A JEWISH TRAVELLER
The Journal of a Jewish Traveller. By Israel Cohen. (The Bodley Head. 15s.) Tins is the story of a long journey undertaken for a purpose. Between the spring of 1920 and the spring of 1921 Mr. Israel Cohen " visited the Jewish Communities of Australasia, India, and the Far East. It was the first journey of its kind ever made by a Jew to the settlements of Israel in those far off regions." His object was to further the Zionist cause and to obtain money for it. To Jews the book will be one of supreme interest, quite apart from the cause which Mr. Cohen preached.
The life of the small communities held together by racial and religious feeling, sometimes found in out of the way places, sometimes in the midst of great towns, are here described with a simplicity which is fascinating. The admixture of very material common sense and a kind of romantic spirituality, so difficult for the Gentile to under stand, so delightful to those to whom it means home, reappears in every centre. Wherever he went Mr. Cohen seems to have been received with joy, though by no means always with agreement. A good many Jews—generally apparently rich ones—refused to interest themselves in his missions, while to many a poor man living an isolated life among strangers the thought of the Holy.Land was as the thought of heaven— full of hope and consolation. But everywhere some enthusiasts were found—even among Australian prize-fighters.
No one will read this book without being intensely impressed by the sense of . Brotherhood which is, as it were, the Patriotism of the Dispersion, and whose intensity would seem to make against rather than for Mr. Cohen's gospel of repatriation. As he tells his story he diverges sometimes to relate the histories of well-known families among whom he finds himself. Almost every Jewish family which remem- bers its past must remember a romance. In Hong Kong the Jewish community owes its origin to the commercial enterprise of the Sassoons. First heard of in the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella, they migrated to Bagdad, whence David Sassoon, who was born in 1792, went to Bombay and sent his sons out as bankers and merchants to the cities of the East in the same manner and about the same time as the father of the first Rothschild brothers sent his sons to the West. One of these sons went to China and founded offices in Canton, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The clerks and managers of the banks were all Jews, and worshipped in synagogues built by their employers. Among themselves they -spoke--Mr. Cohen tells us they still speak—Arabic, in which language, until lately, they also kept their books.
In the synagogue belonging to the Hong Kong Community Mr. Cohen discovered a Hebrew translation of the New Testa- ment. " Nobody knew how or by whom it had been smuggled into the sacred precincts, but I was assured that it had lain innocuous all the time, and not a single member of the Com- munity had been seduced by its doctrine." Since Mr. Cohen had found it, however, it was deemed better to turn it out, and it was taken away to be given to some Christian institution or minister ! " Which things are an allegory." •