Children of the Ghetto eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 750 pages of information about Children of the Ghetto.
of Antiochus Epiphanes—­and the memory of the national hero, Judas Maccabaeus.  Christmas crackers would have been incompatible with the Chanukah candles which the housekeeper, Mary O’Reilly, forced her master to light, and would have shocked that devout old dame.  For Mary O’Reilly, as good a soul as she was a Catholic, had lived all her life with Jews, assisting while yet a girl in the kitchen of Henry Goldsmith’s father, who was a pattern of ancient piety and a prop of the Great Synagogue.  When the father died, Mary, with all the other family belongings, passed into the hands of the son, who came up to London from a provincial town, and with a grateful recollection of her motherliness domiciled her in his own establishment.  Mary knew all the ritual laws and ceremonies far better than her new mistress, who although a native of the provincial town in which Mr. Henry Goldsmith had established a thriving business, had received her education at a Brussels boarding-school.  Mary knew exactly how long to keep the meat in salt and the heinousness of frying steaks in butter.  She knew that the fire must not be poked on the Sabbath, nor the gas lit or extinguished, and that her master must not smoke till three stars appeared in the sky.  She knew when the family must fast, and when and how it must feast.  She knew all the Hebrew and jargon expressions which her employers studiously boycotted, and she was the only member of the household who used them habitually in her intercourse with the other members.  Too late the Henry Goldsmiths awoke to the consciousness of her tyranny which did not permit them to be irreligious even in private.  In the fierce light which beats upon a provincial town with only one synagogue, they had been compelled to conform outwardly with many galling restrictions, and they had sub-consciously looked forward to emancipation in the mighty metropolis.  But Mary had such implicit faith in their piety, and was so zealous in the practice of her own faith, that they had not the courage to confess that they scarcely cared a pin about a good deal of that for which she was so solicitous.  They hesitated to admit that they did not respect their religion (or what she thought was their religion) as much as she did hers.  It would have equally lowered them in her eyes to admit that their religion was not so good as hers, besides being disrespectful to the cherished memory of her ancient master.  At first they had deferred to Mary’s Jewish prejudices out of good nature and carelessness, but every day strengthened her hold upon them; every act of obedience to the ritual law was a tacit acknowledgment of its sanctity, which made it more and more difficult to disavow its obligation.  The dread of shocking Mary came to dominate their lives, and the fashionable house near Kensington Gardens was still a veritable centre of true Jewish orthodoxy, with little or nothing to make old Aaron Goldsmith turn in his grave.  It is probable, though, that Mrs. Henry Goldsmith would have kept a kosher table, even if Mary had never been born.  Many of their acquaintances and relatives were of an orthodox turn.  A kosher dinner could be eaten even by the heterodox; whereas a tripha dinner choked off the orthodox.  Thus it came about that even the Rabbinate might safely stoke its spiritual fires at Mrs. Henry Goldsmith’s.

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Children of the Ghetto from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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