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בס"ד

English News

London, February 3, 1847.

It is rumoured that besides the Baron Lionel De Rothschild, mentioned to you in my last communication, there are likely to be two other Jewish candidates at the next general election for members of parliament, namely, Francis Goldsmid, Esq. (eldest son of Sir I. L. Goldsmid, Bart.), for Brighton, and David Solomons, Esq., for Maidstone. If any of these gentlemen shall succeed in being chosen by a majority there is little doubt but that such a circumstance will tend very considerably to advance our claims for complete Jewish emancipation, which being favoured also by the liberal ministry now in power, will thus stand a fair chance of being acceded to when that measure is next introduced into parliament.

Our Chief Rabbi has at length taken a prominent and decisive step in the exercise of his Rabbinical functions, having compiled a book of Laws and Regulations for all the Synagogues throughout the British empire. This book is sent officially to the presidents of all the congregations, accompanied by a circular, signed by the Chief Rabbi, in which he directs that such regulations shall be distributed among all the contributing members, and put into force within three months from the time of such distribution. As this matter excites a great deal of interest here, I shall describe the nature of the pamphlet as well as some of the most important and striking portions of its contents. It opens with a short, pious and appropriate treatise on the nature and object of Divine Worship, which concludes with the following sentence: “In order that these pious objects may be attained throughout all the Synagogues of the British empire, the following regulations, which are in strict conformity with the Law, are laid down for general guidance; and it is confidently hoped that all congregations, as well as all the individuals who attend the Synagogues, will adhere to these laws, remove all differences, and conduct themselves so that every one shall feel impelled to exclaim, ‘How awful is this place; this is truly a house of God.’”

The Laws and Regulations are then divided into five sections, thus: Sect. 1, Superintendence; Sect. 2, Rules affecting the Outward Decorum at Synagogue; Sect. 3, The Prayers; Sect. 4, Religious Acts in Connexion with the Reading of the Law; Sect. 5, Casual Solemnities: to this last is attached an English form of prayer, which, or something after the model of which, is to be recited previous to the performance of the marriage ceremony. In the first section there appears nothing new, nor any change from former understanding with respect to the government of the Synagogue—the system is only so clearly and minutely defined as to prevent confusion and to insure good rule. The only striking modification in the second section is in reference to the opening of the ark during the services on יום כפור and ראש השנה, which is in future to continue open from חזרת התפלה till קדיש in the שחרית service of ראש השנה, and from חזרת התפלה till דוכן, or on שבת till קדיש in the מוסף service of the same holiday. The Regulations with regard to יום כפור are similar. In this section are also contained regulations for the commencement of the Synagogue service throughout the year, the times of the coming in of Sabbaths and holidays, and the period of time allotted, for the performance of each service, &c. In Section 3, the employment of a choir for public worship is recognised; and very clear directions are given concerning those portions of the prayers which are to be repeated by them, by the congregation, and by the חזן respectively; and these instructions are accompanied by the following very appropriate observations: “The reader shall at all times recite the prayers with becoming dignity and solemnity; he shall avoid all profane melodies; reduce the customary modes of chanting to simplicity, and so arrange them as to produce harmony whenever the congregation has to join him.” In the fourth section the sale of מצות is prohibited, and the Misheberach limited to a single one, except in special cases. In Section 5, a very proper clause is inserted in reference to the performance of circumcision. Permission to be granted in future to such persons only as are of unblemished character, and have had their skill in operating testified by competent authority. And they must, moreover, be possessed of a written certificate from the Board of Ecclesiastical Administration as to their knowledge of the ritual part of the act. Notwithstanding that there are modifications apparent in these new regulations, they are thought, even by many orthodox individuals, to be exceedingly limited in their number; for some of them were prepared to find that the מחזור would have been very considerably curtailed, and also that several of the repetitions at present continued in public worship would have been suppressed. But simple and harmless as the alterations already made undoubtedly are, it would seem that among some others of the orthodox class, they are regarded with jealousy and discontent; for I know of nothing else that can at all account for the evident lukewarmness that manifests itself among the leading orthodox members of our community in respect to their support of the Chief Rabbi’s authority. Surely his high character, his piety, and his integrity of purpose, which qualities he has given  evidence of in the exercise of all his public duties throughout the whole time he has been amongst us, ought to secure to him the respect as well as the support of all faithful Israelites; and let his acts be what they may, providing they remain constitutional, it is our duty, as it should be our will also, to bow to his authority, duly constituted as he has been our spiritual head. I do not wish to imply that there has been any open opposition to his control; but there is a conspicuous holding back among those persons who, it would be expected from their influence and station, should rally round him on occasions like this, in order to assist him in giving force and efficacy to the carrying out of these regulations.

A few days ago the Chief Rabbi summoned a public meeting at his  own residence of all the honorary officers of the metropolitan congregations, for the purpose of raising a public subscription in order to alleviate the almost unexampled state of distress at present existing among our Jewish poor, on account of the high price of food and the inclemency of the season. This benevolent appeal was immediately responded to, and upwards of £1000 were collected in a very short time; a portion of which through the prompt and active exertions of the committee has already been distributed.

The Beth Holim Centenary Ball and the Sussex Hall Soiree have both been celebrated since I last wrote you; they passed off extremely well: the former realized £500 and the latter £200 for their funds.

O.