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Urges Relief of Hardships Inflicted on Sabbath Observers by Sunday Closing Laws

The Jewish Sabbath Alliance of America has sent a communication to all members of the New York State Legislature, signed by its president, Dr. Bernard Drachman, urging the enactment into law of a measure to relieve “the great harm and injury inflicted on a most worthy element of the citizenry of this State,” who observe the seventh day as the Sabbath, by the present Sunday laws of the state.

The Jewish Sabbath Alliance has received a pledge of support in its work in this direction from the Rt. Rev. Francis J. McConnell, Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

The communication addressed to the Legislature declares:

“The undersigned is addressing you in this communication in order to put before you the description of a state of affairs by which great harm and injury are inflicted upon a most worthy element of the citizenry of this State. A condition which calls for relief. We desire to obtain your views in the matter and your suggestion as to how this urgently needed relief can be obtained.

“We refer to the effect of the Sunday Laws upon the seventh-day Sabbath-keeping population of the State, especially upon the small Jewish shopkeeper who desires to keep his place of business closed from Friday evening to Saturday night, in accordance with the precept of his religion, and is compelled by the Penal Code of the State to keep his establishment closed also on Sunday.

“Persons not familiar with the inner conditions of the Jewish community can hardly realize the tremendous hardship which is inflicted upon the conscientious Sabbath-keeping Jewish storekeepers and the gravity of the struggle of conscience to which he is submitted. It is literally a contest between his faith and his sentiment of his religious and moral duty and the possibility of earning his livelihood—of obtaining the bread with which to support his family. This matter has always been a sore spot in the religious and social life of the Jewish people of this State. Even in the best and most prosperous of times it has always been a task of intense difficulty to conduct a business on a paying basis if obliged to abstain from carrying on the same two days in the week while one’s competitors were only obliged to remain closed one day. In the present period of depression it has become a virtual impossibility.

“The Penal Code of the State grants some relief to the Seventh-day Sabbath-keeping laborers, by making it a valid defense to prosecution under the Sunday Law for work and labor performed on Sunday. But even this slight measure of relief is denied to the humble Sabbath-keeping storekeeper. In the present time, their cry for relief has become most intense for their position is becoming unendurable.

“It seems to the undersigned that it cannot be the intention of an American Legislature to inflict such spiritual suffering; such actual religious persecution upon a worthy and sincerely religious element of the population. We believe that the Sunday Law should be amended to exempt seventh-day Sabbath observers from its provisions. We therefore desire to obtain the views of the members of the Legislature on this subject.

“We trust most sincerely that your genuine Americanism and sentiment of true liberality will make it a self-understood matter to bring about this muchneded relief which is nothing more or less than granting that religious liberty to a class of American citizens which is the constitutional right and prerogative of all. We appeal to you most sincerely, in the name of simple justice and of genuine American liberty, to give this matter your earnest consideration.”

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