|Vol. II, No. 4
Tamuz 5604, July 1844
On The Necessity Of Union.
To the Editor of the Occident.
Do not, my dear sir, the late oppressions of our brethren in Damascus, Ancona, Russia, and the onerous and servile restrictions laid upon them elsewhere, forcibly call up before the minds of "those who think" the sad truth, that there is an utter want of union amongst the dismembered parts of Israel?
In an age when the reverberatory power of moral truths resounds from nation to nation, bidding tyrants to pause in whatever act that aims at the subversion of human liberties: why is it that the voice of reason and humanity is so weak and powerless, when the woes and oppressions of Israel are the theme? Is it because we are still considered but canaille, sunk, depressed so low as to be beneath the pity and consideration of mankind? Is it because there are none amongst us who dare raise up their voice against tyrannical oppression, in favour of their downtrodden brethren? Oh no! we cannot find full shelter under such excuses as these! but it may, I think, be attributed with much more truth, to the little union at present existing, and the want of that mutual support from each isolated portion of the Jewish nation, which their common origin and religion so imperiously make it their duty to render to that portion of their brethren, who, for the time being, stand in need of their assistance.
As our people cannot, in the common acceptation of the term, claim to be a nation, nought is left to them but to cling to their ancient birthright "the Law and the Prophets," with a firm undivided, and tenacious grasp—ever remembering what the Psalmist has so beautifully expressed: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard; that went down to the skirts of his garments: as the dew Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life evermore."
We see professors of other religious creeds, whether dwellers under the heats of the tropics, or the intense cold of the frigid zones—on the shores of the Atlantic or borders of the Indian Ocean—or even in the far off country of New Holland—with as great a diversity of language as of abode, nevertheless united in the same fraternal union, mutually striving for the advancement of their church, mutually feeling and repelling the insults and injuries offered to her remotest members; and let the headlong power of bigotry sharpen its fangs for their hurt, and like the lightning's flash their voice of complaint and their calls for succour rush on until they reach her remotest sons: and firmly seated must that power be that trembles not at the response.
There are some minds, which unless they themselves originate some mode of government, would scorn to copy it from another, no matter how well adapted it be to their own case. Yours, sir, I believe to be not one of these, but one willing to cull the sweets and healing properties from every plant, whether growing in your own, or in the garden of the stranger. Now when we call to mind the systematic energy displayed by those of an adverse faith, may we not take it as a guide by which we may build up such a structure as would be capable of affording ample protection and support to our oppressed and dispersed brethren? And what antagonistical qualities are inherent in us, as Jews, to prevent this happy consummation? do not the Jews profess the same creed wherever scattered? Are they not governed by the same religious and moral code in all climes, in all countries? Are not the aspirations that mount up to the throne of the All-Beneficent breathed forth in the same tongue by those who dwell where the fertilizing Ganges rushes through its mountain barrier, as well as by those who are lulled to rest in the giant arms of the mighty Amazon? are not the glorious hopes, foreshadowed by our holy prophets, equally impressed upon their minds, equally considered their inheritance, by those who sport amid the glaciers of Mount Blanc, as well as by those who listen to the thunders of Niagara? does not each distant son of Israel equally look forward to that joyful time when all shall return to the Land of the Covenant? Yes! yes! all acknowledge, all believe, all trust in these glorious hopes, in this happy consummation; why then will they not unite? why will they not strive and use their utmost efforts to attain this desirable end?
We find that there is a something in ourselves, which, if it receive the proper direction, would be powerful enough to draw together our separated trunk in a firm and inseparable compact: we feel the task to be easy when compared with the apparently firm edifices, reared by those of adverse creeds, out of materials so dissonant, so diverse: and shall we allow petty jealousies, the trifling differences of Minhag, or the accident of country to keep us longer from acting together in that harmony so necessary to the spiritual and temporal welfare of our nation at large? Lo forsooth! because this or that Israelite was thrown by the convulsions that tore our nation asunder, into the unwilling arms of this or that country, he is to consider the accident of being born upon the soil of one, or the other, as a sufficient reason to allow trim to assume a superiority over his other brethren; as if Israelites were not all equally the children of the Most High, all descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, all equally sharers in their divine birthright. Is not this mode of thought impious? Is it not calling Divine Justice into question to suppose that the dwellers under every sky, the sons of every clime (if pure in heart) are not equally smiled upon, in every way as acceptable, and equal in rank before the throne of their common Father?
I recollect when a child of being shown the strength of union, and the weakness of a disunited state by the common simile of “the bundle of sticks.” “If separated, the weakest infant might break and destroy them, one by one, but if united and firmly bound together, the strongest force was not sufficient to destroy them.” This I could comprehend and feel the truth of as a child, and my more mature judgment admits the full force of the simple illustration. May not our people in their present state, be compared to these sticks separated: liable to be broken and trod upon by each weak creature of caprice or bigotry, bent by every blast, consumed by the burning heat of man’s passions; and frozen by their own apathy? But, let these weak reeds be collected together; let them be bound by the firm bands of fraternal love, sympathy and mutual interest:—and where is the power (unless deserving of God's wrath by contumely, the want of faith, or the neglect of duty,) that dare oppress them, the hand strong enough to do them injury, or the arm long enough to reach them to their hurt? The rains of heaven would then refresh them! the sun, instead of parching up their blood, would reinvigorate them by his noonday heat! and Israel might soon sing the glorious songs of the restoration!
O that our elders and those whom God has endowed with wisdom, would set abut the holy work—the reunion of dispersed Israel! O that they would cast all prejudices beneath their feet, as unworthy their high prerogative, and unite upon the large ground our pure faith affords! And with a strong united will, and a firmness of purpose not to be deterred, is it hoping too much to believe, that the Most High would prosper the holy undertaking?
I am aware that weak suggestions and arguments may even injure a good cause, and I have waited in the hopes of seeing those older and more able than myself, give publicity to their views on a question so momentous to us as Hebrews and members of the human family: thinking that the expatriation of so many of our brethren on the Russian border, would have so electrified our nation, as to cause even the weakest and most apathetic of Jacob's sons to join and use whatever talents and power they possessed, in devising and fabricating a shield, that might protect their bleeding and heart-sore brethren from the tyrannic scourge, wielded by the malevolent minions and creatures of a despotic prince. Now whilst the sword hangs suspended (not withdrawn) over the heads of our kinsmen, even he of little understanding may speak in the hope of calling forth such suggestions and arguments as the case demands from those whose knowledge and influence qualify them for the task.
Nor can I find an excuse for those of limited faculties or means, that will convince them that they are not equally bound to use their small endowments towards the furthering of any object, that shall render the whole nation more prosperous at large, and elevate its component parts in the scale of social being. Does not Holy Writ assure us, “that the poor shall never totally cease from out the land?” And does it not in tones of command bid “every Israelite” to appear thrice a year before the Lord at the place where He shall choose to put his name?” each to give according to the means with which the Lord has blessed him? And if the poor are thus commanded to give their mite of worldly goods (no matter how trifling,) in proof of their acknowledgment of their dependence on their Creator: is it not equally incumbent on them, to give their mite of mind towards the advancement of any object that shall serve “to glorify the law, and make it honourable?”
Let the humblest son of Israel do any act, which the finger of scorn may point at, and is not the ignominy of it cast as a stain upon the whole nation, the virtuous as well as the vicious? If one becomes distinguished, does not the whole nation feel a glow of satisfaction? Then why will not the mass of our people throw off their inertness? why will they not, by the force of will rightly directed, break away from the bands that apathy and sloth have cast around them; and resolve once more to be the favoured children of immortality? Should not each individual feel what Louis of France so forcibly expressed: “I am the people?” O if they would think thus! O if they would resolve thus to do! then would there be no cause to blush at the name of Jew! then would our nation glory in the sublime distinction that the Most High has thrown like a halo round their brow! then would the term Jew be synonymous with all that is good! all that is lovely! all that is honourable! Trusting that these hopes may be realized at no very distant day, I am, with sentiments of the highest esteem,