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


Hebrew Sunday School of Columbia, S. C.

(Concluded from issue #2.)

Religion is the foundation of every good, when untrammelled by ignorance and fanaticism; it is the handmaid of virtue; gives confidence and stability to human laws; 'tis the beacon light of good order, and regulator of society.

"Let society abandon religion, and who can describe the extent of desolation which would follow; eradicate all thoughts and fear of God from the community, and our imagination would be absorbed in selfishness and sensuality; our nature having no restraint, misfortune and distress no sympathy, would trample under foot the force of human laws; virtue, duty, principle, would be looked on as words without meaning; a selfish feeling would supply the place of every other, and we should become truly proper companions for brutes." *

* Dr. Channing.

If the Jewish religion had never existed, it is impossible for us to picture in our imagination what the situation of the world would have been at this time; but it is sufficient that this is the rock upon which all others have been erected, and without it all others must vanish into insignificance.

But America, thrice happy America, the asylum of the oppressed!—we are citizens of thy glorious republic, from whose enlightened and liberal-minded sons, equal rights to all mankind are guaranteed, making the path to honour and fame alike accessible to the Israelite as the gentile.

It is here, under our own vine and fig tree, with liberty of conscience and freedom of expression, we instruct our offspring in the law of Moses and the prophets; and if we do not occupy those stations in society which moral worth and merit can obtain under such a government, the fault is with ourselves, and we should endeavour to improve the past, by bearing in mind the future.

To you, Ladies, who originated this Institution, our small congregation owes a lasting obligation. Persevere then in the laudable and benevolent cause you are engaged in; the happy result of a few months' labour, which you have this day presented to those interested in its welfare, is truly gratifying. Need I express a hope that no unforeseen circumstance may occur to mar the future prospect of your glorious undertaking? That when posterity's hand shall shall point to this Institution, it will not be forgotten that this is your work, the work of the fairer part of creation? And the rising generation, when arrived at maturity, shall call to recollection the early instruction and advice received while under your charge, and will, in the purity of their hearts, thank their heavenly Father for thus having directed your attention to this holy undertaking, and the fruits of your labour will be seen in their moral, social and intellectual position in society, which such instruction is intended to prepare them for.

Let then no circumstance cause you to swerve from the discharge of those duties you have engaged in—but be diligent and persevering, that the community may be convinced, that the mind to conceive and the heart to perform the will of our God, has still an abiding place with the Israelite.

And now, my young friends, give me your attention, while I indulge in a few remarks with regard to yourselves. Are you aware this school is established for your particular benefit and welfare? do you know it is not only necessary for you to learn your lessons correctly, but also to understand them correctly? Whether you are to be benefited by it or not much depends on yourselves.

It is certainly very commendable to yourselves, pleasing and gratifying to your parents, instructors and friends, to witness this day your great improvement so short a period; but the improvement most desired is, that what you learn from your books and instructors should make an impression on your hearts, by endeavouring to understand fully the meaning of it—If your young minds are not capable of understanding it—if you show a willingness to be informed, your parents and friends will always be equally ready and willing to explain to you, as you will be to receive it.

Your welfare in this and the world to come depends on it—the good instruction and moral lessons you receive here, must not be forgotten when you leave here and mix with your companions; and here let me entreat you to be careful of whom you make companions and associates. Children, as well as those who have grown up to man and womanhood, are judged by the company they keep. It is much easier for you to learn evil habits than to cast them off.

If you desire to arrive at respectability—if you desire to gain the good opinion and confidence of all good persons, be dutiful to your parents, be particular in your words, and have a guard over your every act.

If you commit a wrong, rest not, sleep not, until you have endeavoured to correct and make amends for it. Such a course will exalt you in the estimation of your parents and friends. Remember, that if you commit a bad act, although no mortal eye may see it, yet, the all-seeing eye of your God, who is in heaven, is constantly watching you, and that from Him nothing can be hid; but the secrets of all hearts are known to Him. He will then certainly reward you for your good deeds, and punish you for those which are wicked.

It is impossible, my young friends, for you, at your age, to imagine the anxieties, the sufferings, the many sleepless nights, toilsome days and cares which your parents endure for your sake. All they desire and pray for in return is, that, as you advance in years, so may you continue to increase in duty, knowledge, virtue, honour.

Parents, directors, friends, need I say to you, our every act is impelled by motive to obtain a certain end? I have in a brief and imperfect manner endeavoured to show the motive for originating this institution, and the object intended by it. It remains for you to carry it out to its fullest extent. If you desire this, which I feel satisfied you do, cherish it by every means in your power; let nothing be wanting on your part to establish it on a firm and solid basis, but by concert of action protect and perpetuate what you have so gloriously commenced; the ultimate object of which is, to direct us to a discharge of those duties which are exemplified in the conduct of kind parents, dutiful and virtuous children, honourable citizens, and make us true to our God.

In conclusion, permit me to direct your attention to the financial situation of the Institution. A statement of receipts and disbursements has been furnished me, but I deem it unnecessary at this time to enter into particulars; it is sufficient for me to state there is but a small  surplus on hand.

This institution commenced its labours on the 15th October last, and we acknowledge with gratitude, the liberal donations received from our small congregation. We also take the present occasion to return our thanks to Mr. Myers, for his kindness and liberality for the use of his room without charge. If, in addition to the amounts expended for books, fuel and furniture necessary  for the use of the school, we had been charged for the room, our funds would have been quite exhausted. We are therefore, compelled again to appeal to your well known liberality to aid us in the object contemplated, of attaching to this institution a private library. You no doubt will readily perceive the necessity of this course, and the object desired.

We desire to place in the hands of the junior classes who are able to read, such works as contain moral, instructive and amusing stories, simplified and adapted to their capacities; this course we believe will have a tendency to excite their imagination, and as they progress create a disposition to seek further knowledge. And for the senior classes, such as will be required for reference and explanation, and afford them ready access at all times to a more intimate acquaintance of our people, and a full exposition of our faith.

It is characteristic of our people never to withhold their aid when benevolence is the object in view. To procure the works necessary, we shall be compelled to send abroad, and I feel assured that I appeal to you not in vain for your aid to further our views.

The following prayer, selected from Salomon's sermons, closed the exercise of the day:

Thou God art eternal, but how transient are we—how soon will the lips that now call on Thee become dumb—how soon will the eye now raised unto Thee be closed—how soon will the heart that now beats for Thee be stilled. All that have breath pass away—the wind passes over us—we are no more.

Thou, all merciful Father of mankind, eternal as Thou art—eternal is thy goodness unto those who fear Thee. Eternal thy love to our children and children's children, if they keep thy covenant, and remember thy commandments to do them. Grant, O Father, that we may train and form those whom Thou hast placed in our hands, whom Thou hast confided unto us as holy pledges, to be worthy of thy goodness and of thy love, that they may grow up in Thy presence to the honour and glory of thy holy name—may they steadfastly resist all worldly temptations, and remain pure and righteous in heart and spirit. Grant, that ere we are summoned hence, we may have called down on the heads of our beloved ones a lasting blessing, rich in temporal and eternal good. All merciful Father, do thou confirm this wish, and say Thou, thus shall they be blessed now and for ever more. Amen!