The will of Robert Hirsch, bequeathing half a million dollars to the Ethical Culture School gives rise to serious reflections on the attitude of a certain class of American Jews towards the Jewish religion and the problem of Jewish education.
“The money, as well as the man”, writes the “Jewish Morning Journal” editorially, “belonged to us. A silk merchant, Hirsch, representing the firm of Openhym & Sons is no doubt, of Jewish origin. His interest in Ethical Culture, which is being advocated in New York by the son of a German reform Rabbi, indicates that he has chosen the convenient way through which many Jews of the higher strata leave our camp. It is inconvenient for them to become Christians immediately; they don’t want to do so on account of their parents, or, perhaps, there is still some Jewish feeling alive in their hearts which does not permit them to join the Church. It was for this kind of man that Dr. Felix Adler provided a sort of ‘no man’s land’ where one is neither a Jew nor-not yet-a Christian.
“Our deers (Hirschen) feel so at home in this ‘no man’s land’ that they leave for non-religious Adler schools larger sums than anyone of the orthodox or reform Jews has ever dreamed of leaving for Jewish religious education.
“The Hirsch bequest may serve as an example of generosity and sacrifice to those who are devoted to the idea of Jewish education. The old Talmudical question must be asked: ‘Isn’t our Torah as good?’ “
The Jewish Daily News commenting on this subject says: “Of course everyone has a right to donate his money to those funds which appeal to him most and certainly everyone reserves the privilege to pass judgment himself as to what is worthy of support and what is not. But it is precisely here that we find the tragedy of the Jewish assimilators in America who do not know how to distinguish between what is worthy and what is not. It is a regrettable fact that there are Jews who substitute Ethical Culture for Judaism.
“Ethical Culture is supposedly based on the principles of Judaism. Its founder, who was formerly a rabbi, believes that he has extracted the moral factor from Judaism and that in that way he achieved a wonderful thing, preserving the essence of Jewish morality for those who do not believe in religion. The followers of Ethical Culture share the belief of its founder that they are working toward the education of mankind in the direction of giving it everything that it needs of ethics and culture without binding it to a religious faith.”
CATHOLICS AND JEWS LEAD IN CHARITIES; IS THERE ANY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN CHARITY?
“Catholics and Jews lead in New York charity”, was the statement of George J. Gillepsie, President of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. “There is, however, a difference”, writes the New York Jewish Daily News, “according to Mr. Gillepsie, between Jewish and Catholic charity. Jewish charity deals only with the body, while Catholic charity interests itself also with the soul. The Jews in their charitable endeavors care only for
“We accept this statement as correct and we are proud of it. If there is a difference between the charity of a Jew and a Catholic, we are glad that the difference consists in what has been described in the statement of Mr. Gillepsie-no greater compliment to Jewish charity could be given. We care not for the soul of a poor man or a sick man who needs our help. We are not anxious to correct his mental faults but to ease his hunger, to clothe him, to warm him, to buy milk for his baby. We believe the poor man, as well as the rich man, can provide for his soul himself. He does not need our advice, nor our wisdom-he needs only one thing which we have and he hasn’t: money; only this comes within the limit of charity.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.