1913 Speech at Cornerstone Laying for Second Synagogue

I made a surprising discovery in attempting to source the quote that appears partway through this speech:  most of it is borrowed!  Compare to this speech by Leo N. Levi, President of the Executive Committee of the I.O.B.B., which he delivered at the Jubilee of the District Grand Lodge No. 1, I.O.B.B. in New York City on March 8, 1903, and which was printed and distributed as early as 1905.  I’ve marked the plagiarized portions (including minor textual differences).

This speech appears twice in the synagogue’s records; the cleanest copy was transcribed and major differences from the rougher copy are noted.  It also was included in its entirety in the Homestead newspaper article covering the event.

Speech at cornerstone laying at Synagogue
10 Ave Sep 28. -1913-

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The celebration in which we are engaged is not merely a festive occasion, we are not assembled chiefly for pleasurable entertainment, we have been called together to review what we have done, and have left undone, to take an acc’t of what we are doing and leaving undone, and to draw a conclusion of what the future holds for us to do.

In such deliberations, we hold no secret conclaves, we present our history with all its successes and its failure to the public, and along with it we set forth the scope and plan of our future activities.

One feature of this occasion is the History of the Hstd H. Cong. for the first seven years of its existence, which I have just read to you, and was found in the cornerstone of the old Synagogue.

I shall not enter the field which has been covered, except to pluck here and there a Sheaf from the harvest that has been gathered.

From that history we learn that after the Cong was in existence for seven years it was found expedient to build a Synagogue which was dedicated March 30 1902. The building Com. consisted of B Hepps Chairman, I Grossman Secy H Haupt, Jos Lasdusky M.D. Weis, Nathan Eskovitz Morris Frankel H Moskovitz IS Grossman B Glueck Sam Marawitz (sic, Morantz) Phillip Cohen (sic).

It took only a few months to realize what a grave error has been committed in building a house of worship hardly adequate for the accommodation and need of that time, especially so in a growing community, but considering, that we were handicapped by the lack of funds, the error was excusable, but even then plans were propagated to remedy the evil, by the advocacy of an addition to the synagogue.

But wise counsel prevailed, and instead of wasting funds on improving a building which at best could only last a few years, it was deemed advisable to create a sinking fund, lift the mortgage on the building. Thru united efforts this was accomplished on May 17-1903

Difficulties which we had to surmount.

The persecutions in other lands had at that time brought to us jews from all parts of the world. They brought with them different customs, habits of thought, Phases of religious beliefs, intellectual acquirements, acquired and inherited prejudices; each group sought to dominate the others, controversies arouse (sic), and at times destruction was threatened. But above the din and confusion arose on clear note that has sounded thru out the ages,

“Though some of you be rich and some of you poor, some intelligent others ignorant, some refined others uncultured, some pious others irreligious, some generous other niggard, though you speak different tongues, and have different habits, yet have ye a common ancestry, a common peril, and a common destiny, for ye are all jews.”1

The growth of the community kept on and the center around which all activities revolved was the Cong. The aim of the Cong. was mainly intended to be of a spiritual nature, But we realized that the death (sic) must be buried, the sick nursed, the poor aided, the widow comforted, the orphans reared, the ignorant educated, the debased uplifted, the weak protected, and the welfare of all safeguarded, from the assaults to which the jews have always been subject then as always.

The demands at times got to be so great, that justice could not be done to all who needed relief.

A few public spirited men of Hstd with the assistance of Mr L Sulzbacher of Brdk were instrumental in organizing Hstd Lodge 586 IOBB on Dec 11th-1904

To define the aims and objects of this order, it is best to quote the preamble, which can not be too often repeated, as a declaration of principles it is perfect in its simplicity.

The Independent Order of Bnai Brith has taken upon itself the mission of uniting Israelites in the work of promoting their highest interest and those of humanity, of developing, elevating and defending the mental and moral character of our race, of inculcating the purest principles of philanthropy honor and patriotism, of supporting science and art, alleviating the wants of the poor and needy, visiting and attending the sick, coming to the rescue of victims of persecution, providing for, protecting and assisting the widow and orphan, on the broadest principles of humanity.

IOBB Lodge now maintains a Sunday Religious School, and contributes money to various philanthropic institutions.

The next step of progress was the organization of the Ladies Aid Society, which ranks on a par with the IOBB Lodge, in charitable and philanthropic work. The Ladies are at all times willing and ready to do a good deed. It is true they organized mainly for social purposes, but nevertheless they contribute annually to Denver Hosp. for Consumptives, Home for the Aged, Montefiore Hosp. of Pgh. and dispense aid to hundreds of worthy causes which come under their observation.  They have built a fence around the cemetery of the Cong. and have made a liberal contribution towards this new Synagogue.

Hstd Lodge No 437 I.O.B.A. was organized Feb 17th 1907 and is the youngest child of progress. Considering its age of six years it is quite a lively youngster with its 190 members.

The aim of this order is to benefit its own members, with sick benefits and Endowments. But Hstd Lodge takes a broader view, and does work not only for members, but helps those who need assistance regardless of their being affiliated with the order. To explain the high standard of this Lodge, I will quote a part of the instructions given to each candidate who join the lodge.

“We ask you to learn the new lesson of the covenant, The lesson of brotherly love. However proud may be your station, however endowed with the material things of this world, remember ever that we are all brothers of a common humanity, stretch out a helping hand to him who is about to fall, give words of wise counsel to him whose erring judgement leads him from the path of virtue, plead for him, who thru ignorance has been led to evil ways, that the light of self denial may glorify your life and prove you worthy of the honor that has been conferred upon you, that honor of being a member of the I.O.B.A.

In speaking of the progress and achievements of the Cong. I had to digress, to mention these organizations, it would be utterly impossible to omit them, as they are the natural outgrowth of the Cong. and are so interwoven with it, that the history of the Cong. could not be written unless all find a proper place on this record, in this sphere of their activities. These organizations were not created, they grew just like a child. That these organizations were justified and necessary requires no argument.

The meeting room has achieved a great influence upon the minds of our people, it has served to develop intelligence and character, and no one who reads these papers can help but conclude, that but for these organizations the stature of the jews of this town would in all respects be lower than it is.

In claiming so much we are not unmindful of the errors that we have made. We frankly admit that we have not always pursued the wisest course, most notable among these errors was the old synagogue and the duplication of societies whose aims were almost identical. To overcome those errors we are first erecting a new synagogue a בית חדש a new house with all modern improvements (including an up to date mortgage) which will be a credit to the jews, and a credit to the town, and second we have organized the United Hebrew Charities which is maintained by all the jewish organizations of the town, and does away with the repetition of the work to be done.

This history of Hstd is not a local one you can find the same conditions in almost any town of this or any other State in the Union. We do not claim unmerited honors, nor do we shrink from grave responsibilities.

Those ranked in the front row for the past twenty years2 have labored earnestly for a great cause, they have won many victories and suffered some defeats. They are not more proud of the former, than sorrowful for the latter. What they have done, and what they have left undone is here set down to be read by those who will follow them.

They do not demand praise nor resent criticism, but they do ask that criticism shall be constructive, and not destructive, that it shall be offered in order to build up, not to tear down.3 Let our aim in life be to become builders. Builders for humanity’s sake, and this will eventually redount (sic) to the glory of God, and leave a monument to us for ages to come.

I Grossman

  1.  Attempting to determine the source of this quote is what led me to the discovery that most of this speech is plagiarized. I still don’t know where this quote is from; all the sources online that quote it attribute it to the Levi speech that also includes it as a quote.  

  2.  Here Levi wrote, “Those who have formed its rank and file for fifty years and more,” focusing on the ordinary members of his organization.   Grossman, instead, focuses only on HHC’s leaders when he says, “those ranked in the front row.”  

  3. Compare this line to the conclusion of the nasty speech he’d give a year later at the synagogue’s dedication  

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