END OF BOOK I.
THE GRANDCHILDREN OF THE GHETTO.
THE CHRISTMAS DINNER.
Daintily embroidered napery, beautiful porcelain, Queen Anne silver, exotic flowers, glittering glass, soft rosy light, creamy expanses of shirt-front, elegant low-necked dresses—all the conventional accompaniments of Occidental gastronomy.
It was not a large party. Mrs. Henry Goldsmith professed to collect guests on artistic principles—as she did bric-a-brac—and with an eye to general conversation. The elements of the social salad were sufficiently incongruous to-night, yet all the ingredients were Jewish.
For the history of the Grandchildren of the Ghetto, which is mainly a history of the middle-classes, is mainly a history of isolation. “The Upper Ten” is a literal phrase in Judah, whose aristocracy just about suffices for a synagogue quorum. Great majestic luminaries, each with its satellites, they swim serenely in the golden heavens. And the middle-classes look up in worship and the lower-classes in supplication. “The Upper Ten” have no spirit of exclusiveness; they are willing to entertain royalty, rank and the arts with a catholic hospitality that is only Eastern in its magnificence, while some of them only remain Jews for fear of being considered snobs by society. But the middle-class Jew has been more jealous of his caste, and for caste reasons. To exchange hospitalities with the Christian when you cannot eat his dinners were to get the worse of the bargain; to invite his sons to your house when they cannot marry your daughters were to solicit awkward complications. In business, in civic affairs, in politics, the Jew has mixed freely with his fellow-citizens, but indiscriminate social relations only become possible through a religious decadence, which they in turn accelerate. A Christian in a company of middle-class Jews is like a lion in a den of Daniels. They show him deference and their prophetic side.
Mrs. Henry Goldsmith was of the upper middle-classes, and her husband was the financial representative of the Kensington Synagogue at the United Council, but her swan-like neck was still bowed beneath the yoke of North London, not to say provincial, Judaism. So to-night there were none of those external indications of Christmas which are so frequent at “good” Jewish houses; no plum-pudding, snapdragon, mistletoe, not even a Christmas tree. For Mrs. Henry Goldsmith did not countenance these coquettings with Christianity. She would have told you that the incidence of her dinner on Christmas Eve was merely an accident, though a lucky accident, in so far as Christmas found Jews perforce at leisure for social gatherings. What she was celebrating was the feast of Chanukah—of the re-dedication of the Temple after the pollutions