World’s Intervention for Jews of Germany Urged by Dr. Mendes
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World’s Intervention for Jews of Germany Urged by Dr. Mendes

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American intervention in Cuba to protect her moneyed investments makes it logical to intercede in behalf of suffering Germans “for the sake of humanity, for the sake of religion, for the sake of all that is good and holy”.

The Rev. Dr. Henry Pereira Mendes, rabbi emeritus of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue Shearith Israel, in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, sounded a significant message to the American government in which he demanded that the Jews. Catholics and liberals who are being persecuted by the Hitlerite regime receive immediate succor.

Dr. Mendes celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of his ministry on Shabat Ha-azinu which fell this year on Saturday, September 23. He officiated at Shearith Israel as rabbi for fifty years and since 1927 has been engaged in active communal work and research. In the interview, he surveyed briefly his views as to modern Judaism, reflecting that “in all my time, and in all my memory, never have we Jews been subjected to such intense suffering as we are today.”


More than eighty years of age, Dr. Mendes preserves an appearance of youthful dignity. He is a slight man, wears the black ministerial garb of the clergy and a beard. His hair has not turned grey, though his beard is white.

“We Jews have got to defend ourselves and would be glad to cooperate with vilified Germans who object against Hitler,” he said, “or with the French who object against his policies. This not only on the ground of humanitarian interests, not only on the grounds of evils of religious prejudices, but in the name of the principles for which the American government stands.”

Speaking “as an American” and as a direct descendant from a line of English forbears who have made history, Dr. Mendes outlined the ideals of liberty which make intercession in German affairs “vital, imperative and indispensable.” It is an American ideal, he declared, to stand for religious liberty. This policy was enunciated by Washington, Hamilton, Monroe, Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. “We stand for religious liberty and the Nazis are different in that they stand for religious persecution.”


“The Hitlerites declare that any one not an Aryan or Nordic is inferior to any German,” he said, “even a German of the lowest class, and Hitler flatly declares that no one with Jewish blood in his veins may practise healing or pleading or teaching.

“But Jesus and Mary both had Jewish blood and in the light of Hitlerism or German law they are declared inferior even to the lowest shoeblack, and Jesus would not be allowed to heal the sick or plead for the widow. In a word, Hitlerism reflects on two names more than dear to the Catholics and Protestant citizens of the United States, and the spiritual interests of those millions of Catholics and Protestants ought to be championed by the United States, which ought to stand for its spiritual as well as its material ideals.”

Dr. Mendes added the suggestion that “it would not be amiss at the same time for America to put in a word for Hebrews exposed’ to religious prejudice in other countries.”


Rabbi Mendes pleaded for spiritual awakening on the part of Jews the world over. This will, he insisted, provide a barrier between danger and the Jew. He said that he is “old-fashioned enough to believe” that the ancient prophets were right in claiming divine favor for the Hebrew race. The signal for the Jewish revival he finds in the wave of “almost universal antipathy against the Jews.”

Corollaries to the Jewish revival are a rebirth of Sabbath observance, and in addition home consecration and “life consecration.” He argued that large attendance at synagogues, and doors “perpetually open”, and the support of young people, will do more to mitigate anti-Jewish propaganda than all the “rifles, machineguns and ammunition in the world.”

Dr. Mendes was educated at Northwick College, and later at University College, London. He received a medical degree from New York University in 1884, and in 1904 was given the honorary degree of D.D. by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He served before coming to Shearith Israel as first chazan and minister at Manchester. England, between 1875 and 1877.


Speaking of his education and youth, the rabbi reminisced about a day in 1873 when the first call to preach came to him from the leader of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in London.

“The circumstances were that the Haham of the London Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue asked me in 1873 to accept one of two vacancies he had to fill right then, one was in Manchester, England, and the other was in St. Thomas, West Indies. I preferred the former. He asked me to conduct services in Bevis Marks Synagogue, in order that he might hear me preach. I did so on Shabas Ha-azinu, which sabbath has ever since always meant much to me.

“True, I did not undertake the Manchester duties until we consecrated the new synagogue during the succeeding May, owing to some unforseen troubles. But that Shabas Ha-azinu has always been to me a consecrated day and has always marked for me my entry into solemn ministry duties. The Haham, Rev. Dr. Artom, the Rev. David Piza, of London, and I consecrated the Manchester Synagogue on May 6, 1874.”

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