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בס"ד

The Jewish Congregation of Charleston.

By N. L.

(Continued from issue #9)

The necessary funds having been raised, proposals were issued for rebuilding the Synagogue. The plan proposed by Mr. Warner, architect, of New York, and the estimate of Mr. David Lopez, were accepted. The building, when completed, cost $40,000. The work was commenced immediately, and the corner stone laid on the 25th Tebeth, 5600, being Thursday, the 3rd of January, 1840. The old corner stones were first deposited, and on them placed a parchment roll containing the names of the vestry, the names of the members of the congregation, the list of contributions received for rebuilding the Synagogue, a list of the officers, the names of the building committee, and the names of the mechanics. The keys of the old Synagogue were also deposited on the old corner stones, and above them placed a tablet bearing the following inscription:

"The Synagogue erected in 5552 by the particular aid of Israel Joseph and Philip Hart, then presiding at that period, was destroyed by fire on Saturday, 3rd Iyar, 5598. By the recovery of the Insurance, and the liberality of the members, its re-erection commenced in Kislev 5600. On relaying the former corner stones, Mr. Nathan Hart, President, deposited the one of Israel Joseph, his uncle, Mr. A. Ottolengui, the one of his father, and the Rev. G. Poznanski laid this corner stone in presence of A. M. Hertz, Isaiah Moses, and Joshua Lazarus, Trustees, and the congregation generally."

The stone also bore the following Hebrew inscription, from the pen of the Rev. G. Poznanski:

האבן הזאת יהיה בית אלהים בית קדשנו אשר בנו אבותינו בשנת התקנב היה לשרפת אש בליל שבת קדש ג אייר שנת התקצה כאשר העיר יי את רוחנו לבנות הבית על מכונו הרחבנו אתו והנחנו אבן בחדש טבת התר

While the building was in progress of erection, a petition was presented to the Trustees, (July 8th, 1840,) signed by thirty-eight members, praying "that an organ be erected in the Synagogue, to assist in the vocal part of the service." This petition was deemed an infringement of the first article of the constitution, and so declared by the Board of Trustees by a vote of four to one. A general meeting of the congregation took place soon afterwards, and the decision of the board was overruled by a vote of 47 to 40, and the prayer of the petitioners granted by a vote of 46 to 40. This circumstance unfortunately caused a division of the congregation, nearly forty members withdrawing, who thought instrumental music on the Sabbath a violation of our sacred laws, and an innovation in the service established throughout the world.

The Synagogue was completed in February 1841, and is a building of the most chaste and classical architecture. It is the model of a Prostyle Grecian Doric Temple, and its portico a Hexastyle; the columns are four feet in diameter at their base, and fluted in the style peculiar to that order. The length of the building is eighty feet, and the portico fifteen feet wide, making its entire length ninety-five feet, and its width 56 feet. Its entire height from the ground to the apex of the pediment is forty-six feet. The base of the building is three feet high, its material Quincy granite, which is surmounted by a bold base moulding of brown stone. The antaes on the four corners of the building have their stone capitals highly enriched and carved. The architrave, friece, and cornice, and strictly carried out and embellished, with the mutule, triglyph, and guttae, which belong exclusively to the Grecian Doric order. The only entrance to the interior is to the west, by a flight of granite steps, running the entire width of the building, and finished against solid granite buttresses, on which are placed highly wrought candelabras. The floor of the portico is of tesselated marble, and the ceiling is highly furnished in stucco, in double countersunk panels enriched. Over the door, which is eighteen feet high, by nine feet wide, and highly wrought, is a marble tablet, bearing the following inscription in Hebrew and English:

שמע ישראל יי אלהינו יי אחד

"Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the sole Eternal Being."

The interior fully sustains the favourable impression of the beholder after the exterior view. That which first attracts the eye on entering the building is the ark, situated in the east end. Its material is highly polished mahogany, of a semi-elliptical form, the base enriched with acanthus leaves. When opened it presents the interior richly decorated with crimson satin damask drapery. The receptacle for the ark, or covering beneath which it stands, is supported by ten columns and antaes of the Corinthian order, after the style of the Temple of Lysierides. The entablature is also of the same order, and the frieze of black marble bears this inscription in large gilt letters:

"Know before whom thou standest."

Surmounting the whole structure are two tables of polished black marble, which contain the Decalogue in gilt letters. The tablets are supported on each side by beautiful and graceful through-carved ornaments, which are also highly gilt. The ascent to the ark is by a flight of steps richly carpeted, and terminating against beautifully carved and ornamented scroll buttresses. On each buttress are placed two large bronzed candlesticks, four and a half feet high, of the Corinthian order. The gallery is supported by fluted Ionic columns, capitals and entablature (after the example of the Erecthion at Athens), the entablature is surmounted by a handsomely finished balustrade, (instead of panelling,) which is much better adapted to our warm climate, and adds greatly to the harmony and beauty of the whole building. Near the west entrance is the Taybah, a square elevation, surmounted by a rich and highly polished mahogany balustrade, in keeping with the gallery, the embellishments on which are in bronze. On this platform is the desk of the Hazan, supported by a rich mahogany table; a highly wrought mahogany sofa stands on the west end of the platform, and on its four corners are placed four large candlesticks of the same style and description of those near the ark. The ceiling is a dome formed by segments of circles on the four sides of the walls. From the lower part of these segments, and at their junction with each other, are sprung four spandrels flowing gracefully into, and forming the periphery of the base of the dome, which is fifty feet in diameter, and six feet high, enriched with fourteen panels, ornamented with carved mouldings in stucco, the whole exhibiting exactness, precision, and grandeur, without being florid. The centre of the dome is finished with a magnificent stucco centre-piece, from which suspends a beautiful chandelier, (the liberal donation of Mr. Jacob Barrett,) from the celebrated house of Cornelius & Co., Philadelphia. It is of bronze, with large and brilliant lustres, and burning eighteen astral lamps in two tiers. On the west of the gallery is the organ, built by Erben & Co., of New York, in front of which are placed the seats of the choir.

The order, finish, and decorations of the entire building have been justly admired, and reflect the highest credit upon our townsman, Mr. David Lopez, a native mechanic, and one of our persuasion; and the Board of Trustees expressed the sentiments of every member of the congregation, when they unanimously passed the following well-deserved resolution: "Resolved, That the Board of Trustees fully appreciate the admirable manner in which the contract to build the new Synagogue has been carried out by the builder, Mr. David Lopez, not only with respect to the materials used, but also the superior workmanship, zeal, taste and fidelity exhibited throughout." The Synagogue was consecrated in March, 1843. On the day appointed, the crowd assembled was so great that hundreds were compelled to retire, being unable to obtain an entrance; The Sepharim were carried by the Trustees of the Synagogue from the Tabernacle to the new building, accompanied by six of the oldest members of the congregation, and followed by the Parnass and Hazan. The outer door was opened by the Shamass. As soon as the Trustees approached the inner door, they took their position between the pillars which support the front gallery. The Hazan then sounded the Shofar four times, and the choir commenced the services by singing the 118th Psalm of David. During the singing of this psalm, the Trustees bore the sacred rolls around the Taybah, and at the con­clusion of the psalm, ascended it, and, took their station in the rear of the same. The Hazan then descended, and with the assistance of two members of the congregation, proceeded to the היכל, where he lighted for the first time the תמיד or perpetual lamp. The Hazan then returned to the Taybah, and read an appropriate hymn composed for the occasion by Miss P. Moïse which was sung by the choir. The blessing for the congregation was then read by the Hazan, followed by the 67th Psalm, sung by the choir; after which a prayer in behalf of the government was offered, at the conclusion of which the Sepharim were carried and deposited in the היכל, while the choir sung the 29th Psalm. A hymn composed by Mr. J. C. Levy was sung, and the Hazan pronounced a discourse. At the conclusion of which a hymn composed by Mr. C. Moïse was sung. The benediction of the Hazan concluded this very interesting ceremony, and the numerous assemblage dispersed highly gratified with the religious rites.

We have thus feebly endeavoured to trace the origin of the Hebrew congregation of this city, and to give a faint outline of its general character an to the present time. We have little more to add; but cannot close this imperfect sketch without again reverting to the valour and patriotism of our forefathers, many of whom joined their country's ranks, and during the great and doubtful struggle of '76, endured every privation in common with their fellow-citizens, and afterwards enjoyed in common with them the great blessings of civil and religious freedom, the reward of their valour and their sufferings. The members of our congregation have been included among the members of the legislature; they have exhibited among them men of superior literary attainments; have adorned the professions of law and medicine; have held high and distinguished stations in the army and navy; occupy the first rank in mercantile life; holding offices of honour and emolument in banking institutions, of high character; and are greatly esteemed and respected by the community in which they dwell. The only circumstance that mars the enjoyment and pride we feel while dwelling on the above, is the lamentable fact that we are convulsed with internal discord; anarchy and dissention prevail among us, and the tribunals of the country have been appealed to to settle the same.

This state of things cannot but be deeply regretted by every lover of his religion, and the philanthropist cannot but view with emotions of deep sorrow and regret the present situation of our congregators, who have hitherto practised the virtues of charity, forbearance, peace, and good-will—been bound together by a unity of sentiment and action,—now present the fragments of a disjointed tribe, rent asunder by fierce party strife, and arrayed in hostile position against each other. We fervently pray that concord and harmony may be soon restored among us, and that the God of Israel grant "peace in our walls, and prosperity in our palaces."

N. L.

Note.—The meeting noticed on p. 337 took place in the evening after the close of the second day of the New Year festival.—Ed. Oc.