OPINION OF THE JEW IN ENGLAND
OF all Europeans, the Englishman, who boasts of being a staunch friend to the people “scattered and peeled,” and whose confident ignorance and indiscriminate philanthropy are bestowed upon them equally with the African negro, knows least of the customs and habits of his protégés, and especially of those of Jews in foreign countries. The neglect of things near to us must be the reason why we know so little of the inner life of Jewry: there are, however, other concomitant causes. In our native land the Hebrew lives protected, and honoured, in fact, as one of ourselves. We visit him, we dine with him, and we see him at all times and places, except perhaps at the Sunday service. We should enjoy his society but for a certain coarseness of manner, and especially an offensive familiarity, which seems almost peculiar to him. We marvel at his talents, and we are struck by the adaptability and by the universality of his genius. We admire his patience, his steadfastness,
and his courage, his military prowess, and his successful career in every post and profession—Statesman and Senior Wrangler, Poet and Literato, Jurist, Surgeon, and Physician, Capitalist, Financier, and Merchant, Philosopher and Engineer, in fact in everything that man can be. When we compare the Semitic Premier with his Anglo‑Saxon rival, it is much to the advantage of the former: while jesting about the “Asian mystery,” we cannot but feel that there is something in the Asiatic which we do not expect, which eludes our ken, which goes beyond us.
Those familiar with the annals of old families in England are aware of the extent to which they have been mixed with Jewish blood, even from the days when religious prejudice is mistakenly represented to have been most malign. Indeed, of late centuries our nation has never prided itself, like the Portuguese and the Iberians generally, in preserving its blood “pure and free from taint of Jew and Infidel.” The cross perpetually reappears in outward form as well as in mental quality. Here and there an old country house produces a scion which to all appearance is more Jewish than the Jews themselves. A peculiar characteristic of the blood is an extreme fondness for show, for colour, for splendour and magnificence in general. The rich Jew must display his wealth; like the Parsee, he makes and spends whilst his rivals the Greek and the Armenian make and hoard. In certain
continental cities where he now reigns supreme he renders society impossible to the Christian. The Messrs. G. Muir Mackenzie and O. P. Irby—The Turks, the Greeks, and the Slavons (London: Bell & Daldy, 1867)—will show how at Salonika1 the French Consul Marquis de —— could not join in any of the festivities. The dinner‑table was not respected unless it glistened with gold and silver plate borrowed and lent for the occasion. His wife could not appear without a new dress on every occasion, and therefore she stayed at home. A toilette from Paris twice a week not only ministers to the womanly enjoyment of the wearer, and to the sensuous pleasures of the beholders, but also shows that the house is wealthy and that the firm has spare money to throw away. It is, in fact, an advertisement of the most refined description. Ladies meeting in parties of three and four over what our grandmothers called “a dish of tea” must appear décolletées and in diamonds. The rivière must disfigure the beautiful neck and bosom of the bride. At the theatre those boxes are most valued where the light falls strongest upon the precious stones, and where costly textures and valuable
1 Here out of sixty thousand souls the Jews number forty thousand, but to prevent taxation they have arranged with the Turkish authorities never to exceed eleven thousand five hundred. [Since this was written (1873) the whole population of Salonika has increased rapidly, and now (1897) numbers 150,000, of whom about 60,000 are Jews, 30,000 Turks, 30,000 Serbs, 15,000 Greeks, and 4,000 Zinzers.]
laces stand out to the greatest advantage. And behind this splendour of show lies cunning of a high order. The grand liveries are used once a week upon Madame’s “day”; at other times the lackeys are en déshabille. The costly carriage horses work, till noon in carts and drays transporting the irritamenta malorum which support the equipage of the afternoon. And so in everything. The Hebrew race is so marked in its characteristics that it has ever been the theme of over‑praise or of undue blame, like those individuals concerning whom society cannot be neutral; and of late years the transitions of public opinion which usually moves slowly have been comically abrupt.
The Jew of popular English fiction is no longer Moshesh, a wretch who believes in one God and in Shent‑per‑Shent as his profit, whose eyes, unlike those of Banquo, are brimming full with “speculation.” The Fagin of young Dickens only a quarter of a century ago has now become the “gentle Jew Riah” of old Dickens, a being remarkable for resignation and quiet dignity, a living reproach to the Christian heathenry that dwells about him. The great feminine actresses of the world, we are told by a charming authoress, are all Jewesses. Tancred; or, the New Crusade, to mention nothing of meaner note, teaches us to admire and love the modern “Roses of Sharon,” those exquisite visions that are read to rest by attendants with silver lamps, and
who talk history, philosophy, and theology with the warmth of womanly enthusiasm, tempered by the pure belief of a bishop of the Church of England, the learning of a German professor, and the grace of Madame Recamier. Miriam has become, in fact, a pet heroine with novel writers and novel readers, and thrice happy is the fascinating young Christian who, like “that boy of Norcott’s,” despite his manifold Christian disabilities, can win her hand and heart.
Of the middle and lower classes of Jews the Englishman only hears that they are industrious, abstinent, and comparatively cleanly in person; decent, hospitable, and as strict in keeping the Sabbath as the strictest Sabbatarians could desire—perhaps, if he knew all, he would not desire so much. He is told that they are wondrous charitable in their dealings with those of the same faith, always provided that some mite of a religious difference does not grow to mountain size. The papers inform him how munificent and judicious is their distribution of alms, how excellent are their arrangements for the support of their paupers, who are never exposed to the horrors of the parish and the poor‑house, and who are maintained by their co‑religionists, though numbering in London at least 16·50 per cent. out of a total exceeding thirty thousand souls.1 And he
1 No religious census has lately been taken in England and Wales; the above therefore is only a conjecture. In 1853 the Jews of Great Britain were set down at 30,000; of these 25,000 were resident in London, and 5,000 elsewhere. The yearly deaths were 560, which at
everywhere reads of Charities, public, private, and congregational; of Hospitals and Almshouses; of Orphanages, Philanthropic Institutions; of Pensioners’ and Widows’ Homes; Friendly Societies; of Doles of Bread and Coal and Raiment; of Lying‑in Houses and Infant Asylums; of Burial Societies, male and female; of arrangements for supplying godfathers and godmothers managed by Benevolent Societies, Boards, Institutions, Committees, and Consistories. Like their charities, the educational system may be divided into three heads: Schools, public and private; Rabbinical and Theological Institutions; and Literary and Scientific Associations.
He—the ordinary Englishman—may be dimly conscious that the Jew is the one great exception to the general curse upon the sons of Adam, and that he alone eats bread, not in the sweat of his own face, but in the sweat of his neighbour’s face—like the German cuckoo, who does not colonize, but establishes himself in the colonies of other natives. He has perhaps been told that all the world over
the average rate of mortality would give a maximum of 25,000. Of this total, 5,000 belonged to the upper or educated class, 8,000 to the middle orders, and 12,000 represented the lower ranks. [In 1890 the Jews of Great Britain and Ireland were estimated at over 93,000, of whom 67,500 were resident in London. It may be of interest to add that in 1896 the entire Jewish population was calculated at 6,505,000, thus distributed over the globe: Europe 5,500,000; Asia 260,000; Africa 430,000; America 300,000; Australia 15,000. See A. H. Keane, Population, Races, and Languages of the World, in the Church Missionary Atlas, New (eighth) edition. London, 1896.]
the Jew spurns the honest toil of the peasant and the day labourer; that in the new Jewry of Houndsditch and Petticoat Lane, in the Marais, in the Ghetto, in the Juden Strasse, and in the Hárat el Yahúd (Jewish quarters) of Mussulman cities, his sole business is quocumque modo rem—sordid gains—especially by money‑lending, and by usury, which may not be practised upon a fellow Jew, but which, with the cleanest of consciences, is applied to the ruin of the Gentile. He has heard that where Saxon and Celt ply pick and pan, the Hebrew broker and pedlar buy up their gains and grow rich where the working‑men starve in the midst of gold. He sees that the “Chosen People” will swarm over the world from California to Australia, wherever greed of gain induces them to travel. “To my mind,” says a popular writer, “there are few things so admirable and wonderful in this life as the ‘getting on,’ as it is vulgarly called, of the Hebrew race. For one of us who, by means of infinite wriggling, panting, toiling, struggling, and hanging on by his eyebrows, so to speak, to opportunity, ambitious to emerge from obscurity, and ascend to the topmost round of the ladder, there seems to be at least five hundred Caucasian Arabs who attain the desired altitude; ay, and who manage to avoid turning giddy and toppling over. Most Jews seem to rise, and the instances of a few going ‘to the utter bad,’ as the phrase
runs, seem equally as rare. How often your successful Nazarene comes to grief! At the moment you think him Lord of All he is Master of Nothing. . . . Jews appear to keep what they have gotten; and, what is better, to get more, and keep that too. They are not much given, I fancy, to experience the pangs of remorse; and I cannot well imagine a mad Jew. It must be something awful. On the whole, looking at the vast number of Christians I have known who from splendour have subsided into beggary, and the vast number of Hebrews I have watched advancing, not from mendicity—a Jew never begs, save from one of his own tribe, and then I suppose the transaction is more of the nature of a friendly loan, to be repaid with interest when brighter days arrive—but from extreme indigence to wealth and station, I incline to the opinion that Gentiles have a natural alacrity in sinking—look how heavy I can be—but that the Chosen People have as natural a tendency towards buoyancy. That young man with the banner in Mr. Longfellow’s ballad was, depend upon it, an Israelite of the Israelites; only I think the poet was wrong, as poets generally are, in his climax. The young man was not frozen to death. He made an immense fortune at the top of Mont Blanc by selling ‘Excelsior’ penny ices.”
The secret of this “getting on” is known to every expert. The Jewish boy begins from his
earliest days with changing a few sovereigns, and he pursues the path of lucre till the tomb opens to receive him. He is utterly single‑minded in this point; he has but one idea, and therefore he must succeed. Who does not remember the retort of the Jewish capitalist to the Christian statesman who, impertinently enough, advised him to teach his children something beyond mere trade? “My first wish,” answered the Hebrew, “is to see my boys become good men of business; beyond that—nothing!”
The average Englishman cannot help observing with Cobbett, and despite Lord Macaulay, that the callings which the lower orders of Jews especially prefer are those held mean or dishonourable by other men such as demoralizing usury, receiving stolen goods, buying up old clothes, keeping gambling-houses and betting‑cribs, dealing in a literature calculated to pervert the mind of youth; combining, as a person—afterwards sent to Newgate—lately did, the trade of a cosmetic artist with the calling of a procuress, and supplying the agapemonæ of the world,1 while occasionally producing a sharp jockey or a hard‑hitting prize‑fighter. He is not ignorant of their prodigious trickery, of their immense and abnormal powers of lying—the “trifle
1 At this moment there is a traffic far fouler and more terrible than any Coolie‑hunting in African slave‑export—extending from Lemberg to India and China.
tongue,” as they picturesquely call it—and their subtle art of winning their object by roundabout ways. He cannot mistake their physical cowardice, but he remembers that the Jewish officers, once so numerous in the French army, were as brave as their Christian brethren; and again he recognizes the fact that lying and cowardice long continue to be the effects of oppression. He smiles at their intense love of public amusements, and their excessive fondness for display, evinced by tawdry finery and mosaic gold.
Knowing this, however, he supposes himself to know the worst. He has heard little of the excessive optimism of the Jew, the πάντα καλά λίαν, so strongly opposed to Christianity, the “religion of sorrow.” He knows nothing of the immense passions and pugnacity, the eagerness and tenacity of Lutheran rancour displayed against all who differ from some minutiæ of oral law. He ignores the over‑weening, narrow‑minded pride of caste which makes the Jew “destined by God to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”—as one of their own race, Rabbi Ascher (initiator of youth), even now repeats.1 He cannot realize the fact that the ferocity
1 The essential superiority of the Jew over Nakhrím, or strangers, is carefully kept up by the Gavním, or luminaries, of the Jewish Law. During the preparations for Sabbath one of the prayers is: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who hast made a distinction between things sacred and profane, between light and darkness, between Israel and other nations.” On the New Year’s Day (Rosh ha‑Shanah) the house‑
and terrible destructiveness which characterize the Jew and his literature, from the days of the Prophets to those of the Talmudists, are present in his civilized neighbour, whom he considers to be one of the best of men—a sleeping lion, it is true, but ready to awake upon the first occasion. And he is ignorant of the Eastern Jews’ love of mysticism and symbolism, their various horrible and disgusting superstitions, and their devotion to magical
master says at supper: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who didst select us from all other people, and exalt us above all other nations, and sanctify us with Thy commandments, . . . for Thou didst select us, and sanctify us from all other people. . . . Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the Sanctifier of Israel,” etc. At the Passover they repeat the same, adding, “Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the Sanctifier of Israel and the times.” During the Feast of Pentecost they pray, “Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who hast selected us above all other people, and exalted us above all other nations, and sanctified us with Thy commandments. . . . Our Lord is exalted—He is the first and the last, He desired and chose us, and delivered to us the Law.”
Such are a few of the passages which are still approved of by learned and reverend Jews, “the stars of the evening twilight of their race.” These pretensions are evidently misplaced at the end of the nineteenth century. Their effects are remarkable upon the feeble brains of certain Christians, who, in conversation and missionary matters, have been thrown much in Jewish society, and who end by thoroughly believing all these absurd claims. A Gentile writes about them: “In addressing the posterity of the Patriarchs on such a theme [incredulity], well may I avail myself of the words held sacred by their fellow‑citizens, not of their race, while I repeat the assertion that a Hebrew infidel—an infidel amongst the ‘Israelites, to whom appertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants,’ and to whom were committed the oracles of God’—the only open eye of the world when all the rest of mankind had darkness for their portion, or the light of dreams—is indeed a frightful, a portentous phenomenon!” Yet such as they are they number hundreds of thousands, and the spread of absolute infidelity is enormously on the increase.
charms and occult arts which lead to a variety of abominations.
This ignorance produces weak outbursts of lamentations that the Hebrews “still cling with obstinate persistence to a hopeless hope.” Hence we read in the pages of a modern traveller—The Rob Roy on the Jordan, p. 274, by J. MacGregor, M.A. (London: Murray, 1869): “Here, as well as some twenty years ago, I heard men in Palestine call their fellows ‘Jew’ as the lowest of all possible words of abuse. When we recollect that the Jews, in this very land of their own, were once the choice people of the world; that now through the whole earth, among the richest, the bravest, the cleverest, the fairest, the best at music and song, at poetry and painting, at art and science and literature, at education, philanthropy, statesmanship, war, commerce, and finance, in every sphere of life are Jews,—we may well remember the word of prophecy which told us long ago that the name of Jew would be a ‘byword and a reproach,’ even in the Jews’ own land.” It is true that, even in the Portuguese colonies, where the Jew is comparatively unknown, his name is worse than at Jerusalem, Bagdad, and Damascus; whilst “Judear”—to play the Jew—signifies the being capable of any villainy. But how long will prophecy prove true? In the coast towns of Morocco, a few years have sufficed to raise the Hebrew from the lowest of stations to
equality with, and even superiority over, his Mussulman cousin. The Jew may ere long make the Gentile a “byword and a reproach.”
But the English world never hears the fact that the Jew of Africa, of Arabia, of Kurdistan, of Persia, and of Western Asia generally, is still the Jew “cunning and fierce” of the thirteenth and the fourteenth centuries in Europe; that he is the Jew of the Talmud, of Shammai, and of Rabbi Shalomon Jarchi, not of the Pentateuch, of Hillel, and of Gamaliel; that he sympathizes, not with those staunch old conservatives and rationalists, the Sadducees, now gone for ever, nor with Ezra and the Priests, the Levites and the Nethiním—men of the Great Synagogue—nor with the ascetic Essenes, prototypes of Christian monkery; but with the Pharisees, the Separatists, and the Puritans of his faith, with the Captains, the Fanatics, the Zealots, the Sicarii, the Swordsmen and the Brigands of John of Giscala, of Eleazar son of Ananias, and of those who worked all the civil horrors of our first century. Some distant or adventurous journey of Sir Moses Montefiore1 or other philanthropists,
1 The journey of this eminent philanthropist to Alexandria in 1840 was a very remarkable one, all things considered. In 1855 he again visited “the East,” with the especial object of ameliorating the condition of his co‑religionists in the Holy Land; and it is a favourite subject to conjecture how much, or how little, of the true state of things he was allowed to know. He certainly learned nothing from his Damascus host, the late Ishak Haim Farkhi, a Jew
duly published with packed and partial comments in the papers of Europe, reveals to the lazy comprehension of the man of refinement that the Hebrew in many parts of the semi‑civilized world is still the object of suspicion, fear, and abhorrence. He attributes the persecutions, the avarice, or the massacre to the pleasures of plunder, to the barbarous bigotry, and to the cruel fanaticism of bloodthirsty and cruel races, who still look upon the present with the eyes of the past, and who have seized an opportunity to glut their lust of spoil or to wreak an obsolete revenge because some eighteen centuries and three‑quarters ago “an aristocratic and unpopular high priest, whom the people afterwards rose upon and murdered, had for political reasons crucified our Lord,” or because in A.D. 729* a heroic Jewess of Khaibar poisoned a shoulder of lamb with the object of trying by a crucial test whether Muhammad was the Prophet of Allah, or merely the
under French protection. Nor is it believed that he gained much knowledge of the true state of affairs at Jerusalem. For instance, the almshouses built outside the city under his trusteeship are occupied by the friends of the Scribes and those who pay court to them, not by the destitute for whom they were intended. When the venerable philanthropist paid his last visit, a collection of the poorest and the most miserable of the community was hurriedly installed there, and after his departure was as summarily ejected. The public has not forgotten his trip to Morocco, which, however, if matters progress as they do now, may eventually be regretted by his protégés.
[* I have retained 729, the date given by Burton, although Muhammad died in 732 from the effects of the experiment.]
Sheikh of Arab pillagers, the worthy confrère of Músailamah the Liar.
We do not waste time upon thought or inquiry whether the persecution, the avarice, or the massacre may not be the direct result of some intolerable wrong, of some horrible suspicion which has gradually assumed the form of certainty, and which calls for the supreme judgment of the sword; we do not reason that the cause which from ancient times has confined the Jew to Ghettos and to certain quarters in all great continental cities resulted, not only from his naturally preferring the society of his co‑religionists, but also from the fact that his Christian neighbours found it advisable to consult by such means their own safety and that of their families. The disappearance of children was talked of at Rome and in all the capitals of Italy even throughout the early part of the present century, when constitutional rule and the new police were unknown, as freely and frequently as at Salonika, at Smyrna, and in all the cities of the Levant during the year of grace 1873.
Again, we hardly reflect that, as intolerance begets intolerance and injury breeds injury, a trampled and degraded race will ever turn when it can upon the oppressor, and that the revenge of the weak, the slavish, and the cowardly will be the more certain, ruthless, and terrible because it has a long score of insults and injuries to reckon up. In the country
towns of modern Persia, as in Turkey, the Jew is popularly believed to make away with children. The Muhammadan boy, meeting a Hebrew in the streets, will pluck his grey beard, taunt him with the Bú‑e‑Shimít—the rank odour which is everywhere supposed to characterize the race—tread upon his toes, and spit upon his Jewish gabardine. In Turkey there are still places where he would be expelled the Bazar with sticks and stones; others where every outrage of language would be levelled against him, including Al Yahúd Músairáj1—the Jew smells of the lamp—alluding to his free culinary use of sesamum oil. A Jew passing through the square of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem would infallibly be mobbed on all occasions, and on certain fêtes would be torn to pieces; and the list of dangers and insults which he incurs both from Muslims and Christians might be indefinitely prolonged.
Can we wonder then if the persecutor, man or boy, disappear, should opportunity offer such tempting punishment for their barbarous fanaticism? And will not this supposition explain the Arabic proverb, “Sup with the Jews and sleep at the
1 Upon the sanguineo‑oleaginous expression of the Jews and the consequent pendency of the epiglottis, see “A Cause of Diminished Longevity among the Jews,” by Sir Duncan Gibb, Bart., M.A., M.D., LL.D., Article 10, Journal of Anthropology, No. 1, July, 1870, pp. 94—97. It exactly describes many of the Jews of Syria and Palestine.
Christians’,” and the fact that every mother teaches her boy from earliest youth to avoid the Jewish quarter, binding him by all manner of oaths? Finally, is it surprising that amongst an ignorant and superstitious race of outcasts such random acts and outbreaks of vengeance, pure and simple, should by human perversity pass, after the course of ages, into a semi‑religious rite, and be justified by men whose persecution has frenzied them as a protest and a memorial before the throne of the Most High against the insults and injuries meted out by the Gentile to the children of Abraham?
Shakespeare may not have drawn Shylock from a real character, but his genius has embodied in the most lifelike form the Jew’s vengefulness and the causes that nourished it. How many cities of the world there are where he might hear these words: “Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”
Moreover, in the course of our reading, we Englishmen meet with nothing which points to the existence of cruel murders and similar horrors in
any branch of the Hebrew race. Popular books like The British Jew (Rev. John Mills. London: Hurlston & Stoneman, 1854), for instance, are mostly written in the apologetic tone; they are advocates and missionaries, not describers. They enumerate the duties and ceremonies of the “strict, enlightened Israelite”—a powerful majority amongst the thirty-five to forty thousand that have colonized the British Islands—modified and transformed by the civilization of their surroundings. They studiously avoid that part of the subject which would be most interesting to the ethnologist, the various irregular practices of the people, because they would not “crowd their pages with the superstitions of the ignorant”; and they probably have not defined to themselves the darker shades which the religious teaching of later centuries has diffused over the Jewish mind, and which linger even among the most advanced of modern communities. The well‑known volume of Dr. Alexander McCaul, The Old Paths; or, a Comparison of the Principles and Doctrines of Modern Judaism with the Religion of Moses and the Prophets (London: Hubbard & Son, 1854), which has been translated into almost every European language, reveals but little, while professing to reveal much. It is written in a purely apologetic spirit; and as it attacked the Talmud, but spared the Jew, who, however, systematically destroys every copy, it has lost for the general reader all its significance.
The celebrated article upon the Talmud first published in the Quarterly Review (October, 1867), and afterwards owned to by the late M. Emanuel Deutsch, who began by denying the authorship, greatly surprised the poco‑curanti of Great Britain. It was a triumph of special pleading. It studiously ignored the fact that the Talmudic writers who flourished in the third and the sixth centuries of our era had evidently consulted the writings of the “School of Galilee,”1 especially of the New Testament, apocryphal as well as canonical. It artfully opened to the admiring eye of ignorance a noble garden of time‑honoured experience, a goodly parterre of racial and social piety and benevolence, a paradise of religious wisdom, from which a few transplanted shoots would suffice to enrich and adorn a wilderness of rugged and neglected fields. It concealed with equal skill the sinks and drains, the shallows and quagmires which everywhere underlie the fair and flowery surface; and it withdrew attention from the dark corners rank with poisonous weeds and overrun with trees bearing deadly fruit. Such art of manipulation would readily pick the Sermon on the Mount from the pages of the erotic poets of “the East,” perhaps the most materialistic and the most corrupt which the literature of the world has produced.
1 This is a complete misnomer applied to Christianity, which it confuses with the Rabbinical Schools of Tiberias and Safed.
What then can the average Englishman, thus instructed, know about the Hebrew at home? how much of the Hebrew abroad, especially in Asia, in Africa, and even in Europe? How is he fully to comprehend the reason why the name of Jew is still a byword and a reproach? or why the scrupulous British official—the late Consul Brant, C.B., the historical Consul of Erzerum, who revived the trade of ancient Trebizond—who never allowed himself to use profane language, applied to Christians and Muslims the word “Jew” as the most insulting term that can be levelled at man?
The following article appeared in the Saturday Review* as a comment upon a “recent outbreak of Rumanian fanaticism against the Jews at Ismail,” and explains at once the isolation and the great material success of the children of Israel all the world over. I quote it in extenso as it shows the general opinion of educated Englishmen and the unreality and shallowness of the treatment which views the world through glasses of British home‑make:
“There is no real difference between the Rumanian Jews and the Jews of Galicia or Bohemia; nor can they in their turn be separated from the Jews of Germany, of France, or of England. The dirty, greasy usurers of Rumania are the humble brethren of the financiers of London and Frankfort, and that the Jews are a great power in Europe is
[* The year would be 1873.]
incontestable. What are, it may be asked, the secrets of their power? They are religion, the capacity for making money, and internal union. A ceremonial, and therefore an exclusive religion, a religion that binds together its members by rites that seem strange to the rest of the world, has a strong hold upon those who are within the fold. They are like the tenants of a beleaguered fort cut off from the rest of mankind, and obliged to protect themselves and help each other. But religion is not enough to raise a race into eminence. The Jews and the Parsees are eminent, not only because they circumcise their sons, or light fires on the tops of their houses, but because they make money. The money they have gives them consequence; but it is not only the money itself that does this; it is the qualities that go to making money which raise them—the patience, the good sense, the capacity for holding on when others are frightened, the daring to make a stroke when the risk is sufficient to appal. And the Jews are not only religious and rich; they are bound together by intimate ties. The inner world of Judaism is that of a democracy. The millionaire never dreams of despising, or failing to aid, his poorest and most degraded brother. The kindness of Jews for Jews is unfailing, spontaneous, and unaffected. The shabbiest hat‑buyer or orange‑seller of Houndsditch is as sure of having the means provided for him of keeping the sacred
feast of the Passover as if he lived in a Piccadilly mansion. To the eyes of the Jews even the most degraded of Jews do not seem so degraded as they do in the eyes of the outer world. The poorest have perhaps possessions which redeem them in the eyes of their brethren; and many of the lowest, greasiest, and most unattractive Hebrews who walk about the streets in search of old clothes or skins are known by their co‑religionists to be able to repeat by rote portions of the sacred volumes by the hour at a time. To all these permanent causes of Jewish eminence there must, however, be added one that has had only time to develop itself since extreme bigotry has died away, and since in Western Europe the Jews have been treated, first with contemptuous toleration, then with cold respect, and, finally, when they are very, very rich, with servile adoration.
“These people—so exclusive, so intensely national, so intimately linked together—have shown the most astonishing aptitude for identifying themselves with the several countries in which they have cast their fortunes. An English Jew is an Englishman, admires English habits and English education, makes an excellent magistrate, plays to perfection the part of a squire, and even exercises discreetly the power which, with its inexhaustible oddity, the English law gives him, while it denies it to the members of the largest Christian sect, and presents incumbents
to livings so as to please the most fastidious bishops. The French Jews were stout friends of France during the war—served as volunteers in the defence of Paris, and opened their purses to the national wants, and their houses to the suffering French. The German Jews were as stout Germans in their turn; and in war, as in peace, they are always ready to show themselves Germans as well as Jews. It is the combination of the qualities of both nations that is now raising the foremost of the German Jews to their high rank in the world of wealth. In that world, to be a German is to be a trader whom it is very hard to rival, to be a Jew is to be an operator whom it is impossible to beat; but to be a German Jew is to be a prince and captain among the people.
“In this way the Jews have managed to overcome much of the antipathy which would naturally attach to men of an alien race and an alien religion. The English Jew is not seen to be standing aloof from England and Englishmen. But it is impossible there should not be some sort of social barrier between the Jew and the Christian. They cannot intermarry except for special political or other cogent reasons, and it necessarily chills the kindness and intimacy of family intercourse when all the young people know that friendship can never grow into anything else. In order to overcome this obstacle many wealthy Jews have chosen to abjure their
religion and enrol their households in the Christian communion. But the more high‑minded and high-spirited among them shrink from doing this, and accept, and even glory in, the position into which they were born. Fortunately for himself and for England, a kind friend determined the religion of Mr. Disraeli before he was old enough to judge for himself, and in his maturer years he has been able conscientiously to adopt what he terms the doctrines of the School of Galilee. If they are not decoyed into Christianity by their social aspirations, Jews are unassailable, for the most part, by the force of either persecution or argument; and although there are some conversions to be attributed to Christian reasoning or Christian gold, they are probably counterbalanced by the accessions to Judaism of Christian women who marry Jewish husbands. The Jews therefore lead, and must lead, on the whole a family life marked by something of reserve and isolation. But the disadvantages they have thus to endure are not without their compensative advantages. Their family life by being secluded has gained in warmth and dignity.1 In very few families is there so much thoughtfulness, consideration, parental and fraternal affection, reve‑
1 The Jewish family is still in England what it is all over the East, the chief defence of the individual against society. Hence the strong affections between relations. And for the same reason Jews are excellent parents—it can hardly be otherwise when the son is expected to liberate his father and mother from Sheol.
rence for age, and care for the young as in Jewish families. The women too have been ennobled, not degraded, by being thrown on themselves and on their families for their sphere of thought and action. They are almost always thoroughly instructed in business, and capable of taking a part in great affairs; for it has been the custom of their race to consider the wife the helpmate—the sharer in every transaction that establishes the position or enhances the comfort of the family. Leisure, activity of mind, and the desire to hand on the torch of instruction from the women of one generation to those of another, inspire Jewesses with a zeal for education, a love of refinement, and a sympathy with art. Homes of the best type are of course to be taken as the standard when it is inquired what are the characteristics of a race as seen at its best; and European family life has few things equal to show to the family life of the highest type of Jews. Their isolation, again, makes most of the men liberal and free from the prejudices of class, just as their connexion with their dispersed brethren relieves them from the pressure of insular narrowness. But, as Mr. Bright remarks, religious bigotry is slow to die away altogether; and even in educated English society there are few Christians who do not think themselves entitled to approach a Jew with a sense of secret superiority. If a Jew is ostentatious or obtrudes his wealth, if his
women are loaded with jewellery, if he talks the slang of the sporting world in order to show what a fine creature he is, society is as right to put him down as to put down any Christian like him. But the philanthropists who invited Mr. Bright to attend their meeting may be profitably invited to search their own hearts, and ask themselves whether they are quite free from that feeling that the best Jew is never the equal of the worst Christian, which is at the root of the Rumanian riots,1 and which certainly is entirely out of keeping with the tenets and teaching of the School of Galilee.”
1 This is a very small fibre of a very pretty root.