Children of the Ghetto

The New York Times Saturday Review

Dec. 9, 1899, p. 863

A letter appeared in last week’s issue of The Review, headed “Children of the Ghetto,” from Irene Carter, who asks: “Is there any feeling but honor in our hearts for the old man, (Reb Shemuel,) who by his decision obeyed his law, his God, even though it tore out his own and even his daughter’s heart?” There is certainly in my heart another feeling than honor. Any man that opposes, in the name of religion, an abstract, utterly irrational, pre-Christian law to the pure, holy, human, and sane instincts of a woman’s heart is a fanatic. Torquemada had what he called his “idea of duty”—it was to forcibly save souls from hell by bodily torture. Reb Shemuel is a modern survivor of this inquisitor. He tortures spiritually because the rack is proscribed. Religion! That is the sublimest religion of all that teaches eternal constancy in love. Reg Shemuel is a man who believes in the letter, and the letter kilter, while the spirit saveth. I should have felt like shouting for joy had the lovers in “The Children of the Ghetto” thrown the glove of revolt in Reb’s face, rushed into each other’s arms, and thence shaken the dust of the Ghetto forever from their heels, and lived their lives according to the dictates of their hearts. Honor indeed! Honor to those who do their duty; and to do one’s duty is simply to do what is right; and to do what is right is to live according to the highest in you—not the highest in somebody else who lived 3,000 years ago.

New York, Nov. 20, 1899.