Page images


It is presumed that all well-informed classes of society in this country are, in some degree, acquainted with the late cruel persecution of the Jews at Damascus. That persecution involved a prejudice from which the Jewish people have, at various times during the last six hundred years, suffered much affliction, in all parts of Europe where the progress of civilization and knowledge had been but slow; though it has not existed in any other region, except where Christians had settled whose enlightenment had not kept pace, as in the recent case of the Christians at Damascus, with that which now happily pervades this division of the world throughout. Thanks be to the Almighty! there is no reason to fear that the frightful prejudice will ever again be entertained in this country, which occupies so prominent a station in all that pertains to wisdom, justice, and humanity; here, at all events, the Israelites are safe; it cannot, therefore, be otherwise than a


* The writer's assertions on this head are fully sustained by the magnanimous meeting of so many influential and learned British Christians at the Egyptian Hall, on Friday, July 3, 1840, for the purpose of expressing their sympathy with the Israelites, and their earnest wishes for the success of Sir Moses Montefiore, pre

source of delight to all truly enlightened subjects of the British monarchy, to be made fully aware that the kind and fraternal sentiments expressed by them concerning the Israelites on the melancholy occasion referred to, are justified not only by reason, but by the records of the most veracious historians, and the special testimony of some of the brightest ornaments of the world's literature: and it is to serve the double purpose of affording some pleasure to all those who have taken an interest in this cause, and to gratify the innocent pride of his own nation and himself,—such pride as a wrongfully aspersed people cannot help but feel when, after a long period of affliction, a righteous and powerful judge proclaims to the world that they are free from evil, and they are enabled to lay before the world a load of evidence in their favour, in addition to that on which his judgment has been founded-that the writer hereof submits the annexed work to the British public.

It is a translation of an elaborate work written in the form of a series of colloquial discourses between two learned men of different religious creeds, one being represented as a Patriarch of the Greek Church at Jerusalem, and the other a Chief Rabbi of the Jews at the same place; from which discourses inferences are finally drawn which furnish a complete refutation of

viously to his starting on his mission to the East. This meeting may be considered the most glorious evidence of intelligence and religious toleration that is to be met with in the annals of mankind.

the appalling charge against the Israelites of privily taking the lives of Christians, in order to obtain blood to use in certain of their religious ceremonies: the author of the work is J. B. Levinsohn,* a Jewish subject of his august Majesty the Emperor of Russia, of whose impartial rule, and benign protection of those who submit to his dominion, whatever their faith may be, this is one of the most conspicuous results. I ought not to omit to state, in this place, that the Israelites at large owe a heavy debt of gratitude to his Imperial Majesty, for the kindness of his behaviour to their brethren residing in his territory; and, indeed, all who cherish principles of toleration and justice, must acknowledge that his actions in regard to them must tend to benefit all mankind. I herein allude to the schools which, under his Majesty's auspices, are to be erected in various parts of his dominions, for the instruction of such Israelites as may be too poor to obtain a proper education from their own resources, and in which, all who may choose to enter them are to be placed on a footing equally as advantageous as that of any other class of people within his Majesty's realms: by this measure, the Emperor will teach his subjects in general, one of the most salutary and effective lessons that ever emanated from any ruler whose name is to

* J. B. Levinsohn is now living at Krzemnitz; this work was written by him in the year of the Creation 5594, on the occasion of a persecution being raised at Soslow in Poland.

be found in the annals of the world. Whatever opinions may be held by different classes of society throughout Europe, regarding the Emperor's political conduct in connexion with the most notorious events of his reign, I have nothing whatever to do; no monarch or statesman has ever yet been so fortunate as to secure for himself the commendations of all men; but there are few persons, I presume, that will attempt to deny, that in the management of the domestic affairs of his realms he has been characterised by the strictest impartiality, and that no one kind of people, of the great variety of all religions that acknowledge his power, are placed in a state of humiliation for the gratification of another. Had there been a different state of things in existence in the Russian empire, it is probable that the genius and learning of Levinsohn would never have been stimulated to produce this work, which, to all his nation, is indeed an inestimable boon.

I am aware that in making such special allusions to Russia, I have been digressing from the main and legitimate object of a preface. But, in consequence of what lately came to pass in the East, I consider that it is essential for the cause of the whole of the Jewish nation, that some comments should be made on the actions of those whose influence, either favourable or adverse, is of a nature to affect them; and I conceive that nothing of that kind can be said anywhere so appropriately as in juxtaposition with this work, and the

preface is the only place that I can make use of for such a purpose.

The author of this translation is personally acquainted with most of the sufferers who still survive at Damascus, and was so with those whom their cruel judges tortured into the grave; and their great worth, and respectable station in that city, were often spoken of and testified by him, in his "Letters from the East," published in the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums, at a time when none of them had the slightest idea of being involved in so dire a calamity: the reader will, therefore, readily conceive how excessively their misfortunes must have excited the writer's feelings, and will be induced to make such allowances for the warmth and discursiveness of his style and sentiments as, under other circumstances, he would not be justified in soliciting. In order to render the translator's motives for undertaking this task still more explicit, and the better to give him an opportunity of making some comments on certain subjects which are set forth in the work, so that the reader may more easily comprehend them, it is necessary to refer to some of the most conspicuous features in the late persecution.

When it became known that the priest Thomaso had mysteriously disappeared, seven individuals were charged with having decoyed him into their power, and with having murdered him amongst them; it was positively asserted that these seven had been seen all together in the afternoon of the day of his disappearance in the

« PreviousContinue »