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בס"ד

Hebrew Benevolent Society of Cincinnati.

 

The annual dinner of the Hebrew Benevolent Society took place at the Assembly Rooms on the 7th December, being the fifth day of Hanuckah. At the usual hour, about ninety persons sat down to an excellent repast, Mr. Ferdinand Milius President in the chair, supported by Mr. Adolphus Louis, Vice President. Among the invited guests were several persons as well known for their charitable dispositions and acts, as for their liberality of opinion towards the Jewish community. It as neither necessary, nor is it their wish, that names should be heralded forth; suffice it to say, that there none present who did not feel an ambition and a pleasure in participating in the celebration, which passed off to the satisfaction of all.

The regular toasts given on the occasion were as follows, most of which  were responded to in a proper manner by a member of the society or an invited guest.

As soon as the cloth was removed, the President arose and said:

Gentlemen: We are assembled here this evening to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Hebrew Benevolent Society. I am happy and proud to preside over so worthy an assembly, adorned with so many distinguished fellow-citizens.

The object of this festivity is to remember the distressed and needy. Our record is ample proof of the necessity of this institution; for nearly $400 of  its funds have, within the last year, been applied to relieve the poor and unfortunate.

This society consists of natives of various countries of the world, enjoying now the blessings of this great republic; a land where there is no persecution or oppression. Israel is free again, as it was wont to be. It is free under the guarantee of our illustrious fathers, who spilt their blood for the freedom of this blessed country. And I indulge the hope that the exercises of this evening will give evidence of our gratitude and liberality.

Regular Toasts.

l. The day we celebrate. As on the first feast of Dedication the Temple was purified, and again consecrated to the service of the Most High, we this day consecrate our inward temple (the heart) to the holy service of charity.

Responded to by Mr. A. A. Lindo.

The sentiment just announced, Mr. President, might be taken as not in<<603>>aptly intimating that we are assembled for the purpose of, at one and the same time, celebrating the anniversary of the founding of the Gentlemen’s Hebrew Benevolent Society, and commemorating the Dedication of the Temple at Jerusalem, after it had been purified from the pollutions of the heathen; of which event this is likewise the anniversary.

The appropriateness of thus connecting the reminiscence of two events that, apparently, have no relation to each other, will be at once perceived by a brief reference to that portion of Jewish history which gave rise to the commemoration of the Dedication alluded to, being considered a religious obligation on the Jewish people.

Antiochus Epiphanes had ineffectually endeavoured to compel the Jewish nation to renounce their religion and embrace paganism! Among the atrocities perpetrated for effecting his purpose, he caused the Temple to be desecrated, by defiling its altars with offering unclean animals upon them.

The resistance made to those impious and oppresive acts by the Jewish people, at the instigation and under the guidance of the family distinguished by the appellation of the Maccabees, proved eminently successful. The Grecians were worsted, the temple was recovered, and, after undergoing purification, solemnly dedicated again to the worship for which it had been erected.

Now, sir, it may safely be averred, that the cause for which the Jewish people then bled, was the cause of the whole human race; and the manly stand they made, to prevent the substitution of heathenism for their pure worship, deserves the admiration and gratitude of every nation which now enjoys the benefit of the sacrifice those heroic souls made of their lives, and the courage they displayed, to clear the holy land of its pollutors, and re-establish  the worship of the one and only God!

We will expand these observations a little. Neither Jew nor Christian, we presume, need be told that the humanity which characterizes the age, and which alone can be truly deemed civilization, has been produced solely through the spread of those merciful and beneficent principles, laid down by a merciful and beneficent Creator, in his revelation that has come down to the present generation; for their humanizing influence is clearly traceable in legislation and in morals, in social relations and intercourse, in the writings of authors, whether of a grave or light cast; in short, in every thing and in every way by which human thoughts, affections, and actions, could be reached, has this influence been manifested since the substitution of the principles of the Bible for the impurities and corruptions of idolatry, and the vague speculations of gentile philosophy.

To the Jews, then, of the day we are commemorating, is this age indebted for its superior civilization over that which any nation could boast under paganism; for had it not been for their stern opposition and courageous conduct in defence of the truths committed to their charge, those truths might have been lost, and the world, even now, would have been suffering under the withering and degrading effects of idolatry.

The application of all this may now be easily made to the celebration of the <<604>>anniversary of the Gentlemen’s Hebrew Benevolent Society; for this institution affords one of the many thousand proofs, which every day offers, of the benign character of the age!

Here is a goodly assemblage, sir, of respectable individuals, who, though they may differ on some important points; agree in being all actuated with the same benevolent spirit towards their suffering fellow-men. And to what is this to be ascribed? Why, to the powerful operation of those principles recognised by all as being the basis of true civilization; which, smoothing down asperities, rendering men tolerant and charitable, has extracted the poison of angry feelings from differences of opinion, and in its place substituted a generous emulation to outstrip each other in benevolent acts.

After this explanation, sir, the appropriateness of uniting in the same sentiment the two events of the Dedication of the Temple and the establishment of the Gentlemen’s Hebrew Benevolent Society, will be admitted and heartily greeted by the whole company. I therefore propose, sir,

“The day we celebrate. As on the first feast of Dedication the Temple was purified, and again consecrated to the service of the Most High, we this day consecrate our inward temple (the heart) to the holy service of charity.”

2. The United States. May she maintain her exalted position among the nations of the earth, and, in the progress and development of her institutions, be the harbinger of liberty, peace, and happiness to all mankind.

Responded to by Mr. J. Jonas.

Mr. President: With considerable diffidence I arise to respond to the toast just given. The sentiments it expresses have my sincere approbation. They must fill the bosom of every lover of his country’s glory with the most pleasurable sensations; and more especially must we Israelites appreciate its noble institutions. When we examine the past history of the world, the rise and downfall of nations, the powerful empires which succeeded each other, and their total destruction, caused by the ambition of their rulers, the idolatrous tendency of their religion, the degeneracy of their morals, and their despotic governments; are we not led to admire and exult at the contrast in our own beloved happy country, disenthralled from the dominion of the Old World, of kings and emperors, and experimentally proving to all the nations, that republicans know how to govern themselves without a sovereign, an aristocracy, a military power, or a national religion?

During the republican era of the Israelites, the Scriptures remark: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Let us enter into a short examination of the rise and progress of our pattern republic. Having by the glorious Revolution established, through the energy of our patriotic predecessors, our present Federal Constitution, the national career commenced with only thirteen States, and a population of about three millions: but amongst them we could reckon George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, with a <<605>>galaxy of heroes, statesmen, and philosophers; and within thirty-six years we were able to compete, both on land and sea, with the greatest naval power the world has known,—producing a second race of heroes, statesmen, and civilians, pre-eminent among whom are, President Madison, Generals Jackson and Harrison, Commodores Perry and Decatur, and a host of others too numerous to select. Only sixty years has yet expired, and we have become a mighty and powerful nation, consisting of twenty-nine States, and upwards of twenty millions of inhabitants, again producing, with myriads of others, our Taylors, Scotts, and Worths. If such has been our progress, in so short a space of tirne, what has Providence in store for us a century hence?

We will now endeavour to examine a few of the causes of this great prosperity. In the settlement or conquest of the European nations, the feudal system was introduced, and the lands declared hereditary in the chief of each clan or tribe, and each individual became tributary to the one more powerful than himself. By this means he bereft himself of his liberty, both civil and religious, it being well understood that the feudatory must have no opinions but those of his chief; and thus, instead of an enlightened government, and a pure religious system, despotism, bigotry, and superstition were introduced and established as the law of the land. Thus fled all chance of liberal institutions; and in their stead arose banishment, persecutions, and death for conscience sake. And heavily did our brethren of Israel feel its effects, especially in the courts of the Inquisition. From nation to nation were we pursued, robbed, plundered, and assassinated. Those nations were ignorant at the tirne, whilst committing such crimes, that the punishment followed as the natural result. They banished from their several countries liberty, commerce, industry, and wealth, and by that means left themselves a prey to war, rapine, famine, pestilence, and military and religious despotism.

Such vices, thank God, were never introduced into our brotherly Union, and Providence has blessed its efforts. In all its wars, victory floats over its banners. In its commerce, prosperity is her shield. In its agricultural pursuits, the soil is groaning with its various productions. And in its mechanical and manufacturing operations, it rivals the greatest marts of the world. Under the shadow of its wings, receiving the oppressed of every clime, the scattered sons of Israel have found a resting-place. They have again strung their harps to sing the beautiful songs of Zion, and in their Temples and Synagogues they constantly raise their voices in solemn prayer, that the Lord of Hosts, in his mercy and goodness, may long preserve and bless this happy land, with all its glorious institutions.

3. Our invited guests—

“Shall I ask the brave soldier who fights by my side,
   In the cause of mankind, if our creeds disagree?
Shall I give up the friend I have valued and tried,
   If he meet not before the same altar with me?
No! perish the heart and the laws that would try
   Truth, valour, or love, by a standard like this.”

<<606>>Responded to by Mr. S. P. Chase.

I certainly expected, Mr. President, that some other one of the gentlemen honoured by your invitation to participate in this evening’s entertainment, would have been called upon to reply to the sentiment which you have so kindly announced, and which the company has so cordially received. But I yield without reluctance to the wishes of my friends near me, who seem inclined to devolve this duty upon me.

It is, indeed, a gratification to me to meet you here to-night; and I embrace with pleasure this occasion of expressing that gratification which, I am sure, I only share with all whom your kind invitation has assembled around this board. We differ, indeed, in faith; but we have learned that differences of faith need not and should not alienate man from man. Your faith, indeed, is the elder faith. It had its origin far back in time, when the world was young. And how sublime that origin! Revealed, partially at least, to the father of men; surviving the universal deluge; fully announced amid the thunders of Sinai!

I cannot forget, when I look around me, that I stand in the midst of the descendants of the longest line of ancestry which the world has known. What are the monuments of heraldry, and the records of descent, compared with the genealogies of all the children of Abraham! The Jewish people are the old nobility of the world. I remember their ancient glory; their great progenitor, the friend of God; the stupendous miracles wrought for their deliverance from oppression; their firm establishment in the promised land; their spreading empire and renown. And now, despoiled as they are of their ancient dignities, and scattered as they are throughout the earth, I behold the great miracle of their separate existence as the peculiar people, perpetually wrought for the instruction of mankind.

I cannot but feel awed by such contemplations as these. Assuredly the people thus distinguished, both in prosperity and in adversity, is reserved for no common fate. Assuredly the expectation common to the Hebrew and the Christian, shall be realized. The people of Israel shall yet be gathered in their own land, and reestablished in their ancient glory.

I am reminded by the history and the expectation of the Jewish nation, of one of the stupendous facts of astronomy. That orb of the planetary system which approaches nearest the sun, and revels in his brightest beams, and then receding, receding, farther and farther, into the abyss of space, until it seems to be lost for ever in immensity, and yet is not lost—is guided, rather, and sustained by the Almighty hand, and, after long exile, returns again: returns to its own place, nearest the sun, to all its original brightness and glory. Is not that orb a type of the Past and Future of the Jewish people; that people long wandering, but not lost; despoiled and stricken, yet still united and powerful, and destined to regain all, and more than all, their ancient prosperity and glory?

In the mean time, may the Jew and the Christian dwell together in peace and mutual kindness.

<<607>>Permit me, Mr. President, to offer this sentiment:

Religious Toleration! Our creeds are many; our Father is one.

4. The Press. Rising in the eastern horizon, and shedding its genial warmth on the pilgrims of the new world, it is destined to dispel the shades of darkness; still increasing in brilliancy, its refulgent lustre will enlighten the nations of both hemispheres.

Responded to by Mr. Stanley, Editor of the Morning Herald, and Mr. J. W. Taylor, Editor of the Signal.

Charity—

“It droppeth as the gentle rain from Heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed;
It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.”

Responded to by Rev. J. K. Gutheim.

Mr. President and Gentlemen: A German adage says—and it is an old one, as old as all adages are—“Dem Gelehrten ist gut predigen:” that is, “It is easy to preach to the learned;” for the latter will comprehend what you are saying, will follow the train of your argument, and even anticipate your conclusions. I may with some propriety apply the principle this adage inculcates to my present position. It is easy to respond to a sentiment that is hailed by a spontaneous response from every human breast; that only requires to be whispered to attune the kindred chords of the human heart in harmonious melody. It is easy to address an assembly thus charitably disposed; since, however inadequate the speaker may be to the proposed task, his words are sure to be charitably received and judged.

True charity is the offspring of love and benevolence, and is distinguished by the heavenly traits that characterize its parents. “Like the sun, it issues forth on its mission, and rejoiceth as a hero to run a race; its going forth is from the end of heaven, and its circuit unto the ends of it, and nothing is hid from its genial warmth.” Neither clime, nor country, nor nationality, nor creed, impedes its course. “Peace, peace, to him that is afar off, and to him that is near” it proclaims to all mankind; and wherever and in whatever shape or condition the distress and suffering of our fellow-beings present themselves, there opens the field of action for the zeal of true charity. I am confident that I am expressing the philanthropic sentiments that actuate the bosoms of those I have the honour to address. Were it necessary to adduce instances of the extent to which the feeling of charity pervades our community, I would refer to the noble zeal and alacrity evinced some time ago, in tendering our aid to the sufferers of the Old World; on which occasion, unparalleled as the calamity was, an amount was realized far exceeding any previously collected for a charitable purpose.

Sir, the fund then raised by voluntary contributions, to respond to the call of humanity, was not then, nor is it now felt by the community. But the moral that act of charity taught, will be lasting and imperishable; it will form one of the brightest pages in history. What is this moral? Is it the joy with which the aid was received, and which was at the time so enthusiastically ex<<608>>pressed; or is it the gratified feelings of the donors at having alleviated so much misery? It is neither. That joy and those gratified feelings were the natural consequences of the deed. The lesson that event taught, consisted in elevating the character of this country before the eyes of the world; in demonstrating the beneficent effect of its free institutions on the minds and hearts of its inhabitants. And I may venture to assert, that the heart of every true American, contemplating the effect produced, must have swelled with  pride at having, by means of a charitable offering, been the indirect cause of promoting the honour and glory of his  country. Thus the words of the ancient sage are verified: “Charity elevates a nation!”

“Under all circumstances and conditions,” says the immortal Mendelssohn, “I take it for an unerring standard of the excellence of a form of government, the more it aims at operating on the people by morals and sentiments, at governing by means of education; in other words, the more opportunity there is afforded to the citizen, to recognise, intuitively, that he has but to waive a part of his rights and interests in favour of the public good—that he has but to sacrifice a portion of his own substance, on the altar of benevolence—in order to gain equally as much by the manifestation of his benevolence on the one hand, as he loses by his sacrifice on the other; ay, that this very sacrifice will yield him high interest in inward happiness, inasmuch as the latter feeling elevates the value and merit of a charitable act, and consequently  the merit and dignity of the benevolent donor. Man feels his worth whenever he exercises charity, whenever he relieves by his gift the distress of his fellow-man, whenever he gives, because he wills. But if he gives because he must, he only feels his chains.”

That this principle is well understood by our people, can be shown from our writings and our history; that it is acted upon to the present day, can be demonstrated from the number of benevolent institutions that are in active operation. Examine the statistics of the Jewish population of this country, and you will find that there are charitable associations attached to almost every congregation, from the oldest to the incipient ones that are scattered over the length and breadth of this continent. And it is mainly owing to this system of charity, or rather charitable system, that few, if any, of the descendants of Abraham are found among the inmates of the public charities. The solicitude manifested on our part, to save our co-religionists from becoming dependent on a public charity, is not so much founded in religious considerations, as in the conviction that the chief object of charity is to prevent pauperism. This object, however, can only be accomplished by tendering our aid and assistance to the poor, while he has yet the strength to retrieve his broken fortunes, while the hope of a better future has not yet departed from his bosom. This object, moreover, can be most effectually achieved by the concentrated efforts of an association whose avowed purpose is to be always ready for the relief of the poor.

(To be continued.)