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בס"ד

Rev. Mr. Noot’s School at New York.

To the Editor of the Occident:—

As education is one of the most important elements to promote the happiness of mankind, and since a Hebrew education is, in consequence, <<159>> an indispensable requirement for Israel: it becomes the sacred duty of every congregation, to establish Hebrew schools to instruct our children in the divinely-bestowed law of Israel, so that the pupils may learn not alone the meaning of the holy Text, but also the interpretation of the same which we have received from our ancestors. This consideration will show that it is not alone necessary to open Hebrew schools, but to appoint as teachers those who are able to impart to the scholars the various signification of verses, words, letters and vowels, and who are well conversant with the Talmud, competent to illustrate obscure passages in that work, especially the Agadtoth, and fully able at the same time, by a thorough knowledge of Hebrew Grammar, to teach their scholars to speak the sacred tongue and to analyze the differences to be met with in our ancient works, such as Rashi, and to designate what is meant by them in the nomenclature which is now usual among us.

The congregation Bnai-Israel of this city, a small and young body, some time since, determined to establish a Hebrew school, and most solemnly resolved to dissolve their organization in case they did not succeed. They accordingly met on the 1st of November last, when the audience was addressed by the Rev. Dr. Raphall; the minister of the Kahal, the Rev. S. C. Noot, and Mr. M. S. Cohen, the president of the congregation; in consequence of which, the school was organized with the Rev. Mr. Noot as teacher, who commenced to discharge the duties of his appointment on that day. I need not dwell on the abilities of the reverend gentleman, as his talent as a teacher, and his familiarity with Hebrew literature, are sufficiently well known to you to convince you that the congregation could hardly have made a better selection.

Mr. Noot when commencing, was placed, he said, as it were, in a ship without sails or steam; with a crew all in a state of confusion, and having no subordinate officers on whom to rely. In fact, there was among his scholars a real confusion of tongues; the few who could read pronounced the Hebrew in many different ways, and the greater part had to commence with the Alphabeth.

After a period of five months’ hard labour, the school committee inquired of Mr. N. whether he would consent that an examination should be held. He answered in the affirmative; but remarked that the severity of the winter, which caused the absence of many scholars, had prevented him from discharging his duties according to his own and the congregation’s desires.

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Notwithstanding this, the examination took place on Sunday, the Eve of Roshodesh Iyar (the 18th of April), and Rev. Dr. Raphall, Rev. S. M. Isaacs, and Messrs. Emanuel and Henry Goldsmith, were appointed examiners. The progress and qualification of the thirty-six pupils were tested, and I feel pleasure in boldly declaring that no man could have witnessed such a scene without emotion and feeling deeply that something good had been accomplished, as the Rev. Mr. Isaacs evidently did.

The correct and ready mode of reading the Hebrew, by children of four, five, and six years old, especially on the part of the girls, was truly refreshing to the audience. The pupils also exhibited an astonishing proficiency in the declension of nouns, and analyzing every word; in the various rules of the irregularities, and the principal directions necessary for a correct reading; in translating the daily prayers, and showing by whom they were instituted, according to tradition (as, Abraham, the morning; Isaac, the afternoon; and Jacob, the evening service;) and the men of the great Synod; in reciting the thirteen articles of faith, explaining the ten commandments; and in singing the hymns, such as Yigdal, all which surpassed my expectations; and I must sincerely declare, that too much credit cannot be given to Mr. N. for his successful exertions; and I am certain that, if their shepherd is spared, the little congregation which has so nobly commenced the long-neglected school-system, will, with divine aid, succeed in firmly planting in its midst the tree of life, to yield abundant and blissful fruit.

I have been informed that Mr. Noot has already introduced the speaking of the Hebrew in his school; and as he is equally familiar with the pronunciation, after both the German and Portuguese modes, it is to be hoped that he will succeed to introduce this equally beautiful and sacred language in this country. May God spare Israel, and may other congregations follow this example, so that the words of the pro­phet may be fulfilled: “For then will I change unto the nations together a pure speech, that they may all serve the Lord with one will.” And “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

Yours,
A. Benjamin.
New York
, April 23, 5612.