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The American Celebration

<plain_text><page sequence="1"></page><page sequence="2">THE AMERICAN CELEBRATION In November 1905 the Jews of America celebrated the 250th anniversary of the first organised settlement of the Jews in the New World. The American Celebration was on a magnificent scale, and its complete success has been effectively commemorated in a special volume. One of the most important of the functions was the great meeting at Carnegie Hall, New York, on " Thanksgiving Day,'7 November 30, 1905. Mr. Jacob H. Schiff was Chairman, and, after a prayer by Dr. Silverman, addresses were delivered by Ex-President Grover Cleveland, Governor Higgins, Mayor M'Clellan, Judge Mayer Sulzberger, Bishop Grier, and Dr. H. Pereira Mendes. A medal was designed and modelled by the distinguished Jewish sculptor, Isidore Konti. A photographic reproduction of this is here given. For the occasion Mr. Israel Abrahams, writing then as President of the Jewish Historical Society of England, addressed the following letter to Mr. Max. J. Kohler, the Honorary Secretary of the American Committee in charge of the celebration arrangements:? ' * Cambridge, October 17, 1905. "Dear Sir,?On behalf of the Jewish Historical Society of England, I write to offer to your Committee our very cordial congratulations on your 250th Anniversary Celebration. Marvellous, indeed, has been the growth of the American Jewish community in numbers and material pros? perity. But more remarkable still has been its consistent advance in all those noble enterprises which the world has the right to expect from Jews. Young as compared with t'he ancient history of the Jewish people, your community takes the lead of older bodies in Jewish thought and philan? thropy?championing the cause of the persecuted abroad, promoting all good causes at home. "On December 3 and 4 we, too, are celebrating a 250th anniversary. The Whitehall Conference may not have led to precise legal results of much moment. But it was a unique testimony to the change which was coming 299</page><page sequence="3">300 THE AMERICAN CELEBRATION. over the world. Oliver Cromwell and Menasseh ben Israel?Puritan and Jew?then stood side by side as immortal champions of toleration and justice. Most of us in England are content and proud to date from that significant incident the restoration of the Anglo-Jewish community after the expulsion in 1290. To us, as to you, the year 1655 is a great and memorable year, and by a happy coincidence we are associated with you in the celebration of events honourable alike to the Christianity and to the Judaism of the seventeenth century. " More recent events have, except in England and America, been less in harmony with the promise of the seventeenth and with the fulfilment of the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries. The Jews of many lands have to fight over again some part of the old battle for justice. But is it nothing that we do occupy, as Jews, the position of protagonists in so great a cause ? This struggle for the right?enforced upon us, yet willingly endured?is an honour, not a detriment. It keeps us virile, it makes us earnest, it prevents us from sinking into that security which is mortals' chiefest enemy. We justify ourselves by bearing ourselves as men in this fight for justice. " To you, as to us, the fight appeals with peculiar fascination. It marks out for us a duty, but it responds to an even higher instinct. We, as you, know Avhat it means to be free citizens of a free state. Noblesse oblige. Our pride in what we possess makes us eager to give to others a share. We are clearly marked out as tlie missionaries of freedom. To you, as to us, is committed the cause of Judaism. We rejoice to see you striding even beyond us in that unselfish impulse towards freeing others which is the crown of freedom personally enjoyed. In all this effort you will find us, I hope and believe, ready to second you. Whether it be in those more domestic matters which concern the local life of each Jewish community, whether it be the encouragement of Jewish learning, the maintenance of our common Jewish religion, and the revival of a true confidence in its ideals and practical love for its discipline, whether it be those wider schemes for the solace of the down-trodden and the enfranchisement of the oppressed, in all these things America will find England ready to join hands. " To tell you this was unnecessary, but to do it is a luxury not to be lost. It is the writer's last official act as President of the Jewish Historical Society of England. May these inadequate lines convey to you our good wishes. May you go from strength to strength, may the glory of your coming time excel even the glory of your past. Your celebration is, after all, an English celebration. Two hundred and fifty years ago America and England Were one nationally and politically. To-day they are one again in a union of hearts. We rejoice with you now in your joy, we shall be ready to work with you hereafter in all that must concern us both as sharers</page><page sequence="4">THE AMERICAN CELEBRATION. 301 of the olden English polity, as joint inheritors of the still older and even more inspiring Jewish tradition.?Yours very truly, "ISRAEL ABRAHAMS." The following reply was received from America :? "Committee on the Celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the Settlement of the Jews in the United States. "Professor Dr. Hermann Gollancj?, " President of the Jewish Historical Society of England, London, England. "Dear Sir,?At the last meeting of our Executive Committee, our Secretary presented the most cordial letter of congratulation forwarded on your behalf by Mr. Israel Abrahams as your presiding officer, upon our two hundred and fiftieth anniversary, and it was unanimously re? solved that this letter should form part of our ' Anniversary Proceedings.5 We were deputed to thank your Society most warmly for its hearty greetings, and to extend to you our sincere congratulations in return upon the Celebration which you will hold on December 3rd and 4th, of the 250th Anniversary of the ' Whitehall Conference.3 In discharging this pleasurable duty, we beg leave to add that your kind message was all the more welcome, because we in America have long since learned to admire the distinguished spokesman who phrased your felicitous greetings for you, the author of 'Jewish Life in the Middle Ages,5 which has long been a classic in our midst. "We are proud to learn that you are willing to claim our celebration as, 'after all, an English celebration.' While both you and we must turn to Holland, the ? Holy Land of Modern Europe,3 in the course of our respective celebrations, to trace the impetus from which arose the events which we are celebrating, we, as well as you, cannot fail to appreciate that it was the dearly cherished ' British Constitution 3 and the beloved * English Common Law/ which we still share with you, and their spirit, that made possible that Jewish development in our respective countries which we both to-day love to emphasise, and which enabled us both to outpace our Dutch co-religionists in strength and success, intellectual and material. You, like ourselves, have preferred to select, as the particular occasion for to-day*s celebrations, not the stray, isolated, possibly accidental first arrival of a Jewish settler, but the formal, official grant or declaration which assured to the Jewish settler equality before the law. These resulted, with you as with us, in the establishment of Jewish citizenship in our respective lands, and advanced us immeasurably over and above the status of Schutzjuden, whose rights were dependent upon the mere whim and caprice of each successive ruler.</page><page sequence="5">302 THE AMERICAN CELEBRATION. "We rejoice that you have so happily chosen, as the occasion of your celebration, the convening of the ' Whitehall Conference,' not merely because of its happy illustration of the fact you point out, that, 'it was unique testimony to the change which was coming over the world,' 'Oliver Cromwell and Menasseh ben Israel?Puritan and Jew?then stood side by side as immortal champions of toleration and justice,'?names which we in America also hold in honoured memory?but also for the narrower reason that we as well as you found our rights builded on adamantine rock, and not on mere sand, when English judges solemnly declared at Whitehall that ' there was no law which forbad the Jews' return into England.' Lawyers may even to-day be inclined to question the correctness of this exposition of the English common law as transmitted from the ' Dark Ages,' but Mr. Abrahams has given us a conclusive justification and explanation of the holding, in saying that it was ' testimony to the change which was coming over the world,' a repudiation of Middle Age bigotry and hateful, unreasonable discrimination. The full portent of the declaration may not have been recognised at the time, and Menasseh ben Israel may have gone to his grave heartbroken at his failure to secure an affirmative grant, which even he was quite ready to accept with expressed limitations and restrictions, but he ' builded better than he knew,' and could safely leave the matter to an All-wise Providence ! Starting with the declaration that the laws did not forbid Jewish settlement on English soil, neither at home nor abroad, Jewish disabilities disappeared one after the other, sometimes quicker and with less effort on our newer soil than at home. But you secured for us, almost immediately after the Readmission, without any new legislative feat, the holding which we as well as you profited by, that Jews were competent witnesses, entitled to equal credit with the non-Jew, and as a result, the whole fabric of the Oath More Judaico (the discriminative Jewish oath) disappeared on both sides of the Atlantic, and your Council for the Plantations solemnly decreed, in 1672, in the case of a New York resident, Rabba Couty, that Jewish freemen on British soil were not ' aliens' within the meaning of your ' Navigation Laws,' and your Foreign Office solemnly asserted, in 1676, in the case of some Jews from Surinam, that British Jews settled in the Colonies are British subjects entitled to British protection against attempts of a foreign Government to detain them involuntarily. But this is no place to elaborate upon incidents we commemorate in common, some of which one of your Past-Presidents has set forth so happily in his paper on 'American Elements in the Resettlement,' and which we, of the American Jewish Historical Society, also love to descant upon. Let it suffice to say that we dearly cherish, not merely the Jewish traditions and ties which we have in common, but also those currents and streams of a common development, which we in America love to give expression to when we still call England 'Our Mother Country,'</page><page sequence="6">THE AMERICAN CELEBRATION. 303 and which make our two nations allies in seeking the maintenance of inter? national peace and universal goodwill. " And it is particularly gratifying for us to feel that we Jews, scattered among all the nations of the world, but cherishing our common ties and traditions while at the same time being loyal patriots, have been in the past, and may confidently hope for the future to be, most potent factors in bring? ing about universal 'peace upon earth and good-will among men,' so that, in the happy language of the author of the Spectator, writing already in 1712, Jews "'are indeed so disseminated through all of the trading parts of the world that they are become the instruments by which the most distant nations converse with one another, and by which mankind are knit together in a general correspondence. They are like the pegs and nails in a great building, which, though they are but little valued in themselves, are absolutely necessary to keep the whole frame together.' "Accept then, on our behalf, our most heartfelt good wishes on your celebration, and congratulations upon the marvellous achievements of your 250 years' history ! When we consider only a few of the many brilliant stars whose names illumine your history, we cannot but wonder at the marvellously high degree in which genius has flourished in your midst, compared with the small Jewish population from which it has developed S Permit us, then, to repeat your own happily phrased good-wishes, drawn from our common inheritance: 'May you go from strength to strength, may the glory of your coming time excel even the glory of your past!' And though both your celebration and ours are, most unhappily, tinged with an unanticipated hue by the terrible sufferings that have suddenly been inflicted upon our brethren in Russia, which we are seeking as far as may be to alleviate in common, yet these celebrations enable us to rejoice all the more by contrast, that our 'lots have fallen in pleasant places/and to express from the bottom of our hearts our gratitude to our respective countries for granting us absolute equality before the law, and we may have the further consciousness in proudly chronicling our past that we may thereby afford a much needed object-lesson to countries less imbued with the modern spirit, of the appreciation of our respective fellow-citizens and leaders of the admirable consequences that have flowed from the granting of the Great Charters of Liberty you and we are now commemor? ating.?We are, yours very truly, "JACOB H. SCHIFF, Chairman. "MAX J. KOHLER, Secretary"</page><page sequence="7">304 THE AMERICAN CELEBRATION* In this Connection the following letter from President Roosevelt is reproduced, because he authorised a copy to be sent to the Jewish Historical Society of England, as showing his interest also in the English celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Whitehall Conference 41 The Whitk House, Washington, "November 16\ 1905. "My Dear Sir,?I am forced to make a rule not to write letters on the occasion of any celebration, no matter how important, simply because I cannot write one without either committing myself to write hundreds of others, or else running the risk of giving offence to worthy persons. I make an exception in this case because the lamentable and terrible suffer? ing to which so many of the Jewish people in other lands have been sub? jected makes me feel it my duty, as the head of the American people, not only to express my deep sympathy for them, as I now do, but at the same time to point out what fine qualities of citizenship have been displayed by the men of Jewish faith and race, who, having come to this country, enjoy the benefits of free institutions and equal treatment before the law. I feel very strongly that if any people are oppressed anywhere, the wrong in? evitably reacts in the end on those who oppress them; for it is an immutable taw in the spiritual icorld that no one can wrong others and yet in the end himself escape unhurt. "The celebration of the 250th anniversary of the settlement of the Jews in the United States properly emphasises a series of historical facts of more than merely national significance* Even in our Colonial period the Jews participated in the upbuilding of this country, acquired citizenship, and took an active part in the development of foreign and domestic com? merce. During the Revolutionary period they aided the cause of liberty by serving in the Continental army and by substantial contributions to the empty treasury of the Republic. During the Civil War, thousands served in the armies and mingled their blood with the soil for which they fought. I am glad to be able to say, in addressing yon on this occasion, that while the Jews of the United States, who now number more than a million, have remained loyal to their faith and race traditions, they have become indis solubly incorporated in the great army of American citizenship, prepared to make all sacrifice for the country, either in war or peace, and striving for the perpetuation of good government and for the maintenance of the principles embodied in our Constitution. They are honourably distinguished by their industry, their obedience to law, and their devotion to the national welfare. They are engaged in generous rivalry with their fellow citizens of other denominations in advancing the interests of our common country. This is true not only of the descendants of the early settlers and</page><page sequence="8">THE AMERICAN CELEBRATION. 305 those of American birth, but of a great and constantly increasing proportion of those who have come to our shores within the last twenty-five years as refugees reduced to the direst straits of penury and misery. All Americans may well be proud of the extraordinary illustration of the wisdom and strength of our governmental system thus afforded. In a few years, men and women hitherto utterly unaccustomed to any of the privileges of citizenship have moved mightily upward toward the standard of loyal, self-respecting American citizenship; of that citizenship which not merely insists upon its rights, but also eagerly recognises its duty to do its full share in the material, social, and moral advancement of the nation. With all good wishes, believe me, Sincerely yours, "THEODORE ROOSEVELT. "Jacob H. Schipp, Esq., Chairman, "Committee on the Celebration of the 250th Anniversary of the Settlement of the Jews in the United States." VOL. V.</page></plain_text>

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