Home page "Wars of the Lord" Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library


The Wars of the Lord

By Rabbi Bernard Illowy (1814-1875).

Letter to Isaac Leeser
with Reference to the Rabbinical Conference at Cleveland.

(The Occident vol. XIII).

To the Editor of the Occident:

Painful as it is to obtain hatred instead of love, contempt in lieu of friendship, painful as it is to have uselessly spent the best of friendship on one who was unworthy of the same: the more terrible is the discovery when all this happens in a quarter where we had the least cause to expect it. You may perhaps care little for my friendship: still I must say that I doubt whether you have in this widely extended land a second friend who has loved you and esteemed you with the same warmth and sincerity. Whenever I spoke of you, I mentioned your name with such a respect as though it were a prophet of whom I spoke. But far different was you conduct towards me, and was not to be expectd from a man of honor.

I did not come to the conference at Cleveland, because I was afraid to be a' or overwhelmed by the majority. But I was bound, as I had signed the call, to justify my absence at the meeting. Whereupon you attempted to show what a deceiver Dr. Illowy is, by referring to a letter received from him, in which he advised you not to attend the conference; and thus what a friend communicated to a supposed friend in confidence, was published to his adversaries, to brand him as unstrustworthy. In the whole western country people say, that when Dr. Illowy's letter addressed to the Cleveland conference, full of terms of praise, was read, Mr. Leeser asserted that he had another from the same which contained words of quite another import. It is painful to be betrayed by one whom we love and esteem, even if it were just. But when falsehood is superadded, it is doubly so. Was then my letter to the conference in contradiction to the one addressed to you? Or did I pretend to entertain other sentiments in my letter to the conference than those I had so often expressed openly? Assuredly not. I send you herewith an exact copy of my letter to the conference, and I ask of you, if you have yet a spark of feeling of justice, to publish the cause of my absence, in my justification, as also the letter itself; that the world may judge whether I am a deceiver or not; whether this letter stands in contradiction to the one addressed to you, because I counseled you not to attend. And only by this means can you repair the injury done to my honor. In the expectation that you will not hesitate to insert the above in your next number, I append a correct copy of my letter.

St. Louis, Dec. 2d, '55.

"Rev. Dr. Wise;

Respected Friend - You will perceive from these lines that I shall take no part in the conference at Cleveland, not to withhold my mite from the good cause, but because a sudden change of circumstances prevents me from hastening hither, as I so earnestly desire. I beg you, therefore, to convey my heartfelt brotherly greeting to all my colleagues, as also the delegates there present; and, as it is once so decreed by my G-d that I must remain at home, I have to invoke Him that He may cause those who agree with me in opinion to come forth victoriously out of the contest; and to those who hold the opposite views I would say, as my earnest petition 'Touch not my anointed ones, and to you no evil to my prophets.’

I request of you to communicate this excuse to the honored assembly, and remain, with respect and brotherly love.

Dr. B. Illowy.

St. Louis, Oct. 15th, 1855.