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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/319

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THE JEWS IN EUROPE.

with the charge of avarice and usurious money-lending, it is always simply their religious belief that made the ground for charges against them: they are continually accused of crime; and the fact that they did not recognize the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation was sufficient proof of their guilt. That they actually railed at Christ and his mother before the ears of Christians was certainly very rare, since they knew that a word of that sort sufficed to devote them, and often also their families, to death. It could not occur to an Israelite to wish to convert a Christian to his own faith. It is written in the Talmud, "Proselytes are as dangerous for Judaism as ulcers on a sound body." If one not a Jew had really a mind to become a convert to Judaism, he must be told, "Do you not know that the Jews live in sufferings and woes, that they are insulted and cast out, tormented and put to the rack?" At the same time, he was reminded of the oppressiveness of the statutes, and of the privations and sacrifices to which he would have to submit.

"The Christian brought the Jews to this pass," Shakespeare makes his "Merchant of Venice" say, and history for thirteen hundred years says the same. When the Jews in Spain were threatened with destruction and banishment, a rabbi is reported to have said to the Christian: "We are at once a people blessed and laden with a curse. Now you wish to destroy us, but you will not succeed, because we are blessed. The time will come when you will exert yourselves to raise us up, but in this you will not be successful, for we are cursed." If this was actually uttered, it is not clear whether the reference was to the Spanish Jews, the Sephardim, or the curse was conjectured to rest on the whole people. A retrospect of nine centuries of ignominious treatment and misery might easily have awakened such a thought. But since the Reformation the lot of the Jews has been steadily growing more favorable, and to-day no rabbi can any longer have the sense of a curse resting upon his race. The number of Jews now living on the surface of the globe has been estimated to be very nearly twelve million; should the number be less, it is none the less certain that they are more powerful than they ever were in past time, not excepting the period of their political independence. The official (Christian) interpretation of the word of the prophets, current in the middle ages, is thereby proved delusive; according to it, the Jewish people were to be reduced by continuous mistreatment and persecution to a very small handful of survivors. But in spite of all the heavy blows dealt upon this anvil, and of the numerous proselytes to Christianity and Mohammedanism, they have not lost but rather steadily increased in numbers. For a hundred years Israel has struggled for political emancipation, and at last has won it in all European states; only Russia, Spain, and Portugal have not as yet granted it. It has also not been granted them in the Mohammedan world. But in Europe the larger half of the Jews find themselves" in possession of all social and political rights.