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The Jewish Chronicle and the Occident.


Our readers know what sort of a work the Jewish Chronicle, of New York is; there is another paper of that name in London, lately revived, after being suspended for two years, which paper is a Jewish organ; we, however, speak of the mouthpiece of the Conversion Society in New York, which issues a monthly octavo to record its sayings, doings, and hopes, respecting the conversion of the Jews. In our number for February we alluded to several auxiliary conversion societies got up in the States of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where there are few Jews, to raise funds in behalf of the parent association at New York, and to aid otherwise this hopeful scheme. Whilst noticing this fact, we thought it a favourable opportunity to make of the managers of this association one request, to spare us the visits of converted agents, for, to confess the truth, they are odious to us. We do not affect to be as liberal as some people profess, whilst perhaps we are greatly more so than they really are. Now an apostate is one with whom we wish no intercourse, either public or private; for if he is sincere even, we must, as a believing Israelite, think him in error and sinful; and since, in most cases, there is abut little prospect of re-conversion, we would as a rule avoid him. If, on the other hand, he should not be sincere, he would be a hypocrite, in addition to his other flagrant sins, and we would as a man also avoid him, he being unfit of trust or confidence. But in preferring our request we made no charges against any one; on the contrary, we merely stated the fact, that many Israelites are averse to hold intercourse with apostate Jews. We refer our readers to the article, Vol. 2, p, 561. We were, therefore, somewhat surprised to find the following in the March number of the Chronicle, as a comment to our own:

“We think it probable that the disappointment here confessed, is likely to be not a little augmented ere long. This, however, only by the way. Nor is it necessary, we trust, for us to assure our esteemed friend, the editor of the Occident, how gladly we reciprocate his assurances of a hospitable reception. What we intended to remark upon, is our friend’s advice to the Society with regard to the selection of its agents.

“We are perfectly aware of the habit which Jewish editors have got, of treating all professed converts from their ranks as sheer impostors. Now while we can easily make very large allowance for the expression of a natural irritation, we must also take the liberty of suggesting, that the exceedingly loose and indiscriminate style, constantly indulged in on this subject, is quite as unworthy of our friend’s good sense, as it is repugnant to charity. Will the Occident inform us, whether he has any reason for questioning the sincerity of one Saul of Tarsus; when he became a preacher of the faith, which once he destroyed? If not, let him no longer conceal it from himself; or his readers, that it is a possible thing for ‘a Hebrew of the Hebrews’ to believe in Christ, and yet remain an honest man. He cannot but know, also, that the first Christian churches were almost entirely composed of Jewish converts. Well, what worldly interest of any one of them was promoted by the change? The answer which history gives is, that for the sake of Jesus they willingly ‘suffered the loss of all things.’ A very strange and unaccountable sort of hypocrisy this, we do think.

“Now, why may not modern confessors be just as honest as their predecessors? The moment they are even suspected, they forfeit for ever what is dear to every man, the esteem and sympathy of their nation, and nearest kindred; and alas! we have only too much reason to know how scanty and precarious, in most instances, is the relief, supplied by Christian charity, to the deep poverty of these insulted and banished outcasts of the synagogue.

“May we entreat the editors of the Occident, and of the Voice of Jacob, to discontinue in future a mode of speaking on this topic, which discredits their own judgment and good feeling far more than it does the objects of their assault.

“As to the policy of employing Christian Jews as missionaries, that is another matter. But our friend can readily conceive, why we regard his advice respecting it as outweighed by the long experience of Jewish Societies throughout the world.”

We, in the first place, have to make some remarks regarding the allusion to our expressing disappointment at the revival of conversion societies. We had fondly hoped that the good sense of the American people would have frowned down any systematic attempt to interfere with the conscientious scruples of any portion of the political body, not because we have the least care personally about the existence of enthusiasts, who deem the conversion, and consequent spiritual destruction, of the Jews a matter of vital importance. They may do us some injury, it is true; they may obtain the same number annually which they have had for twenty-five years past, “one in a city, and two in a tribe;” for even these few we call a loss and an injury to Israel; but, on the other hand, we trust that they will act as a stimulus to our sleeping fellow-Israelites, who are roused to action only when they see a sign of some danger. So then, for all the harm they can do, we can freely tell them, “Go on, try your best;” but so far as liberty of conscience is concerned, we deeply regret, and are greatly disappointed to find that ever so few can combine to effect by means of persuasion, nay, even charity, call it by the mildest terms you please, that which evidently would lead to breaches of the peace, if such operations as are detailed in the reports of the agents employed by the London and New York societies to have been witnessed in Jewish houses and schools had been carried on in the houses and schools of some of the more numerous societies of Christians. We deem it, hence, contrary to the spirit of the constitution of the country for the many to combine to do the smallest minority the injury of depriving them of their conscientious conviction by systematic efforts, carried on avowedly for no other purpose. This does not say, that a Christian individual might not have the moral right to persuade an individual Jew to embrace his belief; but that combinations of many to act upon a few, are an anomaly in a free country, where the few have an equal right to pursue their religion as the mass, or rather the greater masses around them. Suppose the case were changed, and Jews should form conversion societies and send converted Christians, for we have several such, though we confess they are few indeed, to preach Judaism in Christian schools; what, would be said of such combinations? Would not the whole country be appealed to to stay these unheard-of proceedings? Now, we assure our friends of the Chronicle that we have been able to make converts, though we have never preached publicly our doctrines, and we believe, moreover, that there are “Christian inquirers” who, could they but have free intercourse with learned and pious Jews, could be readily induced to embrace the law of the God of Abraham, “the ONE” who revealed himself in Egypt and Sinai. It is, however, the policy of Israel, as we fear the sincerity of proselytes, to refuse making any, unless we are absolutely convinced, as far as circumstances permit us, of their possessing the right spirit. Still we have had, even within late, several applications of this nature; and sure we are that they may compare favourably with the converts of the American Society for the Melioration of the Condition of the Jews. Nay, we have heard of two ladies, one a native of Spain, the other of the State of New York, who, being at the approach of death invited by Christians to unite themselves again “to their people and their gods,” positively refused, and with their last confession proved their truth and steadfastness in their adopted religion. We have thus good cause to proceed with endeavouring to make converts; and we again ask how would missionary efforts by Jews be received among Christians?

But we must leave other considerations relating to this matter for a future day, and reply to the remaining portions of the remarks of the editor of the Chronicle. He speaks of our habit; which we have in common with other Jewish editors, of treating all professed converts from their ranks as sheer impostors, and thinks that the exceedingly loose and indiscriminate style constantly indulged in on this subject, is quite as unworthy of our good sense as it is repugnant to charity. Well, we really do not know that we have said much in the Occident at least concerning the converted Jews; we know of two instances only that their names were accidentally mentioned, and we have endeavoured to avoid speaking of them altogether so far as this was possible. We have said, that as a class we doubt the sincerity of converts; but this is neither loose nor indiscriminate censure. We think we have admitted, and if we have not done so, we will do so now, that there may be sincere converts; but we contend, and can prove, that many have left us for some tangible advantages; others because they were ignorant of our faith; others, because they found the burden of the law too severe a task for them; others again, to escape the persecution to which as Jews they were subject, who at the same time condemned the step they had taken. Let any one go to Prussia, and see the mass of converts that fill all the various professors’ chairs; three are even said to be at one university, at Breslau: and let him then tell as that such conversions are not base hypocrisy and barters for office, if he can have the hardihood to do so. We deeply regret that such base traffickers of their salvation are “from Israel;” but they do exist, and our denial would not mend the matter, nor can the claim of our Christian friends set up for their sincerity make them any thing but apostates in the true sense of the word.

To his appeal to us, “what we think of one Saul of Tarsus?” we have but little to say. We do not esteem Paul greatly, and there are many Christians who agree with us. Let the editor obtain a copy of “Jesus not Paul,” a stout octavo by Gamaliel Smith, who is supposed to be the late Jeremy Bentham, and we think he will have enough to do to reconcile all the difficulties there stated. Of course Saul or Paul was a Jew; but he taught in opposition to Judaism, and had at length to do a public act of penance to ward off the odium which the other apostles attached to him for his indifference. We refer the editor to Acts 21:21-24. The apostles themselves, to take their own history, had surely no great sympathy with Paul; he went to the gentiles, while they adhered to the Jews, and kept the law; nay, Paul himself circumcised Timothy, a man whose mother was a Jewess, and whose father a Greek, “because of the Jews which were in those quarters.” Rather significant this, by the by, the man being from his mother’s descent an Israelite, required but circumcision to make him a Jew to all intents and purposes; the gentiles, however, not being bound by the law, required not this act, which was instituted as the sign between God and Israel. “What we think of Paul?” Indeed, we hold him to have been a man of consummate skill; he wanted to spread Judiasm among the gentiles; but of ceremonial Judaism this was impossible, so he preached it divested of ceremony, and added the plurality in the Deity, as a doctrine better suited to the heathen world than the pure unity of the Jews. We would respectfully ask the editor of the Chronicle, whether he discovers not many inconsistencies in the character of Saul of Tarsus? at times with the Jews, then with the gentiles; at times entering the Synagogues, and then saying, he quits his brethren; at times living as a Jew, and again neglecting the ceremonies totally. We cannot reconcile all this; hence we cannot esteem his character, even assuming all that is said about him in the Acts as literally true.

If then the modern confessors (as converts are called) are just as honest as Paul, there is but little conceded to them. We will do them the justice to assume that in confessing Christianity they cannot divest themselves of Jewish feelings altogether; they are conscious of their sin in forsaking the law; and hence every now and then their new religion is a drag on their conscience, and they have a renewed desire for the practices of their ancient faith. But the editor must excuse us for laughing over his rueful picture of the sufferings of the suspected and converted. It is truly curious to see the spectre of persecution evoked by our learned friend! Well, what dreadful persecutions the modern apostates have suffered from the Jews! see how many have been imprisoned! plundered of their property! condemned to the gibbet! Really it is too bad that the Jews should persecute thus the humble inquirers! How much more nobly do the Christians act! they admit in all countries the Jews to an equality of rights! the good ping of Prussia does not ask men of science to forswear Judaism before they are appointed professors of those branches for which they are eminently qualified! The worthy emperor of Russia does not issue his ukase to banish half a million of Jews who are not confessors nor inquirers! The pious king of Bavaria does not enact laws to prohibit Jews from marrying, nor does he deny them the freedom of following the professions for which they have abilities! The Catholic emperor of Austria does not confine the Jews in Moravia to certain very narrow quarters, limits the rights of marriage, “lest they multiply,” nor does he put onerous and distinctive burdens upon them because they are Jews! His holiness the Pope does not shut them up in the Ghetto, nor insult them because they are Jews! The pious, moreover, in all Protestant countries, do not preach over their blindness, and think it meritorious to catch some straggler who leaves our camp; not they raise money to institute a “temporal relief fund” to support converts; nor do they form scholarships to educate such as have the least talent for the ministry! Oh no, all these things are wicked libels, satanic inventions, of which Christians and Christendom are alike innocent. The Jews alone are persecutors, true to their ancient leaven. Was not Saul of Tarsus a persecutor when he was a Jew? and are not all Jews persecutors who will not associate with apostates? Is not the Jew who refuses to support his apostate son a persecutor? Is not the mother a vile persecutor of Christ’s elect if she refuses to hold intercourse with a daughter who has confessed and embraced Christianity? It is, to throw aside all satire, truly lamentable to hear and see such absolute nonsense spoken and written by pious Christians concerning the sufferings of apostates. They certainly cannot imagine that we are so lost to all the duties of our faith as to encourage the members of our household to quit our communion. Little must they understand the feelings of our brothers to presume that for one moment they could hesitate to cut off a diseased member which would corrupt the whole body. If one of our number chooses to quit, he naturally throws off our friendship with his allegiance to the God of Israel. We are not so subtle as to be able to explain how a man can believe in a trinity and still be a follower of the God who is declared ONE in our midst; that is for the confessor himself to settle; all we know is, he has renounced Israel, Israel’s law, and Israel’s God; we cannot persecute him, we have not the power, and if we had, we would not do it; Judaism never persecuted; for Jesus of Nazareth and Stephen were punished as offending Jews, not as professors of a new religion—even assuming that the accounts commonly published are strictly correct; and we believe that no one can lay his finger on any well-authenticated history to prove that religious difference was ever made cause for public accusation against any one. We admit that the Bible demands punishment for public idolatry, blasphemy, and profanation of the Sabbath. But who were punished thus? None but born Jews, who owed allegiance to the state. But if modern Christianity is not idolatry, if it is merely an ideality, a peculiar conception of the nature of the Deity, we know of no section of the law which could reach the offender, if he otherwise observes the precepts. His wrong belief is for God to judge, not for man to condemn. All our persecution, therefore, is now, and could be no more if we had a state, than a separation of ourselves frm the offender; and at the same time we are convinced, that if any one of our friend’s household should embrace Judaism, upon the clearest conviction, he would withdraw his fellowship from him, and cut him off in his will, if he had any fortune to bestow on his children.

But after all we have been saying in the above, we have to add that the whole of the remarks of the Chronicle are irrelevant; we spoke of no one’s sincerity or duplicity in the article to which reference is made; we might, therefore, have dismissed the whole subject by stating than we had been misunderstood. But we deemed this a fitting opportunity briefly to notice several charges brought against the Occident, its editor, and other Jewish writers, for treating apostates unfairly. Now we leave it to the editor of the Voice of Israel and the New York Chronicle themselves to decide whether we have not amply shown that whatever may be the case with the few who become Christians in England and America, who are in all conscience too few to make a boast of, the case is perfectly clear, that in Germany and Poland, where the mass of conversions has occurred, the objects gained were too tangible to deceive the most credulous creature on earth, even the very agents themselves; and it is reported of the late king of Prussia, that he should have replied to the charge that he was only making bad Christians out of the Jews by bribing them with offices, whilst he excluded professing Israelites: “It is true they are not to be depended on, but their children will make good Christians!” Now we would beg our readers to remark, that a re-conversion to Judaism by an apostate is absolutely interdicted in Prussia; so also can no Christian embrace Judaism. The consequence then is, that if a Jew has once pronounced the words which unite him to Christendom, of whatever shade; he is held fast to the CHURCH, whatever it be, if even in the next moment he would give worlds to be free from his silly vow. The conversionists know this, and we pledge our word that this is all strictly true; and hence let our readers judge whether we have cause to presume, in every instance, unless convinced otherwise, that conversion under such circumstances has little cause to be presumed to rest upon conviction. Our article upon the few words of the Chronicle is already too long, or else we could readily follow out the subject in its disgusting details to the overthrow of every idea of prejudice which may have been attached to us or other Jewish editors; but for the present we forbear, and will merely add, that so far as we can judge, the converts in England and America have not been so much neglected by a kind Christian community as to throw out all thoughts interested motives. We have our eye on a few instances, (we will not mention names for two reasons, one because we dislike personalities, and secondly, because we will not mention the names of apostates if we can avoid it;) but enough we know of one, a European, who is collecting agent for the American Society for the Melioration of the Condition of the Jews; of three, Europeans also, we think, who are now receiving an education at public expense, to fit them for the ministry; of another one, also imported from Europe, who lectures and collects funds for himself; of another European, old in sin, who has changed churches so often that no one knows where he belongs, still a minister of some establishment; of another, but he is an American, who is preaching for a Baptist church; and of others, some of whom are reputed preachers, and consequently somewhat respected, whilst as Jews the whole of those enumerated might have quietly lain in oblivion, without any one heeding their living or dying. Still we do not say that they are not sincere; but we have good reason to suppose that they are comparatively ignorant of our faith, with one exception. But assume that all converts are sincere and well informed, and it only proves that some have been enabled to convince themselves of what all other Jews have no conception; and then, notwithstanding all their sincerity, we are not bound to associate with them; and this, after all, is the point in dispute.

We think that we have amply shown that we have not spoken in a manner to discredit our judgment, but with good reason and a good foundation of facts. We may be mistaken; but in that case we ask the charitable indulgence of the learned editor of the Chronicle. But we, in conclusion, ask of him also not to be deceived about the success the converted Jews have had as missionaries. We have been, for many years watching the reports of the progress of events, and we know of no instance in this country where the several missionaries have had any success whatever. Nay, even the so-called “missionary to the Jews,” par excellence, who has occupied so large a portion in the public eye, through his learning, marriage, and labours, boasted, in the two lectures we heard him in, of very little success among the Jews; nay, he even confessed himself a Jew upon all occasions when he was among them; and recited the Shemang Yisrael as an evidence of his being a brother. We admit that he is hardly a Christian, and that his preaching would sooner make Jews than convert them; still he is a great light, and may therefore stand for a class; and if he effected nothing after all his labours, we must be permitted to doubt the results of the others, who are neither so learned nor so zealous as he is.

If the editor of the Chronicle will only analyze the reports in the London Intelligence, he will find that the material obtained in Poland and Germany, nay, even in Palestine, is not of the best kind; hence we reiterate that such exertions are rewarded by but small results. We are happy that he is satisfied, and we trust that Israelites may never give him more cause to boast of the results of missionary labours among them.

The editor may complain that we have said too much, but he must reflect that it is easy to make charges, but difficult to refute them; one word may require a volume, if it includes collateral considerations which are needed to exhibit it fully; and we hope that our readers will carefully ponder on what we have said, and perhaps new ideas may suggest themselves to them upon a topic which is certainly one which demands serious consideration.