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The Jewish outlook. (Denver, Colo.) 1903-1913, August 10, 1906, Image 2

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn91052361/1906-08-10/ed-1/seq-2/

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a people that dwelleth alone and is not
reckoned among the nations.'' Israel is
a unique people. The rabbi, I hold, is
the characteristic representative and
real leader of Israel, whose distinctive
genius always has been and still is re
ligious.
* * * The various attempts recently
made to discover a possible organization
to express the unity of Israel and the
failure of the last one, are a lamentable
proof how little clearness exists as to
what Judaism is and as to what Israel
is. We are still wrangling whether we
are to emphasize and thrust into the
foreground our supposed racial integ
rity, our falsely assumed national aspi
rations, or our exclusive religious func
tion. And because of these contentions
of race Jews, nationalists and religion
ists, Israel Ims for the present to dis
pense with some form of official union.
The real union exists and is a workable
asset of inexhaustible wealth. It is in
the Jewish heart. I would not be under
stood as deploring the recent failure to
find a scheme of organization. 1 was
not impressed with the urgent need for
it. The sentiment of the Jewish heart,
never asleep, always awake to do deeds
of love when a real need exists, leaped
into activity last November, and found
a working method in a few days. We
were one when the cry of our brethren
came across the sea; and for other pur
poses it is not necessary to force arti
ficial unity. Unity must result as a nat
ural growth from a soil fertilized by
mutual respect for differing religious
convictions, and fostered by the light of
clear thought. Union will not come
from deliberations in the conclave of the
few, but from the thorough discussion
in the congregational forum of the
many. Before such a union is made pos
sible, education is necessary to procure
unanimity upon the thought that what
ever partisan divisions may exist in Is
rael, its unifying power is the conviction
that it is a religious community only,
witnessing to the Eternal and to the
righteous as the service lie demands.
Without religion let this be interpreted
as one will, Israel is nothing. It is a sad
commentary upon the deadening influ
ence of an excessive ceremonialism on
the one hand, and on the other hand
upon the spiritual denudation of a so
called reform which for many meant
merely self-indulgence, that there is such
a widespread unwillingness to acknowl
edge the exclusively religious function
of Israel as an historic power, and such a
stubbornly persistent emphasis of Jew
ish racialism.
Now there is nothing more firmly es
tablished than the religious character of
Israel. It was from the start an idea,
that which in the fulness of time became
a fact, a congregation of Israel, a
church. We must not let ourselves be
THE JEWISH OUTLOOK
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deceived in this matter by appearances,
nor become the victims of etymologies.
Israel in Scripture is called a nation, a
people. lint it is a unique and peculiar
people. And its peculiarity consists in
this, that its national genius expressed
itself fully, charecteristieally, and with
creative power only in religion; and its
ultimate goal and triumph were con
ceived as the time when national distinc
tions shall have been transcended by the
unity of faith and life, into which it
shall have suceeded in binding the world.
All through Biblical history the re
frain is not the glorification of the Jew
but “Not unto us, but unto Thy name,
be the glory given.” And the national
consciousness which was being religiously
trained for centuries, discovers itself at
last with all its overwhelming majesty
of heroic martyrdom and spiritual world
dominion in the Prophet’s conception of
Israel, Servant of God, a covenant peo
ple, from which people the non-Israelite
when he joins it will not be distinguished
because “My house shall become a house
of prayer for all nations.” And so, in
deed, when the training received its cli
max in the Babylon captivity, though
all the glorious visions of an Isaiah were
not immediately fulfilled, are not yet
realized, his influence is profoundly felt
and Israel returns to Palestine, not an
independent nation, but a covenanted
synagogue, a Kenesetli Israel, a Church
Israel, a name even afterwards used by
its choicest spirits with tender predilec
tion. And as it needed the catastrophe
of the. Babylonian exile to complete the
training, so it needed the catastrophe of
Roman conquest to render his training
completely effective, and therefore to %
adopt a rabbinic phrase, when the relic
of classic Hebraism, the Temple, was laid
in ashes, Messianic Judaism was born.
Israel survives the ruin of its sanctuary,
because it lives by its deathless idea. Its
life, never centering in the things which
are indispensable for every other nation,
land, government, independence, even a
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