of this
    pious and prudent resolution, Joshua wrote all that had trans-
    pired in a book containing the law of God, and took a large
    stone and erected it there, under the beech tree, which was near
    the sanctuary of the Lord; and then we read


    ויאמר יהושע הנה האבן הזאת תהיה בנו לעדה כי היא שמעה את כל אמרי ה' אשר דבר עמנו והיתה בכם לעדה פן תכחשון באלהיכם: יהושע כ"ד כ"ז

    “And Joshua said, Behold this stone shall be as a testimony against us,
    for it hath heard all the sayings of the Lord which he hath spoken with us;”

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    and therefore shall it be as a testimony against you, that ye may not prove
    false to your God.”—JOSHUA xxiv. 27.

    These last words of the son of Nun may appear strange to
    you, inasmuch as he ascribes hearing to an inanimate block of
    stone, and says that it shall be a testimony against those with
    whom he spoke. But it is not to be expected that Joshua meant
    to convey, or that the people understood him as implying, any
    such absurdity. It is only in a metaphorical sense that he
    spoke. The people had been assembled near where the stone
    lay on the ground, consequently all the words and promises
    which they uttered could have been heard by the stone had it
    been a living being; wherefore it might well be erected in that
    place, and remind all future comers, on seeing it, that on that
    very spot, and around it, their forefathers stood, when they
    solemnly declared that they would remain Israelites, and obe-
    dient to the words of God, though they had been offered the
    free choice of rejecting Him if they preferred doing so; conse-
    quently the stone, by its silent presence, would be a testimony
    against the people, should they ever become untrue to their
    Liege-Lord, who had done for them so many wondrous and mer-
    ciful deeds. It is well known to you how powerfully mementos
    of the departed affect us; how we can be made sad by recalling
    to mind some simple lay which we in infancy heard our mother
    sing; how we are constantly wrought upon by even trifling
    matters, which bring back before our memory events that we
    long since had deemed as faded and forgotten. It need not, there-
    fore, surprise us that mankind, in all ages, have deemed monu-
    mental columns of high importance, as fixing historical events in
    the most energetic manner on the minds of the beholders; and
    it is only in obedience to a positive injunction, that the ancient
    Israelites did not invoke the aid of sculpture or the other cog-
    nate branches of the plastic art, to commemorate their heroes
    and their beneficent exertions. The more reason was there for
    erecting simple, and if you will, rough stones, durable as they
    are, and almost bidding defiance to the all-devouring tooth of
    time, in order that they might serve to point out the spots con-
    secrated by the occurrence of important events, which would

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    then also call their attention to the fact that, because they were
    servants of the Incorporeal One, who cannot be represented by
    any outward figure, they had been interdicted to make any hewn
    image, the simplest of which had, in the corrupt taste of those
    times, been converted into objects of worship; wherefore the
    mere product of nature, unadorned and undefiled by the artist's
    chisel, must serve them, instead of the laboured monuments of
    Greece, Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt. Some would-be-wise men
    will, perhaps, esteem this prohibition of sculpture and carving as
    narrow and illiberal; but if we view the depravity and hero
    worship consequent on representing the human figure in relief,
    as it was practised (sic) by the ancients—the necessary tendency of
    rising in imagination from the mortal to the Immortal, and to
    portray Him too with daring and impious hands—the means it
    gives to represent criminal acts and indecencies of all sorts, as
    we see but too often done among moderns:—we need not feel any
    surprise that in our religion no opportunity was allowed to a
    prurient fancy so to degrade the highest moral good as to make
    it subservient to vice, or to elevate to an undue height frail mor-
    tality, and to invest it with attributes to which it has no claims.
    Besides all this, the emblematic pictures and sculptures of the
    ancients have long since lost their significance; and however
    some one highly endowed may yet be permitted to decipher their
    secrets, and the history and lessons they convey, it is not to be
    denied that, as guides to mankind, the stupendous works of anti-
    quity are practically of no more use than the simple stone erected
    by Joshua.

    You may say, that so far as permanence is concerned, the
    monument erected near the Sanctuary at Shechem is no longer
    in existence; consequently to us, at this late day, it is of no more
    use than the hieroglyphic-covered columns of Luxor and Karnac.
    True, most true; but it is precisely this perishableness of all
    structures, whether the rude or ornamental, which proves the
    utter fatuity of man when he vaunts that he is building for
    futurity. He may, indeed, pile up stone upon stone, wall on
    wall, but he has not secured his edifice from decay; nay, the
    very materials he employs, the hardest basalt and granite will

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    suffer from abrasion the moment after they are placed in rest.
    So then let us no more know the site on which Joshua raised his
    monument—it matters not; it spoke its instruction as long as it
    was required, whilst the mind of the people needed to be re-
    kindled whenever forgetfulness of God's word was threatened in
    the corruption of the times; but, brethren, though the stone
    itself has perished, and they have passed away, who, violating
    their pledge, suffered for the covenant broken, and the law
    violated: the object for which it was erected has not passed
    away, and the religion of which it was a testimony is as potent
    now as it was on that very day; and yet more, it is firmer esta-
    blished in the hearts of all Israelites than at that early date of
    our history, when so many wavered and went often astray after
    strange gods who have no breath in their nostrils.

    And let me ask you, What brings us here together this day?
    It is the very same idea which caused Joshua to set up his me-
    morial stone,—it is to testify that we wish to erect an institution
    in honour of the name of God. The sanctuary is indeed no
    longer ours; we have only small places for meeting to pray and
    to exhort; but we lack the glorious manifestation of the Divine
    Presence which formerly animated and comforted us. But the
    law itself which was to be glorified through means of the public
    ministration of the priesthood is not yet extinct, and claims of
    us, no less than in days of old, that we should spread it among all
    classes, as we read: “Assemble together the people, the men and
    the women and the children, and thy stranger who is within thy
    gates, in order that they may hear, and in order that they may
    learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the
    words of this law.” (Deut. xxxi. 12.) It was not only given for
    the rich, the learned, the wise, the aged, the native born, the
    noble, and the priest, but for all who bear God's soul in their
    bosom, it was bestowed as the inheritance of all mankind, where-
    fore all who were within reach of instruction were to be assembled
    to take part in the septennial ceremony of its public proclamation
    by the political chief of the people, in order that all might be
    animated by one desire to learn how to obey the will of the
    universal God, to whom all on earth bear the relation of children

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    to their Father, of scholars to their Teacher. And we have
    come hither to-day to commence a school of instruction, open
    alike to the poor and the rich, the Israelite and the stranger,
    where it shall be the principal business of the teachers to imbue
    the mind early with true conceptions of the Godhead, and to
    repeat the lesson so frequently, by a daily putting line upon line
    and precept upon precept, that Judaism may become a part of
    the very nature of our pupils, without which they could not exist,
    even if they should at a future day be tempted to cast it off for
    the glare and allurement of the hostile world beyond. It is not
    an easy thing, through some of you, my hearers, may think other-
    wise, to acquire this staunch love for religion; or else why do
    we see so many violations of its precepts daily and hourly prac-
    tised (sic) before our eyes? Had Israelites that devotion which they
    ought to have, they could not so disregard their duties. It is
    education only which can effect this, and a constant exhorting at
    home and at school which can result in a God-fearing conduct
    through life. You may ask me, “Are there not many highly
    educated who are unfaithful? not many ignorant who are pious?”
    I readily answer “Yes,” to both these questions. But though
    you do find the ignorant pious after their fashion, as far as they
    know how, and the learned often desperately wicked, this does
    not gainsay that true piety and an enlightened zeal are only
    found in those who have been inly tinctured with divine wisdom.
    For who were the great leaders of our race at all times? were
    they the unlettered? who were the prophets? were they the un-
    instructed? who were the most glorious martyrs? were they the
    ignorant? No, fellow-Israelites, they were all, whether men or
    women, those in whom the spirit of knowledge dwelt, and it was
    in their footsteps that the multitudes followed, whether they
    made their pilgrimage to the temple at Jerusalem, whether they
    ranged themselves under their country's banner on the day of
    strife, although they knew that all efforts would be in vain, since
    the enemy had penetrated within their walls, or whether they
    hastened to a yet more glorious death when tyrants demanded
    their blood as the price of maintaining their religion.

    We in our day require the same devoted zeal among our house-

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    hold in order that we may maintain the proper influence over its
    members. All Israel may in truth be viewed as one large family,
    in which each one has assigned a part which he must achieve or
    be recreant to his trust. But, alas! how many have proved so!
    look at the records of the congregations in this country, and you
    will seek in vain for the representatives of many families among
    the professing Jews. Some have died out by the want of male
    descendants to bear their names; but many others have left the
    Synagogue, either by apostacy (sic) or the quiet intermingling with
    the gentiles; and in addition to several families thus extinct
    already, others are fast hastening to the same deplorable state.
    Have you ever reflected on this fact? I have, many, many
    times, with a heaviness of heart which I cannot describe to you.
    To see the names once honourable among Israel, borne by those
    who are in feeling the bitterest opponents of our race, and the
    more so because they know themselves that they are ours by the
    father's or mother's side, is indeed a cause of the deepest grief
    to a sincere follower of the God of Jacob. And I ask you again,
    have you never reflected on this fact? If you have, you must
    have discovered that nearly all such connexions have resulted
    from one cause, that is, that the offending parties did not con-
    sider Jewish families good enough for them to associate with;
    they regarded themselves a degree higher than all the Hebrews
    they knew; and hence they sought for alliances where they
    fancied their noble blood would suffer no contamination. You
    may think that I speak harshly; but does the fact bear me out?
    does your own experience confirm what I say? I appeal to
    yourselves, and let me be condemned if in your innermost souls
    you find not a response only too affirmative of my words. It is
    nothing to the matter that persons of all grades of society have
    so offended; for, alas! it requires neither wealth, nor intellect,
    nor station, to puff up the human heart with pride, and no one
    is so mean but he is in his own conceit higher than all the people
    in self-importance. There have been others lost to us, because
    they felt themselves neglected by other Israelites, they were not
    appreciated as they deserved, so they thought, and they threw
    themselves into the arms of those who are always anxious to

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    receive the straying Jewish flock. But whence arose this self-
    assumed superiority on the one side and the degradation on the
    other? Do you know this? Only reflect a moment, and the
    matter will become clear to you. Answer me, Where were our
    religious schools in former times? where are they now? It has
    always been to me a subject of profound astonishment and deep
    regret, that there was not a single school all over the country,
    until very lately, where a Jewish child could obtain any informa-
    tion on his religion. The Synagogue was no place for instruc-
    tion, because public lectures formed no part of the exercises.
    Family worship, except in rare instances, was unknown, and
    family religious reading was not though of, beyond a perusal of
    the Bible in the common translation, which was first ordered to
    be read in churches by authority of King James the First, of
    England. The religious books accessible were limited to the
    works of the late David Levi, who in his lifetime was but ill-
    rewarded for the strenuous exertions he made in the cause of
    Judaism. Our Jewish predecessors in this country had only one
    place of meeting, and this was the Synagogue, where the worship
    was uniformly the same every Sabbath in the year, the tunes
    only varying to suit the various occasions for which they are
    very happily adapted. Could such a system tend to make men
    and women familiar with their faith? could it produce a fusion
    of wills and a harmony of souls, not to speak among natives and
    foreigners, but among the natives themselves? It is idle to ex-
    pect it, for many knew not a word of Hebrew; the language of
    their worship was an unknown tongue to them; consequently the
    sounds, beyond the sweetness of the melody, fell like an unmean-
    ing noise to their ears, and no improvement, no lifting up of the
    heart, could be expected. And where a little Hebrew was acquired
    from some casual travelling (sic) teacher, it served more to deepen the
    shadow of the absence of information, than to remove it, just as
    the taper reveals to us more grimly the desolation and darkness
    of a subterranean prison, the outlines of which are not to be dis-
    cerned by the flickering flame we carry in our hands.

    It was indeed surprising that so many years should elapse
    without due efforts being made to establish schools, and place the

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    worship in the Synagogue on a better footing. But though the
    evil was so apparent, it was allowed to continue unchecked, until
    the eyes of many were painfully opened to the want of love and
    harmony existing among us. People who had not in youth any
    familiar intercourse, who had been exclusively reared among
    gentiles, who had no friends among their own nation, could not
    sympathise (sic) with the other Israelites, who moved in a different
    or inferior station to themselves. The sequel was estrangement
    from religion, and a constantly decreasing observance of the pre-
    cepts of the Bible. I was told by an aged gentleman, now no
    more, that about seventy years ago a Jewish woman, who kept a
    boarding-house in New York, was remiss in some small observance
    which I have forgotten. The trustees of the Synagogue, on learn-
    ing this, at once proclaimed her house forbidden, and enjoined on
    all to abstain from eating with her at her table; and only upon repa-
    ration of the wrong was the interdict removed. You may say that
    this was tyranny, an unwarranted interference in private family
    matters; I cannot agree with you in such an opinion, as it was
    a public affair in which the pious Synagogue elders thought
    themselves authorized by custom and prescriptive right to inter-
    fere. But be this as it may, it shows the high degree of con-
    formity then prevailing in the oldest congregation in the country.
    Now look at the contrast with the present state of affairs! See
    how many violate the Sabbath; how many are married out of
    the pale of Judaism; how many eat forbidden food; how many
    disregard the Passover; how many neglect the precept of cir-
    cumcision, and then say, that we have not changed for the worse.

    I said the evil had become so apparent, and that something
    was necessary to be done, that a friend of Israel, a friend of
    mankind, thirteen years ago undertook, unsolicited and of her
    own accord, to open a place of instruction for one day in the
    week to all who might choose to avail themselves of its advan-
    tages. The school was begun with hardly any books suitable
    for the purpose; and now behold! we have a good though a
    small series every way calculated to serve the end in view, as
    the works embracing it convey a rational account of our religion,
    both its theory and practice, and tend powerfully to make a

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    lasting impression on the youthful mind. I cannot doubt that
    much good has already resulted from it. Friendships have been
    cemented which probably will last during life; children have
    learned to know each other as Jews, and to admire each other's
    character, who under other circumstances would never have come
    in contact; and I have every reason for believing that evil and
    anti-Jewish influences have been eradicated from the minds of
    some who otherwise might have forsaken our communion. I do not
    stand, however, here to flatter or to blame unduly; I have been
    asked by my colleagues to urge the importance of our enterprise.
    Therefore permit that I point out the defects of a mere Sunday
    School, unaided by any other seminary. I will again acknow-
    ledge, before I proceed further, that the example of the benevo-
    lent lady whom we all esteem, and whom I am proud to be per-
    mitted to call my friend, and that of her disinterested assistants,
    has been imitated in various other parts of the country, until the
    just charge of actual ignorance is no longer applicable to all places
    where this has been done. But no one can say, that much has
    been accomplished towards diffusing a knowledge of the language
    of the Scriptures, without which no education of an Israelite can
    be complete. The little that can be acquired in extra hours,
    when the children have not to recite their usual lessons or to
    study them, is not enough, and must necessarily be very ineffi-
    cient. The child is wearied with conning over matters which are
    in themselves of but questionable use, even when thoroughly ac-
    quired; and when you demand of him now to repair to his
    Hebrew teacher, he will find out a thousand reasons for desiring
    to escape from this unwelcome additional task. And I tell you,
    without in the least qualifying my assertion, that without an
    adequate knowledge of the Hebrew, sufficient at least to under-
    derstand (sic) the Scriptures and the ordinary prayers, no Jew can
    allege that he has acquired that knowledge which is all in all to
    him. A Hebrew not to be a Hebrew in language when this is
    within his reach, is an absurd proposition, which requires no
    argument to illustrate. And pray, why should we not teach to
    all our children the holy tongue, that they may be able to speak
    understandingly of God's word when they sit at home, and when

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    they walk together by the way? Few are acquainted with the
    rich treasures of our literature; and now when modern investi-
    gation is throwing so much light on this, no less than other sub-
    jects, it sounds strangely that to English and American Jews the
    whole is perfectly inaccessible.

    Well may I ask you again, Shall this be always so? will you
    always be satisfied with things as they are, when you see the
    evil that has already resulted to our communities from this want
    of education? Our Society, however, has made it its object to
    become, if permitted by you, and if duly encouraged, under the
    blessing of Heaven, to whose safe keeping we commit it, an
    earnest agent to remove the reproach so far as our sphere of
    action can extend. We purpose to combine elementary and
    afterwards scientific education with a gradual and progressive
    acquirement of Hebrew, Hebrew literature, and religion. It is
    not to be as in other schools, a secondary matter whether the
    children learn Hebrew and religion or not, but they are to acquire
    these if nothing else even can be imparted. Still imagine not
    that we are not fully alive to the importance of classical and
    elegant literature; we know how to appreciate both, and we
    trust that in a year hence our teachers will prove to you that
    Jewish children can advance in all the necessary branches of
    education under the superintendence of instructers (sic) of their own
    people no less than of others. We mean, however, to let the
    objects and concerns of eternal life not be merely the work of
    spare time and a leisure day, but to see that daily, and in the
    usual school hours, the language and religion of our fathers are
    properly and full illustrated. Permit me to call your attention
    to one fact: the members of the committee of school directors,
    with a single exception, have no offspring of their own old enough
    to be participants in the benefit which the school is to confer, it
    is merely a sense of duty which impels them to be active in the
    cause, and to incur, if need be, a considerable amount of labour
    to carry out their views. But as this is the case, the greater
    necessity rests upon those who have children, and who wish to
    rear them in a religious and hopeful manner, to send them to us,
    that we may fulfil (sic) in them the obligation which in obedience to
    our religion we have assumed.

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    But, I hear some one say, What guarantee can you give us
    that, when we remove our children from other schools, they will
    be properly taught the branches of a good general education?
    And it is, I apprehend, precisely this fear which has hitherto
    withholden (sic) many of you from entering your children as scholars
    on our books. But let me tell you that this is not wise, though
    it may be prudent. Our efforts must fail, if we meet with no
    encouragement; this I am willing to acknowledge; but on the
    other hand I maintain that we shall do more than redeem our
    promise, if the children are entrusted to our care. What is to
    prevent us giving as good an education as is furnished in public
    or private schools? do you believe that we cannot teach reading,
    writing, arithmetic, history, geography and the higher branches,
    if these be required? The very idea is absurd; whatever the
    scholars show an aptness for can be taught as well, to say the
    least, under Jewish supervision as any other. Only try us, if it
    be only for one year; and if at its expiration you are dissatisfied
    with the progress of your children, taking as the standard of
    comparison what they have acquired before elsewhere, we shall
    be willing to acknowledge that we have failed.

    You must, however, reflect again, that we not merely charge
    ourselves with simple education; we wish to return your children
    to you at the end of each season improved in manners and morals.
    We wish to subject their minds to a wholesome restraint, where
    love shall govern and not force, where intellect is to lead, not
    vain ambition. Look at the effects of the Sunday School, how
    they have ennobled natures some thought incapable of improve-
    ment, and then say that the effect will not be much greater if
    the discipline be carried out through the whole period children
    are at school. It will most assuredly take some time to get
    everything in is proper train; perhaps several weeks must elapse
    before we can fairly assert that we have made a proper begin-
    ning; the thing is yet new, and circumstances, the surest indica-
    tions of Providence, must show us how we are to proceed; only
    have a little patience; the same you would demand if you all
    were in our place, and we promise that we will faithfully strive
    to do our whole duty. It is possible also, that we may commit

    2

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    some mistakes at the very outset and during the subsequent ex-
    istence of our enterprise; but shall this deprive us of your con-
    fidence? we trust not; we are all working in one cause; parents
    teachers, managers, children, have all one object, that is, the
    diffusion of a knowledge of our religion; and hence we trust that
    any error which may be discovered shall be pointed out to us with
    candour and mildness, and we will endeavour to amend, so far
    as this may be practicable with the means and materials at our
    disposal. Only let me beg you, not to doubt hastily of a good
    result; it has been well said that “our doubts are traitors;” and
    it is certain that no great enterprise ever succeeded where the
    actors themselves doubted of their final success. To insure a
    happy issue we must have but one thing in view, namely, the end
    we are aiming at; we must not regard great or small obstacles
    as things worth minding, but move straight onward, and let each
    step taken in advance be the forerunner and guarantee of the
    next succeeding one. Believe me, that the greatest results are
    obtained by slow and contiguous minor advances; and they suc-
    ceed the best who persevere the longest without despairing of
    their chances of carrying out what they at first dimly conceived
    to be within the range of their possibility. As little as wealth or
    renown is suddenly acquired, except in rare instances, can any
    enterprise, whatever it be, expect to prove itself at once among
    the events which are established in the full tide of success.
    Therefore I tell you, demand not of us that we shall accomplish
    impossibilities all at once; that we are to gather in this institu-
    tion children of various stages of intellect and progress in do-
    mestic education, and mould (sic) them without delay into scholars of
    a uniform conduct and progress. Without a miracle, this will be
    impossible, and we are not vain nor foolish enough to claim the
    ability to accomplish the impracticable. But let me beg of you
    all, not to undervalue our and your capacity for succeeding with
    this school because we are Jews. The remark is often made, that
    we Israelites cannot do things like other people, and that we are
    altogether too self-willed to succeed where others find no bar to
    carry out their views. For my part I will never believe that we
    are inferior to the best of mankind in whatever we devote our

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    attention to. Look at the great progress we have made in com-
    merce and the mechanic arts wherever we had a fair field of
    action: and I see no reason why the same result is not equally
    certain in every pursuit to which we may seriously devote our
    energies. It is and has been our misfortune for many centuries,
    that small trading, and at best large commerce, has been our
    main pursuit; still, with all the disadvantages of our position, we
    have maintained a high character as an educated and intellectual
    people, though at times our education systems have been highly
    defective. But I ask you, What is to prevent us in this free
    country, where all legal disqualifications are unknown, from ad-
    vancing with the same or greater rapidity in intellectual pursuits
    with our fellow-citizens of other persuasions? What a humi-
    liating confession would it be were we to acknowledge that we
    did not establish religious schools, because we lacked the capacity
    and energy to undertake them, though we had ample means
    and a fair opportunity to do so. Away with such croaking; let
    us not hear the ominous sounds “We cannot;” we can, we must,
    we will! say this all of you, induce others to say the same, and
    then you will soon see whether Jews can succeed in disseminating
    education and religious knowledge as successfully as the best and
    most enlightened denomination, whatever this may be.

    I use plain language, I deal in no flowers of oratory, and I
    trust, therefore, that I shall be best understood. It is not so
    much to the feelings I wish to appeal as to your good judgment,
    and hence I hope that you will not get impatient when my ad-
    dress detains you longer than you expected. The subject is one
    of the highest importance, and concerns you all, my hearers,
    whether you are rich or poor. Could I have the opportunity of
    seeing you here frequently, I might indeed cut my remarks short
    to resume them at another time; but as this may perhaps never
    be in my power, I must crave your indulgence to some few other
    considerations in connexion with the subject.—To Israelites their
    religion is no luxury, excuse me for using so strange an expres-
    sion, but a matter of primary importance. An Episcopalian
    need not be a high or low churchman in order to believe in his
    system; for he has a wide range in which to move; and he can

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    be a Nazarene, and for all we know fully as good as in his sect,
    though he turn Baptist or Quaker. But a Jew is no Jew if he
    has not a firm hold on his peculiar opinions and distinguishing
    practice. A theoretical Jew can exist; we have, unfortunately,
    many such; but they are not the Israelites of the Scriptures,
    because the material element of this character, religious confor-
    mity, is absent. We know, moreover, no exemption from duty;
    we have no standard of indulgences or restrictions; no noble
    classes who may transgress, no lower orders who may yield them-
    selves to degrading vices in order to gratify the sensualities of
    the lordlings, who look upon them with contempt even whilst they
    minister to their pleasures. The Jew is a Jew, whether he is the
    pedlar that bends double under the burden which his laborious
    shoulders carry, or the baron of the Austrian Empire who idles
    away his hours on the luxurious sofa. The hopes of the last are
    not a whit higher and nobler than those of the first, and this one
    has the same claims to immortality and a glorious hereafter, as
    the most favoured child of luxury. Fortune's gifts may be, by
    the will of Providence, very unequally distributed; but let not
    their possessors deem themselves better men or more God-
    favoured on this account. They have a tangible advantage in
    their exemption from toil; they may lie down at night without
    torturing their brain how to provide for their little ones by the
    dawn of to-morrow. Is not this enough for them? must they also
    wish to perpetuate for their families a rank which the now humble
    and their offspring are never to attain? Weak! silly! wicked
    idea! God has elevated you, I tell you, not you have acquired
    your position by your unaided skill and labour; and He can un-
    make you, bring you down again to the dung-hill whence you
    sprung, or your children, should you even be carried on a splen-
    did bier to the grave, may have to claim the assistance of those
    whom you despise as too inferior to associate with you and yours.
    The world, and especially this country, presents so many instances
    of changes of fortune, that it would be superfluous for me to hunt
    for examples of which you, my hearers, know many in your own
    experience. Let us hope, therefore, that no silly pride will pre-
    vent parents of all standings in society from availing themselves

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    of the advantages which we hope to offer to you. “Ho! let all
    you who are thirsty,” says the prophet, “come to the waters,
    and he too who hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea,
    come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price.”
    The word of God is free to all, it is the water, the bread, the
    wine and milk of life; it refreshes, it satisfies, it rejoices, it
    nourishes. It is given to all, offered to all; and we summon all
    within our reach, as did the ancient prophet, to partake of the
    repast which we hope to spread for you in the name and by the
    aid of God. We demand of those able to pay a small fee towards
    defraying the expenses which we have to incur, and we trust that
    this will be cheerfully given; but they who are not blessed with a
    superabundance of means are invited, nevertheless, to entrust to
    us their children, and we promise them that they shall not suffer
    the least reproof for the inability of their parents. All we ask
    of them is to send their children tidily dressed, and cleanly in
    their persons, so that no stain will attach to them for their humble
    state. And let me here remark at once, that nothing so promotes
    good conduct and proficiency in study as scrupulous cleanliness;
    in a dirty body a dirty soul too often dwells, and the exterior is
    mostly a fair index of the inward man. Cleanliness, say our
    wise men, is the first step to the acquisition of holiness, and it is
    a necessary element of Jewish life, as our holy law amply proves.
    It is not to be questioned, that if the children of the poor come
    hither so that all can freely associate with them, it will be an
    incentive for the rich to apply to us also to take theirs under
    our charge; and only the non-observance of this rule can operate
    as an excuse to withhold any one from taking advantage of the
    institution we now commence.

    Let no one thing that any injury can result to better trained
    children, by associating with those not so fortunate as them-
    selves; in after-life they will have to meet with persons of all
    classes, and it is no detriment that they become early acquainted
    with the fact that all are not prosperous alike. It will produce
    in them kindliness of feeling, at finding that the same virtues
    can dwell in a heart covered by a frieze coat, as that which
    beats under a velvet mantle, and that the sorrows of the poor

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    are the same as those of the rich. This is levelling (sic) upward;
    you elevate the character of the humble, by bringing them in
    contact with those of better manners and greater refinement;
    and with children of good religious character, you need not fear
    that they will corrupt yours, whilst they acquire from them
    politeness and good breeding. This is well understood in the
    country where I was born. Universal education has long since
    been established there; and at the same colleges where the sons
    of the nobles acquire their collegiate education, the children of
    the day-labourers are freely admitted. The former have to pay
    the annual stipend which the rules require, whilst the others
    enjoy precisely the same advantages and privileges without any
    charge whatever; and it is not rare that the poorest excel the
    others in every requisite of intellect, industry, and aptness for
    study. But what need is there to go over the ocean to seek for
    examples of the kind? Look at your own great statesmen, your
    Clay, your Webster, your Fillmore, and thousands of others, and
    they were the children of poverty, of the unknown. And who
    dares not to remind them of their origin? They have their
    title of nobility from nature's God, and show me the worldling
    who would dispute this claim, valid as it is above all others.

    But much as I have yet to say, I find that it is time to close.
    It has been my endeavour to exhibit to you, in as condensed a
    manner as possible, the necessity of our school, its practicability,
    and the happy effects it may produce, if it is rightly encouraged.
    Its friends and projectors have laboured long to bring it so far
    as to make a commencement; doubts and difficulties have sur-
    rounded every step in advance we have taken, and much labour
    and kindness will be required to keep it in operation. It is our
    intention, should the demand make it necessary, and our funds
    suffice, to open district schools at convenient distances, so as to
    afford all children an opportunity to avail themselves of our
    Hebrew education. For the present we have selected this place
    as the most central, and we hope that no captious fault-finding
    will prevent all our space to be soon claimed by attentive
    scholars. The committee of school directors pledge themselves
    to do all in their power to afford the utmost satisfaction, and to
    act in all cases with strict impartiality.

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    In conclusion, permit me, like Joshua of old, to call your
    attention to this stone, as it were in the great building of right-
    eousness, on which all Israel should labour, which we have just
    set up. It is a testimony against you, O Israelites of Phila-
    delphia
    , whether or not you are true to the Lord your God.
    Cherish it, cause it to expand, labour that it may become a chief
    corner stone in an extended system of education, whence future
    teachers and ministers of Israel may go forth, to propagate the
    word of God: and you will have performed your duty, a duty
    which is incumbent on you and all our brothers wherever they
    are. Neglect it, and you will have perhaps to deplore apostacy (sic)
    in your own family, and a public desecration of the name of
    God by some of your offspring, whom you would sooner follow
    to the grave, than see them thus dishonour you and your faith.
    It is for your own sakes that we call on you to aid us in our
    effort; you will rejoice when you see those dear to you intelligent
    servants of god, and familiar with his word, being thus faithful
    from knowledge and not mere conformity by descent. You
    never, we trust, will regret the exertions and outlay you have
    made in this cause; and they who have laboured to bring the
    Education Society into existence, under the blessing of Provi-
    dence, will deem themselves amply compensated, when they see
    that their striving has in part brought “peace in Israel.”

    Nissan 4th, April 6th, 5611.