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בס"ד

Elegant Presentation.

To the Editor of the Occident.

Dear Sir,—

At a meeting of the subscribers to the Testimonial to be presented to the Rev. Isaac Leeser, held at the Vestry Room of the Portuguese Synagogue, on the 9th inst., it was resolved that copies of the Presentation Address and the answer that might be received, be forwarded to the Editors of the Occident and Asmonean, with a request that they be inserted in their publications.

And in accordance with said resolution, I herewith send you a paper, containing the full proceedings of the presentation, for insertion in your periodical.

Yours, truly,

S. Solis. Philadelphia

18th March, 5611.

The friends of the Rev., Isaac Leeser, late Minister of the congregation “Micveh Israel,” presented him with an elegant set of silver, at the house of Mr. William Florance, on Tuesday afternoon, the 11th inst., consisting of two Pitchers, elaborately chased, two

Waiters, and six Goblets, all of the most elegant workmanship.

The Waiters and Pitchers bore the following inscription:

TO

THE REV. ISAAC LEESER,

FROM HIS FRIENDS,
AS A TESTIMONIAL OF HIS
ZEAL AND DEVOTION
IN THE CAUSE OF JUDAISM
IN AMERICA.
Phil. Adar. 6611.

<<51>>
The address of the Committee was written by Mr. S. Solis, and delivered at their request by A. Hart, Esq., to which the reverend gentleman made a feeling and eloquent reply, the more touching to his hearers, from their having been under his ministry for nearly a quarter of a century.   S. N. C.

Address Of The Committee.

Reverend Sir,—As a committee on behalf of your friends, it becomes our pleasing duty to present for your acceptance this testimonial of their high appreciation of the zeal and devotion displayed by you in the cause of Judaism in America.

As the pioneer of Jewish literature in this country, the self-imposed task of manifesting the ennobling principles which our holy faith inculcates, and which the following of its precepts cannot fail to en gender, your task has been one which could derive its support only in the firm conviction that in the endeavour to elevate the standard of moral excellence, you were but fulfilling to the utmost of your power your duty towards God, and pursuing that course which was best calculated to render your brethren worthy of his mercies.

’Tis true, the field before you was an ample one. And that in this proud and happy land civil and religious liberty dwell together in peace and unity. Here were no obstacles placed in the way of our intellectual advancement. We might approach the fountain of wisdom, and quaff of its delicious waters to our heart’s content. But there was a danger to this new delight. The maxims of a worldly philosophy were mixed in the crystal draught; and in imbibing them, a distaste was created within us for some of the ordinances of that revered faith which God had revealed, and time has sanctified.

’Tis true, our religion did not demand of us a crusade against those who differed from us in faith and worship—on the contrary, it commanded us to love our neighbour as ourself, and whilst repelling the attacks of those who would sap the foundation of our religious edifice, it impelled upon us the duty of showing our own strength, not the weakness of our adversaries; and although it pointed out the race of Israel as the chosen ones of God, it also made known that all mankind were his children.

When but entering on the confines of manhood, you ushered into existence your work of “The Jews and the Mosaic Law,” both America and Europe hailed it as a harbinger of your future devotion to the cause of  “Judaism and its Principles” and our brethren abroad no less than <<52>>we who have been bound to you by the ties of love and friendship, and who have benefited by your ministry and instruction for the last twenty-one years, cannot but admit that the promise then held out, has been fully redeemed. Your published works, and the discourses to which we have had the gratification of listening, whilst they have warned us of the danger of innovations, and demanded of us a firm support and adherence to the Law of Sinai, have never been imbued with that spirit of bigotry which views every discrepancy of opinion between others and one’s-self, as worthy of proscription. You have justly considered that a subject which would not admit of a free discussion, deserves our suspicion, and not our support. That the cultivation of the understanding, whilst the heart is neglected, would never bring to maturity the fruit of morality, and that did we wish our people to occupy once more their proud position among the nations of the earth, virtue must place the laurel on the brow of wisdom, and the love of God and duty towards mankind be our aim and end.

In the age wherein we live, few there are who possess sufficient strength of character and energy of purpose, to turn aside from the struggle after wealth and power, to devote themselves to the cause of truth; for mankind delight the most in those undertakings whose fruit they can see bloom and mature. But whilst earthly grandeur  fleeting, the knowledge of having laboured for the moral and intellectual advancement of our fellow-beings, must be a source of joy over which time has no power; and we feel, Reverend Sir, that whatever may be your future lot, (and may the Most High grant that its meridian and close may be as full of fruition, as its morning has been of hope!) this consciousness cannot fail of affording you a foretaste of that happiness, before which all earth’s delights are but as “the shadow of a dream that is past.”

JOSEPH NEWHOUSE, Chairman.
HYMAN GRATZ,
WM. FLORANCE,
I. BINSWANGER,
S. SOLIS
, Committee.

Mr. Leeser’s Reply.

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Committee:

It is a trite observation with many persons, who, like me, have become recipients of a public demonstration of regard and affection, on <<53>>behalf of their friends and admirers, that the compliment was both unexpected and undeserved by them. The world is just in regarding all such disclaimers as a mere shallow pretext, to hide emotions of inward pride that at length an otherwise ungrateful public has duly appreciated their merit, and acknowledged the services they had rendered to their species. Nevertheless, I trust you will do me the justice to believe me, that though the reception of the beautiful present you have just tendered me, was not altogether unexpected, from the known attachment of you, my friends, it was not needed to reward me for the services, whatever they be, which I have been permitted to render to the cause of our faith and people, which is the cause of all mankind. Nay, the very affecting manner in which you have worded your presentation address outweighs the value of your gift; and I shall never forget the words you have employed, should even the time ever come when the present itself might lose its intrinsic worth. In all my public career I have not laboured for gain. If I am at all a judge of my feelings, and I trust I do not deceive myself, conscious as I am that we are all too apt to overrate the purity of our own intentions, and to under- value that of others; and hence I required not at the close of my ministry among you to receive a gift so valuable as a recompense of my services.

You have been pleased to allude to my literary labours, both as a writer and preacher, and to the value you place on them. I assure you, however, gentlemen, that in thus incidentally serving our people, I also laboured in my own behalf, and this I expressed some months ago in a sociable assembly, at the southern capital of the Union, when allusion made by a fellow-labourer to my services in the cause of Judaism. Believe me, that though from early youth a vague image of literary activity floated before my mind, and however I pictured to myself the pleasantness of the task to labour in the field of Jewish literature, I had almost lost sight of all these aspirations, when circumstances had induced me to look to the pursuit of commerce as the employment of my life.

But it is now rather more than twenty-two years ago, when a vile slander against the fair fame of our race and our religion, first propagated on the other side of the Atlantic, forced me to enter the lists as the champion of our cause. It is true, I was unknown and very young; there were abler, older, and more experienced men, who could doubtlessly have me battle for the good cause, if not better at least fully as well as myself; but my own honour and my own faith were assaulted no less than the dearest rights of my fellow-<<54>>Israelites. Could I then stand idle, whilst I felt the power to strike, without dishonour? Could I remain silent, whilst I had the consciousness of being able to overthrow the calumny? I could not; and I wrote my defence of ourselves because I could not help myself, and hence became unconsciously a champion for a cause, when I only meant to maintain the purity of my own character among others. To this simple circumstance is owing the development of my subsequent life; the vague image took a shape and form, and by degrees was composed on detached sheets of paper, my first work, “The Jews and the Mosaic Law,” written after the toils of the day were over, in the quiet hours of the night, when slumber rested on the eyelids of most of my other townsmen. It is the simple truth, that I had not the remotest idea of writing a book; and I almost felt ashamed to acknowledge the fact to my intimate friends, when it became known that I had composed a volume of moderate dimensions.

The kind and indulgent judgment of the friends of Israel, which is also exemplified in your Address, has since almost convinced me that my fears and hesitation were needless; still I feel too deeply that that performance, like my later productions, leaves me far short of the point of excellence which I would gladly have attained.

I fear that I am trespassing on your patience, and that I am becoming egotistical, much as I would desire to avoid this fault. But you will still, I trust, pardon me, for glancing at my course subsequently to my composing my first work. The Essays, which induced me by enlarging them to indite a book, attracted the attention of some of your congregation; and the office of minister having become vacant here by the decease of my predecessor, who had so eminently acquired the love and respect of the people, I was summoned from Virginia hither, against my own conviction of the propriety of the step I was taking to assume the office of Hazen in a community where I was not only personally unknown, but where I had also not a single relative even in a remote degree. It was indeed a fearful position for a young man inexperienced in the ways of the world, to find himself suddenly an object of marked attention, and often of close scrutiny, among those who bore to him the relation of a flock to their pastor. My hands were weak; the understanding of my duty perhaps not definite enough; what wonder then that I should have failed at times, not wilfully, but accidentally, in pursuing the exact course which could have secured me in the best manner the confidence and love of my constituents? It is possible, too, that I have given offence to one, to all of you, by an unbecoming <<55>>heat of temperament, by not conciliating when this may have been possible, by insisting on points when perhaps it would have been prudent and wise to yield.

But, I assure you, that never did I wilfully offend the least among you; never did I from malice, excite to anger the humblest individual who sought me for aid and counsel. I do not claim to be better than my neighbours; do not imagine that I deem myself free from the faults of humanity; still I trust that no one can say, with justice, that during a long career of public services, I have made myself obnoxious to the charge of being unfaithful to my trust.

But I need not say this little, even, in the presence of you, gentlemen, to-day, since you have met here to bestow on me a testimonial of your appreciation of my character and services; and it would therefore be out of place to enlarge on the topic. Permit me, however, to add, that if I have unwittingly offended you or any one absent from this assembly, I hope to receive a forgiveness, as from the bottom of my heart, I am ready to forgive any injury I may have received. Excuse me for saying this, for alluding to past grievances; but it is true that my career has been beset with difficulties, with dangers, and that I have been judged at times with a harshness which ought not to have been exhibited, towards one, who, if not otherwise entitled to indulgence, had a claim, because he came among you a stranger, by your own invitation, and suffering, as he frequently did, from severe attacks of ill health.

It is time, however, that I close my remarks, already, perhaps, too long. You have spoken of my sermons; and indeed, if I have any merit, it is to these that I may point. The chair of instruction among us had long been vacant, when the summons was addressed to me to arise and teach the people. I need not tell you how gladly, yet with how much fear, I responded to the call. It is not in the spirit of boasting that this is said, but it is a satisfaction to reflect, that a course commenced with trembling, gradually obtained the approbation of many judicious persons in several countries, and that since then others have been summoned to spread farther and farther the message of peace, which was delivered to us at Sinai. In thus responding to the demands of the times, I but fulfilled a pleasing duty, and no one can appreciate the delight I have felt at observing the close attention indulgent audiences have given to my instruction, not alone here, but on the banks of the St. Lawrence, on the shores of the Hudson, by the waters of the Susquehanna, on the confines of the Chesapeake, on the margin of the Ashley, Savannah, and Mobile rivers, and the city which stands <<56>>near the mouth of the mighty Mississippi—wherever, in brief, it has been my privilege to proclaim the word of our God. You are right, that I have endeavoured to teach it without bigotry, without intolerance; and as an editor of a Magazine, established for the diffusion of the truths which we treasure, I have allowed persons of a variety of opinions to address my readers, fully convinced that the good cause could never suffer by a free and candid discussion. Error only shuns the light; but the torch of reason may freely illuminate the holiest gift of God without in the least dimming its lustre.

What my future course may be, is only known to Him who measures all our steps; into His hands I commit my ways, and I trust in His mercy, that His light will not be wanting to guide me right; but whatever may betide me, be it weal or woe, His past mercies shall not be forgotten, and His goodness manifested in so many ways shall not fade from my mind. And as regards you, Gentlemen, your friendship, which I hope always to enjoy, shall ever be highly prized by me. The gratification of this hour shall long remain a bright period in my recollection, and I trust that you, too, will not forget him who came at your call, to officiate in the sanctuary which you had consecrated to the God of Israel, where he has been permitted to earn that reputation which your kindness has so handsomely acknowledged this day.—And if this be the last time we shall ever officially meet again, I bid you all, Farewell.