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The Cincinnati Hebrew Benevolent Society

(Concluded from page 562.)

4. Our Invited Guests.—Harmony and love are the growth of liberal institutions, the index of enlightenment and advanced civilization. Responded to by Judge T. Walker.

“I did not expect to have the honour conferred on me of being called on to address this assemblage of my fellow-citizens. I say honour, for honour I esteem it to respond to such a beautiful sentiment, breathing the heavenly qualities of harmony and love, and teaching us charity and liberality. I did not come here to make a speech, but before I close, I will, with your permission, make a few remarks on the peculiar traits of God’s chosen people. Ever since I have been of an age to look about me and judge for myself, I have observed with wonder and astonishment the many admirable traits of the Jewish character; time will not permit me to remark at length on any of them, but I cannot pass by unnoticed their industry, their untiring industry, that has sustained them as a nation through centuries of persecution, that, without this praiseworthy characteristic, would long since have annihilated them of this virtue, for virtue it certainly is; no panegyric I can use will speak in too strong terms of praise. There are other qualities too that strongly force themselves on our attention. In our Scriptures, we have a passage (I do not know but you may have the same in yours), that concludes thus: ‘But abide these three, Faith, Hope, and Charity, but the first of these is Charity.’ This has struck me as being particularly applicable to the Jewish people. Of their faith, I need say nothing, for it has passed into a proverb; their steady, unwavering adhesion to the laws of their forefathers show an example of devoted attachment never equalled,—observing every tenet, every interdiction and, commandment, in a manner without a parallel in the history of the civilized world; of their hope, every day is an illustration. I am informed that the Jewish nation look forward, even at this late day, to their final restoration as beyond the possibility of a doubt; what but such hope could sustain such faith—what but such faith inspire such hope, hope, sweet hope, exciting in their bosoms feelings of harmony, and love, and warming their hearts with emotions of charity and benevolence.”

The honourable gentleman continued speaking at some length of the charitable disposition of the Jews as a nation and as individuals, and after complimenting in high terms their poetry and music, concluded with the following sentiment:

“The Hebrew Nation.—They received the Law on Mount Sinai, amidst thunders and lightning, and cloud and flame,—and amidst thunders and lightning, and cloud and flame, have they kept it.”

5. Charity, the attribute of Heaven bequeathed to Man.—It cements our social relations in a firm and indissoluble bond of union. May our exercise of it this day prove how sensibly we feel its holy impulse.

Responded to by Rev. J. K. Gutheim.

“Mr. President and Gentlemen:—In rising to respond to the toast just announced, to illustrate the sentiment affixed thereto, and to dwell on the benevolent purposes for which we have met this evening, I am penetrated with a deep feeling of anxiety, lest the holy cause in which we  are engaged should suffer through my advocacy. But on seeing around me so many liberal and generous-hearted men, in whose breasts ‘Charity’ is sure to strike a responsive chord, and whole countenances are lit up with delight and benevolence: I boldly enter on my task, trusting that the charitable feelings by which you are at this moment actuated, may influence you to listen with patience and forbearance to my humble effort:

“Charity is one of the cardinal virtues that form the foundation of all religion. It is the mighty link and tenure by which society is held together. Before its salutary rays, the inequalities of fortune and rank, the difference of creed and opinion, vanish into air. It engenders pity, compassion, and sympathy for our distressed and suffering brother; sheds a heavenly lustre over man’s actions and life; refines and exalts the high-born faculties of his immortal soul, and swells the tide of universal love.

“In every stage and every condition of life, man’s dependent nature calls for the exercise of charity. In charity he is nursed and reared, by charity he gains the love and confidence of the unsophisticated companions of the years of his childhood, by charity he commands the respect and esteem of the world in maturer manhood. I take here, of course, charity in its most comprehensive sense. I am not only alluding to the dispensing of those material superfluities with which an all-kind Providence has blessed us; but also to that feeling of charity which ought to guide our judgment, words, and actions, at all times, and under all circumstances. There is no man living, may he be ever so rich and wise, who, whilst smarting under the censure of that uncompromising judge,—‘Public Opinion,’—did not secretly wish that he might have been arraigned before the tribunal of charity; who, in the hour of trial and affliction, did not feel cheered and comforted from the consolation and advice proffered by a charitable friend. The proper use of all earthly blessings is taught us by charity. Riches, wisdom, power, can only prove generally beneficial, if charity reigns supreme in the heart of their possessor. ‘An attribute of heaven,’ it seasons life to man, hallows every enjoyment, softens every passion, and renders man a fit image of the Deity, ‘whose mercy extends to all his creatures.’ Take away the kindly feelings of charity from the bosom of any mortal, and chilling selfishness will contract his heart and freeze the living current of his soul, and life will press heavily:

‘As bodies grow more ponderous, robb’d of life,’

“While thus charity humanizes our nature, its heavenly impulse urges us on to the performance of all those kindly offices that are calculated to assuage the suffering and to relieve the wants of the unfortunate beings whose lot is cast among the poor, and its soothing effects are discernible in the wretched hut of poverty, at the couch of sickness, at the pillow of the dying. To form, therefore, associations for purely charitable and benevolent purposes is of the utmost importance; for ‘union is strength,’ and the united efforts of the many will prove effective where the isolated exertions of the individual are insufficient. That the Hebrew Benevolent Society, whose fifth anniversary we celebrate this evening, is eminently calculated to produce a vast amount of good, I need hardly say. The original purpose for which it was founded is not only to bestow temporary relief to the poor of our own community, but also to grant a brotherly reception to those who flee from the tyranny and persecution of the European governments, and seek an asylum among the hospitable inhabitants of our glorious republic,—by providing them with the means to  gain an honest living. In this way, the cause of distress is removed, and the necessity of asking for charity will cease. Indeed, instances have occurred, that individuals thus relieved, have thankfully refunded the amount granted to them, and become active members of an institution to whose well­timed assistance they were indebted for their independence. Freely, then, may I say, that this society has a strong claim on the fostering patronage of the community at large.

“To relieve the distress of the poor, to ameliorate the condition of the suffering, is a duty dictated alike by Divine and human laws. And in so sacred a light has the exercise of charity at all times been viewed among us, that the terms ‘Justice’ and ‘Charity’ are expressed in the Hebrew tongue by one and the same word: צדקה. By responding, therefore, to the call of humanity, by supplying the wants of those who are destitute of the means and resources to do so themselves, we are virtually but doing an act of justice; since to part with a slight  portion of the wordly treasure with which a bountiful God has favoured us, is but acknowledging our gratitude for the manifold tokens of Divine solicitude, which, at every fresh-drawn breath, are showered upon us. And have we not ample cause for this gratitude, both individually and collectively? Are we even able to repay the profuse benefits which, by an all-kind dispensation, we are permitted to enjoy in this land of civil and religious liberty ? Can we testify our thankfulness in a more fitting manner than by tendering our aid to the needy and unfortunate, and by relieving, as far as in our power lies, the distress and privations that prevail in the abodes of penury? Does, moreover, the exercise of our charity come more opportunely than in this inclement season of the year, when employment partially ceases, when many are prevented from following their daily avocation, and the necessities of life are multiplied by the pinching cold that requires fuel for the hearth and a warm covering for the body? Indeed, a wide field is open for our benevolence, and humanity calls and religion enjoins to be active. There once lived a great and wise nation, that had the custom, that, when the king, with his princes and nobles, sat at the sumptuous banquet, a slave daily entered, and exclaimed: ‘Remember, O King; that thou art man!’ There once lived another great and wise people, among whom prevails the custom, that the mummies of their fathers were placed round their festive boards for remembrance and warning. We, of the present day, require neither slave nor mummies, as incentives and mementoes; but over all our enjoyments there presides the revealed Law of God, to whose moral enactments both Christian and Jew, although differing in points or creed, bow down in religious reverence. And what more pleasing and gratifying duty could the Deity have assigned to us, than the exercise of charity? Like all other heavenly virtues, it carries with it its own reward. From the grateful tear of the widow, whose heart we have gladdened; from the benignant smile of the fatherless we have comforted, we derive the purest satisfaction which it is possible for man to enjoy. Yes, in the beautiful words of our wise teachers of old, ‘Charity is one of those things, of which we enjoy the fruit in this world, while the principal remains unimpaired for the next.’”

6. The City of Cincinnati.—The sons of the East rejoice in the advancement of the Queen of the West.

Responded to by Mr. M. E. Moehring.

7. The Benevolent Societies of all Denominations.—In the glorious undertaking of philanthropy, we know no distinction of sect. “Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us? Why should we deal treacherously one against the other?”

Responded to by Mr. A. A. Lindo.

“Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen—Having only recently arrived in this beautiful city, and, consequently, a stranger to it respectable community, I feel highly honoured at the call made upon me for some ap­posite remarks on the toast just delivered.

“Sensible of my inability to do it justice, I should have declined the honour, but that I considered it behooves us all to waive our personal feelings; and do our best in order to promote so valuable and useful an institution as that of which we are met to celebrate the anniversary,

“Sir, if there are instances in which, unfortunately, the actions of individuals accord not with the exalted sentiments that proceed from their lips, happily such insincerity forms no part of the national character of us Jews.

“Exalted, therefore, as is the sentiment just announced in our behalf, that ‘in the glorious undertaking of philanthropy, we know no distinction of sects,’ we deem ourselves justified in using it, since innumerable testimonials might be adduced of our actions, corresponding to the very letter of it.

“I hold in my hand one of these testimonials; and it is so much to the purpose, that, with the permission of the company, I will read it. It is an extract from a speech delivered by Lord Brougham, on the occasion of a bill introduced into the British House of Peers for relieving the Jews of the civil and political disabilities they still labour under in England.

“ ‘It would be most ungrateful in him,’ said Lord Brougham, ‘to allow this opportunity to pass without recording his opinions of the most charitable, generous, and munificent conduct of that most respectable class of our fellow-subjects, the Jews. Whenever any aid for benevolent purposes was required, from their ample means and resources they were ever forward to grant that aid; their industry, their charitable and enlightened industry, was ever manifested in the promotion of wise and useful objects, without regard to sect or party; and where persons of  our own sect were to be the gainers, there never was the slightest tendency exhibited on the part of Jews to make any invidious distinctions. Their purses were open, and their hands were ready to work for the general good, without any regard to what might be the religion of the persons who were to profit by their benevolence. He never saw persons of the Jewish persuasion coming forward in this generous manner without feeling a degree of shame, he might almost say contrition, pressing on his spirit, when he reflected on the return made them by Christians.’

“ Such, sir, is the testimony borne by many besides Lord Brougham, to the beneficent disposition of the Jewish people; and it would be easy to trace that quality in them to their early training in those divine precepts which soften the hearts of mankind to each other.

“This is an age of wonders! The astounding achievements of science bewilders the senses, and we ask ourselves, Where will man stop? Having succeeded in transporting himself from place to place, at a speed equal to the swiftness of the wind in the hurricane, he has  seized upon electricity to communicate his thoughts and wishes to others, with the celerity of the lightning, whatever may be the distance that separates them.

“As these manifestations of the powers of the human mind are calculated to impress us with our superiority over the inferior created beings, it behooves us, by humility and gratitude to Him who has so gifted us, to keep in check that proneness to pride and presumption, into which a consciousness of our pre-eminence is apt to betray us; for, after all, admirable as are those scientific discoveries, they alone afford no efficient guarantee either for an honourable career or for a happy life. Indeed, the faculties bestowed on man are so frequently perverted, that history furnishes many melancholy instances of their proving a curse as often as a blessing.

“The happiness of man must, therefore, be  based upon a more solid foundation. To attain happiness, has been, in all ages, his great aim, and the important problem was, in vain, attempted to be solved by the ancients; for, in their endeavours to discover the golden rule, they built up theories and framed systems that proved either absurd or impracticable.

“It was reserved for the age in which we live to discover that the only certain means by which man can attain to a pure and lasting happiness, lies in relieving the wants and sufferings of his fellow-creatures.

“It needs not, sir, that I attempt to describe that species of heavenly joy which fills the breast of the benevolent, when they have been the favoured instrument in the hands of Providence to save a family from destruction—to dry up the tears of the disconsolate widow—to prove a father to the destitute orphan! Such joys are better felt than described, and from the universal philanthropy which distinguishes the age, it may be safely averred that few or none but have tasted of them.

“Much, therefore, as we may congratulate ourselves on the brilliant achievements by science in our day, we have still greater reason to rejoice at the crowning discovery of the age, ‘that the only sure road to  pure and lasting happiness, lies in the promoting of the happiness of others.’

“Therefore, we ardently wish success to ‘Benevolent Societies of all Denominations;’ for, through their beneficent operations, we may expect such a state of society as will render unnecessary the remonstrance of the prophet: ‘Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us? Why should we deal treacherously one against another?’”

8. The Press.—The palladium of liberty, the dispensator of intelligence, the powerful coadjutor in the cause of benevolence and charity.

9. Woman.—“Angels are painted fair to look like thee.” Chaste by virtue, adorned by beauty, a fair woman is the ornament of heaven, the joy of earth, the grace of life.

At the conclusion of Mr. Gutheim’s remarks, which evidently gave much satisfaction to the company, the president announced that a donation-list would be then opened; during the progress of the offerings, several letters were read from invited guests; among others, from Hon. Henry C. Spencer, the Mayor, who regretted that he was compelled to be absent in consequence of indisposition in his family; as also from Hon. Bellamy Storer, Henry Lyon, Esq., &c.

The contribution amounted to the sum of three hundred and seventy-four dollars, and the company separated about eleven o’clock; every one apparently highly pleased with the entertainment. L. A.