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The Union of Israelites.


We must have of late appeared singularly in want of interesting matter to some of our readers, as we have had so much to say on one subject. But the truth is, there are many things to be discussed; only the time has arrived when one measure has occupied a large share of public attention, and all we could do was to devote all reasonable space we could spare to its discussion, and we are perfectly sure that, should it ever be brought into efficient practice, no one will then blame us for the time and space now devoted by us to its discussion.

We will now therefore again trespass on the patience of our readers, and introduce to their notice the final preliminary arrangements towards effecting a meeting of Israelites in America, adopted at a casual meeting at New York within the past month of Drs. Wise and Lilienthal, and several gentlemen of Cincinnati, mentioned by name in Dr. W.’s letter in another part of this number. Now as things have proceeded thus far, we will take a brief retrospect of the rise and progress of the movement, and again point out to the friends of our religion, that as far as we were and are concerned therein, nothing has been attempted which could touch on the subject of reform or anti-reform, our only aim being all the time to unite Israelites on the broad platform of our religion, and to draw them by means of education and a proper spiritual guidance to the safe fold of obedience to whatever the Lord has taught.

Our whole course of public life ought to be some guarantee that we are far from being chargeable with the wild mania of destruction so rife in Germany, <<578>>France, and other portions of Europe, although we will not deny to the reformers the name and privileges of Israelites, nor denounce them with excommunication and repulsive acts, as though they had cut asunder the bond of union which connects them with our father Abraham. We are earnest, but not intolerant; we acknowledge that this is no particular merit in us, but we only mention it, that no one should form any unjust opinion of us by our joining men of all sorts of opinions on the subjects which now agitate Israel; that one side should not accuse us of abandoning ancient landmarks, nor that the other should indulge a hope that we are ready to join them in an onslaught on established things. It is not so; we stand where we always have stood, on the side of enlightened Judaism; on the ground which we fancy a Hillel, a Rabbi Gamliel, a Samuel, a Saadiah, a Maimonides, and the brightest lights of our nation occupied in their day, and which they would have chosen to occupy were they now alive and moving in their blessed influence among us. We do not compare our unworthy self with the names which we have mentioned; we know our own deficiency, so no one need remind us thereof, nor arraign us for arrogance in speaking of them in comparison with our own person. But it has been our fate to be forced into a position which we neither coveted nor sought; circumstances pushed us into a prominence in the presence of American Israelites from which we could not escape, even if we had been desirous of doing so, which repugnance we however do not pretend to possess; and as we are then, imperfectly educated, and, perhaps more imperfect still in our deeds, but with an honesty of purpose and singleness of design which we hope few can exceed, we presented our views for years past to our friends and readers in various capacities and in different places, fearlessly and boldly, and what we advocated from the beginning, that we advocate now, and this is, the life and essence of the religion which we have received from our progenitors, taught in Scripture, and expounded in word and practice by Tradition; and under this standard we are willing to meet and consult with others, as regards those measures which should be adopted to diffuse among us a spirit of godliness and truth.

Men more able than the writer of this will no doubt rise to the surface, and maintain a high and deserved position before <<579>>the people, and so God gives us power and strength, we will lend our aid cheerfully to their elevation. But in the mean time we tell our readers, that the present movement is only a continuation of the one attempted nearly eight years ago in this city, before many of our now able and pious colleagues had reached the shores of America. We do not wish to derogate in the smallest degree from the merit of the men who help forward the proposed union; but we desire to remove from them any unjust imputation that they urge it forward for purposes of their own or for unlawful ends. So well were we always satisfied, that sooner or later there would be a union of American Israelites, that full four years after the abortive attempt to call together an assembly of Jewish deputies by means of circulars—a circumstance which many of our readers may still recollect—we again brought the subject forward in the Occident  for Tamuz and Ab, 5605, under the head of  “Union for the sake of Judaism.” We did not then expect a response; still we knew we were anew planting the seed which must ultimately produce a healthy and vigorous plant; and we are persuaded that silently and unobtrusively the subject gained ground and friends even in distant quarters; and the open accession of Mr. A. A. Lindo, of Cincinnati, who urged a similar measure last summer on the attention of the Jews of New York, whilst Dr. Wise at the same time proposed but a meeting of the various ministers, led the way to the renewal on our part of the agitation of the all-important question, and its being brought to the state of preparation where we leave it this month, with the promised support of a large number of Israelites of Cincinnati, of the German congregation of New York, and the hearty sympathy of many Israelites, of the sound and thinking part of both native and foreign born, in the cause of a union to produce a revival of religion, and its support where it still exerts a hopeful and lively influence.

As was correctly suggested by the Rev. Mr. Rosenfeld, in his letter in the last Occident, a self-constituted assembly would be absolutely without any influence, if even composed of eminent and trustworthy men. The circular, therefore, limits the membership of the meeting to regularly appointed delegates from the various congregations. It would have pleased us much better had some one else than ourself been charged with making the <<580>>preliminary preparations to receive the concurrence of the various public bodies, and to fix finally the date (and place) of meeting. But as it would, perhaps, have been over difficult to  appoint a committee of correspondence acceptable to all parties, and as, therefore, the duty had to devolve on an individual, we have no right to refuse our services, demanded, as they have been, by a respectable portion of our collaborators, especially as we had a considerable share in starting the matter. We therefore request all heads of congregations, and all ministers whom these remarks may reach, to lay the circular, a copy of which, in letter form, will be duly forwarded to them, we trust, ere long, before their respective bodies, and to apprise us without delay, whether favourably or not, of the result of the replies obtained from the same.

It will be seen that it is proposed to give each congregation, whether large or small, one vote in the primary assembly, and to convene a meeting as soon as twenty congregations have elected their delegates. Most of our communities, if not all, hold a meeting about the season of the Passover; and it is to be hoped that the circular will then be presented; and in case that no such meeting is then held by law, that an extra one will be called to take the subject-matter into consideration. No community pledge themselves to any line of action by meeting the proposed convention through their delegation; and if nothing is done to suit their views, no assent need be given. We repeat it again, that it is only to deliberate on what is to be done hereafter, that we urge Israelites to meet each other; and it is not to be doubted that if they do assemble, something will be readily prepared in which all can unite with a unanimous assent. We will not urge, nor expatiate any farther than we have done before; in several articles lately laid before our readers, we have said that is necessary; and all that is needed, therefore, now is to ascertain whether the public will support the measure, and whether each congregation will send one or more of their body to constitute for the present the first, which may be called the constituent assembly, in which will be adopted a constitution for general government, and to determine on the time and place of farther meetings. We hope that these will be hereafter held annually, and that at each successive meeting, more and more congregations will be represented, and that <<581>>nothing but good, nothing but peace, nothing but truth, will be disseminated among us through this means, and that the religion of Heaven may also be established thereby among us on a firm and unshaken foundation.

We could urge many reasons for the assembly; but our correspondents, to whom we have yielded the use of our pages, have done this so well that we deem it useless to add anything of our own. We will add but one more observation, and we have done: it is this, that we are not responsible for all the views of the writers; in a matter of so grave importance, the various persons interested therein have a right to utter their sentiments, we among the rest, and each writer is responsible only for what he says, not what others say for him; and then, when the delegates meet, they are not bound nor checked in their proceedings by either circular or programme, which has been sent out by persons unauthorized by the general body, as all papers hitherto written have been. All that can be done now is to make suggestions, and nothing more. We beg all our readers to bear this in mind, and act, therefore, on the invitation addressed to all, without taking exception to things which they may fancy wrongly stated, or for omissions which they think they have discovered in the programme. At all events, we beg them again to answer us before the first of May next, so that the convention, should it be able to meet this year, may meet at a not later date than the third Monday in Sivan in the City of New York.


Many persons and communities who have read in the Occident communications from Dr. Wise, and others, relative to a meeting of our people, having for its object the adoption of measures for our spiritual and temporal welfare, although highly approving of the suggestion, still hold back from taking any active measures towards carrying it out, not being in possession of sufficiently definite information as to the nature of the objects contemplated. It having, moreover, been represented that the method at first suggested for bringing together the desired meeting, is open to various and weighty objections, this circular is put forth, which will be found to comprise,

1st. A brief exposition of the evils existing among us.

2d. Proposed measures of remedy.

3d. Mode of organization for the first meeting.

<<582>>The evils existing among us will be found to consist of,

1st. A want of proper concert.

2d. The fact that our teachers have, in many cases, but few necessary qualifications.

3d. A great want of schools of any worth.

4th. No means of correct information on our ancient and present history, and on our religion.

5th. No constituted authority to which we can refer questions of doubt or contingency.

6th. No means or medium to supply our poor and our children with proper books of devotion and instruction.

7th. A want of proper devotion, alike in our houses and our Synagogues, amounting in some cases to a departure from the true principles of our faith.

The remedy proposed is to call a meeting or convention of Jews in the United States, having for its object,

1st. A union of all the congregations by delegation, and stated meetings.

2d. Education of youth.

3d. Instruction of all classes by the establishment of schools and publication of books, informing our people of their destiny, their religion, their duties, and their history.

4th. The discussion of such other subjects as may be brought to the notice of the assembly, by petitions from congregations.

The proper mode of representation and assembly, is,

1st. A meeting of Jews shall be held in New York, on

2d. It shall consist of none but delegates to be elected by any Jewish congregation in the United States, each congregation sending one delegate; and if more than one delegate should be present from any one body, then such whole delegation shall have but one vote.

3d. Every delegate shall bring a certificate of his election, signed by the president and secretary of the congregation sending him.

4th. The number of delegates for the first meeting shall not be less than twenty.

5th. Any congregation agreeing to this plan shall notify the same to the Rev. Isaac Leeser, who, when twenty congregations have so signified to him, shall have power to appoint the day of meeting, and arrange other required preliminaries.

Arise, O Israel! you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation, saith the Lord.

<<583>>This circular is issued under the auspices of Rev. Dr. Wise, of Albany, N. Y., and Dr. Lilienthal, of New York, and it is requested that all persons into whose hands it may fall, will present it to their friends and ask the co-operation of their respective Synagogues.