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בס"ד

Hebrew Sunday School, of Columbia, S. C.

 

The first examination of the above institution took place on Sunday, the 10th of Mareh, 1844, being the Sunday succeeding to Purim. It commenced its labours on the 15th of October last, and numbers between twenty and thirty children, the youngest of which is three years and the eldest ten years of age. They are divided into four classes, under the superintendence of Miss Boanna Wolff, Directress, Mrs. Cecelia Marks, Miss Julia Mordecai, and Miss Eliza Marks.

It was truly an imposing spectacle, affording pleasure and gratification to parents and spectators; and reflecting great credit on the children and those ladies having charge of the institution.

The exercises of the day commenced by prayer from the Directress, and the hymn "We are but Young," sung by the children.

The examination was then proceeded with, and on the close of the same, "Ayn Kaylohanoo," was sung; which being concluded, Mr. J. Levin, of this place, delivered the following address:

Address.

In yielding to the kind solicitation of the Directress of this institution to deliver an address on the present occasion, I was aware of the responsibility I had assumed; a responsibility not only from its being a first effort to address a public audience, but also from a knowledge of what is generally expected from an individual when placing himself in the attitude of a public speaker; but as I seek not self-aggrandizement or popular favour, whatever discrepancy you may discover in my brief remarks, attribute them to the errors of the head and not of the heart. Though I know my inability to do ample justice to the occasion, or to enter fully into the merits of the object which has this day brought us together, I enter on the discharge of this gratifying duty cheerfully, believing it incumbent on every Israelite, notwithstanding he may be aware of the inability he labours under, to defend the sacred tenets of his religion, to arouse the slumbering energies of his people, when necessity requires, to a sense of that duty they owe to their God, the community, and the rising generation of those believing in our own peculiar creed.

With these views I proceed to direct your attention to the object of this institution.

When we view society in general and contemplate the different grades which form it into one common mass, the question arises, from whence proceed the ills and wretchedness by which so many are surrounded ? May we not readily conclude the origin is an improper mode of education, evil habits early imbibed, and the pernicious examples of those whose duty it was to foster and cherish their childhood ?

We are all perfectly aware that early impressions are the most enduring, and consequently the most difficult to erase from the mind; and thus the good or evil with which the infantile imagination is inculcated, grows with its growth and strengthens with its years.

Truly has it been said, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he grows old he will not depart from, it." A proper cultivation of the mind excites to action all the dormant energies of our nature, and with religious instruction for its base, it directs us to a discharge of those philanthropic virtues, benevolence and charity.

It expands the heart, ennobles the soul, elevates the character, and prepares us with a due portion of fortitude to contend with the varied vicissitudes of life, of which we are all more or less by nature destined to be partakers.

Religious instruction directs the youthful imagination to God and his attributes; a foundation on which to erect that moral and social edifice, from which all the nobler feelings of our nature are constantly kept in motion, bestowing happiness and contentment on its possessor, enshrined with all the beauties of holiness.

Such then is the object of this institution; here the minds of our youth are directed to a knowledge and fear of God, to love truth, shun evil, and to do unto others that we would they should do unto us.

The question may arise, Where is the necessity of originating this institution when there are so many Sunday Schools long since established to which we could send our children for instruction? It is a long-established fact that we are a people without a national government, yet a perfect nationality as Israelites exists among us in whatever quarter of the globe we may dwell. We pay our adoration to the same God, speak the same religious language, and journey on to one end in this life, with the same firm belief in God's attributes, which no change of clime, country, or duration of time can alter.

It is then but a duty we owe to the rising generation of Israelites that the foundation of their moral and social edifice and peculiar principles should be solidly formed and carefully guarded.

It is then essential, with all due respect for the opinions of our Christian friends, that this foundation should be laid in schools conducted by those professing our own religious faith; and as I have already directed your attention to the importance of early impressions, it is but justice to our principles that our youth should avoid imbibing those irreconcilable tenets (in our opinion) of a plurality in the godhead and its accompanying doctrines, which they must naturally imbibe if permitted to attend the instruction of those who do believe therein, and thus become apostates to the religion of their fathers.

Apostacy among Israelites is a rare occurrence, and less frequent in this than in foreign lands; but when one does stray from our fold, ignorance of our sacred tenets or mercenary motives give impulse to the act; and the consequences are almost invariably, misery and wretchedness.

That Sunday Schools have produced and still continue to shed forth their beneficial results on society, no matter what their sectarian principles, cannot be refuted; but as our belief and faith are peculiar to ourselves, it should be our unfaltering duty to inculcate our creed forcibly on the minds of our own youth.

We attempt not to make proselytes of, or to convert to our faith, those who differ with us on this point; but we desire to retain unmolested the light we have—it is all we ask of those who are not of our faith. We receive our existence from the same heavenly Father, and journey on to the same end in the hope of a blessed immortality and final resurrection of the soul to account for the deeds done in the body.

The origination of such an institution as we have now established, has been an object long desired; but those whose heart and soul seemed centred on this point were prevented by their domestic duties from assisting in this holy undertaking, or devoting either time or attention to it beyond their own household; but thanks to our heavenly Father, and the benevolent and untiring efforts of those ladies who now conduct it, it rests now on a solid foundation, with a prospect of such success as must insure to its founders that pride and gratification which emanate from pure and virtuous deeds.

The short period of five months has not yet closed on us since this institution commenced its operations; and the result of its labours; this day presented to your observation, is much more gratifying than our most sanguine anticipations could have realized.

The scene which you have witnessed speaks volumes for its perpetuity, and encourages us with anticipations of the most happy effect. Are there here any parents whose hearts have not been filled to overflowing while they have listened to the voice of their offspring, yet in a state of infancy, directing us to the duty we owe to our God, our neighbour, and ourselves? Where that father who has heard the exclamation of his boy, "There is but one God, keep his commands and the Sabbath day holy," who does not say, in the silent fulness of his heart, from henceforth by my example shall ye profit? or where that mother, while she has heard her infant daughter with angel voice wafting her orisons on high, "Twas God who made my infant frame," who does not in the fulness of joy thank her God that she has been spared to witness the foundation of this glorious edifice of religious instruction, which directs the mind of her offspring to obedience, virtue, and honour?

The foundation being laid, we are not to stop here; much is yet required. By our deeds are we to be judged if we practise what we preach.

To you then, parents, I now address myself: regard it not as offending, or me as presuming too much, while I indulge in a few brief remarks with respect to your duty.

In the rearing of your offspring, you have a great and responsible duty to discharge—virtue, honour, peace here and hereafter are at stake; it is not sufficient that they be reminded weekly from whence proceeds the good or evil which exists in the world, but the force of precept should constantly be held up to their view; you must daily instruct them to avoid evil association, to honour their father and mother, to be kind and condescending to their inferiors, obedient and dignified to their superiors, to do unto their neighbour as they would their neighbour should do unto them, never to take the Lord's name in vain, but to speak of their Creator with that reverential awe, which is at all times due from the creature to its Creator. These sacred morals, inculcated and observed, must insure to your children the approving confidence of a virtuous community, and render them ornaments to society, and the pride and pillar of your declining years.

"Precepts," says a great writer on morals,* "are of great weight, and a few useful ones at hand do more toward a happy life than whole volumes or cautions that we know not where to find. These salutary precepts should be our daily meditation, for they are the rules by which we ought to square our lives; when they are contracted into sentences they strike the affections, whereas, admonition is only the blowing of the coal, it moves the vigour of the mind and excites virtue; we have the thing already, but know not where it lies. It is by precept the understanding is to be nourished and augmented, the offices of prudence and justice are guided by them, and they lead us to the execution of our duties."

* Seneca.

That we daily meet with those whose moral habits are the reverse of what I have described, is true; it is not less true that many have pursued the path of sinfulness, who, in childhood, have been trained up as they should be; but the majority of those whose deeds have been evil, charge the consequence to the neglect of their parents, whose duty it was to have directed their youth in the true light.

What a sacred duty then you have to perform! May I not cherish the hope that, if there are any such within the hearing of my voice, they will take counsel from the past, and rise in all the majesty of their soul, cast off the lethargy into which they have been beguiled, determining from henceforth to be Israelites, not only in name, but in deed? Make companions of your children at home and abroad; it creates a confidence between parent and child, a zeal to foster those heaven-born virtues, which neither time, place, nor allurement will be able to induce them to deviate from.

Mothers! it is from you we receive the first incentive to virtuous deeds. Oh! Woman—lovely woman—heaven's best, last, gift to man, what are we without ye!

Lord over creation, when it was ushered into existence, with all nature's beauties surrounding him, there was still a void, man was unhappy,

"The world was sad, the garden was wild,
And man, the hermit, sighed 'till woman smiled."

We all perceive and acknowledge woman's influence. In the field or the forum, to win her smile and confidence, man will brave the cannon's mouth, or climb the loftiest pinnacle of intellectual ambition.

Man, naturally rude, stern, and overbearing, buffets with the world, regardless of time or consequence. Woman, ever modest and retiring, rarely o'ersteps the bounds of prudence, and possesses a degree of fortitude in whatever situation misfortune may place her that man is incapable of.

Man, from his daily vocation and intercourse with the world, is incapable of bestowing or devoting his attention to those domestic duties which woman seems destined by nature to preside over.

"Oh, woman whose form and whose soul,
Are the spell and the light of each path we pursue,
Whether sunn'd in the Tropics or chill'd at the Pole,
If woman be there, there is happiness too."

'Tis from you then, mothers! as the infant learns to lisp its father's name, that the seed of virtue, honour, and every moral worth is implanted and inculcated; but it is for you, fathers! to enforce this by precept and example, to watch and shield the blooming of the bud till it ripens to honourable maturity.

When we take a retrospective view of our brethren in foreign lands, and direct our attention to those governments where fanaticism and bigotry are the predominant qualifications of its rulers, and ignorance and prejudice characterize the minds of the people: need we be astonished at the state of subjugation and degradation which our brethren are compelled to endure in that quarter of the globe? And why! 'Tis for their unconquerable defence of their holy religion, their unchangeable faith in that One God, who, in a voice of thunder, spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, and bid him receive for his children those commands which will for ever exist as an imperishable monument of his enduring will, "midst the wreck of matter and the crush of worlds."

(To be continued.)