ALLIANCE ISRAÉLITE UNIVERSELLE:
By: Jacques Bigart
- First Struggles.
- Central Committee.
- General Activity.
- Berlin Congress, 1878.
- Servia and Bulgaria.
- In Mohammedan Countries.
- Ritual Murder.
- Educational Activity; Schools.
- Rabbinical Seminary.
- Normal School.
- Farm-School in Jaffa.
- Agricultural Colonies in Palestine.
- Farm-School in Tunis.
- Encouragement of Jewish Literature.
A society founded in 1860 for the protection and improvement of the Jews in general, but mainly devoted to the interests of those in the east of Europe North Africa, and Asia Minor. It was established by six Jews of Paris (France): Aristide Astruc, afterward chief rabbi of Belgium; Isidore Cahen, editor of the "Archives Israélites"; Jules Carvallo, civil engineer; Narcisse Leven, lawyer; Professor Eugène Manuel, and Charles Netter, merchant (died 1882)—all men of good standing, but at-that time not particularly prominent in the Paris community. Repeated attacks upon the Jews by fanatical sects of various denominations had long made it apparent that something should be done on an organized scale. The assassination of Father Thomas at Damascus, in 1840, had given rise to an accusation of ritual murder against the Jews of that city. Sir Moses Montefiore, together with Adolphe Crémieux, a lawyer, and Solomon Munk, the eminent Orientalist, proceeded at once to Egypt to intercede with Mehemet Ali and to defend the accused. This event brought forcibly to light the necessity for a central organization that should undertake the defense of the oppressed Jews scattered throughout the world; and the Jewish journals of Germany and France made earnest appeals for the creation of such an institution. Owing, however, to lack of agreement or perseverance, their utterances remained without any practical issue for twenty years.
A crime perpetrated in the Papal States in 1858, with the connivance of the papal government, aroused world-wide indignation. A child, Edgar Mortara, was torn from his Jewish parents and forcibly baptized. This outrage against religious liberty contributed much to strengthen the general sentiment for organized protection; and, as a result, two years later the Alliance Israélite Universelle came into existence, under the auspices of the above-named public-spirited Jews of Paris.
In an "Appeal" addressed to the public in December, 1860, the task which the new society was about to assume is stated as follows:
"To defend the honor of the Jewish name whenever it is attacked; to encourage, by all means at our disposal, the pursuit of useful handicrafts; to combat, where necessary, the ignorance and vice engendered by oppression; to work, by the power of persuasion and by all the moral influences at our command, for the emancipation of our brethren who still suffer under the burdenof exceptional legislation; to hasten and solidify complete enfranchisement by the intellectual and moral regeneration of our brethren:—such, in its chief aspects, is the work to which the Alliance Israélite Universelle hereby consecrates itself."
This program is definitely formulated in Article I. of the statutes:—
"The society of the Alliance Israélite Universelle has for its aims:
- "(a) To work everywhere for the emancipation and moral progress of the Jews.
- "(b) To give effectual support to those who are suffering persecution because they are Jews.
- "(c) To encourage all publications calculated to promote these ends."
To this program the Alliance has steadfastly and faithfully adhered. It must be admitted that the founders had a very practical conception of their undertaking. Disregarding any project which might cause dissension, they limited their field of activity to such questions only as to which there could be no divergence of opinion among the Jews. It was in this spirit that they declared at the outset that all political questions should be excluded, and that the Alliance would take no account of either the political convictions of its members or of their religious opinions. It recognized neither Orthodox nor Liberal, neither Conservative nor Reformer as such: it desired to stand upon the one platform of the defense and the regeneration of the Jews, exclusive of all political or theological distinctions.First Struggles.
From the beginning the Alliance numbered many Protestants among its friends, clergymen as well as laymen. Dr. Pétavel of Neuchâtel and his sons, who at once sent their congratulations and good wishes to the infant society, deserve particular mention. Among other Christian subscribers, Alexandre Dumas, the younger, and Jules Simon, must be mentioned: they remained faithful adherents until their death.
The Alliance encountered obstinate opposition among the timorous, among those who hated action, and among those who thought that evil could be cured by ignoring it. There were distinguished men in Jewry, too, who combated the project—writers and rabbis who sought to hinder the foundation of the society. The Jewish journals of 1860 and 1861 are full of vigorous polemics on the subject; but time, reflection, and experience have quieted the opposition. At the present day there is very little diversity of opinion in the Jewish world as to the positive service rendered by the Alliance, particularly in the domains of education and philanthropy.
Until 1880 the society had to struggle with internal dissensions, especially after the Franco-German war of 1870-71. Again and again, both at general meetings and at other gatherings convened by the Central Committee, it was proposed to split up the "Universal Alliance" into a number of "National Alliances." At Berlin in 1872 and again in 1879 this idea was supported by men of great influence among the Jews of Germany. Fortunately they failed in their endeavors: a division would have greatly weakened the Alliance; and the scattered fragments would have been unable to accomplish anything durable or important. What happened in England and in Austria should be convincing in this regard. In 1871 the English Jews created in London an institution entitled "The Anglo-Jewish Association" in connection with the Alliance Israélite Universelle. This association has for the most part the same objects as the Alliance. It has almost daily correspondence with the Central Committee of the Paris institution, and contributes to the Alliance funds for the support of certain schools; but its sphere of activity can not well extend beyond the British empire, and it would be difficult for it to undertake work throughout the world or to approach the diplomatic authorities of any country but England. The Alliance Israélite, on the other hand, because of its universal character, is active everywhere and in all directions; appeals to sovereigns and governments indiscriminately; and founds schools where the teaching is carried on in German, English, French, Turkish, Arabic, or Russian. Another society, "Die Israelitische Allianz zu Wien" (The Israelitish Alliance at Vienna), was formed upon the same model in 1873; but its sphere of action is limited to Austria, and its principal purpose is to work for the elevation of the Israelites of that country.Central Committee.
At present the Central Committee is composed of 23 members living in Paris and 39 outside of France. Of the latter 17 are in Germany, 1 in Austria, 2 in Hungary, 3 in Holland, 1 in London, 1 in Switzerland, 1 in Belgium, 6 in the United States, 4 in Italy, 1 in Denmark, 1 in Curaçao, and 1 in Turkey. French communities outside of Paris are not represented in the Committee, nor are those of Algeria or Tunis. According to article 8 of the statutes, the Central Committee is elected by the members of the society, by a majority of the votes cast. Article 9 provides that the members of the Committee shall hold office for nine years; three members retiring every three years, all being eligible for reelection. The first elections were held in 1862; the subsequent ones on the following dates: May 21, 1865; May 3, 1868; Oct. 20, 1872; March 19, 1876; Feb. 11, 1883; March 10, 1887; Oct. 13, 1889; Oct. 8, 1893. Up to the present time elections have thus been held almost regularly. In 1879 exceptional circumstances prevented an election. In 1897 the unanimous sense of the members of the Central Committee, supported by the great majority of local committees, decided that the electoral machinery should not be employed in that year, and that it was preferable to appoint the necessary new members of the Committee by the vote of the existing members of the board.
The society is managed by the Central Committee resident in Paris. Non-resident members participate in the work, but indirectly. They receive every month notice of the questions which are to be discussed and are invited to send in their opinions. When these questions are of general importance, the major part of them communicate their views in writing, and occasionally some of them are present at the sessions in Paris and take an active part in the deliberations. The Central Committee was presided over from 1860 to 1863 by L. J. Königswarter; from 1863 to 1867 by Adolphe Crémieux; in 1867 by Solomon Munk. At his death, the post remained vacant for a year; Crémieux being reelected in 1868, and retaining the office until his death in 1880. Out of respect to him it was left vacant until 1882, when S. H. Goldschmidt was appointed to the office, which he held until his death on Feb. 18, 1898. From this date the presidency has been entrusted to Narcisse Leven, one of the original founders of the Alliance, its general secretary from 1863 to 1883, and its vice-president from 1883 to 1898.
Article 13 of the statutes provides that the Central Committee shall convene a general meeting of the members at least once a year, and shall present a report of the condition of the society. During the first years of its existence this provision was regularly observed; but from 1874 general meetings have taken place only on March 14, 1875; Aug. 12, 1878, and May 16, 1881.Organization.
The Central Committee keeps in touch with the members of the Alliance by means of local orterritorial committees. In certain countries, notably France and the United States, the local committees are in direct correspondence with the Central Committee. In Germany, Holland, Italy, and Hungary, supervising the local committees, there are terriritorial committees, whose spheres of action are sometimes very extensive; but both territorial and local committees, except on rare occasions, are restricted in their actions to the carrying out of the resolutions passed by the Central Committee, to securing new subscribers, and to soliciting and collecting donations and assessments for the society. They are, as it were, the executive and propagating agents of the institution.
During its whole existence, the Alliance has had as chief source of income the assessments and donations of its members; and even to-day these contributions represent an important portion of its receipts. The annual dues being fixed at the minimum rate of 6 frs. ($1.13), and by far the greater number of subscriptions not exceeding this amount, it required nearly 22,000 subscribers to make up the 158,719 frs. derived from this source in 1898. The number of members increased continuously until 1884, when their annual contributions amounted to 220,000 frs. From that period, this income has gradually diminished from year to year; and a vigorous effort would be necessary to increase it. There are many causes for this falling off: Anti-Semitism compels great sacrifices in France, in Germany, and elsewhere; many local benevolent societies and institutions have since been established; and to these causes must be added a certain false shame which holds many aloof from their coreligionists.Publications.
Since its organization the Alliance has published reports or "Bulletins" upon its progress and upon its work. Beginning with the appearance of the first "Appeal" in 1860, until the year 1862 these "Bulletins" were issued every two or three months. They contained extracts from the minutes of the meetings of the Central Committee, information on the condition of the Jews in various lands, a description of all the work in which the Alliance was participating or in which it might become interested, and, finally, a statement of receipts and expenses. From 1865 to 1893 the "Bulletin" was published semi-annually. When the society had grown considerably two "Bulletins" became necessary. Accordingly, from March, 1893, a monthly "Bulletin" has been issued, designed for the committees, for the principal coworkers, "and for all those willing to pay an additional yearly subscription." The semi-annual "Bulletin" gives an abstract of the monthly issues and a statement of receipts and expenditures; this is sent to all subscribers. In 1887 it was thought that, in view of the monthly "Bulletin," the semi-annual publication might be discontinued and an annual report substituted. The monthly and annual "Bulletins" appear in French and in German. Some issues have also been published in English, Hebrew, and Hungarian. In 1885, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of its existence, the Alliance published a history of its work from its inception. This history has been translated into German, English, Arabic, Dutch, and Ladino, or Judæo-Spanish; so that subscribers of nearly every country can read it in their own tongue.General Activity.
The Alliance had hardly been established when it demonstrated the broad spirit animating its founders by opening a subscription for the Christians of Lebanon who were being persecuted by the Druses and dying of hunger. Both Crémieux and Sir Moses Montefiore appealed to the generosity of their coreligionists in behalf of these victims of Mussulman fanaticism; and a provisional committee took up their initiative and contributed efficiently to the mitigation of this undeserved suffering. About the same time the Alliance endeavored to procure the restoration to his father of the Jewish child Edgar Mortara.
In countries where liberty of conscience and equal rights are now deeply rooted in the national institutions, it is hard to realize that the Jews have enjoyed these benefits only for the last thirty years. In 1860, certain Swiss cantons still refused foreign Jews the right of residence and the right to hold property; the canton of Aargau denied equal civic rights to its own Jewish citizens. The liberal press of both France and Switzerland energetically seconded the steps undertaken by the Alliance to remove these vestiges of medievalism. Nothing was accomplished, however, until 1867, when France, Italy, Belgium, and Holland having been notified by the Alliance of the continuance of this unfair treatment of citizens of Jewish faith, refused to renew their treaties with Switzerland unless absolute equality were guaranteed to the Jews.
The activity of the Alliance thus far had been of a sporadic nature exerted from time to time in favor of certain bodies of Jews. There were countries, however, where this action was unremittingly exercised for a long series of years and where it still continues at the present day. A distinction must be made between countries under Christian domination and those under Mussulman influence.Rumania.
The situation of the Jews of Rumania and Servia called for the action of the Alliance from the day of its foundation. For seventeen years, up to the treaty of Berlin in 1878, the Alliance had worked unceasingly to succor the unhappy Jews of those countries. In 1860 Rumania seemed to be ripe for civilization. The French press especially had become infatuated with this small nation of Latin race and language, which declared itself permeated with the spirit of purest liberalism. Jews had been excluded from the enjoyment of political rights; they were considered as aliens, although a great majority of them had been born in the country and had never belonged to any other nationality. The members of the Central Committee of the Alliance, several of whom had the opportunity of making the acquaintance of Rumanian statesmen in Paris, saw no reason to doubt the good disposition of Rumania. The reigning prince himself, Alexander John (Cuza), in 1864 received the suggestions of the committee most graciously, and requested his representative at Paris to place himself in communication with the Alliance. In 1866 Crémieux went to Bucharest, and was heartily welcomed by government officials. Ministers and deputies vied with one another in expressions of regard. He was formally conducted to the Chamber of Deputies, and the members thronged around him to listen to his eloquent words. A vote was just then being taken on the adoption of the constitution which contained an article according all civil and political rights to the Jews, and Crémieux took his departure from Bucharest with the conviction that the emancipation of the Rumanian Jews was an accomplished fact. Scarcely had he left the city, when a riot broke out in which the synagogue was stormed and sacked. This was the first step in a policy of violence, injustice, and persecution which has prevailed ever since. It was followed by various prohibitions against living in villages; against owning houses, lands, or vineyards in rural districts; against dealing in liquor; againstthe possession of municipal rights, or the exercise of any public function; against following the profession of lawyer or pharmacist; and against the employment of Jews on the railroads. On March 15, 1884, an edict prohibiting peddling was promulgated, and thereby twenty thousand Jews were deprived of their means of support.
Dissatisfied with this, the Rumanians then invented a still more efficient method of harassing their Jewish fellow citizens. Since about the year 1894, the primary and secondary schools have been closed to Jewish children, and even the trades and commercial schools likewise. It is the hardest blow dealt at Rumanian Jewry, and one which it feels most keenly. These laws have caused the Alliance and the Jewish Colonization Association to lend generous support to Rumanian Jewish communities for the creation and maintenance of special schools. Such restrictive laws on education are more deadly than all the expulsions and all the riots which have stained the streets of Rumanian towns with Jewish blood. The question will be asked, "Was the Alliance idle during these odious persecutions?" It was its duty to proclaim to public opinion the bad faith and the intolerant spirit of the successive Rumanian ministries; to intercede with European governments, especially with the great powers, under whose guaranty Rumania obtained its independence in 1856. The truth was not sufficiently known either to the European public or to the various governments, and therefore had to be proclaimed; this was the especial function of the Alliance, and it did not fail in the emergency. Rumanian agents perverted the facts, and represented that the Jewish expulsions were hygienic measures. They claimed that the prohibitive laws were directed against aliens and not against Jews. Friends of the Alliance and of truth interpellated the government in various European parliaments concerning the conduct of the Rumanian government. Irrefragable statements were published by the Alliance in support of its accusations against the Rumanian government. Certain very grave events that had taken place at Ismaila in 1872 spurred the Alliance to still greater efforts. Under its auspices, a conference was held at Brussels, Oct. 29 and 30, 1872, of delegates from France, Germany, England, and the United States, presided over by Crémieux. It was decided to persevere in the struggle and meanwhile to assist the Rumanian Jews in their endeavors to obtain justice. Another meeting took place in Paris Dec. 11, 1875, at which it was resolved to solemnly demand of the powers their intercession in behalf of the Jews in Rumania. The memorial prepared by this conference was taken to the celebrated diplomatic congress at Constantinople by M. Charles Netter, a member of the Central committee.Berlin Congress, 1878.
The failure of the conference of Constantinople, which was followed by the war between Russia and Turkey, is a well-known historical fact. The congress convened at Berlin in 1878 to settle the affairs of the East after the close of the war, was solicited to take up the question of the Rumanian Jews. The Alliance was represented by three delegates to the congress, Kann, Netter, and Veneziani. It was a solemn moment in the life of the Alliance. Its delegates were courteously received and were enabled to lay before the assembled European diplomats a full statement of their grievances and their demands. France took the initiative and proposed to the congress that in Rumania, Servia, and Bulgaria "differences of religious belief should not be considered as reason for disability in matters pertaining to the enjoyment of civil and political rights." This declaration is embodied in articles 5, 20, 33, and 44 of the treaty of Berlin. United Europe sanctioned the equality of all religious before the law and pro-claimed the emancipation of the Jews. This significant episode is unique in the history of Judaism. But this concession was made practically inoperative. The government of Rumania deceived Europe, and evaded the treaty under pretense of modifying, as a matter of form only, an article of the constitution; with the result that Rumanian Jews, excepting a certain privileged number among them, continue to be considered by the law as "aliens" in a country where they have resided for almost seven centuries.Servia and Bulgaria.
In Servia, the Alliance met with no fewer difficulties than in Rumania, but the result has been different. Servia conforms strictly to the requirements of the treaty of Berlin. There are no restrictions there upon the rights of Jews; their emancipation is complete. In Bulgaria, which was a Turkish province until 1878, the Alliance has likewise secured full emancipation. In that country, the Alliance, in addition to the political and economic benefits conferred, has added schools, which will be described further on in this article. The Jews of Bulgaria possess the full franchise. Many of them are members of the various elective bodies. They possess full equality, and their relations with their Christian fellow citizens are satisfactory.Russia.
It is rather surprising to find that between 1860 and 1870, Russia regarded the activity of the Alliance with outspoken approval, and came near requesting its cooperation in the elevation of her Jewish population. Upon the occasion of the incident at Saratoff, wherein Jews were unjustly condemned as having slain a Christian child, the Russian ambassador at Paris received with great favor the representatives of the Central Committee, who waited upon him in 1862 with a memorial addressed to the emperor in behalf of the condemned. Again, at the request of the Alliance, the ambassador, M. de Budberg, consented in 1868 to inquire into the case of a young Jewish girl who was baptized in Russia against the will of her parents.
The first time the Alliance was called upon to intervene in favor of the Russian Jews was in 1869. Famine was ravaging Russian Poland; the number of its victims was enormous. The Alliance issued an appeal for the relief of the sufferers. A conference of delegates of the Alliance, under President Crémieux, with members of the committees of Berlin and Königsberg, took place at the Prussian capital, October, 1869. It was decided to assist a certain number of Jews to migrate into the interior of Russia, to convey others to the United States, and to erect at Königsberg a permanent institution for the care of Russo-Polish children. This program was carried out. In less than two years eight hundred emigrants were transported to America, where they were received by the Board of Delegates and aided in the establishment of new homes. Three hundred orphans were cared for by the Jewish communities of France and Germany. In Königsberg, Posen, Memel, and Cologne, trade-schools for Russian children were established; that of Königsberg exists today, and receives a considerable subvention from the Alliance.
In the great persecutions of 1881-82 the horrors of barbarism were reproduced. From Ekaterinoslav to Wilna, bands of rioters attacked the Jews. The scenes of murder, pillage, and incendiarism which Russia then presented raised a cry of indignation throughoutEurope and America. In Paris, Berlin, London, and the cities of the United States, meetings were called and resolutions passed vigorously denouncing the assailants, and expressions of sympathy and commiseration sent to their unhappy victims. But the case called for more effective action. The Alliance helped with large donations; it organized bureaus for relief and methodically directed emigration toward the United States. This emigration, which commenced in 1881, was attended with good results. The Jews of the United States accepted the charge thus laid upon their shoulders with most commendable generosity. The Board of Delegates, the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society, the United Hebrew Charities of New York, and the various committees of Philadelphia, Boston, and many other places, applied themselves to the formidable task with a self-sacrifice and devotion which have never been exceeded. See Agricultural Colonies in the United States.
Twenty thousand poor Russian Jews were massed together on the Austrian frontier. Two members of the Central Committee journeyed thither, worked for several months, sending back those who could not support themselves in America, forwarding young and roḅust men to the United States, and settling in different parts of Europe those who could not be so conveyed, and who for one reason or another could not be returned to Russia. It was a colossal enterprise requiring much effort; but the Alliance was actively seconded by the committees in London, Vienna, and Berlin. It was especially due to the extraordinary munificence of the American Jews that it was able to succeed in this overwhelming task. The work accomplished in 1882 was also the starting-point for that spontaneous emigration from Russia to the United States which has already carried thither, according to statistics of entry at New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore a population of over 600,000 souls (see "American Jewish Year Book," under "Statistics," 1899). In the interior of Russia the Alliance has always exerted itself in behalf of those Jewish communities that are subjected to misery or persecution; helping victims of expulsion, aiding families ruined by fire, relieving famine-stricken farming colonies, and rendering assistance to schools and poor students—efforts all unfortunately insufficient.In Mohammedan Countries.
In Christian countries the inferior status of the Jews is almost always the result of exceptional legislation, of disabilities decreed by the law or by the will of the sovereign. In Mohammedan countries it is due to economic conditions, to the customs or to the fanaticism of the inhabitants, and to the greed of officials and governmental tyranny. It must be noted that if the Jews there are generally held in small esteem, the Christians are equally contemned, so that it is necessary for these latter to appeal to the Christian powers to prevent their ill-treatment or expulsion. But it is frequently the case that in Mohammedan countries the Christians are most hostile to the Jews. The incident of Father Thomas at Damascus, in 1840, with the tortures inflicted on innocent Jews, and hundreds of less important occurrences, show that the Christians of the Orthodox Greek Church, which predominates in Mohammedan countries, are possessed of a violent antipathy to the Jews.Turkey.
While the Turkish government accords fair treatment to its Jews as such, the country is still in such a semibarbarous condition that cases frequently occur of outrage, of individual or collective violence, of private revenge or brigandage, as well as of spoliation by greedy or cruel functionaries.
Each time that an event of this kind has been brought to the knowledge of the Alliance, that organization has appealed to the Turkish government, and in every instance its representations have been favorably received.
The Jews of Turkey have always been a considerable burden upon the resources of the Alliance. As will be shown further on, there are numerous schools founded and supported by the Alliance throughout Turkey. The Alliance, properly considered, is not strictly a benevolent society; but when any disaster threatens a whole population or at least a large community, it can not remain indifferent, entrenching itself behind the strict letter of its by-laws—even when a body of Jews are not suffering "in their quality of Jews." Appeals made by it in cases of disaster overtaking a district or an important community have been numerous, but have always met with generous responses. In Turkey, such action on the part of the Alliance has been frequently called for: famine in Asia Minor in 1880; conflagrations at Constantinople in 1874 and again in 1883; and the earthquake at Chio in 1881. In 1877, after the Russo-Turkish War, a large subscription was opened which afforded opportunities to give substantial aid to those Turkish Jews who had fled before the Russian invasion and who had become successively the victims of marauding Russian, Bulgarian, and Turkish soldiers.Abyssinia.
In Egypt the Jews have no need of assistance from the Alliance. In Abyssinia there exists a Jewish population, called Falashas. They are scattered among tribes who follow agriculture and other forms of manual labor. Their number is reckoned at about 50,000, although some travelers set the estimate as high as 200,000. In 1867, the Alliance sent a learned Orientalist, Joseph Halévy, to visit them, and his reports were published in the Alliance "Bulletin" for the first half of 1869. The Alliance also published a Falasha prayer-book in Ethiopic, and in 1900 prepared a new expedition to Abyssinia, to reopen relations with these African brethren.Tunis.
In Tunis, which is now a protectorate of France, the Jews, numbering about 60,000, live in absolute security. They labor under no legal disqualifications or social inequalities. But for many years the Alliance had to combat the arbitrary and cruel conduct of the bey, and sometimes even governmental anarchy, as shown in the abduction of young girls and in unpunished murders of Jews upon the highways and even in cities. By means of complaints and appeals, the Alliance has usually succeeded in obtaining the energetic intervention of the consuls of the great powers and in putting an end to these crimes. See also Tunis.Morocco.
In Morocco and in Persia, conditions are still very precarious. In both these Mohammedan countries the power of the government is feeble, ill-directed, and scantily obeyed. The "Bulletins" of the Alliance are filled with narratives of murder committed upon Moroccan Israelites, of cruel exactions imposed by irresponsible officials, and of acts of violence perpetrated by an ignorant and fanatical populace. The intervention of the Alliance has become an almost daily occurrence in these countries; and if it has not been able altogether to modify the existing conditions which are responsible for such barbarous crimes, it has at least secured, according to its means, greater protection for the Jews. Upon its representations the powers of Europe and the United States have repeatedly compelled the Moroccan government to inflictpunishment on those guilty of crimes against Jews. Owing to the vigilance and untiring protests of the Central Committee, the powers assembled at the Congress of Madrid in 1880 guaranteed official protection to a certain number of communities containing resident Jews. The Alliance was represented by MM. Netter and Veneziani, who successfully pleaded the cause of humanity before the assembled diplomats. In energetic resolutions proposed by France and Italy, the congress did not confine itself to a mere guaranty of protection for Jews and Christians, but demanded of the sultan of Morocco that full religious liberty be granted to them. A reply from the sultan's government, dated Sept. 18, 1880, assured the powers that this request would be granted. The Jews of Morocco are very poor; the Ghettos in which they are compelled to reside are in a deplorably unhealthful condition, which often breeds epidemics. The Alliance has frequently come to their aid, not alone by establishing schools which are thriving to-day, but also by enabling them to improve the Jewish quarter. See Morocco.Persia.
Persia is in a still more hopeless condition than Morocco if that be possible. The people there are fanatical in the extreme, belonging to the Shiite sect, which detests everything that is not Mohammedan. From its foundation the Alliance has striven to interest France and England in the fate of the Jews of this country; in addition, it has endeavored repeatedly to give them material aid. In 1873, when the shah of Persia, Naṣr-ed-Dîn, journeyed through Europe, committees of the Alliance waited upon him with memorials in behalf of his Jewish subjects. The shah gave a very friendly welcome to these representations, but unfortunately the real power in Persia is vested in the hands of the priests. The government's influence is very limited, and the priests are ingenious in devising ways to humiliate and maltreat the Jews. They are forbidden to clothe themselves in European garb, to draw water from the public fountains, to purchase their provisions in the markets at the same time as Mohammedans. Murders and other organized acts of violence are numerous. The Alliance has sent frequent assistance to these much-tried communities, but with only temporary results. In 1898 the Central Committee decided to establish a school in Teheran. One of the Alliance's best teachers in the East was selected as its head, and he was received very cordially by the ministers of the shah, Muzaffer-ed-Dîn, and members of the diplomatic corps. The school was hailed by the Jews of Teheran with a gratitude and an enthusiasm that can be easily understood.Ritual Murder.
The foregoing may serve as a rapid sketch of the protective action of the Alliance over its coreligionists. Before approaching the second portion of its program, a word must be said touching its efforts to combat the prejudice concerning ritual murder. This cruel and absurd accusation, which originated in Europe in the Middle Ages, was in more recent times the peculiar fancy of the Greek Orthodox nations, such as the Slavs, Greeks, and Bulgarians. From the Christian world it extended to the Mohammedan, and finally in these later years has made its appearance in more western countries; in 1882 in Hungary (the Tisza-Eszlár affair), and in 1899 in Bohemia (the Polna incident). No detailed account will be given here of all the lawsuits and investigations undertaken during the last forty years; but it must be said that no superstition has ever been combated by the Alliance with so much perseverance and warmth as this monstrous blood-accusation. Whenever the accusation has been brought forward the Alliance has intervened, either to save the accused Jews, to indemnify those who had suffered from the accusation, or to enlighten the judges and public opinion on the inanity of the charge. Such intervention could not always be open and direct for fear of exciting fanatical passion, but it has never been lacking. Declarations from churchmen, from scholars, from men of eminence and authority, have been elicited; consultations and expert opinion by physicians and physiologists have been procured and collected; and dozens of pamphlets and books with hundreds of newspaper articles published, in the untiring effort to counteract this odious slander.Educational Activity; Schools.
Of all the enterprises of the Alliance its educational system is undoubtedly the most prosperous and beneficial. Travelers who visited Morocco, Turkey, and Tunis in the earlier part of the century were lamentably impressed by the low intellectual status of the Jews there and the absence of all modern culture. The only thing the children learned was barely to read and write Hebrew. Under the distressing influence of a life shut up in narrow Ghettos, the physical and spiritual force of the race had gradually diminished. Their mode of life and their prejudices restrained them from all serious manual labor, so that the Jews of Mohammedan countries were restricted for the means of subsistence to peddling and the more wretched trades. Schools were the only remedy for this state of affairs. The founders of the Alliance had this fact in view even before they actually turned to the task of improvement. As soon as there were funds at command, in 1862 it was decided to devote them to the erection of a school at Tetuan (Morocco). In 1864 another school was opened in Morocco, at Tangiers, and in 1865 a third at Bagdad. Since then this educational work has been developed steadily; to-day it covers Bulgaria, European Turkey, Turkey in Asia (from Jaffa to Aleppo and Bagdad), Egypt, Tunis, and Morocco. The beginning of the educational work was made in Rumania, and it now extends as far as Persia. Progress has been rapid since 1879. In 1880, the number of schools was 34; in 1890, 54; and in 1899, 94—58 of which were boys' and 36 girls' schools—with an attendance of 24,000 children. This development of the educational work of the Alliance has been rendered possible mainly through the munificence of Baron de Hirsch.
The curriculum can not be uniform in all these schools: in each, it has to be accommodated to the special needs and circumstances of the Jews of the particular country. Thus in the schools of Tunis instruction in French occupies the first place, in Bulgaria the language of that country, and in both European and Asiastic Turkey room is made in the curriculum, in some places for Turkish, in others for Arabic. Particular prominence and attention have long been given in certain schools to English and German; to the former in Bagdad, Egypt, and Morocco. The Alliance has a large school in Constantinople, where the instruction is carried on in German, and this language is also taught in other schools of Constantinople and in Smyrna, Adrianople, Salonica, and Jerusalem. Of other subjects taught, Hebrew naturally occupies a prominent place, together with the study of the Jewish religion and history. The geography and history of the country in which the school is situated are taught; while arithmetic, elementary geometry, physics, chemistry, and drawing complete the curriculum.
In Mohammedan countries more particularly than in others instruction for girls is extremely necessary.The Jewess can not attain to the position she should occupy and which local custom denies her, unless she becomes the equal of the Jew in knowledge and education. It is conceded that the influence of the schools has been especially beneficial in this direction. In former times, in certain districts of Morocco, Tunis, and Turkey, girls were married at the age of eleven or twelve; nowadays such barbarous customs have disappeared, owing to the influence of the schools. The Alliance's schools are free only to the children of the very poorest; they are furnished not only with gratuitous instruction and books, but sometimes with clothing as well, and nearly everywhere with a hot lunch at noon. Parents of the more prosperous classes pay a school-fee, which in some schools is as high as twenty francs a month. These schools are, moreover, open to children of every faith; in 1899, about 300 non-Jewish pupils attended them—Catholics, Protestants, Greeks, Armenians, and Mohammedans. On the staff of instructors there are also Christian and Mohammedan teachers, especially for instruction in the several languages. Free courses for adults have been opened in many localities. They are attended by workingmen and small tradesmen who, not having attended any elementary school, can scarcely write their names, and who recognize the resultant drawbacks under which they labor.Rabbinical Seminary.
After giving to Judaism a long succession of learned and illustrious rabbis, the congregations of the Orient have witnessed the gradual decay of learning among their spiritual leaders. With certain rare exceptions, the rabbis of the East and of Africa are devoid of all modern culture. Their Hebrew and Talmudic knowledge is likewise very slender, and they can not write the language of the country at all. The Alliance directed its attention to this matter long ago, but to introduce the needed reforms among the rabbis was felt to be a rather delicate task. It was necessary first to bring the congregations to see the necessity for the innovation, and in 1891 the movement took public shape. The Alliance then decided to establish in Constantinople a rabbinical seminary similar to those in Europe. The institution was organized in 1897; and it soon won the appreciation of the people. Instruction is given by scholarly teachers, one of whom was prepared for this office by the Alliance at the rabbinical seminary of Paris. This enterprise is the crowning achievement of the Alliance in its educational efforts toward the elevation of Oriental Judaism.Normal School.
To direct these numerous schools it was necessary to supply a large staff of teachers. After various experiments the Central Committee decided to undertake this task too. In 1867 it founded in Paris a normal school for teachers, who are recruited from the countries for which teachers are required. The principals of the various schools in the Orient and in Africa select their best pupils and send them to Paris, where they remain in the Normal School for four years. They are then appointed to positions as teachers in their own countries. The Normal School of Paris has secured legal recognition from the government, enabling it to legally receive donations and legacies. Its full title is "École Normale Israélite Orientale." It is located in a handsome building upon a large estate which it owns, and which was purchased for this purpose by the Alliance. There were in the beginning from 20 to 25 young men and about 10 female students; but these numbers have been considerably increased since the work of the schools has assumed such vast proportions. Thus, on Dec. 31, 1899, there were 90 male and 37 female students. The former have their own building and grounds. They come from Oriental and African countries; among them are 16 young Rumanians, who, after sufficient preparation, will become instructors in their own land.Apprenticeship.
Although these schools are admirable means toward progress and improvement, the education given to poor children does not always furnish them with a means of livelihood. Accordingly, instruction in trades came to be considered by the Alliance as a natural and necessary supplement to the ordinary schools. But the miserable industrial conditions of their native countries, the very limited needs of the people, the jealous exclusiveness of the trademasters, and the disinclination of children to follow callings of which their parents were ignorant, all made this question very difficult of solution.
Many obstacles and disappointments must, of course, be encountered before positive results can be looked for. Although not able to overcome everywhere the ill-will of non-Jewish "masters," the Alliance has at least succeeded in removing the prejudice against manual labor among Jewish children. Apprentice-schools exist in 28 localities of the East and Africa, and are attended by 700 lads who are taught remunerative crafts. Such trades as tailoring, shoe-making, tinsmithing, and those crafts which are easily learned and are already overcrowded, are not taught to pupils of the Alliance. Only those avocations which require some bodily strength, those which are not yet open to Jews, and those which are well paid, receive attention. The trade-school of the Alliance opened in Jerusalem in 1882 deserves particular mention, both by reason of the service it renders and of its especial organization. The establishment comprises a series of workshops, where the trades of carpentry, blacksmithing, locksmithing, copper-smithing, metal-founding, and wood-carving are carried on. All the teachers received their training in Europe. The equipment and arrangement are suited to the demands of each particular trade. These shops are attended by 200 apprentices, 50 of whom reside in the building and are supported by the institution. The organization of these trade-schools for boys necessitated a similar institution for poor girls graduating from the schools; this was organized in 1884. It is necessarily limited to a small number of trades by reason of certain conditions peculiar to Oriental life, and especially by the general absence of all industrial occupations among the women of the East. Classes in tailoring, sewing, and embroidery have brought good results. There are 15 shops where these trades are taught. The expense of the trade-schools is considerable.Farm-School in Jaffa.
The present agitation for the employment of Jews in agriculture was early anticipated by the Alliance. At a time when no one thought for a moment of such a demand, the Central Committee of the Alliance established a complete school of agriculture in a most belated and fanatical Jewish quarter, that of Jaffa in Palestine. This institution received the significant name of Mikveh Israel (Hope of Israel). The Jaffa school was established in 1870, upon a grant of about 600 acres generously conceded by the sultan. Its great success is due to the indescribable devotion of a man whose name is associated with everything useful and noble that the Alliance has accomplished—Charles Netter. For a very long period it had to struggle against the prejudices of the children, the lack of sufficient resources, and the difficulty of finding a proper staff. Nothing discouraged Netter, and he succeeded in overcoming everyobstacle. But at the very moment when the institution was emerging from its formative stage and commencing to give assured results, Netter suddenly died, Oct. 2, 1882, while on a visit to Jaffa, and was buried in the grounds of the school. The Alliance, in recognition of his services, has erected a tomb to his memory. On Dec. 31, 1899, there were 210 pupils at the Jaffa school, all inmates. Management and tuition are entrusted to a professional staff, composed exclusively of Jews trained by the Alliance in the agricultural schools of western Europe. The course of instruction embraces all possible branches of agriculture, such as the care of olive-groves, orange-plantations, vineyards, grain-crops, orchards, and garden products, stock-breeding, and silkworm-raising. The receipts from all these sources reached, during the farm-year 1898-99, about 70,700 frs. ($14,140). The expenses aggregated 46,000 frs. ($9,200), leaving a profit of about 24,000 frs. ($4,800).Agricultural Colonies in Palestine.
The question now presented itself whether, after leaving the farm-school, its pupils would become farmers themselves. The Alliance could not afford to establish them as such, while Jewish farm-hands had little prospect of employment with Turkish or Christian proprietors. Still a certain number of these graduates did succeed in finding positions as managers and as gardeners with various Turkish and Arab cultivators, though the demand for trained agriculturists was necessarily very limited. It was at this moment that the great persecutions of 1881-82 broke out in Russia. Even before that date, thousands of poor Russian Jews, animated by the desire of living as colonists in Palestine, had emigrated thither with the intention of becoming agriculturists. Other immigrants came from Rumania and Galicia. All these poor people went to Palestine possessed of a sublime faith. Some had means, but the majority were very poor. The Alliance assisted the immigrants, and the officers of the trade-school became their instructors and advisers. The officials of the Alliance gave them the benefit of their knowledge of land, and appointed graduates of Mikveh Israel to counsel and guide them. The farm-school at Jaffa thus became the foster-mother of the first colonies in Palestine (see Agricultural Colonies in Palestine). But with all this they could not possibly have succeeded had not more powerful aid been forthcoming. Baron Edmond de Rothschild assumed all the expenses of colonization and support, constructed houses, cleared lands, built wine-cellars, and planted vineyards and olive-groves. While this was happening in Palestine, another philanthropist, Baron de Hirsch, was settling Jewish colonies in the Argentine Republic. After various unfortunate experiments, Baron de Hirsch requested the Central Committee to furnish him with experienced men to take charge of the colonies. The Alliance placed at his disposal several excellent directors, among them M. Hirsch, who had long been at the head of the Jaffa farm-school, and who in this capacity was the first friend and counselor of the youthful Palestinian colonies. These men still continue in charge of the Argentine colonies.
The Jews of the north of Africa—Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, Tripoli, and Egypt—comprising a population of more than 300,000 souls, remained complete strangers to the movement for the cultivation of the soil, which for the last decade or so had made itself felt among the Jews. The Alliance conceived it to be its duty to lead their tastes in that direction. Tunis is essentially a farming country, and the French protectorate has established a regular government with absolute security; it therefore appeared to be a district peculiarly adapted for the experiment. A tract of about 3,000 acres, with a river running through it, affording opportunity for various crops and industries, was acquired in 1895 at Djedei, a few miles from Tunis. Afarm-school for children was there established, having at first only 25, but later (in 1899) 110 pupils, about half of whom were Tunisians, the others being from Algeria, Morocco, and Tripoli. In the year 1898-99 the farm products gave a surplus of more than 25,000 frs. ($5,000). The total expenses for the year 1900 amounted to about 70,000 frs. ($14,000). In Algeria, Tunis, and Egypt pupils graduating from this institution easily find employment; in these countries many Israelites possess farms, on which they are quite willing to employ these young Jewish agriculturists. A number of graduates of 1899 were engaged by a Jew of Sousa, in Tunis, who found work for them upon his estate (or farm-lands). The agricultural work accomplished or inspired by the Alliance marks undoubtedly an important era in the economic evolution of the Jewish people and in the development of their mental and moral qualities.
Regarding the last item of the society's program, "the encouragement of publications contributing to the emancipation or elevation of Jews," the first step taken was the announcement of a prize-contest. An excellent work by Elie Benamozegh, of Leghorn, "La Morale Juive," was awarded the first prize. But the Alliance soon observed that such prize-competitions were powerless to draw the attention of scholars away from their favorite studies, and that an important work could not be undertaken at the word of command, so that it would be preferable to leave to authors free scope and full liberty. It was therefore decided to restrict the society's activity to lending financial support to learned works of interest to Jews. For more than thirty years not a single important work upon such subjects has appeared without the assistance of the Alliance. This feature of the budget calls for an annual expenditure averaging 4,000 frs. The Alliance itself has brought out a number of publications devoted principally to Jewish statistics and the defense of Jewish interests.
The Alliance possesses in its central office an important library, numbering to-day 22,000 volumes, and containing all documents and publications concerning Jewish history and such kindred subjects as statistics, anthropology, demography, legislation, literature, exegesis, theology, and polemics, as well as collections of the principal Jewish newspapers of the world. The library owes its existence to the late secretary of the Alliance, Isidore Loeb, who suggested the idea of its establishment, and who devoted his rare moments of leisure to the compilation of a catalogue and to searching for new acquisitions. He collected about 200 valuable manuscripts, many of which have been of assistance in the composition of a number of scholarly works. A systematic catalogue is now in course of preparation; but, unfortunately, the small income at the disposal of the library committee will scarcely admit of its publication. The gratuitous use of the library is offered to scholars and literary workers. Donations and important legacies from L. L. Rothschild assure the maintenance and development of this useful institution.
The following tables exhibit the state of the Alliance's activity and finances in 1899:
|Towns.||Boys or Girls.||Date of Foundation.||Number of Pupils.||Subsidy of the Alliance.|
|Apprentice, Talmud Torah||Boys.||1894||37||500.00|
|Donations to the general work of the Alliance||..........||6,605.95|
|Income from the foundation of Baron de Hirsch||..........||50,692.00|
|Income from reserve fund||..........||11,789.80|
|Baroness de Hirsch, for work of giving meals||..........||12,500.00|
|Various subventions for schools||..........||40,549.10|
|Various subventions from the Jewish Colonization Association||..........||250,000.00|
|Subvention from the Government of Tunis||..........||10,000.00|
|Preparatory School for Boys||..........||109,451.00|
|Preparatory School for Girls||..........||33,237.45|
|Secondary and superior schools||..........||15,345.00|
|Elementary schools for boys and girls||..........||456,313.15|
|Apprenticing and manual works:|
|Agricultural school at Jaffa||94,866.30|
|Farm at Djedei||129,958.60|
|Professional school at Jerusalem||55,690.30|
|Agricultural school at Hanover||2,908.20|
|Apprenticing work (boys)||68,472.90|
|Apprenticing work (girls)||26,133.70|
|Subventions and various grants||..........||18,544.70|
|Perpetual subscriptions, placed to capital account||..........||19,988.55|
|Tranferred to reserve fund||..........||11,789.80|
- The history of the Alliance Israélite Universelle can be traced in the publications of this organization. Since its foundation the administration has regularly published semi-annual and annual "Bulletins," containing detailed reports of its activity, statistics, tables, etc. They generally appeared in French, but now and then were published in English, German, Dutch, Italian, Judæo-German, and Hebrew. In 1885, on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, the Alliance published an extensive review of its work and of the results achieved for that period—in French, English, German, and Judæo-Spanish. Another pamphlet in French and English appeared in 1896, giving a general statement and a short review for the whole time of its existence (1860-95);
- this publication was especially designed for those who are not acquainted with the work and object of the organization.