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Introduction to Volume Sixth of the Occident


Well, kind reader, we have been travelling together over a variety of roads, all, as we conceived, leading to the one goal, the appreciation of the religion of Israel, during a period of five years. We have taken the whole range of literature, as far as accessible to us, to instruct you; and we at one time thought that we had succeed in a measure to interest you. But, alas! for the vanity of human labours, though exerted in the best of causes, we have totally failed in our aim, if we are to believe all that we occasionally hear. Our plan is considered bad; our contributions are regarded as stupid, and the articles furnished as just those which ought to have been excluded. So one wants more literary articles, of which, indeed, we regret to have given so few; one deems the news department too limited; one finds fault with the purely religious papers, such as sermons, and those relating to observances; another thinks we do not give tales and light reading in sufficient quantity; another dislikes our controversial pieces, deeming it wrong to molest those who differ from Judaism; whilst another at last observes our work to be quite useless; because it is not exclusively devoted to the diffusion of precept. It is a misfortune almost to be an editor of any kind; but no one will dispute that the editor of a Jewish periodical in America has not an easy task, since, literally, there are a hundred tastes to be gratified, if he hopes in the least to obtain an adequate circulation to pay his expenses.

We tell, therefore, candidly, all those who may be disposed to find fault with us, that we are perfectly conscious of the many imperfections of The Occident; and the best way they could pursue to enable us to remedy them, <<2>>would be to furnish us with well-written papers of their own or others’ composition. We have in our person done all our means permitted us to serve the blessed cause of Israel through the power of the periodical press, without being benefited in a pecuniary point by a labour continued for five long years; of this all our subscribers and readers may rest assured, that we have not been enriched by their aid, since at no time were the subscribers more than barely enough to pay expenses. Now, therefore, let those who ought to, and no doubt feel, interested as much as we do in the progress of our religion, lend us the aid of their superior talents, to give that solidity to our contents which they allege to be wanting. We venture, however, an assertion, without laying claim to a prophetic spirit, that they would speedily discover that they have overrated their power of satisfying the public demand, and that the uniformity of the papers laid before the people would soon cause the entire suspension of our periodical, unless it could be issued without any readers, or to say the most, with less than a fifth of our present number. Perhaps our friends may call to mind the anecdote related of some celebrated painter, whether Raphael, Rubens, or Claude Lorraine, or who else we know not. He had finished a piece to his own satisfaction; but, in order to learn the public sentiment, he placed it in front of his house, and attached a label requesting every one to put down in writing the particular fault he might discover; and sure enough, every one censured some part, some feature in the painting; so that the artist soon discovered that by asking every one’s criticism, he obtained only universal and therefore undeserved censure, and was hence satisfied to depend on his own judgment, more than the opinion of all.

Now we are not so satisfied with our production, as the painter was with his; we know its deficiencies, as we have stated several times already; nevertheless, we venture to say, that it is probably the best which could have been produced, under all circumstances, in this country. We are a very mixed people, composed of fragments from all parts of Europe and America, with ideas differing as far as possible on the same one subject—religion; and still it was our duty to offer something pleasing to all, only to keep in view the sole object of our enterprise, the glory of our God and the spread of our faith among the Jews in the western world; and if <<3>>we are judged from this point, we candidly hope to receive some small approbation from our readers. Any one can censure; any one can say, “I wonder why the editor inserted such a one’s article? is not mine, which has been refused, infinitely better?” Likely enough  that the editor has not always the good taste to discover every one’s merits; but we would only urge on these fault-finders the wise sayings of the ancient Rabbi:אל תדין את חברך עד שתניע למקומו “Judge not thy neighbour till thou art placed in his position.” Nothing is so difficult as to satisfy all; and nothing so easy as to displease one, especially if some self-love be mixed up with a portion of just blame, to lend a little colouring of propriety to his censure and indignation.

It must not be lost sight of, that we commenced our editorial career, it is true, urged from a great variety of persons and quarters; but still it was done from our own sense of duty, on our own especial plan, and unaided by the advice of any of our colleagues, from whom also we have received but little aid in the progress of our work. This we do not say in censure or anger; but as a simple fact, well knowing that circumstances would have prevented them from extending our circulation if even they had wished it.—The subscribers we have, have come to us in they various ways; and we are only glad of the opportunity we now have of returning our thanks to our many private friends for their often unsought and unexpected exertions in our behalf. Hence, if now several of our lending men find The Occident not to their taste, we are only able to say that we are sincerely sorry for the circumstance, and request of them to furnish us with better, readable material to fill our pages. We beg to call the attention of our readers to another circumstance, since The Occident was first commenced, there have been started one magazine in Jamaica, one or more in England, several in Germany, and we think one in Italy, which have all expired for want of support, or perhaps because the editors found it difficult to obtain suitable contributions. In addition to these, several other papers and magazines have disappeared in Germany, France, Belgium, and elsewhere, whilst others contemplated have been abandoned; and still the editors or projectors have all more extensive learning than the editor of this unpresuming magazine can lay claim to. Our success, imperfect as it has been, must then be owing to <<4>>something more than our own merit, and we deem it to be the mixed character of our contents, by which we have succeeded in interesting readers of every class of society. Our friends may believe us, that it is not an easy matter to fill the pages of a magazine, month after month, with articles as will be pleasing to all; and though we commenced without any experience in periodical literature, we have in the course of five years learned many a lesson which some of them who censure us might profitably inquire into. We claim to know something of the people of this country; we have a large number of personal friends, and are not so much blinded by self-love, nor are we so deaf through an indulgence of personal vanity, but that we can see and hear, and profit, too, by what is done or said in our presence or absence. Hence, we venture to say, that had we followed any of the vague hints we have occasionally received, or been readily mindful of a carping fault-finding, we should never have appeared with sixty numbers of this Jewish monthly, containing more than three thousand pages of matter, which, to say the least, cannot be injurious to any one who belongs to Israel. Others might perhaps have done more; but we did all which our limited faculties permitted us to accomplish; more than this cannot be expected from us.

We would not have troubled our readers with the above apology, had we not received the subjoined communication. Perhaps many may think that we ought to have sent it back, and left “Truth” to find another channel to vent his censure on us. But we do not care much to be published to the world as a delinquent to our duty through the pure organ of the penny press of the day, some portion of which might be inclined to open their columns for a rebuke on the only Jewish periodical in the country. Besides, we take some little credit for good-humour, and can even bear to see a scolding epistle in our own pages; and as our vanity has not often led us to print encomiums on our course, we trust that our friends will not disdain to bestow some good-natured attention on the flagellation administered to us by one who, though well-learned in Hebrew literature, has not all the knowledge of what is wanted by and for the people to pronounce an infallible judgment. So here follows the rebuke of “Truth.”