tihvavy of t1>e trheolo^icd ^tmimvy
PRINCETON • NEW JERSEY
John Stuart Coiming, D.
BM 40 .C66 L38 1907
Levi, Leo N. , 1856-1904
Memorial volume. Leo N
Levi. I.O.B.B. 1905
LEO N. LEV
LEO N. LEVI
L O. B. B.
HAMBURGER PRINTING CO.
63-69 Market Street,
TO THE MEMORY OF
LEO N. LEVI,
A leader safe and sane, a thinker erudite and profound, an orator
unexcelled in his generation, a man good and true, a distin-
guished citizen of the United States, and an ideal Jew, this
volume is dedicated by his admiring and sorrowing brethren,
THE INDEPENDENT ORDER OF B'NAI B'RITH.
The rendition of tribute to worth or greatness, is an attribute
of advanced civilization, and in plastic marble, or responsive
bronze, shaped by master hands, grateful Commonwealths often
offer willing homage to their illustrious dead.
But the imposing statue also perpetuates the memory of the
gifted artist, whose wondrous skill endows the lifeless material
with majesty, dignity, and the expressive lineaments of the
human form divine.
And thus the creator of the testimonial shares the fame of
him, whose achievements are thereby commemorated.
But a loyal Brotherhood offers a more unique memorial of
its affection and regard for its inspired chieftain.
It has sought no aid from the cultured imagination of me-
chanical proficiency of stranger or friend, but has designed a
monument, every part of which, from base to summit, is fash-
ioned from material supplied by the intellect and industry of
him it attempts to honor.
Upon these pages, the sayings of a man born to lead, and
fruitful in accomplishment, are faithfully transcribed. They bear
incontrovertible testimony to the thoroughness and profundity
of his knowledge; the wide range of his culture; his invincible
logic; his faultless diction; his mastery of every subject he
They reveal his breadth of mind ; his freedom from prejudice ;
his buoyant optimism ; his broad cosmopolitanism, as well as his
unfaltering patriotism and devotion to his country.
They chronicle his constant, sympathetic regard for the ailing
O INTRODUCTION AND BIOGRAPHY.
and dependent of his own race; his exalted conception of duty;
his consecration of his strongest efforts to the best interest of
humanity at large ; his fealty to the faith of his fathers ; and his
unswerving allegiance to the beneficent Order he so conspicu-
ously led to victory and success.
It is singular that a man so lavishly gifted with the higher
qualities of intellectual and moral manhood, — strikingly fitted to
win distinction in the most exalted of official stations ; qualified
to direct the policy of governments ; and equal to any responsi-
bility which might be imposed upon him by his country, — did
not, at any time, seek political preferment, or make any de-
mands upon the suffrages of his fellow-man.
Neither the glittering baubles, nor the substantial advantages
of wealth had for him any allurements; he valued money, not
as the end of effort, but solely as a means of doing good, and
would not devote his time nor energies to its mere accumulation.
The plaudits of the multitude never instilled in him ambi-
tion for place or power; never tempted him to swerve from the
pathway to the goal which was his ultimate aim. He was never
dazzled by the seductive zeal of the theorist, but always safe and
sane, he deliberately selected his field of duty, and within its
environments there was none to excel him.
Gradually, by the very force and strength of his character
his sphere of operations was naturally enlarged, and when the
civilized world was startled by the horrible crimes perpetuated
upon the innocent and unoffending at Kischineff, Bessarabia,
Russia, on the 19th of April, 1903, he then, as the executive of
the greatest secular organization of Jews in America, displayed
the highest qualities of the statesman in endeavoring to solve
the grave and absorbing problems thus presented, made avail-
able the moral force engendered by enlightened public sentiment
aroused to the condemnation of outrage and wrong, and by his
consummate ability achieved international renown.
It was his crowning aspiration, after making sufficient pro-
vision for his loved ones, to consecrate his labors to the better-
ment of mankind.
INTRODUCTION AND BIOGRAPHY. 7
To aid in the accomplishment of his purpose, nature had
served him well. He was tall in stature, and had the carriage
and build of an athlete; a massive brow gave evidence of his
powerful intellect, while his steady, penetrating, but kindly eyes,
finely molded features and attractive personality, easily enchained
It was an unalloyed pleasure to listen to the resonant tones of
his cultivated voice, which could easily reach the limit of the
largest auditoriums, and which, at his will, could persuade and
arouse to enthusiasm, the delighted hearers.
He left no topic unembellished ; was never, in any discus-
sion, at a loss for the proper word ; and his capacity as a debater
and controversialist was remarkable. He did not know how to
flatter, but sought to influence by the rectitude of his motives,
and the convincing power of his talents.
And he was equally facile with his pen. And thus, to take
him all in all, he had no superior in his time and generation.
He was singularly gifted as an after-dinner speaker, equal to
any emergency, responding to every demand without effort or
preparation, and commanding applause on every occasion, but
no attempt has been made to reproduce here any of his extem-
It is not the purpose to extend the dimensions of this volume
by incorporating herein his speeches, or essays, of mere local
The celebrated "Kischineff Petition" was wholly prepared by
him and is herewith appended:
''To His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of Russia:
The cruel outrages perpetrated at Kischineif during Easter
of 1903 have excited horror and reprobation throughout the
world. Until your Majesty gave special and personal directions
the local authorities failed to maintain order or suppress the
rioting. The victims were Jews, and the assault was the result
of race and religious prejudice. The rioters violated the laws
8 INTRODUCTION AND BIOGRAPHY.
The local officials were derelict in the performance of their
The Jews were the victims of indefensible lawlessness.
These facts are made plain by the official reports of, and by
the official acts following, the riot.
Under ordinary conditions the awful calamity would be de-
plored without undue fear of a recurrence. But such is not the
case in the present instance. Your petitioners are advised that
millions of Jews, Russian subjects, dwelling in Southwestern Rus-
sia, are in constant dread of fresh outbreaks.
They feel that ignorance, superstition and bigotry, as exempli-
fied by the rioters, are ever ready to persecute them; that the
local officials, unless thereunto specially admonished, cannot be
relied on as strenuous protectors of their peace and security; that
a public sentiment of hostility has been engendered against them
and hangs over them as a continuing menace.
Even if it is conceded that these fears are to some extent
exaggerated, it is unquestionable that they exist, that they are
not groundless, and that they produce effects of great im-
The westward migration of Russian Jews, which has pro-
ceeded for over twenty years, is being stimulated by these fears,
and already that movement has become so great as to over-
shadow in magnitude the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and
to rank with the exodus from Egypt.
No estimate is possible of the misery suffered by the hapless
Jews who feel driven to forsake their native land, to sever the
most sacred ties,"^ and to wander forth to strange countries.
Neither is it possible to estimate the misery suffered by those
who are unwilling or unable to leave the land of their birth, who
must part from friends and relatives who emigrate, who remain
in never ending terror.
Religious persecution is more sinful and more fatuous than
war. War is sometimes necessary, honorable and just; religious
persecution is never defensible.
The sinfulness and folly which give impulse to unnecessary
INTRODUCTION AND BIOGRAPHY. 9
war received their greatest check when your Majesty's initiative
resulted in an international court of peace.
With such an example before it the civilized world cherishes
the hope that upon the same initiative there shall be fixed in the
early days of the twentieth century the enduring principles of
religious liberty; that by a gracious and convincing expression
your Majesty will proclaim, not only for the government of
your own subjects, but also for the guidance of all civilized men,
that none shall suffer in person, property, liberty, honor or life
because of his religious belief; that the humblest subject or
citizen may worship according to the dictates of his own con-
science, and that government, whatever its former agencies,
must safeguard these rights and immunities by the exercise of
all its powers.
Far removed from your Majesty's dominions, living under
different conditions and owing allegiance to another Govern-
ment, your petitioners yet venture, in the name of civilization,
to plead for religious liberty and tolerance ; to plead that he who
led his own people and all others to the shrine of peace will
add new lustre to his reign and fame by leading a new movement
that shall commit the whole world in opposition to religious
On July 14th, 1903, this impressive document was, by the
order of President Roosevelt, cabled, without alteration, to the
American Charge d' Affaires at St. Petersburg, with a letter
of introduction signed by Secretary Hay. The petition had
nearly thirteen thousand signatures.
Subsequently, the petition, with the signatures, was bound
in a suitable volume, and on October 5, 1903, transmitted to the
Secretary of State, accompanied by a communication from him,
as President of the Executive Committee, from which we make
the following extract:
"For all time to come, it will testify to the love of justice,
humanity and liberty which moved the President to give it
countenance and its signers to father it. It stands as the verdict
of the whole people condemning the denial of religious liberty.
lO INTRODUCTION AND BIOGRAPHY.
and upholding the President in asserting that condemnation.
If it be without precedent, it is the more precious for becoming
one. Civilization made a distinct and notable advance when a
great nation of eighty millions of people, speaking not only
through its official head, but also through its most representative
citizens in their individual capacities, served notice on the world
that those who are made to suffer martyrdom for conscience's
sake, wherever they may abide, have friends and sympathizers
in this country. Such an example will not be lost. The oppres-
sor will hereafter pause before he strikes, and his victim will
be saved from utter despair by the consciousness that the voice
of humanity will be raised in his behalf.
''In this view, the services rendered by the President, his ad-
visers and the people generally, are not to be measured by the
benefits conferred upon the Jews alone. This is one of the oft-
recurring cases in which the Jews, by their misfortunes, have
led the world to a just appreciation of the truths of which they
are the devoted missionaries.
*Tn every part of the world where Jews are to be found there
is thanksgiving because the President and you and the entire
American people have championed the cause of the oppressed.
"Everywhere admiration has been excited, and in this coun-
try the people are proud of the courageous humanity which has
On October 31, 1903, the Honorable John Hay, one of the
greatest statesmen of the United States, universally loved and
honored throughout this great land of liberty, made the fol-
lowing remarkable acknowledgment:
"October 31, 1903.
"Leo N. Levi, Esquire, President of the Executive Committee
of the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith, 723 Lexington
Avenue, New York, N. Y.
"My dear Sir: —
"I have received at the hands of the Honorable Simon Wolf,
INTRODUCTION AND BIOGRAPHY. II
your letter of the 5th of October. He has also delivered to me
the bound copy of the Kischineff Petition.
'It gives me pleasure to accept the charge of this important
and significant document, and assign it a place in the archives
of the Department of State.
* 'Although this copy of your petition did not reach the high
destination for v^hich it was intended, its words have attained
a world-wide publicity, and have found a lodgment in many
thousands of minds. This petition will be always memorable,
not only for what it contains, but also for the number and weight
of the signatures attached to it, embracing some of the most
eminent names of our generation, of men renowned for intelli-
gence, philanthropy and public spirit. In future, when the
students of history come to peruse this document, they will won-
der how the petitioners, moved to profound indignation by
intolerable wrongs perpetrated on the innocent and helpless,
should have expressed themselves in language so earnest and
eloquent and yet so dignified, so moderate and decorous. It is
a valuable addition to public literature, and it will be sacredly
cherished among the treasures of this Department. I am,
Very respectfully yours,
(Sd.) JOHN HAY."
A brief sketch of the life of this great man, prepared by a
friend of many years duration, and the Rabbi of the Congrega-
tion at Galveston of which he was a member. Dr. Henry Cohn,
is herewith appended.
January 15, 1907. Vicksburg, Miss.
12 INTRODUCTION AND BIOGRAPHY.
In New York City, at the dawn of day, on Wednesday,
January 13th, 1904, all that was mortal of Leo N. Levi passed'
away. His death came as a terrible shock to his friends and
acquaintances; to his wife and children, brothers and sisters, it
was as if the sun was obscured at noon-day.
Mr. Levi was a born leader. Rising from the ranks, he mas-
tered every position he held, and there was no situation that
confronted him but to which he was equal. His fine diplomacy in
the preparation of the Kishineff Petition, which was immediately
accepted as framed, and its subsequent presentation to Russia,
through the services of President Roosevelt and the late John
Hay, is an instance of his acumen. "You are a great diplomat,
Mr. Levi," said Mr. Hay, upon the former's suggesting the
cablegram to Riddle at St. Petersburg as the best means of
reaching the Czar, "and would make a great ambassador." To
bring order out of chaos, whether he were dealing with com-
munal, civic, or political problems, was his strong point. In
numerous instances he saved the day for his people with honor
to himself and to the cause he represented. "A great man,*'^
said President Roosevelt of him. Yea, we had no greater!
Leo N. Levi was bom in Victoria, Texas, September 15th,
1856, one of a family of six children of Abraham and Mina Levi.
Abraham Levi (born, Alsace 1822; died, Victoria, Texas, Novem-
ber 30th, 1902) and settled in Victoria in 1849, engaging
in mercantile pursuits. Having received the school education
afforded by his native town, Leo, then a promising youth of
sixteen, matriculated at the University of Virginia, where, after
a brilliant college career, he was graduated in Law. He gained,
INTRODUCTION AND BIOGRAPHY. 13
among other University distinctions, the medal for the best
University Magazine article, and the debater's medal — a coveted
prize then, as it is now. It was while pursuing his college
-course that his courage and manliness, portending so much for
his future, were first put on trial. As has often happened to
our co-religionists, he was taunted with being a Jew, and he
resented it verbally and physically. He won the admiration of
his quondam antagonists (some of whom afterwards became
his life-long friends) by his attitude; and when he passed
through the portals of "Old Virginia," there was not a fellow
student but thought it an honor to clasp his hand.
In 1876, Leo N. Levi, fresh from his University laurels,
entered the law office of Flournoy & Scott, at Galveston, Texas,
within easy distance of the parental roof at Victoria. Prov-
ing a most valuable asset to that prominent firm, he was offered
a partnership, which he accepted. In 1877, he married Miss
Ray Bachrach, the love of his college days, at Charlottsville, Va.,
and at the time of his sad demise, he had six surviving children.
Making Galveston his home, he became, life and soul, a part of
his environment, working for the best interests of his city, county,
and state. Upon the retirement of the head of the law concern,
with which he was connected, the firm, under the name of Scott
& Levi, and subsequently Scott, Levi & Smith, was one of the
best known, and most trusted legal establishments in the State.
Mr. Levi resided in Galveston for 23 years (1876-1899), taking
laudable interest in all municipal affairs, and on many occasions
of grave importance to the city, he was called upon to plead its
cause before the Legislative bodies of the State. Such tasks
he cheerfully undertook, often at great inconvenience to him-
self, and at the sacrifice of his own business interests. And Gal-
veston, the city of his adoption, recognizing his talent and worth,
was not slow to do him honor. When the late President of the
United States, Benjamin Harrison, visited the port for a formal
celebration, the city asked Leo N. Levi and two other gentle-
men to travel some distance to meet him, and also to be his
constant companion during his stay. A clear thinker, a most
eloquent and fearless speaker, a remarkable logician, he served
14 INTRODUCTION AND BIOGRAPHY.
his clients, individuals and corporations, with unswerving fidel-
ity; and he was known far and wide as a true lawyer and a
sound jurist. He was a faithful exponent of honorable citizen-
ship. He never aspired to political preferment, although his
exceptional abilities were always enlisted in the cause of good
His public life did not lessen his allegiance to his co-religion-
ists, to whom he was ever an able guide, and with whom he was
an enthusiastic worker. In 1887, he was elected President of
Congregation B'nai Israel at Galveston, and retained the office
until his departure for New York. During those twelve years and
prior to that, he affiliated with every local charitable, educational
and social institution, occupying in all of them, at one time or
another, positions of honor and responsibility. Intellectual cul-
ture among his brethren was very dear to him, and only second
to the desire he had for the amelioration of the condition of the
oppressed Israelites all over the world. It was in Galveston
that he became a member of the Independent Order of B'nai
B'rith, a Jewish fraternal Organization, whose sphere extends
to the four quarters of the globe. In due course he was elected
president of District No. 7 of that Order, comprising seven
southern states, and more than once he received engrossed tes-
timonials setting forth his usefulness to his district Grand
Lodge. In 1900, at the Constitution Grand Lodge in Chicago,
Leo N. Levi was chosen President of the whole Order succeed-
ing Mr. Julius Bien, who had then retired from the presidency
to fill the position of Foreign Chancellor. As the head of the
I. O. B. B., Mr. Levi was particularly influential in the appeal
of the United States government to Roumania, in connection
with the abominable Jewish policy of that kingdom and subse-
quently presented to President Roosevelt the protest addressed
to the Russian Government, consequent upon the horrible mas-
sacre at KishineiT. In the conferences pending these negotiations
Mr. Levi had several personal interviews with the President of
the United States. The cable to the U. S. ambassador at St.
Petersburg, a collaboration of John Hay and Leo N. Levi, em-
bodying the Kishineff Petition, which Mr. Levi wrote himself,
INTRODUCTION AND BIOGRAPHY. I5
will go down to history, and if the latter had accomplished
nothing else in his life than the work incident upon this unique
circumstance, notwithstanding the Czar's refusal to receive the
matchless document, he would have served his life's purpose.
But apart from this occurrence, his services to the I. O. B. B.
and through this organization to the Jews of this country were
inestimable. As has been said above, Leo N. Levi was a noted
speaker, having lectured in many states of the Union and on
varied subjects. In 1899 he delivered the Commencement Lec-
ture at the State University at Austin, "The Successful Life,"
which was acclaimed to be the best address ever heard within
the walls of that institution, and which the faculty use today in
the classical department, as a specimen of inspiring thought and
A devoted husband and father, an energetic worker in hu-
manity's cause, an ideal and an inspiration to thousands of his
fellow citizens, he was stricken down in the midst of a career
whose usefulness gave promise of increase with years. But we
know nothing; and subject to an inscrutable Providence, we can
only bow our head in resignation, and pay this poor tribute to
one whose like we shall not see again.
Ascend Thou to heaven thou worthy son of Abraham ! Thou
art mourned by hundreds of thousands ! Thy life has been well
spent! Abide with Thy Maker to all eternity!
Galveston, Texas, May 15th, 1906.
ADDRESS OF ACCEPTANCE.
bro. Leo N. Levi, in accepting the position, spoke as follows :
Brethren of the Convention: I thank you for this great
honor — for honor indeed it is. The feelings which arise in my
breast engender a fear that I have taken upon myself a burden
under which I shall stagger, if not fall. I told you last night I
had little respect for mere words, and I shall vindicate that
declaration by saying but little herre now, and what I do say will
be in the line of the performance of my duty. You are about
to follow the election of your President by the election of other
officers who are to co-operate with him and work with him in
attaming the mission of our Order. I say to you and I say to
them that I shall receive any expressions of discontent, any crit-
icism of any remissness that is personal to myself with tender-
ness, with gentleness and with a forgiving spirit. But I say to
you upon this solemn and, I believe, historic occasion, that the
man who is associated with me or subordinated to me who fails
or falters in his duty to the Order will find me as unrelenting
and as severe as if I commanded an army in the face of a dan-
gerous foe. I said to one who will probably be on the Executive
Committee, and I repeat it now, that if at any time during my
administration a single member of that Committee by reason
of his business engagements, sickness or other cause fails to per-
form the duties of his office, I shall expect his resignation, and
if it is not forthcoming, I shall ask it, and I make that announce-
ment to you now because I don't want to then be accused of au-
tocracy or of despotism. I make the declaration now because I
want your sanction to that declaration of policy, and if you dis-
sent from it, I want a declaration of dissent. I make the decla-
ration now because I want you to bear it in mind when you se-
lect the members of your Executive Committee, and I want the
ADDRESS OF ACCEPTANCE. \^
candidates for those positions to keep it in their minds when
they accept the responsibiHty. If I stand on the bridge of your
vessel in the storm and in the calm to guide her on her course, I
want to know that my mates, my engineers and my crew are
equally vigilant and equally diligent in the performance of the
duties that are assigned to them, and I shall exact it.
It has been said that we are entering upon a new era in the
destiny of the Jew. I believe that, I believe it firmly. I stated
years ago that I believed that the salvation of Judaism was the
American-born Jew. I have traveled over this land and I find
our young men and our young women, unversed as they are in
the old traditional forms and ceremonies, strangers to the ritual
around which cling so many tender memories in the minds of our
older people, yet animated, inspired and uplifted by the quicken-