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The Frankfort Reform Society.


For some time past the public prints have given exaggerated accounts of a secession among the Jews at Frankfort on Maine, which we declined noticing, as we fee1 little inclination to lend our aid to give publicity to the doings of any number of transgressors who may happen to associate for the purpose of sinning by system, in place of acting wickedly each upon his own responsibility. In our estimation the above Society is but an evidence of the deplorable state of irreligion in which many of the continental Jew are sunk; and this new manifestation which consists in the rejection of the rite of circumcision as well as the authority of the Talmud is but a step, though a very important one, farther than that which took place in London about three years ago. It surprised us more, indeed, that some of our friends in England should hurry on so thoughtlessly upon the dangerous road of producing sects in the bosom of our religion, than that Germany should be the field for such an act. It has always been our boast that we were an homogeneous people, that we had one God and one law; and it has been reserved for modern times to give the lie to this honest boast, and we are sorry, mortified in spirit that we cannot avoid recording that this is so. We always exercised the liberty of differing in minor matters, our religion is one of freedom of opinion, and in some little matters, freedom of action. But it has been reserved for the ultra-liberalists to form themselves into distinct sects with avowed peculiar doctrines, by which they sever themselves from the majority of Israel. We have thus a Temple Association at Hamburg, a congregation of British [Reform] Jews at London, and a Reform Society at Frankfort. The reader will observe that the whole have adopted distinctive names, some new term of organization unknown to the past history of our people. We have but little feeling of religious persecution in our disposition; but still we must unhesitatingly condemn those who thus bring disunion in Israel, and we leave it to the candid Christian whether such exhibitions of separation can well be justified by any alleged defects in our system. It may be that these violent acts of the few will cause the many to think of the danger which such associations may ultimately cause to the church of God, and induce a union of all who fear the Lord to swear fidelity to the law of Sinai and promote a strict observance of the precepts. At least we hope so; and for one we here pledge our word that we will join hand and heart with any number of brethren who may so unite to endeavour to spread a more religious manner of life than is now generally witnessed. And why should not associations be resorted to for good as well as for evil?

It was not our intention, however, to say much on the subject for the present; we merely wished to lay before our readers an extract from a letter of the 15th of March, which we find in the Orient, No. 14, of this year, since without such an opportunity we doubt whether we should ever have alluded to the existence of such a body of sinful seceders as the Reform Society of Frankfort, a society whose abrogation of circumcision proves that they mean to destroy the law of Moses, not to restore it by renouncing all rabbinical authority. “The Reform Society, whose visible field of labour is for the present only limited to the abolishing of circumcision, finds itself opposed in its humane exertions, calculated only to promote concord and the happiness of families (ironical), by a new obstacle, not called forth by the defunct spirit of Rabbinism with its spectral aspect, but by the friendly images of the present. We mean by this expression the women, whose opposition is the more dangerous to the principles and tendencies of the Reform Society, since their tender words or their yet more dangerous outbreaks of anger are accustomed to overcome the most absolute will of the men. We have already seen many women who have not submitted to the religious principles of their husbands, and who have not found in the coldness of philosophy and the whirling and turmoil of enjoyments any compensation for the soft emotions of religious feelings, to which the female mind leans so pre-eminently, which were to be sacrificed to their husbands’ modes of life; but in the question regarding circumcision their religious sentiment is displayed in the strongest manner, and they manifest in this point a powerful opposition to their husbands. The following occurrence, which took place this week in our community, exhibits their truly religious sentiment in the best light. A member of the board of our congregation refused, because he is likewise a member of the Reform Society, to have his new-born son circumcised; his wife employed all means of persuasion to obtain from her husband the permission to have her child entered in the covenant. But even the bodily weakness of the state where the wife ought to receive all possible indulgence and be guarded against all mental excitement, a state in which a tender treatment and indulgence become the holiest duty of the husband, had to yield to the obligatory power of a paragraph of the Reform statutes; ‘a man must be consequent’ was the tyrannical order of the day, which sacrificed the tenderest emotion to the general and high(!) aim of the society. But that which could not be obtained by the weeping eye and the mild petition of the wife, was at length yielded to the threatened prospective of an entire dissolution of the tender bonds of love; and the angry earnestness of the wife effected this much, that the father, though he did not entirely consent to the circumcision, left the field, and let the religious act be performed, without, however, sanctioning this holy consecration by his presence. Such are the happy divisions, and such is a statute, which hurls the burning torch of discord in the holy life of the family, to separate children from parents, husbands from wives, brothers from brothers; this is the result of a society whose only divinities are reason and progress, to which its members must swear fidelity.”

The account further states that the society intends to extend its operation also to the women, in order to avoid all danger of opposition on their part, and that in future no man shall be received unless his wife also joins.—But we trust that the noble spirit of Israel’s daughters will spurn to be bound by any other statutes than the law of God. Thanks, noble daughter of Jacob! thanks in the name of all Israel; how gladly would we make public the name of her who so nobly withstood the mandate of her domestic tyrant! it is a bright spot in our dark history of the present day; but this sign assures us that all is not yet lost whilst such a spirit prevails, whilst such a heart beats in one bosom. Cheer up! the Lord yet lives, and we will revive despite our apostasies. Our cause is not lost whilst there are such defenders. It is indeed suffering now; but there will be a revival, it will triumph again, it cannot perish. Esto perpetua.