|Vol. III, No. 2
Iyar 5605, May 1845
Hebrew Society for the Instruction of Jewish Youth, in Charleston.
Animated by a desire to promote, as far as possible, the prosperity of an invaluable institution, I am induced to request the insertion of this hasty sketch of the anniversary of the Hebrew Society for the Instruction of Jewish Youth.
The sixth anniversary of this society was celebrated in the Tabernacle, Hasell Street, on Sunday the 7th April, by the members of the congregation “Beth Elohim,” and presented to the admiring throng that gathered for the occasion, a spectacle cheering and animated. This society was formed in our city in 1839, by the ladies of the congregation, under the most favourable auspices; it was modelled after the school of Philadelphia, the directress of that institution kindly facilitating its progress. The members constituted quite a numerous body of accomplished and intellectual females; its pupils varied in number for four consecutive years from fifty to seventy-five. Unfortunately, the storm which burst over the heads of our local family of Israel, and threatened in its relentless fury to immolate the highly esteemed changes effected in our worship, did not leave this noble institution entirely unscathed; its numerical strength was diminished, and the sphere of usefulness contracted by resignations. It is not our purpose to pursue this theme, or trace out the causes which led to this untoward event, but feel infinitely more pleasure in recording its effects, which were soon evidenced by the establishment of another school under a separate organization, which, while it enlarged the facilities of instruction, furnished proof of the high appreciation in which these primitive founts of truth are held, and the devoted spirits which cherish them. The school (of which we write), at present numbers about fifty pupils, whose youthful countenances, beaming with delight and intelligence, attended the annual examination before their parents and guardians, whose anxiety well attested the deep interest felt.
They were divided into five classes, and seated upon benches elevated for the occasion, and placed under the immediate control of the ladies who had officiated as teachers for the last year and jointly under the superintendence of the directress, Miss Simpson. The proceedings were opened in prayer by the Rev. G. Poznanski, whose diction, chaste and appropriate, was graced with his usual eloquence and fervour. The exercises of the day were commenced, and the classes were examined by their teachers in the studies of the year. Among the many volumes were found, Cahen’s, Nathan’s, and Leeser’s Catechisms, Pike’s Scriptural Questions, Instruction in Mosaic Religion, and Peixotto’s Introduction to Scripture, works held in high esteem by the instructors of youth. The classes, having gone through their various lessons, a novel and interesting feature was then introduced, by the recitation of miscellaneous pieces, selected and written for the occasion, varied by soliloquy and dialogue. This really important addition proved a source of variable instruction; for it familiarizes the mind with the heroic deeds of the past, while it cultivates the taste and improves proves the heart. The distribution of prizes formed not the least interesting interesting portion of the day, and the encomiums passed upon the most deserving of the scholars seemed really the word of promise. A hymn indicative of the value of “religion in early life” was sung by the youthful choristers with much taste, and closed the exercises of the day.
Connected with this institution is a society for the relief of the distressed, and the combination renders it one of the most active and benevolent of its kind. The kindred objects to which it is devoted, of ministering to the physical and moral wants, secure for it a place in the hearts of all; the recipients of its bounty regard it for the fostering palm which it extends over objects, of worth, and Israel view in its prosperity the germ of another era in their religious education.
To the ladies of this school a deep sense of gratitude is felt for their untiring industry and devotion, to the spiritual interests of our young members. The proficiency exhibited on this occasion by their scholars, is the purest evidence they could give of their earnest efforts; every Israelite present felt the glow of enthusiasm kindled in his heart, and made a firm resolve to cherish by his support and confidence this regenerator of the age; for moral and sublime truths forcibly impressed upon the youthful mind; seldom fail in suppressing the dangerous impulses which corrupt the heart, and pervert the divine gift of reason from the lofty purposes designed by the Creator; our only safeguards lie in a judicious system of religious education, and upon this we may safely invoke the smiles of a merciful Providence; and, abiding in his protection, our youth will find a shield of adamant against the seductive notes of pleasure, and vice stripped of all allurements, will no longer enthral its victim, but, subdued and prostrate, reveal its hideous proportions.
The school will be continued under the direction of Miss Peninna Moïse, whose genius and talent, so well known, are the happiest augury which could he afforded us of its further success. We can only say to the fair daughters of Israel, “May God speed them in their labours,” hallowed as they are by the most important consequences which can result from human undertaking.
M. M. S.