Attributes of the Jewish People

Qualities That Have Operated to Hold in Racial Union an Ancient People

A gifted writer, the Rev. Dr. S.D. McConnell, in a recent article has undertaken to outline the causes contributing to the antipathy of Gentiles toward Jews, and while the causes as therein stated are undoubtedly very potent factors, yet they appear insignificant compared to the great basic principles underlying the whole question and that are coeval with the formation of the race.

Let us examine some of these principles, and trace their progress and development during centuries to find the origin of that hostility and aversion, that, in many quarters of the globe, is as intense and virulent today as it was in its early manifestation. The Jew in common with his Oriental neighbors, was compelled by the circumstances of his environment to associate in families or groups of families, called tribes, the better to tend his herds and flocks, and to protect both himself and them from those predatory hordes that infested the vast territory over which he roamed. Monotheism was the system of worship and belief, and upon it a superstructure of theocratic government was founded whose organization, with the growth and material development of the race, assumed a despotic proportion, and around which all the affairs of life were made to revolve.

Hence almost from the commencement of the organic life of this people, the Jew assumed and may fairly be entitled to claim, a superiority over the polytheistic people among whom he dwelt or with whom he came in contact during his migrations; we may be sure this was not ostentatiously displayed, for among these he seems to have been regarded as a desirable ally and friend, and to command respect and confidence; nor was it until he waxed strong and influential that the increasing assumption of religious superiority attracted unfavorable notice. This assumption was fostered by his teachers of the priesthood, reinforced by the mandate of his rulers, themselves often high priests as well as kings. Thus early he assumed and announced himself as a chosen people, the elect of his God, and his literature teemed with statements to that effect, prophecies were made and promises given on the stipulation of his steadfastness to the laws of his organization, and more particularly to the maintenance of that "aloofness" always and everywhere insisted upon as the cardinal principle of his religious creed.

Like all pastoral people, he was contemplative, imaginative, and to a remarkable degree prone to introspection; the stars, and his flocks and herds were often for extended periods his only companions, and his meditations were, as a consequence, tinged with that beautiful mysticism so constantly present in his writings. Assuming that he was under the special protection of his God__Jehovah__that He exercised over him and for him a direct and parental authority, that He rewarded his constancy and punished his transgressions, he soon became in fact as well as in name a peculiar people. And so, through good fortune and ill, amid prosperity and adversity, in freedom and in captivity, this one enduring, ever present living idea remained to him an immutable truth; his selection and election by the God he worshiped as His especial care and charge! he called upon Him in his adversity in language beautiful and poetic, he invoked His vengeance upon his enemies, he offered praises, trophies and sacrifices to Him in time of victory, and all that he did was by and through and for his God.

His leaders, always skillful in appealing to human nature, uttered prophesies, and gave promise for his future happiness, always distinctly religious; and to this fundamental principle the Jew has, as a whole, been true, remaining steadfast amid all the vicissitudes that subsequently overwhelmed him.

When the new religion came, and with it the overturning of old and cherished customs, he was at first amused and later scandalized, for the doctrine was directed straight toward him, and he saw much that had grown venerable by long practice held up to obloquy. The new religion throve and numbered many converts, and after the death of its Founder it took on added impulse from persecution, and Christianity became an established religion, destined to a marvelous growth, until it in turn should be rent in sunder by the forces inherent in the human mind. But while this was in progress the Jew had a hard time of it. He was by no means singular in manifesting a strong clannish disposition, all of the Orientals possessed it to a large degree, as well as the Celts, the Franks and the Latins generally; but the Jew differed from others in its manifestation in this, that with him the segregation was a necessary corollary of his religious tenets, the corner stone of all his theocratic superstructure, and hence, too, the Jew was no proselyter; it did not matter to him what others did or thought his concern was for himself. Many of his race were coerced into joining in other modes of worship, both before and after Christianity, but he still turned his face to the ark of his covenant, much as his Gentile prototype turns to his; but the Jew rarely turned his back upon his religion, for to repudiate that would have been equivalent to denying almost the reason for his existence.

As Christianity spread, and was either adopted as an auxiliary or embraced exclusively, the antagonism to the Jew increased, until finally, in the zenithy of its power, it assumed the proportions of a cardinal principle of the faith, was a Jew rich? his possessions were fair spoil, and went to swell the measure of their rapacity; was he learned, his knowledge was utilized to the same end, or, as most frequently happened, was made the occasion of his sacrifice to superstitious fear and ignorance, and as the organization of the Christian sect became more and more perfect, and its ramifications more and more extended, the measure of his cup of bitterness grew until all sense of proportion was lost if it was intended as a punishment for an alleged crime against humanity, or rather that portion of humanity represented by the gospel of love.

In this extremity he was thrown back again upon himself, and the very efforts put forth so strenuously to destroy him only served to stimulate him to greater efforts to survive and made the racial unity more complete. To those who with an unbiased mind contemplate his history, often pathetic in the extreme, and apprehend the magnificent devotion to a religious principle he has steadily maintained, emotions of intense admiration are aroused at the spectacle of those enduring qualities of loyalty he has so unwaveringly manifested, and should operate to overcome those prejudices born of ignorance, nurtured in bigotry, and perpetuated in malice, that have been so persistently maintained.

With the advent of the Anglo-Saxon, whose power was to dominate the world, and the revolution that forever shattered the rule of the Christian hierarchy, the liberation of a long pent-up intelligence and the consequent growth of knowledge, together with the formation of innumerable sects on the ruins of the primitive Christian faith, the prospects of the Jew Took on a more cheerful aspect, and while the prejudice and antagonism was to continue, the intensity of its virulence was modified, and from a reluctant sufferance developed slowly but surely, toleration, and an increasing measure of liberality.

From this time on, the Jew was permitted to extend his field of usefulness among his fellow human beings, hitherto restrained by rigid and tyrannical enactment, to the narrow sphere of merchandizing and money matters which his traducers affected to despise, but never neglected to avail themselves in full measure; and thus he early became expert in both, not from selection, but from dire necessity, and these qualities abide with him still, and are still esteemed a reproach!

That the Jew will ever assimilate, and lose his identity in the races among whom he has been scattered seems improbable from our knowledge of his past, and his regeneration as a nation, with his return to the "Land of promise" equally chimerical. Rather it is to be assumed that he has come to regard the situation as it confronts him in that philosophical spirit in which he has been so well schooled and in which he practices so admirably.

Here in these United States, his condition socially, politically and financially, has attained its highest development, and how nobly he has responded to the influences of freedom in its most exalted conception thousands of his race are demonstrating, and thousands among whom he dwells in peace and amity attest.

Whether he will ever make overtures for a closer relation with those who have for so long a period esteemed him so meanly, whether the influences that have so operated upon his hereditary antagonists to the remarkable improvement in his own lot, will react to any extent upon his inborn religious convictions to that end, is a problem for the future.

J.E.RUSSELL, M.D. Brooklyn, May 11, 1901.


Website: The History
Article Name: Attributes of the Jewish People
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle May 15, 1901
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