|Vol. III, No. 8
Heshvan 5606, November 1845
Philadelphia. The congregation Mikve Israel have, during the past summer, put their Synagogue in complete repair, extended the gallery, so as to increase considerably the number of seats, and added likewise four new benches down stairs, besides adding two new windows and increasing those in the gallery by additional ranges of glass. In addition, the interior and front have been painted throughout in a neat style, and the former with lighter colours than heretofore, so that the whole has a bright and cheerful appearance. The ladies on their part have furnished new covers for the Tebah, and mantles for the Sepharim. The expense, we believe, cannot be less than from sixteen to seventeen hundred dollars, which has been furnished from the treasury of the congregation, without any extra exertion, except the donation of the ladies just mentioned.—In consequence of these repairs, the Synagogue was closed from the second week after Passover till the Eve of Rosh Hashana, service being held during the mean time in the session room of the congregation, which, as was remarked, was literally crowded during nearly the whole summer to its utmost capacity. Since the above evening, however, the congregation have assembled in their Synagogue, and it affords us much gratification to state that the assembly has evidently been more numerous than in several preceding years. We could add some farther particulars, but we forbear; and we trust that the progress of the congregation will be best chronicled in the exhibition of a greater state of religiousness, and in a strict adherence to our laws.
At an election held at the last semi-annual meeting the following gentlemen were elected officers of the congregation for the current year:
A. Hart, Parnass; J. A. Phillips, J. L. Moss, Mayer Arnold, and A. S. Wolf, Adjuntas; Hyman Gratz, Gabay, and Solomon Solis, Secretary.
New Orleans.—As it was found almost impracticable to unite all the Israelites at New Orleans in one congregation, a number of gentlemen lately resolved to establish one with the Portuguese ritual. They accordingly organized on the 21st of August last, under the name of K. K. Nefutzote Yehudah (the Scattered of Judah), and elected the following gentlemen to serve in their respective offices till the second Sunday in the month of December, 5606, on which day of the year the regular annual election is regularly to take place: G. Kursheedt, President; H. Florance, Vice President; J. L. Moss, Trustee senior; J. C. Peixotto, Trustee junior; J. Rodriguez, Treasurer; and D. C. Labat, Secretary. The signers to the printed constitution, sent us, amount in number to thirty-four, which has been increased without doubt long ere this. The congregation have already purchased an eligible piece of land for a burial-place. We have no other information of interest to communicate, farther than that the laws adopted for the government of the association appear to us to be well fitted for their object; as they embody but few restrictions, and open the door of admission to all Israelites by application to the board, a majority of whom can admit the applicant. Persons, however, who have married against the Jewish laws are excluded. The form of prayers is unalterably fixed according to the custom of the Portuguese Jews, and it is the only article in the constitution which the signers have pledged themselves not to alter or abolish at any future revision of the laws. 1f any religious questions should arise, they are to be decided, upon application of the officers, by the highest authorities amongst us in the United States, whose decision shall be final.
We also believe that the German congregation in New Orleans progresses prosperously; and we learn that they lately have purchased a lot of ground in the first municipality on which to erect a Synagogue. We would be glad to receive from some of our friends there a statement of their progress.
Cleveland, Ohio. We learn, from the public prints, that the Congregation Anshi Chesed, of Cleveland, laid the foundation of a Synagogue on the 6th of October, no doubt to replace the building which was last year destroyed by fire. We trust that those who have the means will aid this distant congregation in their pious efforts to re-establish their house of prayer.
Augusta, Ga. The Sunday School in this town lately held an examination of the scholars, who are represented to have acquitted themselves creditably.
Richmond, Virginia. The Common Hall (Council), of this city, lately enacted a law, punishing all violations of Sunday with a fine ranging from five dollars to ten, whereas, the state law, imposes only one of ten shillings currency, or $1.67. In consequence of, this new ordinance, several Israelites have been fined for the infringement of a law which they deem a violation of their natural rights as citizens, who are guaranteed by the constitution against the enactment of any law favouring any religious denomination, and they contend that keeping Sunday is a Christian custom, and hence to enforce it by special enactment is virtually to enforce Christianity by authority of the state. Hence several articles have found their way in the public papers, some of them by Christians, condemning the ordinance in question. As it is based upon a state law, however obsolete it may have been, we question very much whether it will be repealed, especially since Sunday keeping, or honouring the Sabbath as it is called, has of late years come to be looked upon as more meritorious than formerly. We shall watch the progress of the matter with a good deal of interest, more for the abstract right, than for any gain the Israelites of Richmond may obtain by its repeal, as we sincerely believe that if this were all they should and would probably yield obedience at once; but the subject assumes a different aspect, when the effort is made evidently from no other motive than to favour a particular religion, at the expense of those of the community who differ from the majority. We shall probably speak of the whole matter more at length hereafter; we therefore dismiss it for the present with this general notice.
London. We were informed a few days ago, through a private source, that the Rev. David Piza, late of Montreal, has been elected assistant Hazan of the Portuguese Synagogue, Bevis Marks, London.
Norway. The European Times states that the committee of the Storthing, to whom the subject of the admission of Israelites into Norway had been referred, reported favourably upon this measure, thus acknowledging the injustice which has been so long done to us; as even occasional travellers were subject to incarceration, which was carried out so late as last year, for violating the territory of the northern kingdom by their presence. It was understood when the subject was last up before the Storthing, (Parliament,) that the admission of Israelites to the territory of Norway, should also be accompanied by their being rendered equal in the eyes of the law, and it was supposed at that time, that several members voted against the bill, because it only allowed Jews to come into Norway, whilst it did not remove civil disabilities. We hope to be able before long to report favourably to our readers.
France. The August number of the Archives Israelites, just received, contains the resignation of the Hon. A. Crémieux, of his office as delegate to the Central Consistory of France, from the Consistory of Marseilles, in a letter to Mr. Altares, president of the latter body. He assigns no reason for this step, and the editor expresses much regret, that in future the meetings of the Jewish delegates will miss the advice and countenance of this noble representative of our interest, who, with Sir Moses Montefiore, hastened forward to effect the liberation of our oppressed brethren during the cruel persecution at Damascus. We hope, however, that Mr. C. will still lend his aid, whenever practicable, to forward whatever wholesome measure may stand in need of his influence; and we scarcely permit ourself to doubt that such will be his course.
The Jews of Corfu. There are about 2,000 Jews in Corfu. They inhabit a separate quarter of the city, but which is not separated from the rest of the town by a wall, as is the case at Rome, at Ancona, and other towns in Italy. The Jews of Corfu, are, generally speaking, slovenly, both in their houses and in their dress, and their ignorance is so great, that numbers among them do not even know the principal events in the history of their nation. Those of a higher class are merchants, and trade chiefly in cloth and linen; the middle class consists of artisans, and for the greater part of tailors. The lower classes are the most numerous; they are dealers in old clothes, porters, and sailors. They are generally speaking, laborious, and have, in the midst of a very poor population, attained to comfortable circumstances, and even riches. The Greeks hate them, and seize every opportunity for injuring and illtreating them; so that their situation would be very pitiable, if the English did not take them under their protection. Twenty years ago no Jew dared show himself in the streets during the holy week; but things have changed since that time.
The name of their Chief Rabbi is Ribas; he is a native of Gibraltar, and prides himself on being an Englishman. He belongs to the old school, which observes the law most, strictly. He would forbid the carrying umbrellas on the Sabbath, on the ground of the fourth commandment being violated thereby. But however rigorously the Jews of Corfu keep the Sabbath in other respects, they are not prepared to go to such a length in its observance.—L’ Univers Israelite.
The Jews in India. We find in the Report for July last, of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the following information respecting the Jews in India:—
Portions of the Holy Scriptures, it appears, in the Mahratta language, have been for some time in circulation in that part of (Western) India; and the Rev. George Pigott, Secretary to the Bombay Translation Committee, mentions in particular a translation of the Psalms, by Rev. P. Farrer, as being in daily use among the Jews at Bombay, whom Mr. Pigott describes as a very interesting portion of the native community. From another quarter, also, further information has been obtained by the Committee respecting this people. They are said to have been established in that part of India from time immemorial, and to have been found, when they first attracted the notice of European settlers, to have had no communication, which they could record, with any of their race dispersed in other quarters of the globe. It is stated that they possessed none of the prophetic books of the Old Testament, and were ignorant of the history of their people subsequent to the first captivity; that they did not keep the Feast of Purim, and had never heard of the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. It has been observed, also, that none of them bear any of the names peculiar to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and so common among the Jews after their return from Babylon. They call themselves “Beni Israel,” and are known under that appellation among their Mahratta neighbours; they dislike being called “Yahoodi” (Jews), the common name of the Hebrew race in the East, and they disclaim all connexion, except that of community of faith, both with the black Jews of Malabar, and their fair brethren of Arabia and Persia. They are described as retaining the marked features of their race, and as being distinguished from the Hindoo and Mahommedan natives by superior intelligence, and an integrity of character, recommending them, not unfrequently, to offices of trust and responsibility, particularly in the army, where they are generally marked as among the best soldiers in their respective regiments, and often rise to be native officers. The Committee are informed, that these Jews have almost entirely lost the knowledge of their original language, for, although they repeat their prayers in Hebrew, very few of them can understand the words they use. But Mr. Pigott observes, that “there has been a marked improvement among them since they became acquainted with parts of their own Scriptures, through the Mahratta translations.”—Jewish Intelligence.
On Wednesday the 15th of October, at the residence of Mr. S. Solis, Mr. Solomon N. Carvalho, of Bridgetown, Barbadoes, and son of Mr. D. N. Carvalho, of Philadelphia, to Miss Sarah M. Solis, of this city, daughter of the late Jacob S. Solis.
We call the attention of our readers to the advertisement on the second page of our cover, for the publication of a new religious magazine, by the Rev. David M. Isaacs and Mr. Moses Samuel, of Liverpool. The former of these gentlemen is well and favourably known by his lectures, he having filled the office of preacher in Liverpool, Manchester, and Dublin, and latterly in the former city alone. No doubt the readers of the Occident will remember the account we gave of the testimonial of respect bestowed upon him by the young men of his congregation, and consequently, so far as he is concerned, we have every reason to expect an efficient labourer in the fertile field of Jewish literature. But not less than himself is his colleague, who has contributed already to our literature, by his life of Mendelssohn, and the translation of that learned philosopher’s Jerusalem. It will be perceived that the Rev. Mr. Isaacs, of New York, brother of one of the editors, is the sole agent for the work; and his appointment is a sure guarantee that the subscribers will be promptly served.
We have not been positively informed whether the work has yet been commenced; but we have heard that there is, at least, every prospect of its speedy issue. The prospectus presents a wide range; for instance, sermons, original essays, reviews, commercial information; but the chief object of the editors seems to be the extension of strictly orthodox principles among Israelites; and in this wish we trust that they may be amply successful, whilst we hope that they may so convey their instruction as to find general access to all minds. No doubt the editors are fully aware of the difficulty of the task which they have undertaken; and they will therefore use such exertions as will insure in the best manner the success so absolutely requisite to make a religious journal a vehicle of useful information.
We refer our readers to the Rev. S. M. Isaacs, No. 94 Elm Street, New York, whilst we offer our services to convey names of subscribers and remittances to their proper destination.