Page:Zionism 9204 Peace Conference 1920.pdf/23

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[Zionism
11
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION

in Hebrew letters, so that the Jew of the time, illiterate except as to Hebrew, should be able to read them. But the Mendelssohnians were also assimilationists, and thus introduced the only vital change into Judaism since the conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans. Till their day, no Jew had doubted that the dispersion was only temporary and 'the restoration of the national polity might be expected at any moment'; he had looked upon himself as a temporary settler in the land where he happened to live, and indeed, at any rate in Germany, he had been physically separated by the walls of his Ghetto from the society and culture of the non-Jew. Many Jews, especially in Germany, carried away by the glamour of their new citizenship, left the fold altogether. It was the age of Massentaufen (baptisms en masse). Others abandoned their tribal nationalism and went so far as to eliminate from the prayer book of 'reform' Judaism all references to the hope of a return to the Holy Land and to substitute for a Messiah belief in an ideal Messianic destiny of the spirit common to Israel and mankind. But the mass of Jewry has remained true to its Prayer Book and its Bible. Nevertheless, the Jews in the first half of the nineteenth century were, perhaps, less concerned with Palestine than were non-Jews. The Jewish problem of the day seemed to be in process of solution. Little or nothing was to be heard even of schemes for colonizing Jews outside Palestine. Such had formerly advocated Jewish settlements on the 'Wild Coast' (1654), in the West Indies (1659), and in South America (1749) the last under the sovereignty of Marshal de Saxe. The colonial scheme of Mordecai Noah of Philadelphia (1785–1851) was made memorable by the support given to it by President Adams.

Mendelssohn himself was hardly an assimilationist. In 1770, consulted as to a scheme for the resettlement of Jews in Palestine, he opposed such an idea only because the Jews were too scattered and feeble, the expense would be too great, and the Powers would never consent. Napoleon in 1799, when on his Syrian