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December 1: Protesting the Armenian Genocide, 1895

December 1, 2015

emanuel_ rabbisilverman-youngThe New York Times reported on this date in 1895 that Rabbi Joseph Silverman, the leader of New York’s massive Temple Emanu-El, had the day before “delivered an eloquent sermon” urging Jewish solidarity with Armenians who were being killed by Turkey during the Hamidian Massacres, 1894-1896, which orphaned some 50,000 Armenian children in a prelude to the genocidal onslaught during World War I. “The whole world of man is one human family,” said Rabbi Silverman, invoking the Russian pogroms of 1881-2, which touched “the heart of the world.... Cold, in deed, must that heart be that has not in the last few days been touched by the reports of the monstrous cruelties committed on the far-off Armenians and the missionaries residing in their country.... In this nineteenth century, we cannot sit idly by and hear the cry of distress from thousands of innocent souls that are being tortured... This is the humanitarian age.” Silverman, the first American-born rabbi to serve in New York City, led the congregation from 1888-1922 and was also president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform), 1900-1903.

“In spite of all the arts and artifices... to divide men into stronger and weaker, upper and lower classes, nature often breaks through all bonds and shows us, beneath the exterior cloak of form and title of fashion, a simple finite mortal man.... We are all alike before God. Why, then, not sympathize with and help one another?” —Rabbi Joseph Silverman