Jewish History
S. M. Dubnow

Part 2 out of 2


The five centuries marked at their beginning by the rise of
Arabic-Jewish civilization in Spain and at their end by the banishment
of the Jews from Spain (980-1492), offer the Jewish historian an
abundance of culture manifestations and intellectual movements so
luxuriant that it is well-nigh impossible to gather them up in one
formula. The monotony formerly prevailing in Jewish national life,
both in its external and in its internal relations, was succeeded by
almost gaily checkered variety. Swept along by the movement towards
enlightenment that dominated their surroundings, the Jews of Arabic
Spain threw themselves into energetic work in all the spheres of life
and thought. While they had political ground more or less firm under
their feet, and for the most part enjoyed peace and liberty, the Jews
in the Christian lands of Europe stood upon volcanic soil, every
moment threatening to swallow them up. Exposed constantly to
persecutions, they lived more or less isolated, and devoted themselves
to one-sided though intense intellectual activity. Sombre shadows and
streaks of bright light alternate with each other in this period. In
its second half, the clouds massed themselves heavily upon the
darkening horizon. Even the "privileged" Spanish Jews suffered an
untoward change in their affairs at the beginning of the thirteenth
century: gradually they were withdrawn from under the sovereignty of
the Arabs, and made subject to the power of the Catholic monarchs.
They became thenceforward the equal partners of their brethren in
faith in the rest of Europe. All without distinction had a share in
the spiritual martyrdom which is the greenest bayleaf in the crown of
Jewish history. To think and to suffer became the watchword of the
whole nation.

At first, as we have said, a considerable portion of the Jewish people
enjoyed the happy possibility of thinking. This was during the
classical epoch of the Arabic-Jewish Renaissance, which preceded the
Italian Renaissance by four centuries. There is a fundamental
difference between the two Renaissance periods: the earlier one was
signalized by a re-birth of the sciences and of philosophy, the later
one pre-eminently of the arts and of literature. The eleventh and
twelfth centuries marked the meridian of the intellectual development
of medieval Judaism. As once, in Alexandria, the union of Judaic with
Hellenic culture brought in its train a superabundance of new ideas of
a universal character, so again the amalgamation, on Spanish soil, of
Jewish culture with Arabic gave rise to rich intellectual results,
more lasting and fruitful than the Alexandrian, inasmuch as, in spite
of their universal character, they did not contravene the national
spirit. The Jewish people dropped its misanthropy and its leaning
toward isolation. The Jews entered all sorts of careers: by the side
of influential and cultivated statesmen, such as Chasdai ibn Shaprut
and Samuel Hanagid, at the courts of the Khalifs, stood a brilliant
group of grammarians, poets, and philosophers, like Jonah ibn Ganach,
Solomon Gabirol, and Moses ibn Ezra. The philosophic-critical
scepticism of Abraham ibn Ezra co-existed in peace and harmony with
the philosophic-poetic enthusiasm of Jehuda Halevi. The study of
medicine, mathematics, physics, and astronomy went hand in hand with
the study of the Talmud, which, though it may not have occupied the
first place with the Spanish Jews of this time, by no means
disappeared, as witness the compendium by Alphassi. Unusual breadth
and fulness of the spiritual life is the distinction of the epoch.
This variety of mental traits combined in a marvelous union to form
the great personality of Maimonides, the crown of a glorious period.
With one "Strong Hand," this intellectual giant brought order out of
the Talmudic chaos, which at his word was transformed into a
symmetrical, legal system; with the other, he "guided the Perplexed"
through the realm of faith and knowledge. For rationalistic clarity
and breadth of view no counterpart to the religio-philosophic doctrine
which he formulated can be found in the whole extent of medieval
literature. The main feature of the philosophy of Maimonides and of
the systems based upon it is rationalism, not a dry, scholastic,
abstract rationalism, but a living rationalism, embracing the whole
field of the most exalted psychic phenomena. It is not philosophy pure
and simple, but religious philosophy, an harmonization, more or less
felicitous, of the postulates of reason with the dogmas of faith. It
is reason mitigated by faith, and faith regulated by reason. In the
darkness of the middle ages, when the Romish Church impregnated
religion with the crudest superstitions, going so far as to forbid its
adherents to read the Bible, and when the greatest philosopher
representatives of the Church, like Albertus Magnus, would have
rejected offhand, as a childish fancy or, indeed, as an heretical
chimera, any attempt to rescue the lower classes of the people from
their wretched state of spiritual servitude--in a time like this, the
truly majestic spectacle is presented of a philosophy declaring war on
superstition, and setting out to purify the religious notions of the

Not a breath of this ample spiritual development of the Jews of Arabic
Spain reached the Jews living in the Christian countries of Europe.
Their circumstances were too grievous, and in sombreness their inner
life matched their outer estate. Their horizon was as contracted as
the streets of the Jewries in which they were penned. The crusades
(beginning in 1096) clearly showed the Jews of France and Germany what
sentiments their neighbors cherished towards them. They were the first
returns which Christianity paid the Jewish people for its old-time
teaching of religion. The descendants of the "chosen people," the
originators of the Bible, were condemned to torture of a sort to
exhaust their spiritual heritage. Judaism suffered the tragic fate of
King Lear. Was it conceivable that the horrors--the rivers of blood,
the groans of massacred communities, the serried ranks of martyrs, the
ever-haunting fear of the morrow--should fail to leave traces in the
character of Judaism? The Jewish people realized its imminent danger.
It convulsively held fast to its precious relics, clung to the pillars
of its religion, which it regarded as the only asylum. The Jewish
spirit again withdrew from the outer world. It gave itself up wholly
to the study of the Talmud. In northern France and in Germany,
Talmudic learning degenerated into the extreme of scholastic pedantry,
the lot of every branch of science that is lopped off from the main
trunk of knowledge, and vegetates in a heavy, dank atmosphere, lacking
light and air. Rashi (1064-1105), whose genial activity began before
the first crusade, opened up Jewish religious literature to the
popular mind, by his systematic commentaries on the Bible and the
Talmud. On the other hand, the Tossafists, the school of commentators
succeeding him, by their petty quibbling and hairsplitting casuistry
made the Talmudic books more intricate and less intelligible. Such
being the intellectual bias of the age, a sober, rationalistic
philosophy could not assert itself. In lieu of an Ibn Ezra or a
Maimonides, we have Jehuda Hachassid and Eliezer of Worms, with their
mystical books of devotion, _Sefer Chassidim, Rokeach_, etc.,
filled with pietistic reflections on the other world, in which the
earth figures as a "vale of tears." Poetry likewise took on the dismal
hue of its environment. Instead of the varied lyrical notes of Gabirol
and Halevi, who sang the weal and woe, not only of the nation, but
also of the individual, and lost themselves in psychologic analysis,
there now fall upon our ear the melancholy, heartrending strains of
synagogue poetry, the harrowing outcries that forced themselves from
the oppressed bosoms of the hunted people, the prayerful lamentations
that so often shook the crumbling walls of the medieval synagogues at
the very moment when, full of worshipers, they were fired by the
inhuman crusaders. A mighty chord reverberates in this poetry:
_Morituri te salutant_.

One small spot there was, in the whole of Europe, in which Jews could
still hope to endure existence and enjoy a measure of security. This
was Southern France, or the Provence. The population of Provence had
assimilated the culture of the neighboring country, Arabic Spain, and
become the mediator between it and the rest of Europe. This work of
mediation was undertaken primarily by the Jews. In the twelfth century
several universities existed in Provence, which were frequented in
great numbers by students from all countries. At these universities
the teachers of philosophy, medicine, and other branches of science
were for the most part Jews. The rationalistic philosophy of the
Spanish Jews was there proclaimed _ex cathedra_. The Tibbonides
translated all the more important works of the Jewish thinkers of
Spain from Arabic into Hebrew. The Kimchis devoted themselves to
grammatical studies and the investigation of the Bible. In
Montpellier, Narbonne, and Lunel, intellectual work was in full swing.
Rational ideas gradually leavened the masses of the Provencal
population. Conscience freed from intellectual trammels began to
revolt against the oppression exercised by the Roman clergy. Through
the Albigensian heresy, Innocent III, founder of the papal power, had
his attention directed to the Jews, whom he considered the dangerous
protagonists of rationalism. The "heresy" was stifled, Provence in all
her magnificence fell a prey to the Roman mania for destruction, and,
on the ruins of a noble civilization, the Dominican Inquisition raged
with all its horrors (1213).

Thenceforward the Catholic Church devoted herself to a hostile watch
upon the Jews. Either she persecuted them directly through her
Inquisition, or indirectly through her omnipotent influence on kings
and peoples. In the hearts of the citizens of medieval Europe, the
flame of religious hatred was enkindled, and religious hatred served
as a cloak for the basest passions. Jewish history from that time on
became a history of uninterrupted suffering. The Lateran Council
declared the Jews to be outcasts, and designed a peculiar,
dishonorable badge for them, a round patch of yellow cloth, to be worn
on their upper garment (1215). In France the Jews became by turns the
victims of royal rapacity and the scapegoats of popular fanaticism.
Massacres, confiscations, banishments followed by dearly purchased
permission to return, by renewed restrictions, persecutions, and
oppressions--these were the measures that characterized the treatment
of the Jews in France until their final expulsion (1394). In Germany
the Jews were not so much hated as despised. They were _servi
camerae_, serfs of the state, and as such had to pay oppressive
taxes. Besides, they were limited to the meanest trades and to usury
and peddling. They were shut up in their narrow Jewries, huddled in
wretched cabins, which clustered about the dilapidated synagogue in a
shamefaced way. What strange homes! What gigantic misery, what
boundless suffering dumbly borne, was concealed in those crumbling,
curse-laden dwellings! And yet, how resplendent they were with
spiritual light, what exalted virtues, what lofty heroism they
harbored! In those gloomy, tumbledown Jew houses, intellectual
endeavor was at white heat. The torch of faith blazed clear in them,
and on the pure domestic hearth played a gentle flame. In the abject,
dishonored son of the Ghetto was hidden an intellectual giant. In his
nerveless body, bent double by suffering, and enveloped in the shabby
old cloak still further disfigured by the yellow wheel, dwelt the soul
of a thinker. The son of the Ghetto might have worn his badge with
pride, for in truth it was a medal of distinction awarded by the papal
Church to the Jews, for dauntlessness and courage. The awkward, puny
Jew in his way was stronger and braver than a German knight armed
cap-a-pie, for he was penetrated by the faith that "moves mountains."
And when the worst came to the worst, he demonstrated his courage.
When his peaceful home was stormed by the bestialized hordes of
Armleder, or the drunken bands of the Flagellants, or the furious
avengers of the "Black Death," he did not yield, did not purchase life
by disgraceful treason. With invincible courage he put his head under
the executioner's axe, and breathed forth his heroic spirit with the
enthusiastic cry: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is One."

At length the turn of the Spanish Jews arrived. For the unbroken peace
they had enjoyed, they had to atone by centuries of unexampled
suffering. By degrees, the Arabs were forced out of the Pyrenean
Peninsula, and the power they had to abdicate was assumed by the
Catholic kings of Castile and Aragon. In 1236 occurred the fall of
Cordova, the most important centre of Arabic Jewish culture.
Thereafter Arab power held sway only in the province of Granada. The
fortunes of the Spanish Jews underwent a calamitous change. The kings
and the upper ten thousand were, indeed, favorably disposed toward
them. At the courts of Castile and Aragon, the Jews were active as
ministers, physicians, astronomers. But the people, incited by the
propaganda of the clerics, nursed frightful hatred against the Jews,
not only as "infidels," but also as intellectual aristocrats. The rage
of the populace was the combustible material in the terrific
explosions that occurred periodically, in the bloody saturnalia of the
Pastouraux (1320), in the Black Death riots (1348), in the massacre of
Seville (1391).

Dire blows of fortune were unable to weigh down the Spanish Jew,
accustomed to independence, as they did the German Jew. He carried his
head proudly on high, for he was conscious that in all respects he
stood above the rabble pursuing him, above its very leaders, the
clerics. In spite of untoward fate his mental development proceeded,
but inevitably it was modified by the trend of the times. By the side
of the philosophic tendency of the previous age, a mystical tendency
appeared in literature. The Kabbala, with its mist-shrouded symbolism,
so grateful to the feelings and the imagination, chimed in better than
rationalistic philosophy with the depressed humor under which the
greater part of the Jews were then laboring. Another force
antagonistic to rationalistic philosophy was the Rabbinism
transplanted from France and Germany. The controversy between
Rabbinism and philosophy, which dragged itself through three-quarters
of a century (1232-1305), ended in the formal triumph of Rabbinism.
However, philosophic activity merely languished, it did not cease
entirely; in fact, the three currents for some time ran along parallel
with one another. Next to the pillars of Rabbinism, Asheri, Rashba,
Isaac ben Sheshet, loomed up the philosophers, Gersonides (Ralbag),
Kreskas, and Albo, and a long line of Kabbalists, beginning with
Nachmanides and Moses de Leon, the compiler of the Zohar, and ending
with the anonymous authors of the mysterious "Kana and Pelia."

The times grew less and less propitious. Catholicism steadily gained
ground in Spain. The scowling Dominican put forward his claim upon the
Jewish soul with vehement emphasis, and made every effort to drag it
into the bosom of the alone-saving Church. The conversion of the Jews
would have been a great triumph, indeed, for Catholicism militant. The
conversion methods of the Dominican monk were of a most insinuating
kind--he usually began with a public religious disputation.
Unfortunately, the Jews were experts in the art of debate, and too
often by their bold replies covered the self-sufficient dignitaries of
Rome with confusion. The Jews should have known, from bitter
experience, that such boldness would not be passed over silently. From
sumptuous debating hall to Dominican prison and scaffold was but a
short step. In 1391, one of these worthy soul-catchers, Bishop
Ferdinando Martinez, set the fanatical mob of Seville on the Jews, and
not without success. Terrorized by the threat of death, many accepted
Catholicism under duress. But they became Christians only in
appearance; in reality they remained true to the faith of their
fathers, and, in secret, running the risk of loss of life, they
fulfilled all the Jewish ordinances. This is the prologue to the
thrilling Marrano tragedy.

Finally, the moment approached when gloomy Catholicism attained to
unchallenged supremacy in the Pyrenean Peninsula. On the ruins of the
enlightened culture of the Arabs, Ferdinand the Catholic and Isabella
of Castile reared the reactionary government of medieval Rome. The
Inquisition was introduced (1480). Torquemada presided as high priest
over the rites attending the human sacrifices. _Ad gloriam
ecclesiae_, the whole of Spain was illuminated. Everywhere the
funeral pyres of the Inquisition flared to the skies, the air was rent
by the despairing shrieks of martyrs enveloped in flames or racked by
tortures, the prisons overflowed with Marranos,--all instruments of
torture were vigorously plied.

At last the hour of redemption struck: in 1492 all Jews were driven
from Spain, and a few years later from Portugal. Jewish-Arabic culture
after five centuries of ascendency suffered a sudden collapse. The
unhappy people again grasped its staff, and wandered forth into the
world without knowing whither.


JEWS (1492-1789)

The expulsion from Spain was a stunning blow. The hoary martyr people
which had defied so many storms in its long life was for a moment
dazed. The soil of Europe was quaking under its feet. At the time when
the medieval period had formally come to a close for Occidental
Christendom, and the modern period had opened, the middle ages
continued in unmitigated brutality for the Jews. If anything, the life
of the Jews had become more unendurable than before. What, indeed, had
the much-vaunted modern age to offer them? In the ranks of the
humanistic movement Reuchlin alone stood forth prominently as the
advocate of the Jews, and he was powerless before the prejudices of
the populace. The Reformation in Germany and elsewhere had illuminated
the minds of the people, but had not softened their hearts. Luther
himself, the creator of the Reformation, was not innocent of hating
the followers of an alien faith. The Jews especially did not enjoy too
great a measure of his sympathies. The wars growing out of the
Reformation, which in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
devastated Europe in the name of religion, were not calculated to
favor the spread of tolerance and milder manners. The conflict raging
in the bosom of the Church and setting her own children by the ears,
was yet insufficient to divert her maternal care from her
"unbelieving" stepchildren. In Spain and Portugal, stakes continued to
burn two centuries longer for the benefit of the Marranos, the false
Christians. In Germany and Austria, the Jews were kept in the same
condition of servitude as before. Their economic circumstances were
appalling. They were forced to emigrate _en masse_ to Poland,
which offered the adherents of their faith a comparatively quiet life,
and by and by was invested with the Jewish hegemony. Some of the
smaller states and independent towns of Italy also afforded the Jews
an asylum, though one not always to be depended upon. A group of
hard-driven Spanish exiles, for instance, under the leadership of
Abarbanel had found peace in Italy. The rest had turned to Turkey and
her province Palestine,

For a time, indeed, the Jewish spiritual centre was located in Turkey.
What Europe, old, Christian, and hardhearted, refused the Jews, was
granted them by Turkey, young, Mussulman, and liberal. On hearing of
the banishment of the Jews from Spain, Sultan Bajazet exclaimed: "How
can you call Ferdinand of Aragon a wise king, the same Ferdinand who
has made his land poor and enriched ours?" His amazement characterizes
the relation of Turkey to the Jews of the day. The one-time Marrano,
Joseph Nassi, rose to be a considerable dignitary at the court of
Sultan Selim (1566-1580). Occasionally he succeeded, by diplomatic
means, in wreaking vengeance upon European courts in retaliation for
the brutal tortures inflicted upon his people. With the generosity of
a Maecenas, he assembled Jewish scholars and poets, and surrounded
himself with a sunlit atmosphere of intellectuality and talent. All
other Jewish communities looked up to that of Constantinople. Now and
again its rabbis played the part of Patriarchs of the synagogue. To
this commanding position the rabbis of Palestine especially were
inclined to lay claim. They even attempted to restore the
Patriarchate, and the famous controversy between Jacob Berab and Levi
ben Chabib regarding the _Semicha_ is another evidence of the
same assertive tendency. Among the Spanish exiles settled in the Holy
Land a peculiar spiritual current set in. The storm-tossed wanderers,
but now returned to their native Jordan from the shores of the
blood-stained Tagus and Guadalquivir, were mightily moved at the sight
of their ancestral home. Ahasuerus, who on his thorn-strewn pilgrim's
path had drained the cup of woe to the dregs, suddenly caught sight of
the home of his childhood razed level with the ground. The precious,
never-to-be-forgotten ruins exhaled the home feeling, which took
possession of him with irresistible charm. Into his soul there flowed
sweet memories of a golden youth, past beyond recall. The impact of
these emotions enkindled passionate "longing for Zion" in the heart of
the forlorn, homeless martyr. He was seized by torturing thirst for
political resurrection. Such melancholy feelings and vehement
outbursts found expression in the practical Kabbala, originating with
Ari (Isaac Luria) and his famous Safed school. A mystical belief in
the coming of Messiah thenceforward became one of the essential
elements of the Jewish spirit. It vanquished the heart of the learned
Joseph Karo, who had brought Rabbinism to its climax by the
compilation of his celebrated ritual code, the Shulchan Aruch. With
equal force it dominated the being of Solomon Molcho, the enthusiastic
youth who, at one time a Marrano, on his public return to Judaism
proclaimed the speedy regeneration of Israel. He sealed his faith in
his prophecy with death at the stake (1532). The Marranos beyond the
Pyrenees and the unfortunate Jews of Italy, who, in the second half of
the sixteenth century had to bear the brunt of papal fanaticism, on
the increase since the Reformation, were kept in a state of constant
excitement by this Messianic doctrine, with its obscure stirrings of
hope. A mournful national feeling pervades the Jewish literature of
the time. Recollections of torments endured enflamed all hearts. A
series of chronicles were thus produced that record the centuries of
Jewish martyrdom--_Jocha-sin, Shebet Jehuda, Emek ha-Bacha_, etc.
The art of printing, even then developed to a considerable degree of
perfection, became for the dispersed Jews the strongest bond of
spiritual union. The papal _index librorum prohibitorum_ was
impotent in the face of the all-pervading propaganda for thought and
feeling carried on by the printing press.

After Palestine and Turkey, Holland for a time became the spiritual
centre of the scattered Jews (in the seventeenth century). Holland was
warmly attached to the cause of liberty. When it succeeded in freeing
itself from the clutches of fanatical Spain and her rapacious king,
Philip II, it inaugurated the golden era of liberty of conscience, of
peaceful development in culture and industry, and granted an asylum to
the persecuted and abandoned of all countries. By the thousands the
harassed Ghetto sons, especially the Marranos from Spain and Portugal,
migrated to Holland. Amsterdam became a second Cordova. The
intellectual life was quickened. Freedom from restraint tended to
break down the national exclusivism of the Jew, and intercourse with
his liberal surroundings varied his mental pursuits. Rabbinism, the
Kabbala, philosophy, national poetry--they all had their prominent
representatives in Holland. These manifold tendencies were united in
the literary activity of Manasseh ben Israel, a scholar of extensive,
though not intensive, encyclopedic attainments. Free thought and
religious rationalism were embodied in Uriel Acosta. To a still higher
degree they were illustrated in the theory of life expounded by the
immortal author of the "Theologico-Political Tractate" (1640-1677).
This advanced state of culture in Holland did not fail to react upon
the neighboring countries. Under the impulse of enthusiasm for the
Bible Puritan England under Cromwell opened its portals to the Jews.
In Italy, in the dank atmosphere of rabbinical dialectics and morbid
mysticism, great figures loom up--Leon de Modena, the antagonist of
Rabbinism and of the Kabbala, and Joseph del Medigo, mathematician,
philosopher, and mystic, the disciple of Galileo.

These purple patches were nothing more than the accidents of a
transition period. The people as a whole was on the decline. The
Jewish mind darted hither and thither, like a startled bird seeking
its nest. Holland or Turkey was an inadequate substitute for Spain, if
only for the reason that but a tiny fraction of the Jews had found
shelter in either. The Jewish national centre must perforce coincide
with the numerical centre of the dispersed people, in which, moreover,
conditions must grant Jews the possibility of living undisturbed in
closely compacted masses, and of perfecting a well-knit organization
of social and individual life. Outside of Spain these conditions were
fulfilled only by Poland, which gradually, beginning with the
sixteenth century, assumed the hegemony over the Jewry of the world.
This marks the displacement of the Sephardic (Spanish, in a broader
sense, Romanic) element, and the supremacy of the Ashkenazic
(German-Polish) element.

Poland had been a resort for Jewish immigrants from Germany since the
outbreak of the Crusades, until, in the sixteenth century, it rose to
the position of a Jewish centre of the first magnitude. As the
merchant middle class, the Jews were protected and advanced by the
kings and the Szlachta. The consequent security of their position
induced so rapid a growth of the Jewish element that in a little while
the Jews of Poland outnumbered those of the old Jewish settlements in
Occidental Europe. The numerous privileges granted the Jews, by
Boleslaus of Kalish (1246), Kasimir the Great (1347-1370), Witowt
(1388), Kasimir IV (1447), and some of their successors, fortified
their position in the extended territory covered by Poland, Lithuania,
and the Ukraine. Their peculiar circumstances in Poland left an
impress upon their inner life. An intense mental activity was called
forth. This activity can be traced back to German beginnings, though
at the same time it is made up of many original elements. For a space
Rabbinism monopolized the intellectual endeavors of the Polish Jews.
The rabbi of Cracow, Moses Isserles, and the rabbi of Ostrog, Solomon
Luria (d. 1572), disputed first place with the foremost rabbinical
authorities of other countries. Their decisions and circular letters
regarding religious and legal questions were accorded binding force.
Associates and successors of theirs founded Talmud academies
throughout the country, and large numbers of students attended them.
Commentators upon the Talmud and expounders of classical works in
Jewish theological literature appeared in shoals. Jewish printing
establishments in Cracow and Lublin were assiduous in turning out a
mass of writings, which spread the fame of the Polish rabbis to the
remotest communities. The large autonomy enjoyed by the Polish and
Lithuanian Jews conferred executive power upon rabbinical legislation.
The _Kahal_, or Jewish communal government, to a certain degree
invested with judicial and administrative competence, could not do
without the guiding hand of the rabbis as interpreters of the law. The
guild of rabbis, on their side, chose a "college of judges," with
fairly extensive jurisdiction, from among their own members. The
organization of the Rabbinical Conferences, or the "Synods of the Four
Countries," formed the keystone of this intricate social-spiritual
hierarchy. The comprehensive inner autonomy and the system of Talmud
academies (_Yeshiboth_) that covered the whole of Poland remind
one of the brilliant days of the Exilarchate and the Babylonia of the
Geonim. One element was lacking, there was no versatile, commanding
thinker like Saadia Gaon. Secular knowledge and philosophy were under
the ban in Poland. Rabbinism absorbed the whole output of intellectual
energy. As little as the Poles resembled the Arabs of the "golden
age," did the Polish Jews resemble their brethren in faith in the
Orient at Saadia's time or in the Spain of Gabirol and Maimonides.
Isolation and clannishness were inevitable in view of the character of
the Christian environment and the almost insuperable barriers raised
between the classes of Polish society. But it was this exclusiveness
that gave peculiar stability and completeness to the life of the Jew
as an individual and as a member of Jewish society, and it was the
same exclusiveness that afforded opportunity for the development of a
sharply defined culture, for its fixation to the point of resisting
violent shocks and beyond the danger point of extinction through
foreign invasion.

The fateful year 1648 formed a turning point in the history of the
Polish Jews, as in the history of the countries belonging to the
Polish crown. The Cossack butcheries and wars of extermination of
1648-1658 were the same for the Polish Jews that the Crusades, the
Black Death, and all the other occasions for carnage had been for the
Jews of Western Europe. It seemed as though history desired to avoid
the reproach of partiality, and hastened to mete out even-handed
justice by apportioning the same measure of woe to the Jews of Poland
as to the Jews of Western Europe. But the Polish Jews were prepared to
accept the questionable gift from the hands of history. They had
mounted that eminence of spiritual stability on which suffering loses
the power to weaken its victim, but, on the contrary, endues him with
strength. More than ever they shrank into their shell. They shut
themselves up more completely in their inner world, and became morally
dulled against the persecutions, the bitter humiliations, the deep
scorn, which their surroundings visited upon them. The Polish Jew
gradually accustomed himself to his pitiable condition. He hardly knew
that life might be other than it was. That the Polish lord to whom he
was a means of entertainment might treat him with a trace of respect,
or that his neighbors, the middle class merchant, the German guild
member, and the Little Russian peasant, might cherish kindly feelings
toward him, he could not conceive as a possibility. Seeing himself
surrounded by enemies, he took precautions to fortify his camp, not so
much to protect himself against hostile assaults from without--they
were inevitable--as to paralyze the disastrous consequences of such
assaults in his inner world. To compass this end he brought into play
all the means suggested by his exceptional position before the law and
by his own peculiar social constitution. The _Kahal_, the
autonomous rabbinical administration of communal affairs, more and
more assumed the character of an inner dictatorship. Jewish society
was persistently kept under the discipline of rigid principles. In
many affairs the synagogue attained the position of a court of final
appeal. The people were united, or rather packed, into a solid mass by
purely mechanical processes--by pressure from without, and by drawing
tight a noose from within. Besides this social factor tending to
consolidate the Jewish people into a separate union, an intellectual
lever was applied to produce the same result. Rabbinism employed the
mystical as its adjutant. The one exercised control over all minds,
the other over all hearts. The growth of mysticism was fostered both
by the unfortunate conditions under which the Polish Jews endured
existence and by the Messianic movements which made their appearance
among the Jews of other countries.

In the second half of the seventeenth century, mysticism reached its
zenith in Turkey, the country in which, had stood the cradle of the
"practical Kabbala." The teachings of Ari, Vital, and the school
established by them spread like wildfire. Messianic extravagances
intoxicated the baited and persecuted people. In Smyrna appeared the
false Messiah, Sabbatai Zebi. As by magic he attracted to himself a
tremendous company of adherents in the East and in the West. For a
quarter of a century (1650-1676), he kept the Jewish communities
everywhere in a state of quivering suspense.

The harassed people tossed to and fro like a fever patient, and raved
about political re-birth. Its delirious visions still further heated
its agitated blood. It came to its senses but slowly. Not even the
apostasy and death of Sabbatai Zebi sufficed to sober all his
followers. Under the guise of a symbolic faith in a Messiah, many of
them, publicly or secretly, continued the propaganda for his

This propaganda prepared the fertile soil from which, in the
eighteenth century, shot up Messianic systems, tending to split
Judaism into sects. Nowhere did the mystical teachings evoke so ready
a response as in Poland, the very centre of Judaism. At first an ally
of the rabbinical school, mysticism grown passionate and
uncontrollable now and again acted as the violent opponent of
Rabbinism. Secret devotion to the Sabbatian doctrines, which had made
their home in Poland, sometimes led to such extremes in dogma and
ethics that the rabbis could not contain themselves. Chayyim Malach,
Judah Chassid, and other Galician mystics, in the second decade of the
eighteenth century brought down upon themselves a rabbinical decree of
excommunication. The mystical tendency was the precursor of the
heretical half-Christian sect of Frankists, who ventured so far as to
lift a hand against the fundamentals of Judaism: they rejected the
Talmud in favor of the Zohar (1756-1773). At the same time a much more
profound movement, instinct with greater vitality, made its appearance
among the Polish-Jewish masses, a movement rooted in their social and
spiritual organization. The wretched, debased condition of the average
Jew, conjoined with the traditions of the Kabbala and the excrescences
of Rabbinism, created a foothold for Chassidic teaching. Chassidism
replaced Talmudic ratiocination by exalted religious sentiment. By the
force of enthusiasm for faith, it drew its adherents together into a
firmly welded unit in contrast with Rabbinism, which sought the same
goal by the aid of the formal law. Scenting danger, the rabbinical
hierarchy declared war upon the Kabbala. Emden opposed Eibeschuetz, the
Polish Sabbatians and Frankists were fought to the death, the Wilna
Gaon organized a campaign against the Chassidim. Too late! Rabbinism
was too old, too arid, to tone down the impulsive outbreaks of passion
among the people. In their religious exaltation the masses were
looking for an elixir. They were languishing, not for light to
illumine the reason, but for warmth to set the heart aglow. They
desired to lose themselves in ecstatic self-renunciation. Chassidism
and its necessary dependence upon the Zaddik offered the masses the
means of this forgetfulness of self through faith. They were the
medium through which the people saw the world in a rosy light, and the
consequences following upon their prevalence were seen in a marked
intensification of Jewish exclusiveness.

The same aloofness characterizes the Jews of the rest of the
eighteenth century diaspora. Wherever, as in Germany, Austria, and
Italy, Jews were settled in considerable numbers, they were separated
from their surroundings by forbidding Ghetto walls. On the whole, no
difference is noticeable between conditions affecting Jews in one
country and those in another. Everywhere they were merely tolerated,
everywhere oppressed and humiliated. The bloody persecutions of the
middle ages were replaced by the burden of the exceptional laws, which
in practice degraded the Jews socially to an inferior race, to
citizens of a subordinate degree. The consequences were uniformly the
same in all countries: spiritual isolation and a morbid religious
mood. During the first half of the "century of reason," Jewry
presented the appearance of an exhausted wanderer, heavily dragging
himself on his way, his consciousness clouded, his trend of thought
obviously anti-rationalistic. At the very moment in which Europe was
beginning to realize its medieval errors and repent of them, and the
era of universal ideals of humanity was dawning, Judaism raised
barricades between itself and the world at large. Elijah Gaon and
Israel Besht were the contemporaries of Voltaire and Rousseau.
Apparently there was no possibility of establishing communication
between these two diametrically opposed worlds. But history is a
magician. Not far from the Poland enveloped in medieval darkness, the
morning light of a new life was breaking upon slumbering Jewry in
German lands. New voices made themselves heard, reverberating like an
echo to the appeal issued by the "great century" in behalf of a
spiritual and social regeneration of mankind.



Two phenomena signalized the beginning of the latest period in Jewish
history: the lofty activity of Mendelssohn and the occurrence of the
great French Revolution. The man stands for the spiritual emancipation
of the Jews, the movement for their political emancipation. At bottom,
these two phenomena were by no means the ultimate causes of the social
and spiritual regeneration of the Jewish people. They were only the
products of the more general causes that had effected a similar
regeneration in all the peoples of Western Europe. The new currents,
the abandonment of effete intellectual and social forms, the
substitution of juster and more energetic principles, the protest
against superstition and despotism--all these traits had a common
origin, the resuscitation of reason and free thought, which dominated
all minds without asking whether they belonged to Jew or to Christian.
It might seem that the rejuvenation of the Jews had been consummated
more rapidly than the rejuvenation of the other peoples. The latter
had had two centuries, the period elapsing since the middle ages, that
is, the period between the Reformation and the great Revolution, in
which to prepare for a more rational and a more humane conduct of
life. As for the Jews, their middle ages began much later, and ended
later, almost on the eve of 1789, so that the revolution in their
minds and their mode of life had to accomplish itself hastily, under
the urgence of swiftly crowding events, by the omission of
intermediate stages. But it must be taken into consideration that long
before, in the Judeo-Hellenic and in the Arabic-Spanish period, the
Jews had passed through their "century of reason." In spite of the
intervening ages of suffering and gloom, the faculty of assimilating
new principles had survived. For the descendants of Philo and
Maimonides the rationalistic movement of the eighteenth century was in
part a repetition of a well-known historical process. They had had the
benefit of a similar course of studies before, and, therefore, had no
need to cram on the eve of the final examination.

In point of fact, the transformation in the life of the Jews did take
place with extraordinary swiftness. It was hastened in France by the
principles of the Revolution and the proclamation of the civil
equality of Jews with the other citizens. In Germany, however, it
advanced upon purely spiritual lines. Mendelssohn and Lessing, the
heralds of spiritual reform, who exposed old prejudices, carried on
their labors at a time in which the Jews still stood beyond the pale
of the law, a condition which it did not occur to Frederick II, "the
philosopher upon the throne," to improve. A whole generation was
destined to pass before the civil emancipation of the German Jews was
accomplished. Meantime their spiritual emancipation proceeded apace,
without help from the ruling powers. A time so early as the end of the
eighteenth century found the German Jews in a position to keep step
with their Christian fellow-citizens in cultural progress. Enlightened
Jews formed close connections with enlightened Christians, and joined
them in the universal concerns of mankind as confederates espousing
the same fundamental principles. If they renounced some of their
religious and national traditions, it was by no means out of
complaisance for their neighbors. They were guided solely and alone by
those universal principles that forced non-Jews as well as Jews to
reject many traditions as incompatible with reason and conscience.
Non-Jews and Jews alike yielded themselves up to the fresh inspiration
of the time, and permitted themselves to be carried along by the
universal transforming movement. Mendelssohn himself, circumspect and
wise, did not move off from religious national ground. But the
generation after him abandoned his position for that of universal
humanity, or, better, German nationality. His successors intoxicated
themselves with deep draughts of the marvelous poetry created by the
magic of Goethe and Schiller. They permitted themselves to be rushed
along by the liberty doctrines of 1789, they plunged head over heels
into the vortex of romanticism, and took an active part in the
conspicuous movements of Europe, political, social, and literary, as
witness Borne, Heine, and their fellow-combatants.

The excitement soon evaporated. When the noise of the liberty
love-feasts had subsided, when the cruel reaction (after 1814) had
settled heavily upon the Europe of the nineteenth century, and God's
earth had again become the arena of those agents of darkness whom
dreamers had thought buried forever beneath the ruins of the old
order, then the German Jews, or such of them as thought, came to their
senses. The more intelligent Jewish circles realized that, in devotion
to the German national movement, they had completely neglected their
own people. Yet their people, too, had needs, practical or spiritual,
had its peculiar national sphere of activity, circumscribed, indeed,
by the larger sphere of mankind's activities as by a concentric
circle, but by no means merged into it. To atone for their sin,
thinking Jews retraced their steps. They took in hand the transforming
of Jewish inner life, the simplification of the extremely complicated
Jewish ritual, the remodeling of pedagogic methods, and, above all,
the cultivation of the extended fields of Jewish science, whose head
and front is Jewish historical research in all its vastness and
detail. Heine's friend, Zunz, laid the cornerstone of Jewish science
in the second decade of the nineteenth century. His work was taken up
by a goodly company of zealous and able builders occupied for half a
century with the task of rearing the proud edifice of a scientific
historical literature, in which national self-consciousness was
sheltered and fostered. At the very height of this reforming and
literary activity, German Jewry was overwhelmed by the civil
emancipation of 1848. Again a stirring movement drew them into
sympathy with a great general cause, but this time without drawing
them away from Jewish national interests. Cultural and civil
assimilation was accomplished as an inner compelling necessity, as a
natural outcome of living. But spiritual assimilation, in the sense of
a merging of Judaism in foreign elements, was earnestly repudiated by
the noblest representatives of Judaism. It was their ideal that
universal activity and national activity should be pursued to the
prejudice of neither, certainly not to the exclusion of one or the
other, but in perfect harmony with each other. In point of fact, it
may be asserted that, in spite of a frequent tendency to go to the one
or the other extreme, the two currents, the universal and the
national, co-exist within German Jewry, and there is no fear of their
uniting, they run parallel with each other. The Jewish genius is
versatile. Without hurt to itself it can be active in all sorts of
careers: in politics and in civil life, in parliament and on the
lecture platform, in all branches of science and departments of
literature, in every one of the chambers of mankind's intellectual
laboratory. At the same time it has its domestic hearth, its national
sanctuary; it has its sphere of original work and its self-consciousness,
its national interests and spiritual ideals rooted in the past of the Jew.
By the side of a Lassalle, a Lasker, and a Marx towers a Riesser, a
Geiger, a Graetz. The leveling process unavoidably connected with
widespread culture, so far from causing spiritual desolation in
German Judaism, has, on the contrary, furnished redundant proof
that even under present conditions, so unfavorable to what is
individual and original, the Jewish people has preserved its vitality
to the full.

An analogous movement stirred the other countries of Western
Europe--France, Italy, and England. The political emancipation of the
Jews was accomplished earlier in them than in Germany. The
reconstruction of the inner life, too, proceeded more quietly and
regularly, without leaps and bounds, and religious reform established
itself by degrees. Yet even here, where the Jewish contingent was
insignificant, the spiritual physiognomy of the Jews maintained its
typical character. In these countries, as in Germany, the Jew
assimilated European culture with all its advantages and its
drawbacks. He was active on diplomatic fields, he devoted himself to
economic investigations, he produced intellectual creations of all
kinds--first and last he felt himself to be a citizen of his country.
None the less he was a loyal son of the Jewish people considered as a
spiritual people with an appointed task. Cremieux, Beaconsfield,
Luzzatti are counterbalanced by Salvador, Frank, Munk, Reggio, and
Montefiore. All the good qualities and the shortcomings distinctive of
the civilization of modern times adhere to the Jew. But at its worst
modern civilization has not succeeded in extinguishing the national
spirit in Jewry. The national spirit continues to live in the people,
and it is this spirit that quickens the people. The genius of Jewish
history, as in centuries gone by, holds watch over the sons of the
"eternal people" scattered to all ends of the earth. West-European
Jewry may say of itself, without presumption: _Cogito ergo sum_.

Russian Jewry, the Jewry that had been Polish, and that is counted by
the millions, might, if necessary, prove its existence by even more
tangible marks than Occidental Jewry. To begin with, the centre of
gravity of the Jewish nation lies in Russia, whose Jews not only
outnumber those of the rest of Europe, but continue to live in a
compact mass. Besides, they have preserved the original Jewish culture
and their traditional physiognomy to a higher degree than the Jews of
other countries. The development of the Russian Jews took a course
very different from that of the Jews of the West. This difference was
conditioned by the tremendous contrast between Russian culture and
West-European culture, and by the change which the external
circumstances of Jews outside of Russia underwent during the modern
period. The admission of the Polish provinces into the Russian Empire
at the end of the eighteenth century found the numerous Jewish
population in an almost medieval condition, the same condition in
which the non-Jewish population of Russian Poland was at that time.
The Polish regime, as we saw above, had isolated the Jews alike in
civil and spiritual relations. The new order did not break down the
barriers. The masses of Jews cooped up in the "Pale of Settlement"
were strong only by reason of their inner unity, their firmly
established patriarchal organization. The bulwark of Rabbinism and the
citadel of Chassidism protected them against alien influences. They
guarded their isolation jealously. True to the law of inertia, they
would not allow the privilege of isolation to be wrested from them.
They did not care to step beyond the ramparts. Why, indeed, should the
Jews have quitted their fortress, if outside of their walls they could
expect nothing but scorn and blows? The unfortunates encaged in the
sinister Pale of Settlement could have been lured out of their
exclusive position only by complete civil emancipation combined with a
higher degree of culture than had been attained by Russian society, an
impossible set of circumstances in the first half of the nineteenth
century. The legislative measures of the time, in so far as they
relate to the Jews, breathe the spirit of police surveillance rather
than of enlightenment and humanity. To civilizing and intellectual
influences from without the way was equally barred. Yet all this
watchfulness was of no avail. Nothing could prevent the liberty
principles espoused by the Jews of Western Europe from being smuggled
into the Pale, to leaven the sad, serried masses. A sluggish process
of fermentation set in, and culminated in the literary activity of
Isaac Beer Levinsohn and of the Wilna reformers of the second and
fourth decades of the nineteenth century. They were the harbingers of
approaching spring.

When spring finally came (after 1855), and the sun sent down his
genial rays upon the wretched Jewry of Russia, life and activity began
to appear at once, especially in the upper strata. As in Germany, so
in Russia spiritual emancipation preceded political emancipation.
Still shorn almost entirely of the elementary rights of citizens, the
Russian Jews nevertheless followed their ideal promptings, and
participated enthusiastically in the movement for enlightenment which
at that time held the noblest of the Russians enthralled. In a
considerable portion of the Russian Jewish community a process of
culture regeneration began, an eager throwing off of outworn forms of
life and thought, a swift adoption of humane principles. Jewish young
men crowded into the secular schools, in which they came in close
contact with their Christian contemporaries. Influenced by their new
companions, they gave themselves up to Russian national movements,
often at the cost of renunciation of self. Some of them, indeed, in
one-sided aspiration strove to become, not Russians, but men. The
influence exercised by literature was more moderate than that of the
schools. Rabbinic and Chassidistic literature, on the point of dying
out as it was, abandoned the field to the literature of enlightenment
in the Hebrew language, a literature of somewhat primitive character.
It consisted chiefly of naive novels and of didactic writings of
publicists, and lacked the solid scientific and historical element
that forms the crown of Western Jewish literature. It is indisputable,
however, that it exerted an educational influence. Besides, it
possesses the merit of having resuscitated one of the most valuable of
Jewish national possessions, the Hebrew language in its purity, which
in Russia alone has become a pliant instrument of literary expression.
A still greater field was reserved for the Jewish-Russian literature
that arose in the "sixties." It was called into being in order to
present a vivid and true picture of the social and spiritual interests
of the Jews. Proceeding from discussions of current political topics,
this literature gradually widened its limits so as to include Jewish
history, Jewish science, and the portrayal of Jewish life, and more
and more approached the character of a normal European literature. All
this was in the making, and the most important work had not yet begun.
The lower strata of the people had not been touched by the fresh air.
In time, if all had gone well, they, too, would have had their day.
And if the minority of the Jewish people in the West in a short span
of time brought forth so many notable workers in so many departments
of life and thought, how much superior would be the culture
achievements of the Eastern majority! How vigorously the mighty mental
forces latent in Russian Jewry would develop when their advance was no
longer obstructed by all sorts of obstacles, and they could be applied
to every sphere of political, social, and intellectual life!

Nothing of all this came to pass; exactly the opposite happened. Not
only were the barriers in the way of a prosperous, free development of
Jewry not removed, but fresh hindrances without number were
multiplied. Some spectre of the middle ages, some power of darkness,
put brakes upon the wheel of history. It first appeared in the West,
under the name anti-Semitism, among the dregs of European society. But
in its earliest abode it was and is still met with an abrupt rebuff on
the part of the most intelligent circles, those whom even the present
age of decadence has not succeeded in robbing of belief in lofty moral
ideals. Anti-Semitism in the West is in _anima vili_. Its cult is
confined to a certain party, which enjoys a rather scandalous
reputation. But there are countries in which this power of darkness,
in the coarser form of Judophobia[13], has cast its baleful spell upon
the most influential members of society and upon the press. There it
has ripened noxious fruit. Mocking at the exalted ideals and the
ethical traditions of religious and thinking mankind, Judophobia
shamelessly professes the dogma of misanthropy. Its propaganda is
bringing about the moral ruin of an immature society, not yet
confirmed in ethical or truly religious principles. Upon its victims,
the Jews, it has the same effect as the misfortunes of the middle
ages, which were meted out to our hoary people with overflowing
measure, and against which it learnt to assume an armor of steel. The
recent severe trials are having the same result as the persecutions of
former days: they do not weaken, on the contrary, they invigorate the
Jewish spirit, they spur on to thought, they stimulate the pulse of
the people.

"The hammer shivers glass,
But iron by its blows is forged."[14]

[13] As anti-Semitism is called in Russia.
[14] Pushkin.

The historical process Jewry has undergone repeatedly, it must undergo
once again. But now, too, in this blasting time of confusion and
dispersion, of daily torture and the horrors of international
conflict, "the keeper of Israel slumbereth not and sleepeth not." The
Jewish spirit is on the alert. It is ever purging and tempering itself
in the furnace of suffering. The people which justly bears the name of
the veteran of history withdraws and falls into a revery. It is not a
narrow-minded fanatic's flight from the world, but the concentrated
thought of a mourner. Jewry is absorbed in contemplation of its great,
unparalleled past. More than ever it is now in need of the teachings
of its past, of the moral support and the prudent counsels of its
history, its four thousand years of life crowded with checkered



Let us return now to the starting point of our discussion, and
endeavor to establish the thoughts and lessons to be deduced from the
course of Jewish history.

Above all, Jewish history possesses the student with the conviction
that Jewry at all times, even in the period of political independence,
was pre-eminently a spiritual nation, and a spiritual nation it
continues to be in our own days, too. Furthermore, it inspires him
with the belief that Jewry, being a spiritual entity, cannot suffer
annihilation: the body, the mold, may be destroyed, the spirit is
immortal. Bereft of country and dispersed as it is, the Jewish nation
lives, and will go on living, because a creative principle permeates
it, a principle that is the root of its being and an indigenous
product of its history. This principle consists first in a sum of
definite religious, moral, or philosophic ideals, whose exponent at
all times was the Jewish people, either in its totality, or in the
person of its most prominent representatives. Next, this principle
consists in a sum of historical memories, recollections of what in the
course of many centuries the Jewish people experienced, thought, and
felt, in the depths of its being. Finally, it consists in the
consciousness that true Judaism, which has accomplished great things
for humanity in the past, has not yet played out its part, and,
therefore, may not perish. In short, the Jewish people lives because
it contains a living soul which refuses to separate from its
integument, and cannot be forced out of it by heavy trials and
misfortunes, such as would unfailingly inflict mortal injury upon less
sturdy organisms.

This self-consciousness is the source from which the suffering Jewish
soul draws comfort. History speaks to it constantly through the mouth
of the great apostle who went forth from the midst of Israel eighteen
hundred years ago: "Call to remembrance the former days, in which,
after ye were enlightened, ye endured a great conflict of sufferings;
partly, being made a gazing-stock both by reproaches and afflictions;
and partly, becoming partakers with them that were so used.... Cast
not away therefore your boldness, which hath great recompense of
reward" (Epistle to the Hebrews, x, 32-34, 35).

Jewish history, moreover, arouses in the Jew the desire to work
unceasingly at the task of perfecting himself. To direct his attention
to his glorious past, to the resplendent intellectual feats of his
ancestors, to their masterly skill in thinking and suffering, does not
lull him to sleep, does not awaken a dullard's complacency or hollow
self-conceit. On the contrary, it makes exacting demands upon him.
Jewish history admonishes the Jews: "_Noblesse oblige_. The
privilege of belonging to a people to whom the honorable title of the
'veteran of history' has been conceded, puts serious responsibilities
on your shoulders. You must demonstrate that you are worthy of your
heroic past. The descendants of teachers of religion and martyrs of
the faith dare not be insignificant, not to say wicked. If the long
centuries of wandering and misery have inoculated you with faults,
extirpate them in the name of the exalted moral ideals whose bearers
you were commissioned to be. If, in the course of time, elements out
of harmony with your essential being have fastened upon your mind,
cast them out, purify yourselves. In all places and at all times, in
joy and and in sorrow, you must aim to live for the higher, the
spiritual interests. But never may you deem yourselves perfect. If you
become faithless to these sacred principles, you sever the bonds that
unite you with the most vital elements of your past, with the first
cause of your national existence."

The final lesson to be learned is that in the sunny days of mankind's
history, in which reason, justice, and philanthropic instinct had the
upper hand, the Jews steadfastly made common cause with the other
nations. Hand in hand with them, they trod the path leading to
perfection. But in the dark days, during the reign of rude force,
prejudice, and passion, of which they were the first victims, the Jews
retired from the world, withdrew into their shell, to await better
days. Union with mankind at large, on the basis of the spiritual and
the intellectual, the goal set up by the Jewish Prophets in their
sublime vision of the future (Isaiah, ch. ii, and Micah, ch. iv), is
the ultimate ideal of Judaism's noblest votaries. Will their radiant
hope ever attain to realization? If ever it should be realized,--and
it is incumbent upon us to believe that it will,--not a slight part of
the merits involved will be due to Jewish history. We have adverted to
the lofty moral and humanitarian significance of Jewish history in its
role as conciliator. With regard to one-half of Jewish history, this
conciliatory power is even now a well-established fact. The first part
of Jewish history, the Biblical part, is a source from which, for many
centuries, millions of human beings belonging to the most diverse
denominations have derived instruction, solace, and inspiration. It is
read with devotion by Christians in both hemispheres, in their houses
and their temples. Its heroes have long ago become types, incarnations
of great ideas. The events it relates serve as living ethical
formulas. But a time will come--perhaps it is not very far off--when
the second half of Jewish history, the record of the two thousand
years of the Jewish people's life after the Biblical period, will be
accorded the same treatment. This latter part of Jewish history is not
yet known, and many, in the thrall of prejudice, do not wish to know
it. But ere long it will be known and appreciated. For the thinking
portion of mankind it will be a source of uplifting moral and
philosophical teaching. The thousand years' martyrdom of the Jewish
people, its unbroken pilgrimage, its tragic fate, its teachers of
religion, its martyrs, philosophers, champions, this whole epic will
in days to come sink deep into the memory of men. It will speak to the
heart and the conscience of men, not merely to their curious mind. It
will secure respect for the silvery hair of the Jewish people, a
people of thinkers and sufferers. It will dispense consolation to the
afflicted, and by its examples of spiritual steadfastness and
self-denial encourage martyrs in their devotion. It is our firm
conviction that the time is approaching in which the second half of
Jewish history will be to the noblest part of _thinking_ humanity
what its first half has long been to _believing_ humanity, a
source of sublime moral truths. In this sense, Jewish history in its
entirety is the pledge of the spiritual union between the Jews and the
rest of the nations.


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