A Minor Scandal in the Jewish Community

Hi all! Just a minor update. The library was hit by a malware attack. No ransomware, but it destroyed our computer system, This includes our phones since they are tied through our internet. We have been down over a month now, but hope to be back up soon. We in the Genealogy Department have been keeping busy. I have been indexing deaths and marriages reported in the Monroe News-Leader. It is one of the forerunners of the Monroe Free Press and the Monroe Dispatch. We have 1968 through 1973 on microfilm. It has been a fascinating read! This was published in the middle of the Civil Rights struggle and the Vietnam War and gives you a view from the local African American community. I am almost through 1969.

During the down time, I have been playing on Newspapers.com at home. I have found a Jewish newspaper out of Cincinnati called the American Israelite, which reported on national Jewish news. The Monroe Jewish temple has very few records from the early days of the congregation and I have found some treasures in there. One is a rather amusing kerfuffle over the Rector of Grace Episcopal Church helping out in a Confirmation ceremony in 1899. The paper was horrified! This is one of the most sacred rites in the Jewish faith and the fact a gentile was involved was just not acceptable. Read the transcript for yourself! I’ll post again regularly when we come back up!

25 May 1899, Page 3


            At Temple Sinai this morning Rabbi Heinberg confirmed three children, Morris Haas, Anna Nathan and Cecile Lemle.  The certificates were delivered to the young people by Rev. Dr. John Fearnley, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, something out of the usual order.  The doctor delivered a very neat address, which was much appreciated by the congregation.

25 May 1899, Page 4

SOME queer things are done by the more ignorant Jews occasionally, but the climax of bad taste was reached in Monroe, La., on Shabuoth, when the Rev. Dr. Fearnley, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, took part in the confirmation exercises in the Jewish congregation and delivered the certificates to the three confirmants.

8 Jun 1899, Page 4


                                                MONROE, La., May 28, 1899.


            Dear and Venerable Sir: – In the ISRAELITE issue of May 25th, we read the following notice in the editorial column:  ‘Some queer things are done by the more ignorant Jews occasionally, but the climax of bad taste was reached in Monroe, La., on Shabuoth, when the Rev. Dr. Fearnley, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, took part in the confirmation exercises in the Jewish congregation and delivered the certificates to the three confirmants.”

            This sweeping and fully undeserved criticism was to all the members of our congregation sad reading, and it was as aggravating as it was sad and unjust.  Firstly, we must and do hereby decidedly protest against being called in a body a set of ignorant people.  We may not all be college graduates or university professors, but most of our members are men well stricken in years, with sense and knowledge enough to know what is right or wrong in regard to the manner of conducting the services in a Jewish house of worship.  We would not allow any minister to introduce sensational novelties into our pulpit, and – let this be well understood – our present minister, Rev. I. Heinberg, is the last man in the world who would make himself guilty of such foolishness.  All we can understand by your sweeping condemnation is that you have been badly misled by false information ; and this leads us to the second point in consideration, namely, Dr. Fearnley, the rector of Grace Episcopal Church of our town, did not take part in our confirmation exercises or in the Shabuoth services proper.   This gentleman, who often attends our services with his wife, was present during the entire morning service, and at the conclusion of the confirmation exercises was called to hand the usual diplomas to the confirmants, which he did, addressing to each of the children a few words of congratulation.  This was done by him in such a sweet and happy way as can only be expected from a gentleman so scholarly and refined.  He is probably the most respected clergyman that ever graced a pulpit in this town, widely known for his learning, liberality, broadmindedness and refinement, and we are not a little proud of the intimate friendship existing between him and our rabbi, I. Heinberg.  The invitation to Dr. Fearnley in this respect had come from our congregation in a body, and was approved by our minister.  And no matter how we look upon this, we can not, with the sense that God has given us, see a shadow of wrong in it.  There was certainly no religious principle involved in it.  We are afraid that some malignant tale-bearer has misinformed you, and caused you to pass a criticism on us and our minister, which falls nothing short of an insult and a grievous injustice to him and us all.  In the name of truth and justice we call therefore upon you, venerable Sir, for a complete disavowal of your harsh and unwarranted criticism.  This is the only way to remove the offense you have given us, and nothing short of that would satisfy us.

            Our minister, Rev. I. Heinberg, has been with us now for ten years, and has just recently been re elected unanimously for a further term of three years.  He is held in high esteem by both Jew and Gentile alike, and has thus far given complete satisfaction.  At our last meeting our congregation passed a set of resolutions highly complimentary to him, and we all hold him in such affectionate esteem that we can not suffer him to be so grossly misrepresented in the editorial columns of your paper.  He has been a true, diligent and faithful teacher to us and our children, and to see him thus misrepresented and slandered is a grief to us all, and a great injustice and injury to him.  In fact, it is a mystery to us how you, upon whom we always looked as the defender of truth and justice, could have given credence to such a report without first making proper inquiries as to the veracity of it; but you have it in your power to remove this injustice and repair this injury, and we have that trust and confidence in your fair-mindedness and love of truth that we confidently look to you, dear Sir, to do so in the manner demanded.

            Hoping you will do us the favor herein asked, and to give this communication space in the ISRAELITE, and, if possible, to send us the name of your informant, we are, dear Sir,

                        Most respectfully yours, etc,

                                    J. BAER,

President of Congregation Bene Israel.

                                    SIG. HAAS,


                                    HIPP MARKS,

                                                Vice President.

                                    SAMUEL KUHN,

                        Chairman of Trustees,

                                    ISIDORE SIEGAR [sic:  SUGAR?],

                        Treasurer and Secretary.


            In this connection we would state that our comments on the occurrence were based entirely upon the report in the secular press.  There is, however, really nothing in the above to show that the statements made in the report are not substantially correct.  The distribution of the certificates is certainly a part of the confirmation exercises.  There was no question made of Dr. Fearnley’s lovable character and tactful methods, or of his single-mindedness in the matter.  What we wanted to call attention to was the impropriety of one not a Jew taking part in the most peculiarly Jewish ceremony of the church of today.  The matter seems clear enough, and the gentlemen who signed the above communication will probably see it in the same light if they will give it further consideration.

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