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בס"ד

The New York Hebrew Benevolent Society, Twenty-Third Anniversary Dinner.

 

This valuable Association held their annual feast on Wednesday, the 16th of October, at the Apollo Saloon; about one hundred and fifty gentlemen, members and guests, were present upon the occasion. M. M. Noah, Esq., presided, aided by several Vice Chairmen; the dinner was prepared according to the Jewish system. After grace had been said by the Rev. S. M. Isaacs, the usual toasts were given from the chair. After that relating to the object of the meeting had been given, the worthy Chairman reported the extent of the Society’s operations during the past year, and in his usual able manner, reviewed the state of the Jews at the present era, concluding with a sentiment, “The spirit of Charity.” The Rev. S. M. Isaacs then spoke in substance, as follows:

“Mr. President and gentlemen, The sentiment which has just emanated from the Chair, and which has been so cordially received by the company present, is so nearly allied to my profession and inclination, that without any apologetic preface, I take leave to respond to its spirit. Charity is spoken of in all our writings, those inspired and uninspired, as the adorning quality of the human breast, as the golden thread in the mingled yarn of life in which all the other virtues are strung; by its felicitous influences our vital graces are improved, invigorated, and turned to our lasting advantage. Well may it be said, צדקה תרומם גוי ‘Charity elevateth a nation,’ for it restrains the desires, refines the grosser Passions, purifies the affections, spiritualizes the emotions, beatifies the soul; and thus, as our great Prophet spake, האל הקדוש נקדש בצדקה ‘the Lord that is holy is sanctified in Charity.’ We require no better evidence to adduce its utility, than the fact, that any nation which does not make benevolence the basis of its system, its national prosperity must crumble into fragments; any individual who does not make charity the polar star of his desires, encrusted within his own shell of selfishness, will leave this terrene existence unwatched, unwept and uncared for. In fine, as well may a bird stripped of its plumage fly to distant regions; as well may a ship without rudder or sail, encounter the dangers of the sea; as well may a man void of sight distinguish the varying colours of the rainbow: as a being callous to the cry of humanity, aim to reach the haven of repose. Review the vice and ignorance, the wretchedness and misery of past ages, when poor philosophy buffeted on a raging main without mast and rudder, conceitedly exploring an unknown ocean; what prevented her votaries from reaching the pacific expanse, the homestead of happiness? they failed to engage the Goddess Charity to steer their vessel. What renders the present age so replete with pleasing reflections and holy associations? because Charity is the main spring of our lives, by its holy influence we give knowledge to the soul, rest to the mind, comfort in distress, hope for the future, a stay and refuge in the worst troubles; and in this particular we are truly religious, for benevolence is the way especially ordained by Providence to magnify the mental and moral faculties, to invigorate all their dormant bowers, to excite all their latent energies, to sanctify the heart’s graces, to fan the sparks of generosity into a flame which, gilding every scene of life, shall cause the soul even on earth to corruscate in that resplendent light, which undimmed and unquenched shall shine brighter and brighter still to the perfect day. But what futility is argument to prove the utility of Charity, when it is so obvious to every one gifted to feel for another? Yes, sympathy is an especial gift from Heaven; the richest of all blessings is the gift of susceptibility of heart. With the same latitude an unfeeling heart is a heavy curse; to be wholly estranged from the nobler feeling of our nature, to behold the dark cloud of grief without an endeavour to render one spot brighter; to be cold, impervious and dead to the exquisite feeling and tender sensibilities dignifying our mortal condition—truly comfortless and drear is such a heart of stone. Yet with innate gratification we can safely say, this we rarely found in Israel; such a degradation never has, and never will be imputed to our community. We do not claim exemption from the failings of human nature; but schooled in adversity we have been taught the blessings of benevolence; by the wretched fire of affliction we have been instructed to dissolve the icy coating of selfishness; we have endured want—hence, we feel for those who are pining for bread; we have been sick—hence we seek out the hut where suffering humanity lies unwatched and unaided; we have been oppressed in despotic lands—hence we cling with attachment to freedom’s soil; our eyes have been bedimmed with tears on the inhospitable shores of the East—