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jority of Jews these hard conditions still prevail. Under them, the life of the Jewish schools became contracted. The study of the Talmud and the legal codes was made supreme. Even Biblical study was subsidiary and philosophy largely neglected. The disputations often degenerated into a vapid scholasticism or polemics called Pilpul, which stimulated ingenuity and developed sophistry. The Yeshibah or higher school of learning was devoted to the sing-song mechanical process of memorising and discussing the obsolete legalism of bygone ages.
In the elementary school, the 'Heder, a similar parrot-like method prevails, by which the Hebrew language is imparted. A knowledge of Jewish History, religion, and doctrine are not thought of as distinct disciplines, but are left to be inferred and to be acquired as secondary matter from this unsystematic and haphazard method.
In spite of all this, however, it must not be supposed that the moral training of the young is a failure. The home still remains the safeguard of the people. The tenderness of domestic life was intensified by its very narrowness. Jew who was a dog to the world, was in his home a prince. The hateful legislation and oppression to which he was subject, was calculated, with the utmost refinements of cruelty, to undermine his character. Driven to bay by his persecutors, what wonder he became a sullen creature in their eyes. In mere self-defense, he was forced to cultivate the arts of shrewdness, cunning, and duplicity. But within the confines of his own home and among his own people, he lived his own natural life. Men might harass his body, they could not mutilate his soul. None could assail the sanctity of his home, the purity of the marriage ties, the chivalric considerateness displayed toward women, the loving kindness for the aged and helpless, the tender paternal, filial and fraternal relations. These were and remain his effective moral supports.
Of vast importance in the moral training of the Jew is the poetic symbolism of his religious observances practiced in the home and in the sanctuary. These never fail to inspire and uplift with high thoughts and glowing idealism. The Passover rings out its glorious message of freedom and sustains the down-trodden with hope. Pentecost, with its majestic traditions of Sinai, impresses those sturdy lessons which makes the Jew everywhere law-abiding and peace-loving. Tabernacles, with its exquisite poetry is the harvest-home festival that makes the heart mellow with gratitude and by deepening the sense of human dependence, cultivates that true humility, which flowers into the well known deeds of Jewish charity, better called by him, "acts of loving-kindness.” Purim, the Feast of Queen Esther, brings the sunlight of blithesome festivity even into the dingiest home. The Maccabean feast spurs the heroic and courageous impulses. The Sabbath impressing the sweetness of rest and the sanctity of work, is a moral teacher of incalculable force. The great days of searching, selfscrutiny, the New Year and Atonement Day, constitute a discipline which in sublimity and effective teaching of morals are, I believe, unsurpassed by any kindred institutions. Thus the home and the Synagogue unite to conserve and cultivate the ethical side of the life of the Jewish people.
In those Jewish schools which I have described, we may however, despite their defects, nevertheless discern a definite plan of Bible study which is exceedingly interesting. This plan is based upon the Bible readings in the Synagogue. These are traced in their origin back to the eighth chapter of Nehemiah in which Ezra is presented as reading the Law to the assembled people, men, women, and children. This read
, ing became a permanent custom. Josephus and the Gospels give corroborative testimony to the fact that from the earliest days it was customary to read in the Synagogue the lessons from the Scripture. By the ordinance of the Rabbins, the
. Pentateuch was divided into fifty-four sections, one or more to be read each Sabbath, thus completing the whole in a year. The reading of these definitely assigned sections of the Pentateuch guides the studies of the home and the school.
The Gospel of St. Luke, ch. iv, 7, tells how Jesus was called to the desk in the Synagogue at Nazareth as any man of note coming into his old home would be still in our days. This honor Jesus fulfilled by turning the Scroll to the appointed section in the prophecies of Isaiah. He reads and then proceeds to expound two of the verses (ch. Ixi, 1, 2), “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor," etc. This is a reference to another universal custom still prevailing among us of reading some selection from the Prophetical Books or the Hagiographa. I direct your attention to this, the oldest international system of Bible study extant. It is that which rules in all the Synagogues throughout the world and upon it to a large extent are the studies of the Jewish home and schools based, in the effort to impart to the young and to the old the lessons of that Scripture which is still the world's text-book of morals.
Such are the methods which have grown up among the Jewish people. These still prevail among the vast majority of them in all parts of the world, but especially in the lands of Eastern Europe and also here in America among the million or more of the immigrants who have fled to these hospitable shores from those places where the mediæval lies still darken the minds of the people, and recourse to massacre is still fostered and condoned by the state.
Permit me now to turn the page and read to you a new chapter, a more pleasing story in the history of my people as it relates to the subject in hand. When on the 27th day of September, 1791, the National Assembly of France convened to consider the enactment of the most momentous bill of human rights recorded for eighteen centuries in the statutes of any nation, then the wandering Jew crouched at the door of the legislative chamber and waited with bated breath and throbbing heart for the joyous announcement which at last proclaimed his emancipation and admitted him to the rights of citizenship. Can you conceive of the rapture with which that announcement seized upon his soul! Only he who has passed through like agonies of suffering and degradation can realise the joy of the free man.
In the course of the nineteenth century, England, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Holland, Turkey, and other countries, followed the noble example of France. This was not all done in a day nor without the strenuous efforts and appeals on the part of the Jews themselves to the enlightened conscience of the modern world. This blessed land of liberty was the answer to the age-long prayers of our people. In 1492 the cruel edict of Ferdinand and Isabella issued under the domination of the bigot Torquenada, drove the Jews from Spain. The last ships to carry the exiles from that land passed those of Columbus in his voyage of discovery. A Jew, Santangelo, had supplied the money for the equipment of this voyage and Jews were among the crews. What a significant portent !
With what avidity the Jewish people leaped into the newly opened avenues of opportunity. Joyously they laid down their lives on many a heroic battlefield in the service of the countries that had given them freedom. Everywhere they have become ardent patriots; in peace, serving as faithful, loyal citizens. Into all the pursuits and industries hitherto closed to them, they plunged with zest and have everywhere become a valuable economic factor. It is almost pathetic to see with what anxiety they flocked to the schools and universities to slake their burning thirst for the knowledge of the modern day. Most noteworthy was the retroactive effect of this access to the sources of learning
In Germany there sprang up what is called the Reform Movement in Judaism. Broadly stated, it was an honest effort to square the new life of the people with the old religion. The essential factor in this movement was the differentiation of the permanent from the transitory elements. Moses Mendelsohn, the sage of Berlin, had opened the new era of culture by translating the Bible into German. Under the inspiration of Dr. Leopold Zunz, of Berlin (1819), a scientific investigation of the origins and development of Jewish institutions was inaugurated. Hosts of scholars followed in his wake. The final results of these investigations have made possible that stupendous and monumental publication, “The Jewish Encyclopedia," of twelve massive volumes, now being issued in the English language and published in the city of New York.
The century of investigation became a century of transformation. The principle of progress could not be stayed in its speedy application to rites, ceremonies and customs. Nay, all ancient doctrines were subjected to its scrutiny and demanded a re-statement.
To quote the words of one of the leaders of this reformation: “The spirit of Rabbinical Judaism is diametrically opposed to the spirit of our time. Rabbinical Judaism has converted into religious ideas and tendencies all the exclusive national ideas and tendencies of the Bible which were intended for entirely different conditions and circumstances, and has thereby given them eternal validity. The Rabbis have perpetuated as religion
. the temporary part of Mosaism, the symbolism and particularism of the theocracy, and on the other hand, they misconceived and neglected its eternal element, the ideal of universalism, which was in truth the real purpose of the theocracy. Hence the irreconcilable conflict between Judaism and the spirit of the modern age" (Holdheim, "Reformbestrebung and Emancipation,” p. 123, Schwerin, 1845).
Those who accepted these conclusions found a readjustment imperative in the home, the Synagogue and the school. It is the latter which alone concerns our inquiry. The effect on the educational system was revolutionary. That revolution is still in process. In the first place, it compelled the broadening of the curriculum to introduce the entire course of secular studies. It relegated the Talmud and all its appendages to the new seminaries for the education of Rabbis and specialists. It led to the introduction of instruction in modern languages, history, and science. In the course of time, it was found that all this work was better done in the public schools, and so these special Jewish schools for general education were and are still being steadily abandoned in all countries. The study of the Hebrew language, Biblical History, and the moral and religious doctrines of the faith were relegated to special classes.
The American Jewish community has taken a leading part in these educational reforms. In 1838 the first Hebrew Sunday school was opened in the city of Philadelphia, organised by the famous Rebecca Gratz who, as Washington Irving tells us, was through his suggestion made the model of the heroine of Sir Walter Scott's masterly novel, “Ivanhoe.” The Sunday School movement has spread, especially in our country, until it