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The Jews of the East

(Continued from issue #1)

From that date the position of the Jews has become worse and worse; they have been persecuted by all around them, particularly by the Catholic Armenians, who are under the protection of the French government. The Jews are without influence, and deprived of all protection.

It is true that they occupy the same position as the other Rajahs,--for the Turks despise all Rajahs,--but there is this essential difference:--Christian governments are interested in the Christian Rajahs; the Greek, the Armenian will ever find a protector; but to whom shall the poor Hebrew look? who will watch over his interests?

As soon as you deprive one of the right of protection, you expose him to attacks from every quarter. The Jews do not suffer so much indignity from the Turks, as from the idle Europeans and the Christian Rajahs, to whose insults and mockery they are ever subject. Even in passing through the streets they are annoyed by them. The yoke they have so long been obliged to bear has destroyed their powers of resistance, and imbued their enemies with the most daring effrontery. The "hatti sheriff" promises protection to the Jew; but while the dauntless Christian will demand his rights, the shrinking Jew will suffer without pleading for relief. He has lost even the feeling that would make him conscious of his abjectness, and has not the energy to arouse himself from his sad state.

 to the manner of estimating the population in that country, there are about 60,000 Jews in Constantinople; they reside in distinct quarters of the city, mingling but little with the other inhabitants. Their houses are easily recognised by their old appearance, their broken panes of glass, and the linen that is ever hanging before the windows. Fires being of such common occurrence, they make up but few linen garments at a time, and thus are ever washing and drying them; but the other inhabitants hang theirs before their doors.

The Oriental Jew is quite a different being on the Sabbath day, from what he appears at other times. He then seems to rise above his degradation, and to assert the dignity of his national pride; his countenance appears cheerful; he is clothed in clean garments; his house is in order, and all around him looks bright and joyous. It would be pleasing to associate with him on that day; but on his Sabbath he leaves hot his home--he remains in his house, and no one knows him as he then is. It is unfortunate that such should be the case; for the Jew and Jewess of the East, thus known, would be very differently appreciated.

When the Sabbath is over, the Jew sinks back into sadness, and before the next day all traces of brightness have passed away; the women look careless and dirty as well as the men; and if you ask them why they are not more neat, their only answer is, "Our fathers, according to tradition, did not change their clothes while in Egypt; then why should we here?"

Among the 60,000 Jews of Constantinople, there are artisans of every description, and every thing required by the Jews is made by them. There are some few trades in which they particularly excel; such as the art of cutting on stones and of polishing glass. Among them are carpenters, masons, bakers, &c. Many of them are employed by Christian merchants as brokers; they are very able and adroit in that capacity, and without their aid the Christians would be sadly at a loss. They sell provisions, and deal in almost every species of merchandise. The Jews are obliged to wear blue shoes, while the Greeks wear black, the Armenians red; the Turks alone wearing yellow. In order times they wore "kalpaks," but as they are very dear, the rabbis only wear them. They have also a head-dress called fesz. They are obliged to wear dark clothes.

The dress of the women is very ugly and slovenly. They are seen in their slippers walking through the streets, talking loudly in a sort of corrupt Spanish, interlarded with scraps of other languages, particularly the Hebrew.

All the Jews of Constantinople are under the control of a Grand Rabbi, (Chacham Bashi,) who, to distinguish him from other rabbis, is called "Chacham Hakolel." He represents the whole nation at the Ottoman Porte, receives the capitation tax, and is judge in all the civil and religious controversies of the Jews. The Christians even, in their quarrels with the Jews, always refer to him, this functionary having, for ages past, enjoyed a character of strict impartiality in all his decisions; his verdict is irrevocable; he has the power to order the infliction of the bastinado, but not to pronounce a sentence of death.

Government allows him two soldiers to execute his commands; he may ask for more assistance, if it be required. He enjoys the privileges of the other functionaries of the country, and stands on the same footing as the patriarchs of the other Rajahs. In council his place is above theirs, and the pipe is first offers to him; a courtesy highly appreciated among Eastern nations. He is assisted by a sanhedrin of rabbis, who, however, have only a deliberative voice. It must not be presumed that the Grand Rabbi is always chosen as being the most intelligent and the most pious. When he is to be elected, the representatives of the different communities (each quarter has a community) assemble to elect him, and their choice is generally approved by the Porte. The other Rajahs have a political influence, and in the election of their patriarchs disputes and cabals often occur, particularly among the ambassadors of foreign powers. But not so in the election of the Grand Rabbi. The representatives generally choose a man whom they think they can influence; they even exact a promise of him to that effect. If he should afterwards refuse complying with it, an application for his dismissal from office can easily be made, and will be most generally complied with. The Grand Rabbi does not receive a very large salary, it being only about 500 francs; but he gets many presents. He has the power of excommunicating, and of relieving from a sentence of excommunication; he cannot interfere with the "shechita," or prescribed manner of killing animals, nor with the marriage rite. But politically and judicially he has unlimited power. Unhappy is the Jew who neglects any of his religious observances; he cannot hope to escape the bastinado.

(To be continued.)