|Vol. II, No. 7
Tishry 5605, October 1844
The Meeting of German Rabbis, etc.
The assembly of German Rabbins and preachers was to meet on the 12th of June at Brunswick, but we have not yet received any account whatever of the meeting. In addition to those mentioned before, Rabbi Aub of Munich, Rabbi Goldman of Eschwege, Dr. Adler, Rabbi at Kissingen, Dr. Mayer, Rabbi at Stuttgart, Dr. Heilbut, Rabbi at Glückstadt, Dr. G. Kohn, Preacher at Mühlhausen, Dr. Grünebaum, Rabbi of Landau, Rabbi Oppenheim of Pirmasenz, Rabbi Seligman of Kaiserslautern, Dr. M. Sachs, Temple Preacher at Prague, Dr. Jolowicz, Preacher at Marienwerder, Rabbi Gutman of Redwitz, Dr. Aub, Rabbi of Baireuth, and Dr. S. Formstecher, Rabbi at Offenbach.—The list, thirty-two in all, comprises certainly men eminent in all branches of learning; but still we miss the names of the conservatives with but few exceptions. Nevertheless we trust that the impulse at union may extend to others besides those assembled and that much good may result to the whole house of Israel. At all events we shall know what some of the Reformers really desire, and this will certainly be a great point gained, since now everyone reforms according to his own fancy and on his own responsibility.
We had written thus much for our September Occident, but we had to exclude it with several other articles prepared for that number. Since then we have heard something of the deliberations of the assembled reform wisdom; but that something is about what we expected. Still we withhold our entire condemnation of some of the resolves of these Rabbins and preachers, till we obtain the official announcement in the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums, the paper conducted by Dr. L. Phillippson, the originator of the Brunswick Assembly. In the mean time we quote from the Voice of Jacob, No. 79, (August 2d,) from which it would also appear that all of those who promised did not attend, and that at least seven were absent. We will merely add, and with this close our remarks for the present, that a meeting of twenty-four men, Rabbins and preachers, is certainly in no sense of the word a representation of the Jewish interests of Germany; and hence, if our readers should be startled at the singularity of some of the resolves, they will please to remember what we have all along stated, that some of our leaders are very unsafe guides in matters of religion, and that we could well apply to them the old saying, “Who watches these watchmen?”
“In how far the misgivings expressed in our last notice were warranted may be judged from the following sketch of the proceedings of these twenty-five gentlemen, gleaned from the Zeit. des Jud.’s summary of ‘results.’ (1) The drawing up of a code of rules for the regulation of these meetings. Dr. Philippson is of opinion that, among the rest, these impose the moral obligation upon every one who helps to constitute the majority upon a principle contested in these meetings, to carry out such principle into practice, so far as his influence extends. The meetings are to be annual; (the next at Frankfort a. M.) and smaller assemblies of like character are to be encouraged in the intervals. (2) The declaration that the oath of a Jew requires no more than an appeal to the name of God. This was on the proposition of the Hildesheim Chief Rabbi, whose object is to procure the repeal of the offensive formulary, more judaico, in Hanover and other states. The debate on this subject led to the next. (3) The resolution to effect the immediate omission of the Kol Nidre, in their respective congregations. (4) The decision that the Synagogal formularies of Mecklenburgh Schwerin, are consonant with the faith and ritual of Judaism. (5) The confirmation of the twelve answers given to Napoleon by the Paris Sanhedrin, in 1807. As this determination was arrived at on the proposition of Dr. Phillippson himself, he enters into the history of the Sanhedrin, and argues for the validity of its decisions; principally on the score of their expediency, and because they have never been formally protested against. Notwithstanding this declaration of our learned contemporary, it appears that the meeting found it necessary to modify the following decisions of the Paris Sanhedrin. Its third answer declared that intermarriages with Christians are not forbidden; the meeting adds,—provided that by the law of the state it is legal to train the issue of such mixed marriages in the religion of Israel. Our readers may be reminded that the meeting confirms, among others, the following decisions of the Paris Sanhedrin:—Jewish divorces are only valid, with consent of the law of the state:—there are no pursuits (professions) forbidden by Jewish law;—and every species of usury is forbidden and disgraceful.
“The meeting found it needful to append a declaration to the effect that:—Inasmuch that the state hereby receives every guarantee, that Judaism harbours no anti-social principle or tendency, it is on the other hand needful to declare, that Judaism can never resign the right of its own free development; that the interests of the state have no concern beyond; and that all further interference in the internal development of Judaism, and its religious concerns, is most emphatically repudiated.
“Credit is claimed by the reporter, for the perfectly dispassionate character of this confirmation, as the act of a meeting not to be suspected (like Napoleon’s Sanhedrin,) of being influenced by an Emperor’s fear or favour, or, like the Hungarian committee, of a disposition to accommodate their dogmas with a reference to the pursuit of civil equality.
“Other propositions were received and referred for future decision. Among these are:—
“The appointment of a commission to revise the Jewish law of marriages:—on the plea that the laws of various states overrule our own law in so many particulars, including Get, Chalitsah, &c.
“(7) The appointment of a commission preparatory to a new liturgy;—the following questions are to be propounded to this commission. (a) Whether it is necessary and desirable to retain the Hebrew language in Divine service. (b) Whether the dogma of the Messiah should be retained in the prayers. (c) How ק״ת the public reading of the law) may be more suitably arranged (d) How ת״ש (blowing of the cornet) and נ״ל (waving of the palm-branch) can be arranged in better taste. (e) Whether the Musaphim should be retained. (f) Whether the organ should be introduced in Divine service.
“(8) The appointment of a commission to prepare the question of how a compromise may be effected between the doctrine of the sabbath, and the actual observance of it. (Leben and Lehre.)
(9) A proposition that the Rabbis should keep circumcision registers, was adopted.
“As characteristics of the meeting, it may be mentioned that the two following propositions were rejected:—“To seek the emancipation of the Jewish church, and its recognition as a church in all states:—and the expression of a formal censure upon Jewish fathers, who refuse to have their children circumcised. The reasons assigned for the rejection of the latter proposition was,—because it too nearly concerned the passions of the day.
“We have thus endeavoured, as matter of history, to give an impartial sketch of the reports before us; and when we receive the protocol and debates which the meeting has undertaken to publish, we shall feel impelled to make some few comments upon them.”