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


The New York Jewish Chronicle


We again have reluctantly to revert to the Jewish Chronicle, improperly so called, although we had almost determined to overlook it for the future, unless the editor should pursue a more straightforward course than he has done hitherto. Personally indifferent as we are to calumny or praise from such a quarter, it can make little difference to us what the organ of the conversionists may say of us; the editor is therefore perfectly free to indulge in any remarks or reflections which <<99>>concern our unworthy self; but we have a duty to Israelites at large to fulfil, which might render our silence unbecoming for various reasons. Our enemies, emboldened by our apparent inattention to their kindness, might be led to suppose themselves in a fair way of having a permanent influence on our people, or that we were unable, not unwilling, to cope with them, and their infatuation is at times so great that any folly may with reason be expected of them. The mania of converting Jews is one which feeds on what it produces, and the conversion of a couple of infamous women, or of two or three designing young men, who wish to be promoted by embracing Christianity to a height which could not be reached by them as Jews, is trumpeted about as something which betokens the speedy conversion of all Israel to the doctrines of Christianity, and straightways a renewed appeal is made to the simple and faithful to come forward with liberal contributions to provide for these “new brands snatched from the burning, that they may be educated to become shining lights in Israel.”

But how often must the editor of the Chronicle, and his helpers, and his helpers’ helpers be told that we Jews are perfectly indifferent to all such conversions? A few weeks ago we received a letter from a gentleman in Baltimore respecting a young man who was tampered with by the missionaries, perhaps the very one whom the Chronicle for April reports as baptized, and we were requested to discover whether we could not find for him a place for a liberal education in Philadelphia, as he had been promised a scientific training by his friends the missionaries. There would perhaps have been no great difficulty in so placing him here, after a few months’ preparation, in the ordinary grammar schools of this city; but we unhesitatingly replied, that the same kind of education was accessible at Baltimore, and that if he had once listened to the overtures of the enemies of Israel, it was but too likely that he would sooner or later seek their society, and that the effort at retaining him would hardly be worth the labour, his domestic education having been so neglected that the choice of a religion would not be a matter of conscience, but one of calculation, deeming as we do that the ancients were just in saying, כל שבא להתטמא פיתחין לו “When one comes to defile himself, the gate is open to him;” not that we are indifferent about the fate of the lowest sinner, but that sad experience has taught us the uselessness of arresting the wicked on their downward course. If now a thousand such purchased infidels join the various Christian sects, we have lost not one professing Jew; we have lopped off from our parent trunk the rotten branches, and as far as we are concerned the wayfarer is welcome to kindle with them his fire, or to leave them to moulder <<100>>away at the wayside.

We can at the same time assure the Rev. Mr. Lillie, that within the last twelve months we have had three or four applications from persons not born of Jewish parents to be admitted to the communion of the Synagogue; and we have declined acting in all of them for the present, to give the applicants time and leisure to reflect seriously on the momentous step they were about to take. Mind, all these applications have come to us voluntarily; not by sending hired men after them, to promise them education and promotion in the church, to give them a better support than they could obtain from their old associates; and it is not subject to the least doubt, that if we would make the effort, and preach Judaism as Christianity is preached, in the field and the city, and seek for converts among all classes of the community, it would not be long before we could publish monthly a long report of conversions and baptisms into the Jewish Church, far outbalancing those from us. But our people are opposed to making proselytes, greatly more so indeed than we deem either prudent or necessary; because there are not wanting examples of the brightest and holiest kind, of men turning from Christianity to the faith of Moses and Elijah, and suffering martyrdom for their professions, in times when to be called “a Jew” was a sure passport to oppression, and not rarely to death. Does not the editor of the Chronicle know, or has he never heard at least, that conversions prove nothing more than that such things took place, and argue not one iota in favour of one system or the other? There have been converts to Christianity from heathens, Jews, and Mahomedans; so there are instances known, and these by no means few, where Christians became heathens, Jews, or Mahomedans; now if the first proves anything, so does the latter fact, and Christianity loses at least as much as it gains.

Besides, the editor must know that many heterodox views have lately taken deep root in the bosom of the various Christian societies; and that the Church of Rome has its German Catholics, the Church of England its Puseyites, the Church of Geneva its Unitarians, the Friends their Hicksites, and all Christians their Mormons, Millerites, Perfectionists, Universalists, Socialists, and whatever may be the other ecclesiastical and philosophical excrescences of the present day which have appeared—nay, maintained themselves on the stage of life, despite of their many absurdities.

Would it not be wiser, more Christianlike, and more likely to succeed if the learned divines of all the American churches, and all the old and young women, whose hearts bleed for the infidelity of Israel, and all the old and young men, who give their sixpences and their shillings to the cause of converting the people <<101>>of God to what they never believed in, would join counsel and means to reconvert the straying Christians, who are so numerous in the land, to the true standard of the Church? But we will be supposed to speak ironically! Yes, the true standard! here is the rub! that is the question! Primitive Christianity! the only saving church! the apostacy of the harlot of Babylon! evangelical preaching! inward light! a new revelation! universal salvation through the blood that was freely shed for all at the cross! and many more views come clashing against each other, and to reconcile them would become a labour against which the tasks of Hercules were mere baby play.

Yet, as regards Jews, we think we can discover an excuse which our opponents will frame: “It matters not which church, or rather which section the new converts embrace, provided they become Christians.” Very well, indeed; but, gentlemen, if it matters not as regards the Jewish converts, you at once acknowledge that all your disputing about sects is a mere farce; so you might as well all be Catholics or Unitarians as attack each other so fiercely as you do about your sectional differences, and shut up your colleges, dismiss your priests, tear clown three-fourths of your churches, and disturb the people no more about your fine-spun disputes about apostolic succession, trans- and con-substantiation, confession, freedom of will, election, papal supremacy, and whatever else forms the slogan of the various Christian parties. It is evident that your theological differences mean something or nothing; if something, it becomes you first to establish what orthodox Christianity is; and if nothing, then spare the world with your everlasting strife, to settle which rivers of blood have been shed, and towns sacked, and states devastated. Be this as it may, no one will gainsay that Christianity would gain more strength by recruiting from its own straying members than by tampering with the Jews, who, to say the least, have more religion in their unconverted state than they can obtain by becoming nominal converts to one or the other sections, especially if temporal promotion should be coupled therewith.

For these and many other reasons, some of which we may give hereafter, we continue to assert, that the attempt to lure away the Israelites is foolish, sinful, and fruitless, although within late the Society in New York has, as it says, had cause to rejoice over its success, “in guiding some of these lost sheep to the Shepherd and Bishop of souls.” We are also willing to acknowledge that some converts, even among the educated, the infidel students, may be picked up; but we do contend, that Christianity gains thereby as little as Judaism loses, that is—just nothing at all. We should be sorry that, if we had any converts to <<102>>our faith, they should be proved as utterly worthless as many of the new Christians are, and hence we again say, that to spend money and time on such objects is to waste both in useless endeavours.

But of all the converts the missionaries have made, or profess to have obtained, we did not say a word in our magazine, for the reason already given, because we lose nothing by losing them; and for the personal abuse, we should have equally scorned to write a single line, if others had not noticed the slanderous articles and demanded our notice of them. So situated we could not do otherwise than write something, and once engaged in replying in general terms, we spoke out pretty freely, calling things by their right names. But it would appear, that even before our article, in the March Occident, appeared, the managers of the parent Society in New York had become, of themselves, aware and ashamed of that baseness of their missionaries and editors, in writing and publishing libels against Jewish ministers and people, and hence they had resolved, very wisely indeed, to restrict the reports to mere narration of facts. The editor then, also, in the April number of the Chronicle, makes some apology for his imprudence, which we now lay before our readers, that they may readily see, that by confession of the culprit himself, we have done him no more than sheer justice by exposing his sinful course.

“What we intend in now referring to the matter at all is, not to dispute, far less to rail, but to make that amends in the way of confession and apology, which we feel to be due.

“We do think, then, that the letter, which appeared in January, ought not to have been published, and we regret that the hurry in which we are sometimes compelled to go to press, led us to overlook its injurious bearings. It is bare justice to our esteemed missionary to say, that from the beginning Mr. N. has protested against the practice of printing the journals and reports; and with equal truth it may be added in our own behalf, that at the time we were not aware who the individuals were, to whom allusion was made. It may also help to restore a better understanding between our cotemporary and ourselves, if we mention that it was our own unprompted reflections on this very case, which determined us finally to propose to the Executive Committee the adoption of the rule given in the Chronicle for March, and by which a practice so prone to mischief, even where no harm is meant, is greatly restricted, and well-nigh abolished.

“Conscious as we are, however, of having afforded these leaders of the people some just ground of complaint, we shall not in our turn complain of the style in which they retaliate. We shall be doubly careful in future to lay no stumbling-block in their path, and doubt not that we shall be permitted also to regard them as gentlemen.”

We have to add a few remarks more, and we have done.

There is <<103>>something disingenuous in the assertion, that the article in the January Chronicle was sent to press in a hurry. We believe that our many engagements compel us to hasten the Occident, in all probability, more than the Chronicle ever is; and nevertheless, it would be surprising should any article, half as calumnious, find its way into our pages, even if we should be at the time stretched on a bed of sickness, and have to leave the printing altogether to strangers, because, at the first glance, we would reject any such a paper without hesitation. Secondly, we have every reason to believe, that N. does not write in English, but French or German, and that Mr. Lillie, or some one for him, has first to translate N’s. letters before they appear in the Chronicle. Inadvertence is, then, out of the question. But we honestly believe, that Mr. L. erred in inserting that and similar papers, and it would have been more honest to have acknowledged it at once. And finally, neither Mr. L. nor any one else shall ever have cause, as far as we can help it, to say that he has received any other than gentlemanly treatment at our hands; so he may quiet his conscience about regarding us and our colleagues as gentlemen; but at the same time, this shall not prevent us to call wrong acts by proper names, and to expose any improper doings to the scorn of all honest men. We wish to be a gentleman, but more than all an honest man, and an Israelite fearless in the discharge of his duty.—We have done.