Home page The Occident and American Jewish Advocate Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library Shopping Mall of Zion AHAVA Hero Products 250x250

בס"ד

Meeting Of The Jewish Population Of New York In Aid Of Ireland.

 

It is a fact not to be disputed, that, notwithstanding the undeserved wrongs which Israelites have had to endure, they have always been ready to alleviate the sufferings of their fellow-men whenever distress was presented to their notice; and this is constantly seen even in those countries where persecution is still their lot. It was therefore to be expected that here, where they have no such injuries to complain of, they would be ready to aid, to as great a degree at least as elsewhere, whatever sorrow is presented to their notice; and candid truth will demonstrate that this is actually so. We well remember that when a dreadful earthquake devastated Guadeloupe, one of the French West India Islands, the Israelites of Philadelphia held an especial meeting, by request of the French consul and other citizens; and we think that an entire tenth of all the funds raised here was contributed by our members. When a fire laid a large part of Pittsburg in ruins, again a handsome contribution was offered by our congregation as such; and though for the relief of the Irish no congregational movement has been made, we are credibly informed that individuals have given largely. It is therefore with much satisfaction that we lay before our readers the action of the Israelites of New York, belonging to the Shearith Israel Synagogue, under charge of Reverend Mr. Lyons, which resulted, as we learn, in a collection of near two hundred dollars. We have only received two of the addresses, that of Mr. Lyons being contained in the Globe of the 10th of March; Mr. Judah sent us his in MS. We need not call the attention of our readers to the proceedings, since they are so well calculated to do so from the subject on which they treat; and we express the hope that, as it has thus been proved what public action can effect, other schemes of benevolence and utility may meet with a response equally prompt and efficacious.—Ed. Oc.

“A large and respectable assembly of the Congregation Shearith Israel took place on Monday evening at the Synagogue in Crosby Street, between Broome and Spring Streets, for the purpose of taking measures for the relief of the famishing thousands of their fellow­mortals in that unfortunate and destitute country, Ireland.

“The meeting was organized by the appointment of Samuel Lazarus as Chairman; Isaac Phillips, Vice President; and J. Josephs, Secretary.

“The Rev. J. J. Lyons, after a hymn, opened the services by offering the following fervent and highly appropriate

Prayer

God of the feeble, God of the needy! Thou who art the joy of the afflicted and the comfort of the distressed, have pity on our famishing and suffering fellow-creatures, whose distress to alleviate we have with thy permission here assembled.

Who is like thee, O God! in whose hands is the fate of nations—who buildeth up and breaketh down at his pleasure. It is to thee, and to thee alone that we turn our hearts in thanksgiving and in praise that thou hast spared our country from the prevailing calamity. May it please thee to impress on the hearts of this community, the true sense of the numerous blessings that we receive daily at thy hand. Deign to convince them that their own destiny depends on thy mercy and thy will, and inspire them with fellow-feeling and with proper kindness for their suffering brethren.

We pray, O God, that thou may bless our efforts to religion by the practice of universal love and charity, and that whosoever assists in this holy work may receive proofs of thy approval and satisfaction, here and hereafter. Amen.

“The reverend gentleman then took the platform, and delivered a most feeling and instructive address, of which we are pleased to present the following report. The words of the speaker were listened to with the utmost attention, and a deep feeling of pity and commiseration, seemed to be evinced by the entire congregation:

Address.

Brethren,

I address you on this occasion with feelings of diffidence and anxiety; diffidence caused by the novelty of the undertaking—anxiety by the importance, the interest, the solemnity of the subject which for a few moments I propose to dilate upon. That it is important and interesting is evinced by the unanimous and simultaneous action of the whole country, by the spontaneous assemblages of citizens to consider it, by its engrossing and all-absorbing discussion. Its solemnity is graven in the heart of every intelligent and thinking individual. What is it, my brethren, that has thus affected us and others? Wherefore are the prejudices, the divisions, the hostility of all sects forgotten, and wherefore  are found on the same platform men of all denominations, earnestly and zealously engaged in co-operating for a common object? Wherefore are the contests, the bickerings, the opinions of parties thrown aside to permit their respective partisans to act in unison for a single purpose? What great, what wonderful event in the progress of the world, has from a dormant state of toleration into recognition and fellowship called that people, chosen as His people by the God on high, but rejected, oppressed and persecuted by their fellow-men? No devastating pestilence has invaded our shores; all with us is teeming with life and health. No dreadful blight has consumed our fields: all nature is smiling in beauty and abundance. No intestine commotions have threatened the permanency of our liberties, our rights, our government. Our national enemies have prevailed not against us. The elements themselves, restrained and tempered by a merciful God, have spared our cities, our villages and our plains, have only been ministers to our comforts, auxiliaries to our happiness, our prosperity.

Yet sadness and gloom pervade the land. A nation is in distress, a nation is starving. Numbers of our fellow-creatures have perished, dreadfully, miserably perished from hunger and starvation. Millions are threatened with the same horrid fate, the same dire calamity. The aged and the young, the strong and the feeble alike are prostrated. The heart of civilization is touched by the distress and wo of the sufferers. Relief, and if not relief at least alleviation, is the first sentiment to which utterance is given, and in obedience to that sentiment are we, my brethren, assembled this evening. When information was received in our country that great distress existed in unhappy Ireland, that her inhabitants, her peasantry and her labourers were suffering from the failure of the potato crop, that supplies must be drawn from this and other countries, the benefits we were to derive from such a state of affairs was the paramount consideration. That cases of individual suffering would ensue was admitted.—That the energies and capacities of the people would surmount their difficulties was confidently predicted, and it was not till the reality was made evident to us, not until we were absolutely horrified and heart-sickened by the accounts of the distress that measures were taken to prevent if possible the further ravages of the visitation. Our fellow-citizens have come forward with promptitude and generosity; contributions have poured in from all classes, from all sects. Aid and assistance to unhappy Ireland—raiment, food and life itself to her destitute people are now invoked at your hands. Each of you, I know, acknowledges the necessity of action, each feels that a state of affairs there exists, which it is the duty of society to change and improve. But while there is no diversity of opinion on these points, there is a great diversity of opinion as to what we should do in  the premises. We are told that we have a large number of our own poor and destitute to take care of, that the charity which we dispense should be bestowed in this quarter, that the peculiar position of ourselves and our co-religionists demands it at our hands, that justice is a higher virtue than generosity, that self-preservation is a law and principle of our nature. Examine these objections for yourselves. Reflect upon them seriously and conscientiously; then ask yourselves whether they be forcible and true, or whether they are not in fact excuses which the lips utter, while they are rejected by the heart.—Ask yourselves if the contribution which this day you are requested to make will diminish in the smallest degree the other calls which you admit are imperative and binding; and if the responses be those which I anticipate, our meeting for this purpose will not have been in vain. It is true that there is but one connecting link between us and  the sufferers; that while most others know only apolitical and geographical separation from them, we alone realize that formidable and eternal one which the hand of man made not. But thanks to the Lord that connecting link is strong enough, and long enough to withstand all attempts to make the separa­tion complete and irreparable. Prejudice, bigotry, fanaticism with their attendant spirits, ignorance, intolerance and persecution cannot break it. Selfishness, avarice, cruelty in vain assist in the unholy work. Forged as it was, by religion, virtue and charity it is indestructible, it is all-powerful. That link, my brethren, is HUMANITY! Its appeal to the heart surmounts every obstacle. Clime, colour, sect, are barriers which impede not its progress thither.—Reason at its approach deserts its strong places, its impregnable fortresses. Pride from its lofty seat and imperious throne leaps down to welcome its presence. It is lighted on its way by the divine spirit within us, and the halo and glory which accompanied it illumines its biding-place long, long after its departure. It is this which has brought you here to-night, it is this and this only which will produce any result from this assemblage. Nothing that I can say, nothing that the more eloquent gentlemen who are to follow me can say (and I speak this with a full appreciation of their abilities and eloquence) can add one word which will make its action more prompt, its result more satisfactory. Its promptings enforce their own obedience, its commands require neither interpreter or assistant.

I have taken it for granted that you are all well acquainted with the present state of Ireland; that you are fully aware that the pursuit of its population is agriculture; that its land is chiefly owned by large proprietors, few of whom live on their estates; that it possesses no government of its own, and that its wants, its prosperity, its existence, depend upon the caprice of a minister, or the exigencies of a party; that the failure for two successive years of the staple article of food, and the withdrawal from its shores (even in such times) of its productions for the use of its absent landlords, have all tended to that end. I have also omitted all details of the sufferings of the people, though of thrilling interest, and affecting and persuasive for my purpose. Neither shall I dwell upon the position in which we are placed, as the first Israelite Congregation assembled for this purpose; that the eyes of the community are turned upon us, that their attention is directed to us, ought not, cannot, and will not affect us. The ground on which we stand is holy ground. No evil thoughts, no base passions, no worldly considerations here actuate us. The better principles of our nature here exercise their beneficent and ennobling control. Our hearts turned to God and his glory, his goodness, his mercy, direct us to that hath which his laws and his commandments teach us to he the true one. The guide-posts to the path are numerous and distinct; and among the first and foremost placed before our eyes do we behold thee, oh, Charity! We recognise thy beautiful face, beaming with goodness and cheerfulness, and reflecting the joy and the happiness which  thy practice brings with it. We neglect not thy precepts, we fail not at thy bidding. I have endeavoured briefly, and I know imperfectly, to express the ideas which have presented themselves to me on this occasion. I have sought to impress them on you, not by texts drawn from our sacred writings; not by arguments based on our creed, our forms, our traditions, or our laws; not by appeals to your sympathies, your passions, or your pride. I have attempted only to to express the ONE simple truth, that the sufferings of our fellow-men, wheresoever and howsoever situated, demand from us alleviation, assistance and relief. Grant it in this case, for it is a pressing one. Grant it, mothers, for mothers once happy and blessed as ye are ask it of you for their own sakes and for the sakes of their suffering babes; they ask it of you by that bond of sympathy which nature has created between ye; they ask it of you with streaming eyes and outstretched hands, to save them from disease and starvation. Grant it, wives: to save a famishing husband, a wife asks it of you, and what stronger claim can she present to you? Grant it, sisters: in a brother’s name, in the name of the poor of Ireland, to contribute your portion towards alleviating the sufferings of the destitute, and to illumine with joy the dreary path of those who are dying of starvation, with no roof, save yon canopy of heaven, to shelter them from the keen blasts of the tempest’s fury, or the pitiless ravings of the midnight storm. With hopes blasted and prospects blighted, they must now battle with the His of life, and contend with that misery which awaits them in their onward struggle.

“Should we not cherish, then, sweet charity,
Peace, and good-will, the bright humanities,
To shed a cheering radiance o’er the gloom,
To arch the glittering rainbow on the cloud,
Lift from the o’er-tasked heart its crushing grief,
Still the wild blasts and smooth the raging waves,
Bid the eye sparkle joyous through its tears,
Drive from the shattered temple of the soul
The fiend misanthropy, restore the shrine
Of faith; and, wreathing it with fresh new flowers,
Let the bright angel Love administer
Again, in gifts of goodness to mankind?”

And for whom do I plead? For Ireland, unhappy Ireland! the birthplace of that Emmet, who stood unrivalled for the splendour of his talents and the brilliancy of his legal attainments ; for the land of that departed martyr, who, in the last moments of existence—ay, when his grave was opening to receive him—promulgated the noblest sentiments of the human heart, in accents soul-stirring and eloquent, in language beautiful and sublime.

As American citizens, are we not under great and lasting obligations, to the people of Ireland? On the bloody field of battle, during our struggles for liberty, were there no Irishmen engaged in the contest? no generous and daring son of the Emerald Isle, that nobly and bravely stepped forward to the rescue? He who fell at Quebec, while leading on your troops, and urging them to victory, drew the first breath of life in Ireland’s persecuted clime; and he, whose tomb has been bedewed with the tears of his mourning countrymen, that illustrious soldier and conquering general, who for two successive terms filled the highest office within your gift, was born of Irish parents. And now, let me ask you if Ireland has no claims upon our sympathy, no demands upon our friendship, for services rendered in the darkest hours of adversity, in our conflict for liberty, in our struggles for equal rights? But, admitting that we act up to the principle that individuals as well as nations are ungrateful, has she then no claims upon us on the broad ground of charity, and of its heavenly attribute, brotherly love?

And in this,—which in all probability you will deem as the most  correct view of the case, and as forming the basis of action,—I would ask if there is one in this holy edifice so lost to feelings of humanity, so heedless of the cries of distress, as to regard with indifference the least of God’s creatures? Are there any in this hallowed house of prayer whose hearts cannot throb at the misery of the child of sorrow and of wo? To all such I would say, that there will come a time, in the progress of events, when there will be no distinction of persons, when the ensign of royalty will have passed away, and the gold of the miser become as dross; a time to come, when the man of tattered rags will stand side by side with the wealthy nabob who spurned him from his door; when the son of pride will be stripped of his earthly grandeur, and placed upon an equal footing with the poor man who has brooked his insolence; and with those who have never gladdened the widow’s heart, or dried the orphan’s tears, how slight will be their chance of experiencing that unalloyed felicity which is yet to be won.

“Go to the mart, where squalid want reclines,
Go to the shade obscure, where merit pines;
Abide with him whom penury’s charms control,
And bind the rising yearnings of his soul;
Survey his sleepless couch, and, standing there,
Tell the poor pallid wretch that life is fair.”

Can you this evening retire to your stately mansions of affluence, your homes of quiet, and of comfort, and of plenty, and there, amid the dazzling splendour which surrounds you, forget the unhappy condition of those in whose behalf I am pleading? Can you this night repose in tranquillity upon your richly-curtained couches, unconscious of the intense misery of those who have no beds to lie on? The bare earth is all their resting-place, its roots their food, some cliff their habitation.” Do you owe no gratitude to that God who called you into being, and from the dust of the earth permitted you to assume his image? who watched over you in your midnight slumbers, awakened you to a joy­ful morrow, while tens of thousands of his creatures were suffering for their daily bread; who formed this grand arch over our heads, and placed the sun—that bright luminary—at such a convenient distance from the earth as not to annoy, but to refresh us; who leads the planets on their dance—the mighty sisterhood; who strikes the harp of harmony? When languishing on a bed of pain, and the frail cords of existence rapidly yielding to the pressure of disease, who restored you to life, and to health, and to hope?

Glad am I, on an occasion so momentous as this, that the kindhearted daughters of Israel have enlivened the scene with their presence. Wherever Charity unfurls her merciful banner, there should woman be, in the very midst thereof, smiling upon the efforts of the self-styled lord of creation. As I turn my eyes upward, I behold, in all the pride and beauty of feminine loveliness, the last and best of all creation, formed alike in the image of God, generous, the enlightened, the high-minded, the intellectual wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend, joining her efforts to ours in the good and glorious work of relieving the distressed and comforting the needy. I have beheld woman in all stations of life, and marked and noted her leading and governing traits of character and to the praise of the female sex be it spoken, I have never known her, in a single instance, to shrink from her duty in the furtherance of any cause, which in its action could in the least degree benefit the human family.

With the friendly disposition of the Hebrews toward promoting and sustaining every object based upon a benevolent purpose, I am perfectly conversant. In the revolution of time, fifteen years have glided away since I had the honour of addressing the members of this Synagogue, in behalf of one of their most laudable institutions; and well do I remember the liberality displayed on that occasion, and the encouragement extended toward that feeble effort of mine, then my first attempt in public speaking; and in the present instance I have every reason to entertain the opinion that you will alike evidence the generous and humane sentiments of your hearts.

There is not one now listening to me, old or young, but who must appreciate my feelings upon this subject. I call upon you then, by the endearing ties which bind this common race in fellowship, to refect upon the unhappy condition of those for whom I solicit your aid; I call upon you, as you value your future happiness, to think of their distresses. But you ask me, what your future happiness has to do with it? Let me tell you that herein much depends upon your charitable actions. I have not said your earthly felicity will be frustrated; I can form no opinion as to that. Your destinies are in the hands of that everlasting God whose understanding there is no searching; but if I correctly understand the Sacred Volume, and so comprehending, reflect upon the commands enjoined, as regards benevolence and charity, I am certainly of opinion that uncharitable actions cannot be pleasing to that Almighty Being who created you; for it is thus recorded by the eloquent moralist: “Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to-morrow I will give, when thou hast it by thee.”

And now, in conclusion, permit me to engross your attention and to trespass but a few minutes longer on your time, while I unfold to your view the ample recompense of your uncompromising liberality towards Ireland’s suffering sons. Throughout the residue of your days you will merit and experience the approbation of that ever-enduring God of Israel, to glorify whose blessed name you have reared and hallowed this beautiful temple of adoration; and as time, in its onward progress to eternity, brings you to the approximation of your earthly pilgrimage, the goal of all cherished hopes and the climax of man’s fondest ambition: then, oh! then, in the feebleness of the dying hour, the frail cords of existence, which bind you to this fallen world, will loose their hold with the calmness, and gentleness, and loveliness of the mildest sunset of a summer’s eve, in tranquil beauty, without a cloud to dim its splendour.

“So will thy lot be happy; so the hour
Of death come clad in loveliness and joy;
And as thou layest down thy blanched head
Beneath the narrow mound, affection’s hand
Will bend the osier o’er thy peaceful grave,
And bid the lily blossom on thy turf.”

He was succeeded by Jonas B. Phillips, Assistant District Attorney, in a speech of great beauty and eloquence, which was listened to with intense interest.

M. M. Noah, Esq., also spoke at length upon the absorbing subject, the warm and feeling heart of this long and well known philanthropist being evidently more than ordinarily stirred with the fearful exigencies of the starving population of our sister land.

Another hymn was then sung, and a large collection taken up in aid of their unfortunate fellow-men across the Atlantic, when the meeting adjourned.