Vol. II, No. 8 Heshvan 5605, November 1844
Courtesy: Jewish-American History Documentation Foundation, Inc.
The most grievous injury has been inflicted on the Jewish nation by those unkind and unjust restrictions, which, in many of the countries where they have sojourned in their captivity, have prevented their following useful trades and manual employments. The effect of these unnatural laws has been great and extensive; and, in consequence of them, too many of our Jewish brethren have been for successive generations, altogether deprived of the opportunity for pursuing those callings which furnish the means of subsistence to the great bulk of every nation. The mere barter of articles manufactured by strangers cannot afford occupation for an entire nation, without tending very much to lower the tone of their character for independence, for steady perseverance, and for diligent industry. We cannot, indeed, but be struck with astonishment when we look at the disadvantages to which the Jews have been subjected, to find, that notwithstanding these painful and unjust prohibitions, they have still laboured as successfully as they have done, in the limited sphere to which their exertions were confined.
Their toil has been most severe, and their discouragements very great, when they felt themselves limited and restrained in so many of their endeavours to obtain the necessary support for themselves and their families. It must be most irksome, not to be allowed in so many instances to choose that kind of occupation which they felt to be most congenial to their wishes, and suited to their capacities.
But, not only were the Jews thus subjected to many inconveniences which seriously affected their temporal interests, they were in this way too often effectually excluded from social intercourse with their Christian neighbours, they were condemned to lead an isolated life, compelled to dwell alone, though mixed with the nations among whom they sojourned.
The consequences of these barriers to social comfort and national advancement have been most painfully felt in very many cases, when Jewish believers in the truths of the Gospel hove joined the community of the Church of Christ.
Having been compelled to be strangers to our habits and manner of life as it regards the things of this world, they suffer many disadvantages arising from their defective education, which seriously affect them, as concerning the things that make for their everlasting welfare.
It is, therefore, with great satisfaction that we point to a large Jewish community where the disadvantages of which we have complained do not exist. The Jewish character for honest industry and diligent labour in all the various callings which others successfully cultivate, have here had a scope which has too often been denied them; and it is impossible to read the following statistical account of the Jewish population of Berdichev, taken from the “Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums,” of April 29th, 1844, without saying, “O si sic omnes,” and blushing to think that the reason why it. has not been so elsewhere, is to be sought, not among the Jews themselves, but among the nominal Christians, who, by excluding them from many of the pursuits to which the Jews at Berditschew have addicted themselves, have done so much harm to those whom they ought to have instructed in every good way, by words of truth and deeds of charity:—
“In Berditschew, a town containing above 30,000 Jewish inhabitants, there are nine merchants of the first, twelve of the second, and about 500 of the third rank. There are 274 cornhandlers, 205 butchers, and a great many fish, fruit, and vegetable salesmen. There are builders, dyers, three engravers, forty goldsmiths, six painters, seventeen watchmakers, thirty musicians. Others find a subsistence from literary employment, and great numbers by the instruction of youth, partly in Hebrew, partly in European languages; many are bookkeepers and clerks. Of handicraftsmen, there are (exclusive of journeymen) above 4,000; 374 workers in various kinds of metal, above twenty licensed barbers, seventy ropemakers and pipetube-borers, ninety-two leather cutters and upholsterers, 598 tailors, 174 capmakerers, 159 furriers, 353 shoemakers, 204 joiners and turners, ninety bakers, sixteen milliners, thirteen wadding manufacturers, fiftysix tobacco and snuff manufacturers, 112 innkeepers, and 200 vintners and moneychangers. Numbers of manufacturers of needles, buttons, pencils, lucifers, white lead, lace, tape; besides bookbinders, coopers, soapboilers, tilemakers; many day-labourers, coachmen, bricklayers, water carriers, and labourers of every kind.”—Jewish Intelligence.