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The Jewish Herald. .
SUPERINTENDENCE OF THE
PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL
AMONG THE JEWS.
"PUBLISH YE, PRAISE YE, AND SAY, O LORD, SAVE THY PEOPLE, THE REMNANT
FEBRUARY 1, 1862.
Letter from the Queen Dowager of Prussia.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE JEWISH HERALD.
January, 1862. MY DEAR SIR,—The accompanying letter will be read with interest, and I am thankful that Dr. Bendix has been introduced to me. Both he and his wife have made such sacrifices for righteousness sake as many an old soldier of the cross would shrink from. Dr. and Mrs. Bendix had literally to leave father, mother, brother, sister, house, &c., for Christ's sake; and, in some degree, the Lord has fulfilled His promise by inclining the heart of the Queen of Prussia to become their “nursing mother.” Dr. Bendix has had a university education, and has been an eminent rabbi and preacher among the Jews. Mrs. Bendix's father is a wealthy merchant, and brought up his daughter with every prospect of wealth and position, but has now cast her off. I have no doubt that Dr. Bendix will become a very able missionary and preacher of the Gospel among his brethren; but he would require to reside in this country for at least one year, to gain our language and further experience. I, therefore, call upon the friends of Israel to join with me in raising a sufficient sum for his present support, with that of his wife and five children, as the funds of the Society are at present too low for any additional outlay.
Trusting that God will incline the heart of many of His people to respond to this appeal,
I am, my dear Sir, yours truly,
RIDLEY HERSCHELL. TRANSLATION OF A LETTER FROM THE QUEEN DOWAGER, OF
PRUSSIA TO THE REV. RIDLEY HERSCHELL. “ The Jewish Convert, Dr. Paulus Bendix, from Berlin, intends to go to London, in order to place himself at the disposal of the Missionary Society among the Jews. A stranger in London, he requests me to give him an
VOL. XVI.—NEW SERIES, VOL. VII.
introduction to you, my dear Mr. Herschell. The General Superintendent, and Rev. Bischsel, as well as other gentlemen of good standing here, cherish the highest opinion of him, and consider that his serious, steady character, his clear knowledge of the great truths of salvation, and gifted mind, would fit him for great usefulness in the Mission field. For this reason,
I recommend Dr. Bendix to your kind interest and Christian sympathy, assuring you that whatever kind exertions you make on his behalf will receive my heartfelt thanks. I am also happy to have this opportunity of expressing my high esteem and the sincere regard which I entertain for yourself.
"ELIZABETH. « Sans Souci, Dec. 8, 1861."
ITALY. Mr. Davidson's account of his residence in Rome will awaken painful yet hopeful emotions.
It is dark, very dark, there; but light has shone in, and will never be extieguished. Jews are feeling their way to the truth, and who shall say that umong them there may not be some preparing to diffuse the life and liberty of the Gospel among multitudes of others that have been held in mental and piritual bondage ?
The following is Mr. Davidson's statement:
Arrived here safely under the protection and care of our gracious and merciful Father, where I can again breathe freely the atmosphere of liberty,---I now, agreeably to my last, send you the account of my sojourn at Rome, “the sad and mourning city," as the driver of the Diligence expressed himself to his friend as soon as he had passed the frontier on our way here. I stayed there between six and seven weeks, and, as far as concerns the interest of my mission, I could gladly have stayed longer; but, to tell you the truth, I felt my sphere too much circumscribed, and myself too much of a prisoner. The real state of things at Rome is not at all observable at first sight to the eye of the stranger. All appears here as in any other great metropolis of Europe ; there is plenty of “ life," as the world calls it; plenty to be seen and enjoyed; a great many foreigners of all nations are to be met with, who come here for the study of the beautiful arts ; a great many sight-seers, among whom our English aristocracy, with their flying cloaks and whiskers, their splendid carriages and welllined pockets, cut no mean figure, and help to feed the starving Romans; the French soldiers behave as perfect gentlemen, and the native police look as mild and gracious as they are ready to give the best of information and do you any service. All seems in good order ; but one week's observation and experience is enough to show that all is out of order. In the midst of all this you hear, not read, of some being ordered out of Rome, of here and there one having been imprisoned, and no one properly knowing, and perhaps not even the individual himself, the why and wherefore ; now and then a complaint escapes against a sly and treacherous police, of letters having
been opened at the post. All use circumspection, all are reserved; there is reserve at the café, reserve at the restaurant, and so in all public places; because all are closely and secretly watched. Still there is not the slightest danger, I was assured, as long as one abstains from meddling with politics and religion. But here lay my difficulty ; for though I did not want to meddle with politics, I felt my object was to meddle with religion—that I had come to visit the Jews at Rome, and, if possible, to preach Christ to them; and I must be aggressive in two ways, as it is considered a crime to preach to the Jews what is called Protestantism, and, in doing so, I must unavoidably bear testimony against Popery, especially to those of Rome, who have never seen anything else, but had sadly experienced the abuses of Christianity, and the abominations palmed upon that only true and holy religion.
Arrived at Rome, a few days were spent in obtaining a little acquaintance with the place, and in finding out a few English to whom I possibly might communicate the object of my visit, so as to have some to sympathise with me in case of difficulty. My lodgings were near the principal street of Rome (Via del Corso), about a mile distant from the Jewish quarter, the Ghetto. To avoid suspicion, I had made up my mind to take up my abode in the Ghetto itself; but this I found impossible, as the sequel will show.
The Ghetto is situated south-west of the city, on the left bank of the Tiber, being, on its southern extremity, limited by a narrow street, leading to the bridge Ponte quattro capi. Facing this bridge we have the city at our back, the Ghetto to our right, near the place where formerly the principal gate was that shut the Jews in, and to the left, nearly opposite, the church Santa Pietà. Arrived at this spot, and not yet aware where I was, I was suddenly attracted by a beautiful Hebrew inscription, with a Latin translation at the side, on the front of the church, above which in scription is a painting of the ascension of Christ. The words are taken from Is. Ixv. 2, 3: “I have spread out my hands all the day long unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that is not good, after their own thoughts; a people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face.” I felt rivetted to the spot, and read the words over and over again, as if I had never read them before, so did my feelings overcome me. The words, I felt, are true, being God's words, and His judgments right altogether ; but who are they who use them to upbraid God's people with them. They needed only to have proceeded a few verses more with their quotation, and the description would have suited themselves just as much, and more so, because they sin against the Light that has since come into the world. “Oh! Lord, how long," thought I within myself. While thus engaged, I was interrupted by a young man, who had evidently watched me for some time reading the Hebrew inscription, and now came nearer. His features plainly betrayed his origin, and his gloomy countenance the sadness of his heart; while he asked me if I was a Jew. “I am a friend,” said I, “you need not be afraid.” “Are we not truly in Galuth ?" (captivity) resumed he. I quoted to him a few words from his prayer-book : "On account of our sins we have been led away captive from our land, and far removed from our soil."
There are, in the Ghetto, two principal lanes, or streets, if they may be called so; these are passable, they are not worse nor dirtier than those lanes to be met with in Petticoat-lane. The houses are very high, and many of them in a state of decay. These lanes are full of shops, which look more like cellars, having a wide arched entrance, through which most of them receive their light, there being no windows; and were it not for a few things exhibited outside, it could hardly be told what business there is carried on inside, so that the articles bave to be viewed at the door. I can only remember two or three shops decent and well stocked, and I could see respectable Gentile women inside making their purchases. The rest consists of winding intricate
lanes, so horribly gloomy and filthy that it is impossible to conceive how human life can be preserved in them, and indeed the generality of their inhabitants, especially the women and children, look ghastly pale and sickly, not a few crippled, and most of them have evidently lost their national physiognomy, so peculiarly stamped upon the Jewish countenance in other lands of their dispersion. I do not exaggerate when I say that, at my first visit there, my heart failed me, a sickly feeling by degrees overcame me, and I was bewildered ; a crowded fish-market, through which I happened to pass, reminded me that it was Friday, and with this ended my first day's visit to the Ghetto, for I now fled to save myself.
“Habit," says the proverb, “ becomes a second nature;" but I must confess that, in my subsequent visits to the Ghetto, this second nature grew but very slowly upon me. Still there is something in familiarising the sight with the terrible, horrible, or abominable; the impression by degrees loses its acuteness. I had been anxious to form an idea of the size of the Ghetto, and I was surprised how inadequate its space is for even the present already diminished Jewish inhabitants of 4500 to 5000. At present some portion of them have already encroached upon the neighbouring streets outside the Ghetto : but what must it have been in former ages, when their population numbered from 8000 to 10,000, and were strictly confined to this little space! Of the present population they count 2000 who are entirely unable to contribute in the least to the expenses of the community, and yet I have been told that they have to pay 1500 scudi annually towards the maintenance of the converts to Popery from other religions; and being now themselves relieved from running the annual race in the Corso, they are at least at the expense of the prize assigned to the winner in the farce still kept up. Such are the tender mercies of the Papacy after they have been much relieved under the present Pope, and the poor Jews acknowledge it with gratitude ; but what it was in past ages is pretty well knowr.; still, the foot-note may be interesting to some unacquainted with the past sufferings of the unhappy Jews at Rome.*
The following is an extract from a German book (Darstellungen aus Italion) by F. J. L. Meyer, a judicious traveller, who visited Rozne in 1792. He says, p. 221 : “During many of the church festivals and holy processions, the Jews keep themselves concealed in their prison on the other side of the Tiber, to avoid the maltreatments of the populace, authorised by the government itself. This unhappy people, harassed and oppressed everywhere, is so to the highest degree at Rome. Even the present reigning Pope (Pius VI.) has passed an edict against the Jews in 1775, which nothing can equal as to barbarity. Shut up in a narrow, retired, filthy, and stinking street, called il Ghetto, the edict requires them to be seen in the city only during the day, and they must, under pain of death, return to that abominable prison at sunset. To leave that prison for a few days in order to recreate their suffering health from the confined, pestilential air, requires a special dispensation. Under pain of hard labour at the galleys, and other punishments, they dare not approach the vicinity of the convent Annunciata, and as little must they be seen in churches, convents, and hospitals. They are prohibited, under corporeal punishment, keeping Christian servants, hiring Christians for any kind of service, or having any dealings with them. No Christian may have a Jew sitting at his side in a vehicle, nor to lend him his own vehicle, and the Jews themselves are exposed to corporeal punishment for riding in Rome on horseback, in a carriage or calash. As a sign of distinction they must wear a mark of a yellow colour. Their funerals are performed in the utmost silence, and no grave-stone is allowed them. Among the 8000 to 10,000 Jews who, notwithstanding this persecution and heavy taxes, live in that city, there are only a few rich ones who succeed, by means of money, to get
rid of those penal enactments against themselves, especially of being shut up in the Ghetto. Nor is this sufficient for papal despotism, thus to torment that unhappy people in this century of general tolerance; but, with the most refined cruelty, they are there reminded of the dark ages by an annual festivity, when the Jews are treated like beasts. Before the introduction of horse-races, at the close of the fifteenth century, the Jews had to run the races during carnival in the presence of the Pope, and under the most cruel maltreatment on the part of the people. In commemoration of the humane exemption from that cruel enforcement, there still appears annually, before carnival at the Capitol, a deputation from the Jews, presenting upon their knees to the magistrates 300 scudi as a redemption money for the abolished public spectacle of their races. But however terrible this political pressure may appear under which the Jews labour there, it is still surpassed by the cruel violation of conscience with which they are afflicted by the mother church in her tender care for their souls. A certain number of Jews must collect together, under pain of a fine, on their Sabbath afternoon, to attend a sermon. The
What is most surprising is that, while I heard enlightened Romans condemn this unjust treatment of the Jews, the votaries of Romanism made a virtue of it. A Canadian priest, with whom I travelled, called it an act of kindness on the part of the Popes for the protection of the Jews. An English lady now at Rome, whom I knew about thirty years ago to go about doing good in London, and taking a special interest in the conversion of the Jews, tells me now, as a faithful convert to the Church of Rome, that that which we dare not do in our private capacity, those in their elevated station may be justified in doing, as instruments for the punishment of the Jews. To this I briefly replied that God chooses, like ourselves, suitable instruments for His work. We do not take coals from the hearth with a pair of silver sugar-tongs, but with tongs of an inferior metal, as of iron; to punish His people God chooses a Pharaoh, a King of Assyria, a Pope.
Before I could make that poor people aware that my object in coming there was not to make purchases, I was beset on all sides, as they in general sit outside their shops; and if I walked on one side, those of the opposite side came over, positively laying hold upon my arms to drag me over, and especially the women. The truth is that I could see their shops always empty, and they are like ravening, starved creatures. If I observed an isolated man, and tried to enter into conversation with him, a crowd would soon collect round, and I should thus be exposed, not merely to inconvenience, but, what is worse, to the notice of the police. But bold as they might appear from this description, so timid are they in conversation that, speak what you will, you hardly ever obtain an expression of either approbation or dissension; they only stare at you. How awkward this is in setting truth before such a man can easily be imagined. An Ancona Jew at Rome told me that, from their ill-treatment, the Roman Jews have become timid, imbecile, and unfit for anything. We are easily reminded of Levit. xxvi. 36: “And of them that are left of you, I will send a faintness into their hearts in the land of their enemies, and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them.” This is literally fulfilled in that unhappy people; they always seem to look about, as if they were frightened of some one.
There is, notwithstanding, a peculiar Providence hovering over that benighted people ; their very existence under such heavy afflictions already sufficiently proves it, under ill-treatments which, left to the course of nature, would have long ago annihilated them'; but they also exist as a regularly formed community, clinging tenaciously to their ancient rites and customs, to maintain which it requires both energy and means. Their synagogue is tħe best and neatest building in the Ghetto, well fittedup inside, and divided into different departments, one of which is appropriated to study and private devotion. The school for the education of their poor children (Talmud torab) is certainly a very spacious, but a very unfriendly old building, the filthy access to which is enough to disgust the stranger. It contains between 500 and 600 children, very few of whose parents are able to contribate anything to its support, and get this is, perhaps, one of the best organised Jewish schools in Europe, as, indeed, the Jewish schools are considered the best in Italy. These poor creatures receive here a secular and religious education, divided into seven classes. I was surprised at the progress of these children. In one of their classes they translated from messenger of peace, a thundering Dominican, represents to them, under awful maledictions, the damnable character of their own religion, and the necessity of taking refuge for salvation in the bosom of the church. This parental admonition is followed in the same strain by a string of curses upon their want of feeling, and their obstinacy hitherto manifested on those repeated weekly occasions. All the attempts made hitherto by that unfortunate people to escape those conversion sermons have as yet failed. They used to stop their ears; but the ears of the audience are now examined. They used to sleep and snore; but there are now overseers appointed to awake them with violent blows. But one expedient they retain, which could not be avoided, coughing, blowing noses, and yawning. But this they do so loudly that even the thundering voice of the Dominican is drowned in it. They leave the church with a wild laughter and secret cursings upon their tyrants."