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To the Friends of Jewish Literature.


Being so near the close of the eighth volume of this magazine, I deem it due to the cause I have been defending, to lay a few <<526>> considerations before my readers. When I first commenced my editorial career, it was with a great deal of hesitation, amounting almost to a total unwillingness to assume the task. Perfectly conscious of the limited range of my knowledge, and diffident of being able to conduct so important a work as to effect the least good, and in view of the liability to error to which the wisest mortal is subject, it was impossible but that I should survey, with feelings amounting to fearfulness almost, the field before me. Nor would I have entered on it, had it not been that I, had good reasons to apprehend that the attempt at Jewish journalism would have been made by others, not so well qualified by education and habits to diffuse knowledge among the people. Besides, the position I then occupied seemed to demand of me to leave no means untried to scatter religious knowledge among the Israelites.

But the reader may believe me sincerely, that no object of gain spurred me on; I only endeavoured to fulfil a duty, and the public must judge for itself how I have discharged the self-assumed obligation, aided, under the blessing of Providence, by a large number of able and disinterested correspondents. Whilst I was connected with a congregation as its minister, I never required any pecuniary return for my labour, as the salary I obtained for my time spent in public life was ample for my support. This, however, is the case no longer; and I am again one of the people, as I was when I first arrived at Philadelphia.

Still, I am willing to devote whatever mental power I may have received, altogether to the service of my people and my religion; for, in upholding and defending them, I uphold and defend my own dignity, and render the best service possible to the state. At the same time; it is needless for me to demonstrate that it will be impossible for me to carry out this intention, unless I receive far more encouragement from the people at large than I have hitherto enjoyed, so that, whilst labouring for others, I may not suffer myself from pecuniary embarrassment, and anxiety for my subsistence. It would be the height of folly for me to make an especial appeal to my fellow-Israelites to second my efforts. They either, by this time, think me worthy of their support or not. <<527>>

If they have formed a favourable opinion of me, they have now a good opportunity to prove it by their acts. I offer to labour for them, if they are desirous for me to do so; and it rests with them whether I shall maintain my present position, or lay down, in a few weeks, the pen which I have wielded for so man years, always in behalf of Judaism and its followers. They will see in the various works which I propose, something to arrest their attention; they can judge for themselves whether they are useful, expedient, and even necessary; and if they think that I am capable to conduct them, so as to reflect credit on them, I fervently trust that they will do all in their power to stimulate me to pursue the course I have hitherto followed, and not force me to quit the field of our literature. I possess the same energy and capacity I have hitherto exhibited.

There are Israelites enough in this country to encourage duly all I have proposed, and the leisure winter months now approaching will give my personal friends ample time to canvass all their acquaintance, in order to place the matter in a proper light before them; and I hope, that when the spring comes again to awaken dormant nature into new life, I too may be greeted by the welcome summons of the friends of our holy faith to persevere, as the writer for the sacred cause, which we profess to uphold. I have to ask, no personal favour for myself; let Israelites decide whether my services are useful, or whether it is better that I should be driven into absolute retirement. If the latter be their verdict, I shall submit without murmuring, and then seek some pursuit congenial to my disposition, till such time that my presence may be again demanded in a field where I have been, I may say it without arrogance, the unaided pioneer in America for many years. It is true there are many more and abler labourers now in the land; but they have each assigned to them their proper vocation, and they will not be injured if I continue in my present calling. Should I be sustained, I can promise to act as I have done hitherto, to seek for rising talent and mature wisdom, to present them to the reading community in the best possible manner; and the past must be my guarantee, that no littleness of soul or petty envy shall prevent <<528>>me from doing ample justice to all, who claim to speak to the people in behalf of our religion.

This is the last appeal I shall, perhaps, ever make for the support of the public; personally it can be but a matter of indifference whether I succeed or not. The question is, however, not one confined to myself only, or else I should throw my pen down in disgust, in view of the severe trials through which I have passed in my public career, and knowing that, under the most favourable circumstances, I must lead a life of dependence on the unsteady wind of public favour. But I have asked myself, “Can I conscientiously withdraw totally into retirement, whilst there is no one altogether qualified to take my place?”

And, notwithstanding the wounds which my spirit bears, I could not answer in the affirmative. It is, therefore, for you, fellow-Israelites, to decide the question finally; and all I have to request of you, is to look upon me and my efforts, not with the eye of prejudice, with which some of you have been taught to regard me, but to lay aside whatever personal knowledge you may fancy you have, and judge me according to my works, which will, perhaps, speak for me with posterity against the judgment of the present hour, and imagine for a moment that I am no longer interested in the strife and jostling of the passing time. Do this, and I wish for no more; do this, and you, I am sure, must desire that we shall not part company very soon, whilst you deem me capable to gather for you the fruits of others’ wisdom, and the stores of sacred knowledge; and whilst you desire to know something more of the history of your people, and the behests of your faith, than you can gather from the popular literature of the day. In conclusion, I trust that you will agree with me in the belief that Judaism is something more than a sectarian creed; that it lives not in party strife or wrangling for superiority; and that its best friends, and those of mankind in general, are they who, desirous of knowing their duty for themselves, feel it a happiness to appeal to all they can influence, to value as their highest treasure the legacy of divine wisdom which is the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.

I. Leeser. Philadelphia, December 13th, 5611.