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בס"ד

Hebrew National School At Birmingham.

(Continued from previous issue)

We adverted in our last briefly to the laying of the corner stone of the above institution, and then promised to give some farther particulars in our present number. We accordingly redeem our promise, and make the following extracts from the Birmingham Journal of August 12th, which has been sent to us no doubt as containing the official account of the proceedings:

Wednesday, the 9th of August, the imposing and interesting ceremony took place on the occasion of laying the first stone of a Hebrew national school for the benefit of the Israelite children of this town, whose parents are not able to provide the accommodation and learning in those schools already in existence in other parts of the country. The origin of the design to erect the school was not unlike many very valuable undertakings, apparently more the result of accident than of that organization which exists amongst our brethren of the Hebrew community. A few gentlemen having met by chance, a remark was made by one of them, that it was a pity that a school was not in existence for the Hebrew children, who seemed to be wandering about entirely at the mercy of circumstances, without any means of having their ideas properly formed; the gentleman who made the remark, added, as a proof of his sincerity, that he would at once give 10l. a year towards the support of a school: The offer was responded to by another tender of 10l. a year, and was soon followed by others, which left little doubt that the project only required to be made known to the body generally to insure the necessary means for its completion. The design having been communicated to the leading gentlemen of the body, it received their prompt approval, and the services of Dr. Raphall as head master having been secured, the undertaking was proceeded with. A piece of ground suitable for the building was purchased in Lower Hurst Street, and Wednesday last was fixed for laying the first stone. The Baron de Rothschild and other influential members of the body were invited to attend the ceremony, and all most cheerfully consented to give their patronage and support to the undertaking. The day fixed for the ceremony was most inauspicious, it having rained from an early hour in the morning nearly throughout the entire day, with the exception of a short interval, which enabled the procession to walk from the Synagogue to Hurst Street, and the ceremony to be completed without interruption. At two o'clock, the members of the Synagogue; and a great number of gentlemen of nearly all religious denominations, assembled in the house of worship in Severn Street, where divine service was performed by the Rev. J. Barnett, London; the Rev. D. A. de Sola, minister of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Synagogue, London; the Rev. I. L. Lindenthal, reader of the New Synagogue, London; the Rev. Dr. Raphall, preacher, and the Rev. L. Chapman, reader of the Synagogue, Birmingham. The music was composed and conducted by Mr. M. Moss, from the Synagogue, St. Helens, who was accompanied by a band of choristers from the same place.

Sir Moses Montefiore occupied a pew in front of the ark, attended by Messrs. Cohen. The boys were seated before him, and on each side the congregation and visitors. Amongst whom we noticed the Mayor, H. Luckcock, Esq., John Green, Esq., Dr. Melson, the Rev. H. Hutton, Mr. G. V. Blunt, and a great many more of the most respectable gentlemen of the town.

Appropriate ceremonies and prayers constituted the services at the Synagogue, at the conclusion of which a procession, headed by Sir Moses Montefiore, the Mayor, several magistrates, and other authorities of the town, proceeded to the site of the intended building. The procession entered the ground about four o'clock, when Dr. Raphall offered up a short and impressive prayer, invoking the divine blessing on the work which they were about to commence; after which the Rev. Dr. addressed the assembly as follows:

The occasion which had brought them together that day was not in itself a religious work, but though not prescribed by any set form of prayer, it was, nevertheless, in itself of so devout a character, and its consequences of such great importance, that he trusted there was no one then present that did not raise his heart to the great and merciful Father of the universe, to the supreme and munificent Disposer of events, to give Him thanks for having witnessed this great day. If they looked back not many years, and remembered that there was a time when the house of Israel, instead of coming before their brother gentiles, soliciting their presence in their synagogues, and opening schools, the inspection of which were free to all men—if they remembered that the time was not far distant when, without any fault on their parts, such was the current of prejudice that ran against them, that they were obliged to conceal instead of to publish; and if they now looked around them, and saw the hundreds and thousands of friendly spectators, who had assembled to share their ceremonies, to wish success to their undertaking, and to cheer them in every attempt that they made to ameliorate the condition of their people, and the condition of mankind; when they reflected on this, were they not bound, every Israelite and every gentile, to give thanks to the great Father of mercy that had brought them together that day? The building which they were about to raise, and which had drawn many of their brethren from London, that building was one of no ordinary nature. It was intended for the training of the children of Hebrews in the fear of the God of their fathers, to make them useful citizens, worthy men, loyal subjects, and honourable members of society; it was intended to enable them to take that station which providence had assigned to them amongst the nations of the earth; it was intended to enable them, by their virtues and by their knowledge, to occupy that position which was promised to them in their holy law. "Verily, this great people is a wise and understanding nation." Such was the purpose for which they had that day assembled, and for which their distinguished brother, the great advocate of the cause of Israel; he who stood before kings and quailed not—he who had made emperors listen to the voice of justice; who had made even an eastern despot hearken to the voice of reason and the dictates of humanity and right: that distinguished friend of his race, and of mankind, had deigned to come amongst them, to sanction by his presence the great work of that day. Let all them who stood around, and listened to his feeble voice, with one accord join heart and hand to support that great work. May all (continued the reverend gentleman) feel as I do, that we are children of the same God; that one Father had created us. May you all, as I do, acknowledge that religion and virtue are the universal blessings of mankind, and that they ought not to be confined to sect or lineage, but that even as our heavenly Father lets the sun shine to illumine the world, even so you acknowledge that virtue and religion ought to unite all mankind in one bond of sacred brotherhood. I will not long detain you, but call upon you at once to join in returning our heartfelt thanks to Him who has enabled us to reach this day, who has permitted Israelite and gentile to assemble on one ground, to give praises to his holy name, and sanction by his presence a building in which his laws, morality, and will, shall be promulgated to generations yet unborn. It is not for ourselves only that we look to this building, but for our children, and children's children, and their offspring, who, hundreds of years hence, will have cause to bless this great work which we have this day begun: May his grace support us! May his blessing strengthen us! May it be his will to lead us in that path which is pointed out in his holy law—that path which leads to happiness and bliss hereafter. Amen.

The address of the reverend doctor was listened to with the utmost attention; after which Mr. Levison, the honorary secretary of the new institution, then read the inscription on the plate previous to its being deposited beneath the stone.

Sir Moses Montefiore then came forward, and a silver trowel, bearing a suitable inscription, having been placed in his hand, he proceeded to adjust the stone with the usual formalities; the choir, during this part of the proceedings, singing one of the psalms appointed for the occasion. Sir Moses Montefiore then said—

Ladies and Gentlemen—We have this day, with due ceremony and solemn prayer, laid the foundation stone of a building now to be raised, and hereafter to be dedicated to the instruction of our youth in the principles of our most holy religion, and in all the sciences and arts fitted to render them useful members of society, good citizens, and loyal subjects. If ever there was a time when knowledge could be withheld from the people, that time has passed away—happily, for ever. Not only do the natural cravings of the mind lead it after knowledge, but the circumstances of the time, and all parties and sects, join in enforcing the divine precept, "that it is not good for the soul to be without knowledge." It is, therefore, not only in obedience to the divine command that we determine to raise this building, but in compliance with the wishes and feelings of mankind. I trust that we shall all live to see this building completed. [Here Sir Moses became so deeply affected, that he could not proceed for some minutes.] Gentlemen (he continued) I wish it was in my power to express what I feel on the present occasion. The few words which I intended to say, I regret to find myself unable to address to you. I regret that I cannot do so; my feelings overpower me, and I shall conclude. I have stated to you the purpose for which this building is to be erected; and I can only thank you most sincerely for the kindness exhibited by you, Mr. Mayor, and by you gentlemen all; and I shall ever feel myself bound in gratitude to you for the sanction you have bestowed on our undertaking this day.

The Rev. D. M. Isaacs, Liverpool, then offered up an appropriate prayer for all those who had assisted in the undertaking, particularly Sir Moses Mon­tefiore, who had devoted himself to the cause of the people of God under the most trying and discouraging circumstances. He earnestly prayed that the Almighty might give his blessing to the work they had begun; that through it the name of the great God of Israel might be made known, honoured, and worshipped by his people; that all prejudice and ill feeling towards his brethren being re­moved, they might dwell in harmony and peace with their friends throughout the world, and enjoy those rights and privileges to which, in common with their fellow-men, they considered themselves entitled. He, in conclusion, most humbly prayed God, that as in the days of yore He supported, and delivered, and comforted, his people, so He would continue still to do; until the name of Israel became throughout the world the watchword for civil and religious liberty.

The ceremony was then closed by the choir singing a psalm, accompanied by a seraphine, supplied by Mr. Bates, Colmore Row. Sir Moses Montefiore and his lady and party immediately left the ground in their carriages, and it was noon cleared. As we have before observed; there was no rain during the performance of the ceremony, although in a short, time after it fell in torrents.

At six o'clock in the afternoon a dinner followed, as usual upon all public meetings in England, which was presided over by the Mayor, and attended by many highly respectable Christian gentlemen, as well as Jews. Donations for the benefit of the school amounting to more than four hundred pounds were announced, and some excellent speeches were made by several of the guests and members of the congregation; we remark especially Mr. Levisson., Mr. D. W. Wire, Sir Moses Montefiore, the Mayor, Mr. Goldsmid, Dr. Lowe, Mr. Lindenthal, Mr. Barnet, Dr. Raphall, Mr. Smith, Mr. J. Phillips, &c.; but our limits will not allow us to copy any more than those of Rev. D. M. Isaacs and Dr. Melson, the latter of whom is a magistrate of Birmingham, and even these two addresses we are reluctantly compelled to postpone till our next number.