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- Transcriber's Note: Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -
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SUGGESTIONS TO THE JEWS, FOR IMPROVEMENT IN REFERENCE TO THEIR CHARITIES, EDUCATION, AND GENERAL GOVERNMENT.
BY A JEW.
LONDON: PRINTED BY JOHN WERTHEIMER AND CO., CIRCUS PLACE, FINSBURY CIRCUS AND MAY BE HAD OF G. GALABIN, 91, BARTHOLOMEW CLOSE. 1844.
"As the twelve tribes had many interests in common, and, in some respects, formed but one political body, the magistrates of all the tribes met in general assemblies to consult for the good of the nation." Jahn's History of the Hebrew Commonwealth.
Whoever regards the state of our community in this country, must come to the conclusion, that we have arrived at an important period, when we can no longer defer the consideration of matters of vital interest, if we would escape the well merited condemnation of the world at large, or the just reproaches of conscience in ourselves. We stand in a position where the past, the present, and the probable future are alike presented to our view; the first to instruct and warn us, and the two latter to furnish us with every motive to exertion which can be gathered from the impulses of hope and fear, from a perception of our own best interests and of those of our posterity. That the honour and reputation of the Jewish body are and have been at stake, must be granted by those who admit, as facts, the circumstances to which it is the aim of this Pamphlet to draw the public attention. The great majority of our poor are uneducated in the holy tenets of our creed—in their duties as citizens—in the proper arts of life; while poverty and distress abound in the dwellings of vast numbers of our brethren, partially mitigated, indeed, not permanently provided for, by the many excellent and worthy charitable societies which surround us. These are truths which painfully arrest the attention of individuals; and it becomes the duty of the whole, to seek the means of meeting the difficulties of the case. In the ensuing pages I venture to suggest some propositions for the purpose.
In all well constituted societies, it has been found necessary to have a head, from which all government, laws and regulations, have emanated. These governments have been formed either of one person or more, the object being, "a means to an end," or more fully speaking, "the production of the greatest possible amount of human happiness." This fact is so universally admitted, that associations for every object, whether religious or political, scientific or trading, have recourse to a governing body for carrying out their particular views; and, perhaps, I am not far wrong in stating, that the only exception in Great Britain of an extensive religious community being without a government is to be found amongst the Jews, not because the exigency is less, but because, from their first establishment in this kingdom, the want was never so much felt as at the present moment; their position has now become matter of inquiry to every enlightened mind, and many circumstances have recently shewn the disadvantages which a want of system has entailed upon those who profess the Jewish religion in this country—disadvantages which will be particularised as we proceed.
In the peculiar position of the Jewish people, I cannot find a term by which to distinguish them, and must therefore apologise for adopting those terms which are already in use. They are called a nation; and I avail myself of the word: but in what consists their nationality? They are termed a body: in what do they assimilate? They are designated the British Jews: how are they identified with the title? The phrase, "Members of a certain Synagogue," conveys to the mind the only idea to which we can find any corresponding reality; for, in truth, beyond what it implies, the Jews are not united for any definite design or purpose; and while it would have been reasonable to expect, a priori, that the votaries of a faith set apart from all others, should have had some common bond of union in their affairs, we are startled by the consideration that there exist at this moment in London alone, a number of distinct Jewish Congregations, independent of each other, with separate wants and interests, having nothing in common but their religion: and all the great and noble advantages to be obtained by numbers, having a unity of purpose, are either unrecognised, or merged and lost in that separation of interests which makes the respective pecuniary benefit of each Congregation the greatest, if not the only object of its existence.
The provincial Congregations are precisely in the same injurious position, and sensibly feel the want of a defined and constituted authority—to decide upon many differences that arise—to interfere for the extinction of animosities (trifling in themselves, but made gigantic by continued contest) easy to be reconciled by a power to which all would feel compelled to bow—yet as pregnant with important consequences, if unchecked, as those causes which led for a period to the downfall of monarchy in these realms. The evil appears, so far as regards the Metropolitan Congregations, to have originated at, and been continued from, the period of the second settlement of the Israelites in this country. To the rapid increase of numbers and wealth, during the absence of one efficient regulating power, we can trace the successive formation of so many distinct communities.
To those elements which ought to have contributed to our strength, we thus owe our weakness, and that disorganisation and separation of interests which characterises the various proceedings of our body, in the formation of the necessary places of worship, and in other affairs. Had our ancestors provided a government at the outset, or placed us under the control of an adequate authority, no material disagreements would have taken place. But the narrow policy which led to the formation of parties, compelled them to take what might have been wisely and nobly given,—created feelings of aversion where the affection of parent and offspring ought to have existed. The wealth of the newer branches generated, on their part, a feeling of pride equally to be deplored; and in losing sight of the necessity for general co-operation, and for one common fund, every kindly feeling gave way to mutual jealousy. The example once set, was soon followed, and continues to be so on every opportunity: we blindly press onward in the same irrational course, without staying to consider that we impoverish the source, by continually increasing the number of the streams.
The same spirit of division (it cannot be called independence) enters into the details of all the affairs of the Israelites in their respective undertakings: it marks their general social position, and leads to a universal separation of interests. Every charity is encountered by another for similar purposes, in the east or west, as the case may be, to be supported by private exertion, and by opposing parties. One counteracts the other; both contend with all the force and feelings of competitors for public favour. The strength which would be tenfold if united, is wasted in petty rivalries, and in endeavours after show, instead of being employed in seeking the advantage of the objects to be benefited. Yet views of charity and religion, which the Jews entertain in common, and the sympathy that unites them, as it does individuals of every class possessing a similarity of belief or feeling, render it desirable to resort to a plan of centralisation and union, by which not alone the wholesome regulation of charitable institutions would be effected, but the education of the poor, and the intellectual advancement of the entire community, would be accomplished.
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The anxiety of the poor Jews for instruction,—of the trading classes for moral improvement,—of the wealthy for a removal of civil disabilities,—of the religious for some alteration in the mode of worship,—in short, of every portion and member of the Jewish community, for an amendment of its social position, is so evident, that the following suggestions are put forth in the hope and belief that they contain the elements of a plan, which, if boldly and fully carried out, will tend to elevate the Jews from their present degraded and certainly unmerited position; and while it would improve them, it would enable the Christian world to do that justice to their talents and probity, for which at present, in an ignorance of their true characteristics, little credit is given to them; not because Englishmen are now indisposed to act fairly or kindly to their countrymen of a different religion, or from their indifference to the wants of our co-religionists, but because (in the fear of thrusting themselves before the public, where insult and contumely have too frequently awaited them) the Jews have not collectively manifested any desire for intellectual culture, nor attempted to disabuse the minds of their neighbours from the prejudices of what, as towards the Jews, may be termed an illiberal and bigoted education. As, however, it forms no part of my plan to recapitulate the oppression of the one party, or the quiet suffering of the other, nor to analyse the causes, but to take the Jews as I find them, I will leave to others the task of commenting upon the past, nor will I, by any invidious remarks, prove that they have always been an ill-used body; yet I cannot refrain from stating, that in no similar number of men in Great Britain, labouring under the same social and political disadvantages with themselves (unprovided for by the government, uninstructed, and with very few attempts made, until recently, by their brethren, to instruct them), will be found more humanity, kindness, honesty, and a disinclination to heinous crimes, than in the body hitherto scornfully designated Jews.
Attempts at extensive improvements are always termed visionary; and every effort towards advancement has been always met by the clamours of the ignorant and the interested. The general spread of knowledge has had to contend with the opposition of party and personal feelings; but these have never been enabled to stem the onward progress of enlightenment with any strength: I would, therefore, entreat those who with myself are seeking to carry out this scheme, and to arrive at a better state of things, to persevere, nothing daunted at the first repulse, but to continue their course, rising superior to the paltry prejudices that may and will assail them, until they have succeeded in procuring for their brethren, a name and a station worthy of them in the ranks of society—
"For freedom's battle once begun, Bequeath'd by suff'ring sire to son, Though baffl'd oft, is ever won!"
Let us not forget, therefore, that it is our duty to enlist the earnest co-operation of every individual that is to be benefited, and in that designation is comprised every member of the community. As a crime committed by a Jew, an illegal act, even an examination before a magistrate upon suspicion, is made a disgrace to the race, and reflects discredit upon the whole, the entire body—the very religion—suffers from it. Every living Jew—the very memory of the dead—demands justice; and as individuals have it in their power to contribute to the general honour or disgrace, it is our duty to implant the purpose that animates us in the hearts and understandings of all our brethren.
In a subsequent part of this pamphlet will be found, in brief detail, a plan, which the necessity of the case itself seems to suggest as the best means for ameliorating the condition of the Jewish body; and I only refer to it shortly here, in order to state succinctly the objects to be attained, and previously to an attempt, to show our brethren of all classes and of every grade, how intimately the interest of each is bound up with that of the whole. It is clearly admitted that the children of the poor are not sufficiently educated, or sufficiently instructed in the means of procuring their subsistence, an evil which not only affects the present generation, but spreads its baneful influence wide and deep into the future, and may affect all the interests of our posterity. One great portion of the plan, therefore, is to provide the means of education, to be governed and guided according to rules which experience and observation have proved to be the best, as selected from various institutions and from Schools of Industry in this country. Another principal feature of it is, to enlarge and strengthen the power of the numerous charitable societies in existence, by providing a building adapted to the whole, and which, by creating a unity of purpose and management among the various administrations, will give a much larger scope of action to the respective charities. A third portion of the plan regards an adequate provision for an Anglo-Jewish press, which will be found not only subsidiary to the objects already alluded to, by publishing to our brethren every thing connected with those objects, but will be seen to be in itself a most powerful instrument for our mental advancement; and as it is requisite that such great and important ends as these should be guided and controlled by one power, so that each portion of this plan should lend to, and receive mutual assistance from, the others, so that no differences of view should intercept or mar the common benefit, it has been considered requisite to provide for the constituting of a supervising committee or central council, who would have the superintendence of all matters not ecclesiastical.
Let us contrast in our minds, for one moment, the present state of things, with what an advantageous position we should hold, as a community, if a plan like the above were in full and fair operation. Let us "look upon this picture, and on that;" and who is there among us that will not say, in the communings of his own soul, "This is a concern in which it behoves me to exert every energy and power which the Divine Author of our faith has bestowed upon me"? And while all can bring their meed of power and energy to the task, to each, according to his views, his feelings, or his rank in life, some peculiar inducement appears for taking part in so laudable an undertaking.
I would ask the religious man, be he Jew or not, Is not a proper observance of religion to be expected rather from the instructed than the debased mind? Putting aside every high command to assist the needy, is it not a duty to improve the worldly welfare of your fellow man, giving him, at the same time, means which will develop his mental faculties, and induce him to join you in prayer, and lead him to the better observance of all his religious duties? To you, then, worshipper of the Supreme Being, I appeal to join in this undertaking: your future hopes, as well as your worldly welfare, are linked with the fate of the poor and unenlightened Jews. Assist them—instruct them—extend the provision for them in old age—let not the prejudices which spring from worldly differences, or the rancour of sectarian feeling, blind you to the great good you may achieve. Join early in the glorious work—come even singly to combat with darkness and disgrace. Every man may be the vanquisher of one illiterate spirit, and bear him from ignorance and evil to knowledge and the brightness of everlasting good. It is your duty especially, preachers of the word of truth, to disseminate these principles from your high places; for by opening the minds of the ignorant you teach them to laugh to scorn the sophisms of conversionists, and enable them to judge better of their religion and THEMSELVES. Unite yourselves then, ye pastors; cry aloud, "There is a feeling of hope stirring among the Jews—they seek for instruction, let us help them!" Address your exertions to inform those who know less than yourselves—and you will have the inestimable satisfaction of perceiving that the precepts of morality and virtue will make their way with redoubled force to the hearts and understandings of your hearers; that you will be enabled to impart to all, whatever religion affords of hope and consolation and gladness; cheering the afflicted in the hour of his adversity—proving to the doubting spirit that "truth and good are one," and, in the exercise of your sacred functions on unclouded minds,
"Allure to brighter worlds and lead the way."
In the prosecution of this scheme many advantages are offered, which to the trader and mere man of the world are of considerable importance, by bringing all our charities to a focus. Setting aside the great saving that could and would be effected in the management by united efforts, a much larger sum might be given to the legitimate object of each charity, and a systematic and efficient check upon each person receiving relief could be accomplished.
The vast sums annually given to established charities and benevolent institutions, form but a small item in the sum total of expenditure for charity. Tradesmen, and indeed individuals of every class, are in the habit of making continual donations to persons unknown, and frequently unworthy. To those, then, whom these considerations principally affect, I would say,—Put all your charities under a salutary control, and, under a united management, sink for once the mere desire to be chairman, committee-men, and managers. Act with others, and not as if you only were patrons and founders of the institutions you wish to see flourish. Unite for the purpose of doing good, not for granting patronage. Assist in educating the poor and needy, whether orphans or otherwise, and in afterwards placing them as apprentices. As the honesty of their character, and the diligence with which they exercise their calling become developed and known, so will your reputation as honourable tradesmen increase. As they will have received the advantage of an education, in which religion and morality will have been combined with whatever is necessary for their support through life, no imputation of chicanery—no supposition of dishonesty will attach itself to them, and your word will be taken. When their religious observances are known, they will be appreciated; and your pledge of honour as a Jew will be guarantee for the quality of your commodity. Thus everything is to be gained, and the accomplishment is within your own power. Will you quietly sit by and hear vituperation heaped upon your creed and upon yourselves, without being roused to the slightest effort? I will readily admit that it is only the prejudices of the ignorant and vulgar which draw the distinction between yourself and the Christian: enlighten him therefore where requisite; associate as much as possible with him; let your press address him; prove by your acts, your words and dealings, the falseness of his assertions against you, and his sneer loses all its sting from its inapplicability. Let the phrase, "He is a Jew in his dealings," be an honourable testimonial, equally as desirable to you as that "He acts like a Christian," is to our fellow-citizens of the faith alluded to: and let those who think that the only worth of the Jewish religion is to be measured by the purchase-money offered for apostasy from it, find that the price they pay is only a bribe for seeming assent from the outcasts of society, and that the very worst and lowest Jew is sufficiently informed to know that he will not be raised by becoming a bad Christian, or an infidel. It is equally clear that a bad Jew will never make a good Christian: and I am not quite sure if we ought not to be thankful for the removal of such an excrescence from our body.
In turning to those who are sometimes termed our aristocracy, that is to say—the wealthy portion of the Jewish community, I would ask, Are you contented that the stigma which unjustly presses on the Jewish name should longer continue? I am free to admit that the Christians rather than the Jews require to be enlightened upon this point; but have you attempted this? What has been done by you for the elevation of your brethren? But let all that is practicable in this respect be attained, and you will ascend with them; as the majority become refined in their manners, talented in their professions, known in their dealings, so will you, always the most conspicuous, be exalted with them. Honour will emanate from the people and be reflected upon the leaders. Every onward movement of the middle and lower orders must press you, the more advanced, into higher eminence: and it is therefore necessary on your parts to procure for the body of which you are a portion, the means of making its members of every class useful and excellent citizens. While the poor are left to obloquy—no matter who the rich may be—all will be designated by one common term of reproach.
While the great mass of the population is progressing in intellectual power, the Jews cannot stand still and be at the same time respected. The aristocratic class of the Jews is formed of men of wealth—of wealth honourably acquired, and thus open to every man: but unless the strictest regard be had to the education of our co-religionists, we shall have that class, noted only for its money and its ignorance, shamed into an unenviable notoriety by an indifference to the wants of the majority, and dragged downwards with them into one general obscurity. As wealth is within the attainment of poorer orders, the requisite education should be at once provided for them—the characters of all formed upon honest principles—the minds of all cultivated and embued with useful knowledge—and the manners, so far as is practicable, trained with a view to what is decorous and proper in social life. Punish by your frowns, by public scorn and private avoidance, the wretch who would cast dishonour on you by the dishonesty of his dealings. The poorest youth of character may justly aspire in this country to the honours of every station, and he will be the more honoured and sought as his fair fame expands itself—an example to his fellows—an ornament to his friends—an honour to his country. One false step in early life (which, had he possessed that education we contend for, might have been avoided), and he not only closes the portals of distinction on himself—not to be reopened by golden keys—but he becomes a source of injury to all his race.
I should but imperfectly fulfil my task, if I omitted to address the fairer portion of our community for their aid in this noble undertaking. To those who know the deep extent of their influence, although exerted within the limited sphere of the hallowed precincts of home, I need not say one word in vindication of an appeal to them: and who among us, either as husband, son, or brother, does not possess a knowledge of this influence? Glorious hereditary traits distinguish, in the eyes of every Israelite, the daughters of his race. The pure affection that characterises them inspires all their actions, and repays him, in the hours spent in the bosom of his family, for the toils, the trials, and the hardships of the world. From an influence so founded, what may not be expected from her who is entrusted with the formation of the mind at that period when it is susceptible of every impression for good or ill: nearly everything we possess of the better and purer feelings of our nature, we can trace to the hours of childhood, when all is subjected to the maternal sway.
Even the tales with which she lulls to sleep may lead to pursuits of honour; for as we find a prejudice firmly imprinted on the memory from nursery stories, so may nobler views of men and actions be lessons from the cradle never to be eradicated, but strengthened by subsequent tuition.
In after-age, woman controls and influences the stronger passions of our nature: and no shape, no circumstance of life can occur, but where, directly or indirectly, the relation in which she stands to us affects every occurrence, and retards or gives an impulse to the current of our lives; and as surely as her support is sought for by her offspring, and her affection relied upon by her husband, so is she capable of achieving all that is desirable in her family. Looking then to each family among us for some support for this undertaking, we may hope to have done something towards its fulfilment, when the mothers and daughters of Israel shall become acquainted and penetrated with its aim and tendency. They can improve the condition of their race—to their understandings no suggestion is necessary as to what course to pursue—to their hearts no stimulus required as an inducement to assist in a course which concerns the intellectual advancement and the happiness of their people. Where ends like these are to be gained, they will be the first to perceive how much of what is purely domestic, and within their own immediate sphere, may derive advantage from their participation and advocacy.
The humbler portion of my brethren, in whose direct and more especial interest a part of this undertaking has been contemplated, will, it is to be hoped and expected, give it that assistance which the case demands from them. Their welfare is the great object sought; and I implore them, for whom so much is desired, not to meet with coldness these efforts on their behalf—I implore them to be advised, taught, guided and improved by those who only seek their own advantage in common with that of the poor themselves.
To smooth the rugged path of their toils—to elevate them above the occasional frowns and ill-temper of those whom fortune has more highly favoured—to alleviate their misery—to provide for their wants—to recognise their claims—to prove that they are the objects of solicitude to their true friends among the richer Jews—will be the great result, as it is the great purpose, of this plan: but how can their condition be improved, unless with an earnest disposition on their own part towards it? Is obtaining occasional charity, that relieves them only for a short period, the sole aim of their lives? Is not the welfare of their children an all-powerful feeling with them? Does the destitution of old age never occur to their thoughts, until the moment that it commences, when helpless infirmity assails them? Is not the thought of an hereafter sometimes present to their minds? If their answers, their opinions upon these subjects, are what they should be, and what must naturally be expected, I am sure they will add, that they are prepared to go with me in the scheme for their improvement and welfare; they will remove their children from the contamination of vice—allow them to be taught honest trades as they grow up—let them become men of use to the community, their cheerers and supporters in affliction and age; and when not blessed with offspring, there will still be a reward for the uprightness and integrity of their conduct in that Asylum, which I hope we shall soon see erected for their reception, when their strength and powers of exertion shall be exhausted, where their labours shall cease, and where the doors shall be opened for their future ease, without the interference of private friends or their personal solicitations to a patron.
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Having somewhat concisely shewn the advantages to be gained by adopting a scheme to be founded on the foregoing hints, I would solicit the co-operation of all friends to my views, to commence forthwith the formation of a General Committee or Council, consisting, in the first instance, of those who are disposed to give their personal or pecuniary assistance; and afterwards, during the operation of the project, also of members selected by the public and popular election of the Jews in all parts of Great Britain. The ultimate aim of this Committee or Council should be to become (as they would, by their superior knowledge and management) the governing body of the Jews in this country in all secular matters. They should possess the confidence of the community from their numbers, education, wealth, and footing in society. From their public elections—from their ready compliance to entertain and adjudicate upon all matters coming before them—from their public deliberations and well-weighed judgments in general assembly from all parts, at stated periods, their position would be independent, yet subject to the wholesome control of the press and the opinions of their constituents.
The necessity for such a governing body becomes daily more apparent; and the advantages that would arise from it are incalculable. Without giving any opinion on the merits of the question in the recent dispute at Liverpool, if a government had been in existence, would the unpleasant result of the establishment of a fresh congregation, another independent and irresponsible party, have arisen, with all its expensive appurtenances and its future jealousies, to say nothing of the fact of another disagreement among the Jews, being trumpeted forth by those who watch for opportunities to defame us.
The truth is so apparent, that we think it requires little argument to prove to the minds of those who will give the subject some consideration, the propriety of immediately forming a Council, vested with powers alike for the control and supervision of old congregations, as for the supporting of new ones—for proposing and carrying out laws and regulations in furtherance of the philanthropic and educational portions of this scheme, and for assimilating all Jewish arrangements, either provincial or metropolitan.
The Society of Friends (whose social constitutions and government must be the theme of praise even to the most casual observer) I would in this as in many other details take as my model; for they are spread over as large a surface as the Jews—consist, like them, of merchants and traders—similar in numbers—superior in education, (although not in mental capacity)—with a well-ordered and responsible government—and we consequently hear of no distress or disorganization among them; yet it is not to be doubted that as many causes for interference occur in that body as in our own, but education, discipline, and a well-regulated system for their poor enable them to grapple with every question of good or evil, whether of retrogression or advancement as it arises.
The same advantages would so soon shew themselves in our own case, that all the Jews would gladly accord with the arrangement, and as the Council would have an ultimate influence on the management of the funds, and have an opportunity of investigating into and advising upon their distribution, an efficient system of relief would be formed—the aged would be provided for—the ignorant instructed—and, as a general consequence, the character of the Jew regarded with the homage that every man pays to excellence under every denomination.
Not to enter fully into further particulars upon the various subjects within the immediate province of the Council, there is yet one of great importance, hitherto wholly disregarded, but intimately connected with any extended plan of education and philanthropy, which might be well submitted to their supervision. By a registration of the names of every man, woman, and child of the Jewish persuasion, a large amount of statistical information would be obtained, and the concentration of the community facilitated—no claimant for any purpose of education or charity, could or would be recognised, unless upon the register—thus offering an inducement for every member of the Jewish body to enter his or her name upon it; for this registration a small charge, say one shilling, should be made, which would produce an annual amount of about L1500 to be added to the general funds, for the benefit of all; affording material assistance to the objects now contemplated; and, while giving an interest to each person in the public concerns, the required sum would be very trifling to the poorest, when considered as giving them defined claims as recognised members of a community.
That the various Synagogues have the means of largely assisting a liberal and progressive policy, not the most prejudiced upholder of the present state will deny—nor will it be urged that they have contributed to their fullest extent towards the education and enlightenment of the rising generation. In a pecuniary point of view, they could and would gain largely by adopting fully the views now advocated; for they would transfer from their funds to those of the Jewish public, all their pensioners: but they ought to be the leaders in encouraging the objects, from a desire of improvement, instead of mere pecuniary gain. In proposing the instruction of all the Jewish children, therefore, and in taking charge of all the offspring of the poor, I take from them all the claim generally resorted to for the charitable interference of the Synagogues; as the poor will have very little difficulty in maintaining themselves, if we maintain all their children, to do which, it would be necessary to remove them to a suitable establishment, properly provided and superintended, in connection with a school of industry, in which all the trades and useful arts of life should be inculcated. The school (Aubin's) at Norwood gives the system as far as it can be properly acted upon; or a new system, if necessary, could be arranged, having for its object the instruction of the younger children, and the making artizans of the more advanced in age. The expences of this arrangement would be much less than generally imagined, and a considerable part of them could be defrayed by the industry of the pupils; and the schools of the Society of Friends at Ackworth, Sidcoat, &c. should likewise be our examples, but accommodated to the necessary differences of the case.
In conjunction with this establishment, I would recommend the formation of a superior school for a limited number of boys in the neighbourhood of the London University, where the most talented of the scholars from the former school should be placed, at the public charge, under the tuition of Hebrew, French, and German classical teachers. The expenditure for board and lodging, and for attending the classes during the term at the University school, and at the University, should be defrayed out of the general fund; and some of these youths might and should be trained to all the offices and duties of our clergy, others to the professions of law and medicine, and all other superior attainments of education. Accommodation should be afforded at this place for a number of private or paying pupils, to have the advantages of all the means of instruction provided, and of the general management of the house, with the privilege of attending the University, and of having their studies likewise superintended at the house by the professors engaged. The fees for their admission and support would considerably lessen the expences of the whole establishment, and enable the younger branches of the Jews to receive a sound, religious, and classical education. This would give an opportunity for the development of all the higher attributes of the mind; and as the youth assembled there would be all of the best instructed of the rising and future generations, every province in England and the Colonies would naturally come there for its tutors and clergy. Inducements thus held out for the cultivation of talent in all classes, would be gradually to render the whole body of the Jews well informed.
It is unnecessary to say more here upon this subject. The minor points, being for the consideration of the Council, shall be forthcoming at the proper time: but I believe the removal of the young from the old, at an early age, very desirable; for, the contamination of evil example, of vicious and dishonourable pursuits, tends to undo the instruction they receive at present, and is the cause of so small a number attending the places already provided for their instruction. The object must be, therefore, to make the school attractive to the children, and an advantage to the parents.
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By the amalgamation of the Jewish charities is not to be understood the depriving of any of the present institutions of their funds, or of their control over them, nor do I wish to divert legacies or the accumulations of years from their legitimate channels, but to secure an efficient centralisation, with wholesome and necessary control; for it must be admitted that, independent of the money so liberally bestowed by the wealthy portion of the Jews, the humblest as well as the most distinguished give continually large sums in proportion to their incomes.
Not a Sunday, and scarcely a day, passes, but contributions are solicited from the poorer traders of the Jews, to which the most indigent add their pence, with the true feelings of Jewish benevolence, in the hope of mitigating the poignant sufferings of the applicants. "The charity which plenty gives to poverty is human and earthly, but it becomes divine and heavenly when poverty gives to want."
The great sums distributed in known or public charities are more than doubled by the continual call upon the purses of the donors; and being so well answered, it is impossible to calculate the amount.
The wealthy are daily subjected to these visitations, and in few instances is the immediate pecuniary relief refused. It is scarcely necessary to point out the expensiveness of this mode of relief, it being self-evident; but that is a very small portion of the evil it entails. If it ended here, I would say, Send not a mendicant, no matter what his creed or country, from you unrelieved; as the very necessity that induces the application is sufficient reason for relief, should even the applicant be thought unworthy: but the mischief STOPS not here; it is only the commencement—it encourages, instead of checking, mendicity—it produces beggars where it should make artizans—it encourages consumers instead of helping producers—it assists idlers when its object is and should be to support the industrious.[A]
All indiscriminate charity must therefore be an evil to the body, an injury to the community: it begets a class of persons that spend the easily obtained funds as improperly as they were procured—it degrades the minds of the recipients, while the wealthy donors look more frequently with disgust than compassion on the receiver; in short, no persons can become more debased in mind and body than habitual beggars, of which a very large number exists among the Jews—uncontrolled, unchecked, and unprovided for—in spite of all the efforts of the "charities" and Synagogue funds, nearly all of which are casual. The sums thus distributed should, and would, suffice to maintain all the paupers of the Jews; but the inefficiency of the administration permits them to devote their entire time in successfully preventing one charitable institution from arriving at the knowledge of what they receive from another, and to extort from private sources as much as possible.
These are facts known to us all: but, in the charitableness of our hearts, we fear to come boldly forward and provide at once entirely for all these mendicants, who should be properly taken care of, clothed, fed, and housed; and the expenditures of the present day would be sufficient, if carefully arranged.
By the withdrawal from the public eye of all these unfortunate beings, a great improvement would appear, and certainly be very soon effected. The pernicious example would be unknown to the young; and the idly disposed would find the fee simple of their present estates devoted to the purchase of useful, industrious, and honest means of procuring them their subsistence.
Through the want of a well-regulated system of relief, under check and control, every beggar is an independent member of the Jewish commonwealth, employed in seeking, the entire day, whom to devour, considering himself entirely at liberty, morally and physically, to devote his entire time to the readiest way of getting money—honestly if he can, that is, by persevering importunity, but frequently by false representations, and other more disreputable means, of which the law takes no immediate cognizance.
We continually see the state to which this reduces him, but HE feels not the degradation to which he has become familiar, habit reconciling and making attractive his course of life, whatever may have been his feelings at the commencement of it. The persons who condemn are those who have driven him to this base means of existence; the facility with which money is obtained from those who give (through the habit of doing so from having seen their parents do it, or because they believe the distressed is a poor Jew and has no recognised refuge), induces an opinion that this is the proper and legitimate mode of Jewish charity: but no really laudable feeling enters the mind of either; nor does the giver always think he is conferring a benefit: he treats the applicant for relief generally as "a fugitive and vagabond on the earth," forgetting entirely that the debasement of this mind, the ignorance of this man, the slur that is cast upon the Jews by this individual, is entirely their own act. They, the wealthy, the honored, the enlightened, the pride of the people, are the culprits—not the poor, the ignorant, the destitute. Cheerfully might these be induced to regard the means of supporting themselves by their own industry. How gladly would they avail themselves of a reputable institution to receive them,—a house to shelter them—a supervision to protect, an asylum to support them! But have the leaders attended to this?
It is true, and honourable, and worthy of the highest praise, that many sources of relief exist, founded by the thoughtful, supported by the charitable, governed by the indefatigable; but many of these even, it is reported, have been commenced by those who are but little elevated above poverty in the neighbourhood where the distress has been most evident, and maintained subsequently by the personal interference of individuals, and the stringent appeals of private friends, which could not have been refused if wished, which dared not be neglected. An exception, the Jews' Hospital, was the emanation of a noble mind, and, backed by disinterested perseverance, induced all to contribute to so bold an undertaking, commencing from the highest: its sphere of benefit is, however, very limited. Unfortunately, few among us investigate whether any good, or what, is achieved by other societies to which all are ready and willing contributors. But the time has come, hastened by the Anglo-Jewish press, when we all see the necessity for action to the purpose, and immediate. We can do it well, at less expense; with less trouble, with more dignity to ourselves, and with more honour to our successors, than any class of conversionists can do it for us; and certainly much more effectually when we commence, as years of ineffectual effort on their part have proved.
Our motives cannot be impugned; the object being the purest and holiest command "to honour and succour the aged;" persons unknown to us, unconnected in every way with us except by their adoration and worship of the Creator by the same means, forms, and language.
I would suggest to all the charities as at present constituted, while their usefulness must be admitted, that their government, although it is to a limited extent good, does not answer many of the purposes that are desirable; nor does it prevent an individual obtaining from all sources the donations they distribute; nor do the present methods provide entirely for the object to be benefited.
Let, then, the present funds of all the charities be united, with grants from the congregations, and gifts or loans from private individuals. These will amount, in a very short time, to a sum sufficiently large to build one house for the reception of the aged decayed, the blind, the deaf and dumb, the idiotic, the helpless, and the temporarily destitute: the really destitute only to be admissible. Relief from all other quarters should be withheld, or a proper officer for the distribution of charity appointed; but if the friends of any of the inmates can contribute to their maintenance, they should do so to the general fund. This building should be divided into wards, each separate ward to be under the control, and supplied by the funds of the charity to which it at present approximates nearest: the objects of their solicitude would thus be under their immediate observation, and deriving much greater advantages than it is possible now to give. The existing committees would receive the voluntary subscriptions as at present, and devote them to the same purposes; but the infirm and poor would be entirely provided with every necessary, and a home. The details, however, must be left until the rules for general management are arranged: but it should be a fundamental principle, that every member of each committee should be a member of the general board; and a part of the details, that the beds in wards for the aged should be fitted as those at Greenwich Hospital; and that every committee man should have the power to inspect every ward. For the purpose of example, let us suppose the ward for the aged destitute established; the society whose object approaches nearest should take the management, and subscribe towards the general fund according to its means, say L1000.
Their subsequent annual contribution must be arranged in proportion to its revenue: for if their present income is L150 per annum, they can now only disburse L100, the remainder being swallowed up for various expenses. It would be desirable and easy for them to devote the larger sum, or nearly their entire means, to the purposes of the ward.
The same system adopted throughout the house would be ample for its support; and each charity would be carrying out to its greatest extent the object of its formation. In every ward there should be a tablet with the names of the Founders, Committee, and Subscribers above a certain sum. A portion of the expences of the establishment would be yielded by itself; the money now expended in managements would be produced by the registration; and any other deficiency, by the general fund.
The Society of Friends have a general register; and every member contributes to the local funds, these again to the general: thus sufficient sums are obtained for all proper and legitimate purposes. A somewhat similar modus operandi I would advocate for our adoption: the country congregations, being relieved from all expences except those of a religious or congregational character, would be enabled to support with more honour and better remuneration the clergy—who, feeling themselves (as their education should command) independent of obligation to their auditory, would preach the noblest and highest precepts of their creed, and urge a better worldly bearing.
To this advantage, which would be an indirect although certain result of a proper administration of the funds, would be added a beneficial influence on the head of the clergy—who, being the leader of highly educated gentlemen, would find it impossible to govern, unless possessing the same learning and acquirements; and thus we should ensure an elevated clergy, to which the most wealthy might with honour aspire.
In the execution of a scheme which depends greatly upon the majority of the community, for whom it is intended, taking not only a clear and comprehensive view of their present position, but upon their becoming deeply, and daily more deeply, interested in the amelioration of that position—which relies upon extending to all the feelings of a part, and will be successful in the highest degree whenever anything like this unanimity of feeling prevails—the power of a well-directed press must be admitted not only to be great, but the necessity of it in a measure to be indispensable. What has been effected for mankind at all periods, since it has become within possibility to move the springs of feeling and of volition by this more than electric force, after having illuminated the mind by floods of light from the concentration of opinions, the wisest and most just, is matter of notoriety to all: and it cannot be necessary, at this time of day, to enumerate those great events, whose earliest origin being traced to some important want of the human race, or to some one of the great and abiding principles of our nature, yet owe their consummation wholly to the facility by which mind communicates with mind, enabling the truth of those principles to be tested by the universality of their reception, and by which the objections of prejudice and ignorance being destroyed, truth and justice themselves are at last brought into action—
"Immutable, immaculate, immortal."
With an Anglo-Jewish press devoted to the propositions here advocated, and to the general cause of Judaism—prepared to vindicate the Jews at all times from the aspersions of interested and prejudiced writers, enabling all of us to understand the wants of our community—capable by the force of its reasoning or the keenness of its satire, of improving the manners, tastes, habits, and pursuits of all—placing us before the eyes of our Christian fellow-countrymen in our own just characters, to correct the false impressions they may have received—with a power such as this pressing upon the general consideration, a large and liberal scheme of charity and education, and enforcing the wise decisions of our central Council—with such a press might we not reasonably hope that a few short years would behold—
"The Jew an honored name!"
A journal to subserve such purposes ought necessarily to be placed on an independent footing: and it would, therefore, become the immediate duty of the Council, on its formation, to look to its establishment or to its support. It is admitted that a journal exists; but the apathy which meets the efforts of individuals among the Jews to benefit their brethren, has extended itself to this: but it still might be made available for all the ends we seek, by means within the powers of the Council, which would yet leave the press perfectly unfettered.
It cannot come within the province of this pamphlet to state at length what the contents of such a journal ought to be; but, besides those general objects already stated, it might be made the vehicle for affording a large amount of statistical information on the numbers, callings, and education of the Jews—the incomes and expenditures of charitable societies and Synagogues. It should, by extracts from our authentic historians, etc. make us better acquainted with the knowledge of the past, and at all times, by researches into the constitutional principles of this nation, and by asserting the just right of human kind, convince Englishmen that we are their COUNTRYMEN, and that, by birth, we are as much entitled to the privileges of our country as the proudest noble who traces his pedigree from the Conquest.
* * * * *
I cannot conclude without imploring the Jews to shake off that terrible apathy and coldness which have from time immemorial grown upon them, which have hitherto depressed their energies, and left them the sport and passive creatures of circumstance. If they have sunk into a state of listlessness, in the first place, from the oppression which their ancestors endured in past times—and if they have continued in that state, from a variety of causes, some of which are faintly shadowed forth in the preceding pages, I yet hope, and most devoutly hope, that the hour and the day are arrived for the first step towards regeneration to be taken. The mists of prejudice, it is indeed evident, are slowly giving way before the power of truth; and it remains for our own exertions, well directed, under the blessing of the Deity, to enable us to stand forth before the world at large, in the clear noon-day light, in the possession of intelligence and virtue, and honoured and respected accordingly; demonstrating that in England, integrity, patriotism, and good conduct, meet their reward, when known, under whatever creed they present themselves.
* * * * *
*** As the object of the writer of this pamphlet is to ensure the co-operation of all those Members of the Jewish community who agree with him in the desire of attaining the objects suggested, he solicits their communications to be addressed F., at G. Galabin's, Printer, 91, Bartholomew Close.
London, March, 29th, 1844.
[A] "By false compassion we injure the community: industry will go to ruin; sloth will predominate; men will no longer depend on themselves, but, having from their own conduct nothing to hope or fear, they will look to their neighbours for support; they will first abandon their duty, and then be a burden on the public."—Tacitus.
J. Wertheimer & Co., Printers, Circus Place, Finsbury Circus.
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