George H. Warner.

The Jewish spectre online

. (page 1 of 30)
Online LibraryGeorge H. WarnerThe Jewish spectre → online text (page 1 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Mary J. L. Me Donald

/, j~ v



Jewish Spectre


George H. Warner

New York

Doubleday, Page & Company


Copyright, 1905, by

Doubleday, Page & Company

Published, September, 1905

All rights reserved,

including that of translation into foreign languages,

including the Scandinavian.

• ♦ * > « *







The Jewish Spectre


In Literature and Art


Poets' History


The Semite .


The Great Journey


Sacred History


Era of the Harem


Political Israel


Political Judah


Social Questions .


An Excursion into the World


In Babylonia . . . .


Jewish Jerusalem Created


Herod and His Family


The Old Testament as Literature


Jewish Literary Production


How the Gospel Came to Judea




New Lamps for Old Ones


The Religious Regime in Europe


The Semites in Europe


Persecuted Europe


The Ghetto

• •
























Chapter "ack

XXIV. The Problem of Races 260

XXV. Statistics and Spectres 276

XXVI. Journalist, Professor and Idealist . . .295

XXVII. Wealth and Commonwealth . . . . 3 10

XXVIII. Influence upon European Thought . . . 3 26

XXIX. Influence upon American Ideas .... 344

XXX. The Tenure of Religions 357

XXXI. The Hither Marge 3^8



» fc a - * • • - -

The Jewish Spectpe

THE Jewish Spectre is now visible in loth hemispheres;-
it hovers over New York as it long has done over
Paris, Vienna, Berlin and London. But, accustomed
as we are to the incoming of foreign peoples, it is not the
apparition of an exotic race among us that gives my subject its
greatest importance. The question would be very simple,
and no more puzzling than the interference of other people in
the affairs of our modern life, were it not for the hovering
vision of Israel that is thrown upon the screen of our religious
consciousness. This spectre carries on its front for us, in our
childlike and experimental condition of mind, many of the
mysteries of the whence and whither of life, and of the terrors
of death; and stands for us in such a relation that it seems
to many to be religion itself. It seems as though the whole
fabric of our theology would fall to the ground without this
"Israel"— though we sometimes fancy we could get along
without Judah.

Most of us seem to think that Israel and Judah are ex-
changeable if not synonymous terms. They were once quite
distinct; and they might be still, were it not for that tendency
in our language to blend and weave, in the interest of the
romantic and wonderful, unrelated words and images. We
divide our modern races into specific nationalities, as we also
do the profane races of antiquity; but it is only by the greatest
sacrifices that we pull Israel and Judah apart. No one has
ever yet written a history of the Jews without at least a pre-
liminary chapter on the Israelites.



It is true that the spectre of our religious imaginations is
a composite one, and that it might well be called the Hebrew-
Israelite- Jewish Spectre, if our inquiry were limited to that;
but it is partly secular. This composite fabric of visibilities
is a web of history tjiat few can unravel; and those who can,
dare not, for it is .one of the fondest possessions of popular
belief. It is so saered" that few dare lift up even a corner of
the curtain th-at'corfceais it, like the Hebron peasants when the
Ark of the Covenant was returning to Beth Shemesh (I. Samuel
vi.) lest they too should see that there is nothing within, and
meet with a like fate. There is no task so perplexing as to
make out the difference between the real and the spectral in
this field.

The writer in the newspaper will ask why I say Jewish at
all, instead of using the softer word Hebrew, as he does when
he means the Jews; though there never was a Hebrew nation,
and it is doubtful if the term ever meant anything more than a
complimentary designation of the Israelites who once spoke
the Hebrew dialect. This tongue went out of use as the
vernacular of any people something over two millenniums
ago, and is now among the dead languages, only now and
then revived in periods of national hope or expectation, and
of interest for the study of the Scriptures. It is a conscious
archaism like classic Greek among the modern Greeks.

The publicist in the magazines will ask why I do not say
Israelite, as he does when he writes of the Jews; though the
term is much more polite than accurate, for the Israelite, in
both his houses, had his day and ceased to be anything more
than a reminiscence of history some twenty-five centuries ago.
The term Judah would have the merit of being accurate,
descriptive, and unmixed with the hereditary rights of any
other of the heirs of Jacob. The use of the word Israel by
Judah was a usurpation, or at best an acquisition from Joseph
by non-user, as a lawyer might say.

And it is probable that both scholar and reader will ask why


I do not say the Semitic Spectre as all-inclusive. I must reply
that I do not mean the Semitic Spectre; for the application of
the word Semite is plainly a European device to avoid the
word Jew, while at the same time it casts the lustre which
belongs to the whole Semitic race and period upon a small and
unfortunate branch of it.

The reader must not cavil if I yield to the prevailing custom,
and call this Vision of the Imagination "He" or "They,"
just as I use the word "we" to express the opposite, the Euro-
pean-American side, my own side and preference in our

With Professor Kent, a late historian of the Jews, the com-
posite being, "Israel," is "That miracle of succeeding ages
which we behold with our own eyes in the Jews of to-day."
His meaning is not quite clear, but his admiration is far-
reaching. Others say that the Jew is Immortal; which word
may have metaphorical limitations, but there are writers who
say boldly that he is changeless. These citations refer of
course to the spectral, not to the actual Jew, who sometimes

Try as hard as I may, I cannot find terms brief and at the
same time comprehensive enough to put this spectre of the
popular fancy before my readers. Happily, it has been done
so eloquently by the hand of another that I will give it more
than willingly in a full quotation. It is Mr. Hosmer, in the
"Story of the Nations" series, to whom I am indebted. He
says, with all the inclusive recklessness of the clergyman who
is never contradicted in the pulpit:

"Give a comprehensive glance at the career of the Jews.
It is the marvel of history that this little people, beset and
despised by all the earth for ages, maintains its solidarity
unimpaired. Unique among all the peoples of the earth, it
has come undoubtedly to the present day from the most distant
antiquity. Forty, perhaps fifty, centuries rest upon this
venerable contemporary of Egypt, Chaldea and Troy. The


Hebrew defied the Pharaohs; with the sword of Gideon he
smote the Midianite; in Jephthah, the children of Ammon.
The purple chariot bands of Assyria went back from his gates
humbled and diminished. Babylon, indeed, tore him from his
ancient seats and led him captive by strange waters, but not
long. He had fastened his love upon the heights of Zion, and
like an elastic cord, that love broke not, but only drew with
the more force as the distance became great. When the grasp
of the captor weakened, that cord, uninjured from its long
tension, drew back the Hebrew to his former home. He saw
the Hellenic flower bud, bloom and wither upon the soil of
Greece. He saw the wolf of Rome suckled on the banks of
the Tiber, then prowl, ravenous for dominion, to the ends of
the earth, until paralysis and death laid hold upon its savage
sinews. At last Israel was scattered over the length and breadth
of the earth. In every kingdom of the modern world there
has been a Jewish element. There are Hebrew clans in China,
on the steppes of Central Asia, in the desert heart of Africa.
The most powerful races have not been able to assimilate
them — the bitterest persecution, so far from exterminating
them, has not eradicated a single characteristic. In mental
and moral traits, in form and feature even, the Jew of to-day
is the same as when Jerusalem was the peer of Tyre and
Babylon. In the greedy energy of the Jewish trader smoulders
something of the old fire of the Maccabees. Abraham and
Mordecai stand out upon the sculptures of Nineveh marked by
the same eye and beard, the same ndse and jaw by which we
just now recognised their descendants. Language, literature,
customs, traditions, traits of character — these too have all
survived. The Jew of New York, Chicago, St. Louis, is, in
body and soul, the Jew of London, of St. Petersburg, of Con-
stantinople, of the fenced cities of Judah in the days of David.
There is no other case of a nation dispersed in all other parts
of the world and yet remaining a nation."

This is all exceedingly familiar to us, and I would gladly


fill my pages with more of such condensed illusion, but one more
excerpt is a summary of all. I do not myself make the same
exegesis of the psalm. Exegesis, however, is not a science,
but merely a prejudice, and our author has a perfect right to
his own. He says:

"In the fiftieth psalm stands the passage : ' Out of Zion, the
perfection of beauty, God hath shined.' If we understand the
word Zion in this sentence to mean, as it is often explained, the
Hebrew nation, we find here an enthusiastic utterance by a
Jewish poet of his sense of pride in his race; the Hebrew people
is chosen out from among the nations of the earth to exhibit
the perfection of beauty— is, in fact, an outshining of God
Himself upon the world. What is to be said of such a declara-
tion? If it were made concerning any other race than the
Jewish, it would be scouted and ridiculed as arrogance pushed
into impiety, a claim not to be tolerated even in the most
impassioned poetry. Can the world bear the assertion any
better when it is made concerning the Jews? Such claims,
at any rate, the Jews have always made. Declarations of
Israelitish greatness, scarcely less „ strong than that of the
Psalmist, can be found in the writings of our contemporaries.
Says a Rabbi of Cincinnati in a book published within a few
years: 'Had the Hebrews not been disturbed in their progress
a thousand and more years ago, they would have solved all the
great problems of civilisation which are being solved now.'
The Earl of Beaconsfield, glorying in his Jewish blood, was
accustomed to maintain, without qualification, the indom-
itable superiority of the Hebrews over the most powerful
modern races; and alleged that, in an intellectual sense, they
had conquered modern Europe. In the immense extent of
time which stretches from the singer of the Psalms to the
Cincinnati Rabbi and the marvellous Jew who, a few years ago,
superintended the management of the greatest empire of the
earth, there is no age in which Israelites have not uttered just
as confidently their conviction of Jewish supremacy."


We have here, in the foregoing citations, the composite
spectre of Israel and the Jew in nearly every aspect. It com-
bines the preternatural, the supernatural, the superhuman, and
the embodied divine outshining upon the earth. I am sorry
to drop down from these sublime heights and speak of vulgar
things, but now for many pages I must come to a lower level of
this dream country.

I must defer to a later chapter remarks on the spectre in
Europe; and now merely say that Leroy-Beaulieu gives us, in
the picture quoted below, an indication of the romantic view
with which modern history teems. He says of the Jews of
Europe: "They are like birds just liberated from their cages,
so swift is their flight; they were seen to dart from twig to twig
of the thickly branched tree of our modern civilisation, as
though none of its parts were beyond the reach of their wings."

The real Jew in America does not fly like him of Europe.
He is ensconced in marble palaces in Broadway, where the
signs on the shop fronts look like the first book of Chronicles,
though all is not Jew which glisters there in German. He is
the bold speculator that makes Wall Street a wailing place —
though seldom for Jews; he is that apparition that clothes the
Sabbaths of Madison Avenue (in the newspapers) with a
splendour in which even the most splendid stuffed figure of
history was never arrayed.

More seriously, this is the threatening figure which Goldwin
Smith describes in the Nineteenth Century magazine as "likely
soon to add America to the list of its conquests," and that is
"getting American journals into its hands," and has already
"got into its hands a considerable share of the wealth of the
North, and a still larger proportion of the West and the South."

This is the same personage who is said to be making the
liberal professions tremble for their emoluments, and is crowd-
ing the scholarship of the Yankee in the colleges and universities,
where he already "fills many of the chairs of learning."

This figure is the most available stock in trade of the comic


papers, and also of those who affect solemnity and omniscience
in the newspapers; and it is most useful to fill space in dry
times. Perhaps it is superfluous to put into words, for those
who read the newspapers of the day, those phrases which cause
in the mind of the reader apprehension of disaster to business
interests; for none can have failed to see how the paragraphing
goes on which will inevitably make the newspaper fortune of
the race. He is always, in the papers, that " wonderful man,"
"that remarkable race," "that unchanging type," "that most
persistent man," and he is not often spoken of without an
allusion to the assertion "that his rate of increase exceeds that
of all other peoples," that he is practically "immune from
disease" in an almost miraculous way, and that he dies, if at all,
later in life than other men. It is an article of faith that "he
takes care of his own poor" and takes no "charity." It is
also an article of firm belief that he speaks "Hebrew." His
mysterious "culture" is a matter of course. His "intellectual
superiority" is confessed by Waldstein, the author of the
"Jewish Question," who himself has the "precious drop" of
blood in his veins.

Another of its own race, Jacobs, said, not long ago: "And
when the history of the Jews has been told as it should be, it
will be seen that they, above all others, have earned the title
of the chosen people of God. The great question for con-
temporary Judaism is w r hether it will continue God's w r ork or
cease to be. 'Prophecy is of all errors the most gratuitous/ we
are told, but I can see no meaning in history if the richest
product of humanity, which has shared in all the progressive
movements in the history of man, shall not have within it the
germs of mighty thoughts and deeds."

But the most important contribution of Mr. Jacobs to
positive Judaism is contained in the sentence which follows:
" Judaism is not alone a religion, but a Philosophy of History."

They sum up all the observations in one comprehensive term,
"Israel." This mysterious being, Israel, potent in the history


of the world and in the most common uses of our time, is equally
supernatural, mysterious, learned, sagacious, skilful, powerful,
and dangerous, whether he guides a push-cart in the slums,
careens on a garden-truck wagon in the country districts, or,
at the other end of the line of human activities, does that most
enviable of human acts, runs a bank.

This term Israel — soldier of God — is the sign of the modern
superstition about the Jewish race. It has nearly displaced
Abraham, the Earlier Father, and it relieves the mind of a
certain uneasiness about the Patriarchal age. It relieves us
also of the but poorly legitimatised Jacob, the supplanter.

This Israel of the imagination bears slight relation to the
historic Israel. Its reason for existence is that the human
mind dwells in fictions more readily than in realities and likes
to worship spectres. It is much more agreeable to the general
taste to take history in the form of romantic fiction in which
ghosts walk, than to take it in the form of a study of facts. I
do not know what our final mental condition would become if
the critic did not put in limbo some of the imaginary personages
with which the world is crowded, and help to lay the meta-
phorical ghosts with which English rhetoric has overstocked
the world.

In Literature and Art

We must use the word Jew occasionally to relieve the tedium
of the word spectre ; though I may mean, not the real Jew, but
the imaginary one. And first, I will speak of the Jew of
avarice. Though Shakespeare created him for English
readers, it is not likely that Shakespeare ever saw a Jew, any
more than had Marlowe before him when he drew the portrait
of the Jew of Malta. In Shakespeare's generation the Jews
were rigidly excluded from England, and the character of
Shylock was drawn from some very charming Italian romances
called UT1 Pecorone." The Jew now known to the stage is the
product of the actors, so far as costume and appearance go,
if not character. It is not by the vice of avarice alone that we
know the Jewish Spectre of the dramatist; he is now one of
the vulgar properties regularly carried in the stock of the
theatre, to represent almost any ignoble or contemptible passion.

In romance, we are principally indebted to Walter Scott
for the Rich Jew, Isaac the money-lender. We are certain
that Rebecca is all that Scott says she was; for did not he paint
her from the face of an American Jewess, Miss Rebecca Graetz
of Philadelphia, visiting London in his day ? We will be faith-
ful to Rebecca even as Thackeray was in his "Roundabout


"Rebecca, daughter of Isaac of York, I have loved thee
faithfully for forty years! Thou wast twenty years old (say)
and I but twelve, when I knew thee. At sixty odd, love, most
of the ladies of thy Orient race have lost the bloom of youth, and
bulged beyond the line of beauty; but to me thou art ever



young and fair, and I will do battle with any Templar who
assails thy fair name." ("On a Peal of Bells.") But Isaac
of York is historically doubtful ; for none of the Isaacs of York
lived there in the year 1194, there having been in 1189-90 a
little difficulty between the natives and the rich money-lenders
which sent them away from York, and in the next hundred
years out of England altogether. However, it is certain that
the rich Jew (if it is not an anachronism to suppose that there
is a poor Jew) always lives in a house very plain on the exterior,
but full of the signs of luxury inside; his daughters are always
fair and clothed with gems and chastity; and as for the wifely
virtues, they are simply embodied in the matron. Has the true
woman not been, once for all, described in the thirty-first
chapter of Proverbs?

The Jew of Fiction is used more uncritically than any other.
Balzac, Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot, would have
many blank pages without him. And the lesser story-writers
would lack mystery, pathos and music without Du Maurier's
" precious drop" of blood to mingle with the flood of impure,
mixed, heterogeneous, common blood of our late-born races.
How wise, gifted, beautiful, rich, poor, mean, avaricious,
frightful, the Jew is, we should never have seen but for the
masters of words.

The poet more seldom uses this figure of the Jew. It is the
essayist who most often attempts his portrait; like Monsieur
Renan, in the famous pages wherein he glorified this figure
with his inimitable two-edged phrases. He says, "That eternal
Jeremiah, 'that man of sorrows,' is always complaining, pre-
senting his back to blows with a patience which annoys us.
This creature, foreign to all our instincts of religion and honour,
boldness, glory, and refinement in art; this person so little a
soldier, so little chivalrous, who loves neither Greece nor
Rome nor Germany, and to whom nevertheless we owe our
religion, so much so that the Jew has a right to say to the
Christian, 'Thou art a Jew with a little alloy' — this being has


been set as an object of antipathy; a fertile antipathy which has
been one of the conditions of the progress of humanity."

Recent essayists, to whom we owe so much fiction, tell
us that to the Jew Europe owes her knowledge of Greek
philosophy, which he brought into the thick darkness of the
Middle Ages when he alone was "cultured," and also that
knowledge of chemistry and medicine which served to bridge
the time of ignorance in Europe. But the Arab was the real
carrier of Greek philosophy from Alexandria into Spain,
whence it spread to France, though it is a mistake to give him
the sole credit for it in Europe. The highroad of ideas lay
through Italy. But the Arab can afford to share the credit
of his intellectual period with his kinsmen the Jews, who par-
ticipated in it, with names of great honour, though not always
undisputed nationality.

Nor must we fail to note the claim that the Jew invented
banking — was the bank — in those days when men thought they
had read in an ancient book that it was wrong to take usury,
but failed to read the context "of thy brother," just as people
sometimes, nowadays, fail to read the context of their proof
texts. Nor must we forget that it is said that the art of "book-
keeping" was brought into Europe by him; though whether
invented by him, or borrowed in Babylon like many other
things, I do not know. But his admirers must still leave the
numerals we use to the intervention of the Arab, who got them
from India ; the science of reading the stars and a few other forms
of learning to the Babylonians, architecture to the Egyptians,
fine art to the Greeks and other peoples — for whom the world
was not made.

I must refer to the tradition of him who would but could not die,
but eternally bore the heavy burden of life, a burden as heavy as
that of transmigration and continued existence to the Hindu.
William Godwin tried to tell it in "St. Leon," Hawthorne in "A
Virtuoso's Collection," and George Croly's famous "Salathiel"
has been revived and rebaptized by an American publisher.


This legend of The Undying One, Cartaphilus, or Judas,
or Joseph, or Ahasuerus, by which names the Wandering
Jew has been called, first appeared in Europe about the year
1228. "He passes in the storm, presides at orgies, diffuses
diseases, instigates revolutions, and burns cities." To the
pious he appealed as that poor artisan who, sitting in his
doorway working at his trade when Jesus passed by with the
cross, refused to help bear it, and was told by Jesus in solemn
accents that he should never die, but should "tarry till I come."
This curse grows heavier with the centuries which pass, while
Christ comes not.

Eugene Sue has given us the most abiding "Wandering
Jew," which I may call the profane instead of the religious
spectre of the Jew, in his magical book published in 1844-5.
He is seen "walking at the base of that Titanic mass of rocks
which forms the western shore of that sullen sea, where dim,
tall icebergs float across a sea of dead green water which forms
the Behring Strait, his footsteps tracing the figure of the cross,
as the seven iron nails in his shoes press down upon the icy
snow. On the Siberian cape, a man on his knees stretches
his hand toward America with an expression of indescribable
despair." Next we behold, "on the American promontory, a
young and handsome woman " (Herodias, the Wandering
Jewess), who "replies to the man's despairing gesture by
pointing to heaven*; whence came these two beings who met
thus at the extremities of the Old World and the New?"

This is a powerful picture. East Cape on the Siberian shore
was not over a thousand miles from a human habitation, and
Cape Prince of Wales on the American shore not over twelve

Online LibraryGeorge H. WarnerThe Jewish spectre → online text (page 1 of 30)