Jewish "Kol Nidre" and "Eli, Eli" Explained

The International Jew, by Henry Ford

"What the American Jew needs to develop is the habit of self-criticism. If the spokesmen of the Jewish people would devote one-half the energy they now expend in answering attacks to attacking the evils that stare everyone in the face, they would make a real contribution to American life. But judged by their public utterances, they seem to be supersensitive to trivial prejudice in non-Jews and extraordinarily insensitive to the faults of Jews. They are hypochondriac and morbidly defensive about their critics, and indulgent and complacent about what the Jewish people is and does. Races, not cursed with a sense of inferiority, do not shrink from criticism. They initiate it." — Walter Lippmann, in The American Hebrew.


"I have looked this year and last for something in your paper about the prayer which the Jews say at their New Year. But you say nothing. Can it be you have not heard of the Kol Nidre?"

"Lately in three cities I have heard a Jewish religious hymn sung in the public theaters. This was in New York, Detroit and Chicago. Each time the program said 'by request.' Who makes the request? What is the meaning of this kind of propaganda? The name of the hymn is 'Eli.'"

The Jewish year just passed has been described by a Jewish writer in the Jewish Daily News as the Year of Chaos. The writer is apparently intelligent enough to ascribe this condition to something besides "anti-Semitism." He says, "the thought that there is something wrong in Jewish life will not down," and when he describes the situation in the Near East, he says, "The Jew himself is stirring the mess." He indicts the Jewish year 5681 on 12 counts, among them being, "mismanagement in Palestine," "engaging in internal warfare," "treason to the Jewish people," "selfishness," "self-delusion." "The Jewish people is a sick people," cries the writer, and when he utters a comfortable prophecy for the year 5682, it is not in the terms of Judah but in the terms of "Kol Yisroel" — All Israel — the terms of a larger and more inclusive unity which gives Judah its own place, and its own place only, in the world. The Jewish people are sick, to be sure, and the disease is the fallacy of superiority, with its consequent "foreign policy" against the world.

When Jewish writers describe the year 5681 as the Year of Chaos, it is an unconscious admission that the Jewish people are ripening for a change of attitude. The "chaos" is among the leaders; it involves the plans which are based on the old false assumptions. The Jewish people are waiting for leaders who can emancipate them from the thralldom of their self-seeking masters in the religious and political fields. The enemies of the emancipation or Judah are those who profit by Judah's bondage, and these are the groups that follow the American Jewish Committee and the political rabbis. When a true Jewish prophet arises — and he should arise in the United States — there will be a great sweeping away of the selfish, heartless Jewish leaders, a general desertion of the Jewish idea of "getting" instead of "making," and an emergence of the true idea submerged so long.

There will also be a separation among the Jews themselves. They are not all Jews who call themselves so today. There is a Tartar strain in so-called Jewry that is absolutely incompatible with true Israelitish raciality; there are other alien strains which utterly differ from the true Jewish; but until now these strains have been held because the Jewish leaders needed vast hordes of low-type people to carry out their world designs. But the Jew himself is recognizing the presence of an alien element; and that is the first step in a movement which will place the Jewish Question on quite another basis.

What the Jews of the United States are coming to think is indicated by this letter — one among many (the writer is a Jew):


"'Because you believe in a good cause,' said Dr. Johnson, 'is no reason why you should feel called upon to defend it, for by your manner of defense you may do your cause much harm.'

"The above applying to me I will only say that I have received the books you sent me and read both with much interest.

"You are rendering the Jews a very great service, that of saving them from themselves.

"It takes courage, and nerve, and intelligence to do and pursue such a work, and I admire you for it."

The letter was accompanied by a check which ordered THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT sent to the address of another who bears a distinctively Jewish name.

It is very clear that unity is not to be won by the truth-teller soft-pedaling or suppressing his truth, nor by the truth-hearer strenuously denying that the truth is true, but by both together honoring the truth in telling and in acknowledging it. When the Jews see this, they can take over the work of truth-telling and carry it on themselves. These articles have as their only purpose: First, that the Jews may see the truth for themselves about themselves; second, that non-Jews may see the fallacy of the present Jewish idea and use enough common sense to cease falling victims to it. With both Jews and non-Jews seeing their error, the way is opened for cooperation instead of the kind of competition (not commercial, but moral) which has resulted so disastrously to Jewish false ambitions these long centuries.

Now, as to the questions at the beginning of this article: THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT has heretofore scrupulously avoided even the appearance of criticizing the Jew for his religion. The Jew's religion, as most people think of it, is unobjectionable. But when he has carried on campaigns against the Christian religion, and when in every conceivable manner he thrusts his own religion upon the public from the stage of theaters and in other public places, he has himself to blame if the public asks questions.

It is quite impossible to select the largest theater in the United States, place the Star of David high in a beautiful stage heavens above all flags and other symbols, apostrophize it for a week with all sorts of wild prophecy and all sorts of silly defiance of the world, sing hymns to it and otherwise adore it, without arousing curiosity. Yet the Jewish theatrical managers, with no protest from the Anti-Defamation Committee, have done this on a greater or smaller scale in many cities. To say it is meaningless is to use words lightly.

The "Kol Nidre" is a Jewish prayer, named from its opening words, "All vows," (kol nidre). It is based on the declaration of the Talmud:

"He who wishes that his vows and oaths shall have no value, stand up at the beginning of the year and say: 'All vows which I shall make during the year shall be of no value.'"

It would be pleasant to be able to declare that this is merely one of the curiosities of the darkness which covers the Talmud, but the fact is that "Kol Nidre" is not only an ancient curiosity; it is also a modern practice. In the volume of revised "Festival Prayers," published in 1919 by the Hebrew Publishing Company, New York, the prayer appears in its fullness:

"All vows, obligations, oaths or anathemas, pledges of all names, which we have vowed, sworn, devoted, or bound ourselves to, from this day of atonement, until the next day of atonement (whose arrival we hope for in happiness) we repent, aforehand, of them all, they shall all be deemed absolved, forgiven, annulled, void and made of no effect; they shall not be binding, not have any power; the vows shall not be reckoned vows, the obligations shall not be obligatory, nor the oaths considered as oaths."

If this strange statement were something dug out of the misty past, it would scarcely merit serious attention, but as being part of a revised Jewish prayer book printed in the United States in 1919, and as being one of the high points of the Jewish religious celebration of the New Year, it cannot be lightly dismissed after attention has once been called to it.

Indeed, the Jews do not deny it. Early in the year, when a famous Jewish violinist landed in New York after a triumphant tour abroad, he was besieged by thousands of his East Side admirers, and was able to quiet their cries only when he took his violin and played the "Kol Nidre." Then the people wept as exiles do at the sound of the songs of the homeland.

In that incident the reader will see that (hard as it is for the non-Jew to understand it!) there is a deep-rooted, sentimental regard for the "Kol Nidre" which makes it one of the most sacred of possessions to the Jew. Indefensibly immoral as the "Kol Nidre" is, utterly destructive of all social confidence, yet the most earnest efforts of a few really spiritual Jews have utterly failed to remove it from the prayer books, save in a few isolated instances. The music of the "Kol Nidre" is famous and ancient. One has only to refer to the article "Kol Nidre" in the Jewish Encyclopedia to see the predicament of the modern Jew: he cannot deny; he cannot defend; he cannot renounce. The "Kol Nidre" is here, and remains.

If the prayer were a request for forgiveness for the broken vows of the past, normal human beings could quite understand it. Vows, promises, obligations and pledges are broken, sometimes by weakness of will to perform them, sometimes by reason of forgetfulness, sometimes by sheer inability to do the thing we thought we could do. Human experience is neither Jew nor Gentile in that respect.

But the prayer is a holy advance notice, given in the secrecy of the synagogue, that no promise whatever shall be binding, and more than not being binding is there and then violated before it is ever made.

The scope of the prayer is "from this day of atonement, until the next day of atonement."

The prayer looks wholly to the future, "we repent, aforehand, of them all."

The prayer breaks down the common ground of confidence between men — "the vows shall not be reckoned vows; the obligations shall not be obligatory, nor the oaths considered as oaths."

It requires no argument to show that if this prayer be really the rule of faith and conduct for the Jews who utter it, the ordinary social and business relations are impossible to maintain with them.

It should be observed that there is no likeness here with Christian "hypocrisy," so-called. Christian "hypocrisy" arises mostly from men holding higher ideals than they are able to attain to, and verbally extolling higher principles than their conduct illustrates. That is, to use Browning's figure, the man's reach exceeds his grasp; as it always does, where the man is more than a clod.

But "Kol Nidre" is in the opposite direction. It recognizes by inference that in the common world of men, in the common morality of the street and the mart, a promise passes current as a promise, a pledge as a pledge, an obligation as an obligation — that there is a certain social currency given to the individual's mere word on the assumption that its quality is kept good by straight moral intention. And it makes provision to drop below that level.

How did the "Kol Nidre" come into existence? Is it the cause or the effect of that untrustworthiness with which the Jew has been charged for centuries?

Its origin is not from the Bible but from Babylon, and the mark of Babylon is more strongly impressed on the Jew than is the mark of the Bible. "Kol Nidre" is Talmudic and finds its place among many other dark things in that many-volumed and burdensom invention. If the "Kol Nidre" ever was a backward look over the failures of the previous year, it very early became a forward look to the deliberate deceptions of the coming year.

Many explanations have been made in an attempt to account for this. Each explanation is denied and disproved by those who favor some other explanation. The commonest of all is this, and it rings in the over-worked note of "persecution": The Jews were so hounded and harried by the bloodthirsty Christians, and so brutally and viciously treated in the name of loving Jesus (the terms are borrowed from Jewish writers) that they were compelled by wounds and starvation and the fear of death to renounce their religion and to vow that thereafter they would take the once despised Jesus for their Messiah. Therefore, say the Jewish apologists, knowing that during the ensuing year the terrible, bloodthirsty Christians would force the poor Jews to take Christian vows, the Jews in advance announced to God that all the promises they would make on that score would be lies. They would say what the Christians forced them to say, but they would not mean or intend one word of it.

That is the best explanation of all. Its weakness is that it assumes the "Kol Nidre" to have been coincident with times of "persecution," especially in Spain. Unfortunately for this explanation, the "Kol Nidre" is found centuries before that, when the Jews were under no pressure.

In a refreshingly frank article in the Cleveland Jewish World for October 11, the insufficiency of the above explanation is so clearly set forth that a quotation is made:

"Many learned men want to have it understood that the Kol Nidre dates from the Spanish Inquisition, it having become necessary on account of all sorts of persecution and inflictions to adopt the Christian religion for appearances' sake. Then the Jews in Spain, gathering in cellars to celebrate the Day of Atonement and pardon, composed a prayer that declared of no value all vows and oaths that they would be forced to make during the year. . . .

"The learned men say, moreover, that in remembrance of those days when hundreds and thousands of Maranos (secret Jews) were dragged out of the cellars and were tortured with all kinds of torment, the Jews in all parts of the world have adopted the Kol Nidre as a token of faithfulness to the faith and as self-sacrifice for the faith.

"These assertions are not correct. The fact is that the formula of Kol Nidre was composed and said on the night of Yom Kippur quite a time earlier than the period of the Spanish Inquisition. We find, for instance, a formula to invalidate vows on Yom Kippur in the prayer book of the Rabbi Amram Goun who lived in the ninth century, about five hundred years before the Spanish Inquisition; although Rabbi Amram's forumla is not 'Kol Nidre' but 'Kol Nidrim' ('All vows and oaths which we shall swear from Yom Kippurim to Yom Kippurim will return to us void.') . . ."

The form of the prayer in the matter of its age may be in dispute; but back in the ancient and modern Talmud is the authorization of the practice: "He who wishes that his vows and oaths shall have no value, stand up at the beginning of the year and say: 'All vows which I shall make during the year shall be of no value.'"

That answers our reader's question. This article does not say that all Jews thus deliberately assassinate their pledged word. It does say that both the Talmud and the prayer book permit them to do so, and tell them how it may be accomplished.

Now, as to the Jewish religious hymn which is being sung "by request" throughout the country: the story of it is soon told.

The name of the hymn is "Eli, Eli"; its base is the first verse of the Twenty-second Psalm, known best in Christian countries as the Cry of Christ on the Cross.

It is being used by Jewish vaudeville managers as their contribution to the pro-Jewish campaign which the Jew-controlled theater is flinging into the faces of the public, from stage and motion picture screen. It is an incantation designed to inflame the lower classes of Jews against the people, and intensify the racial consciousness of those hordes of Eastern Jews who have flocked here.

At the instigation of the New York Kehillah, "Eli, Eli" has for a long time been sung at the ordinary run of performances in vaudeville and motion picture houses, and the notice "By Request" is usually a bald lie. It should be "By Order." The "request" is from Jewish headquarters, which has ordered the speeding up of Jewish propaganda. The situation of the theater now is that American audiences are paying at the box office for the privilege of hearing Jews advertise the things they want non-Jews to think about them.

If even a vestige of decency, or the slightest appreciation of good taste remained, the Jews who control the theaters would see that the American public must eventually gag on such things. When two Jewish comedians who have been indulging in always vulgar and often indecent antics, appear before the drop curtain and sing the Yiddish incantation, "Eli, Eli," which, of course, is incomprehensible to the major part of the audience, the Jewish element always betrays a high pitch of excitement. They understand the game that is being played: the "Gentiles" are being flayed to their face, and they don't know it; as when a Yiddish comedian pours out shocking invectives on the name of Jesus Christ, and "gets away with it," the Jewish portion of his audience howling with delight, and the "boob Gentiles" looking serenely on and feeling it is to be polite to laugh and applaud too!

This Yiddish chant is the rallying cry of race hatred which is being spread abroad by orders of the Jewish leaders. You, if you are a theatergoer, help to pay the expense of getting yourself roundly damned. The Kehillah and the American Jewish Committee, which for more than ten years have been driving all mention of Christianity out of public life, under their slogan "This Is Not a Christian Country," are spreading their own type of Judaism everywhere with insolence unparalleled.

"Eli, Eli" is not a religious hymn! It is a racial war cry. In the low cafés of New York, where Bolshevik Jews hang out, "Eli, Eli" is their song. It is the Marseillaise of Jewish solidarity. It has become the fanatical chant of all Jewish Bolshevik clubs; it is constantly heard in Jewish coffee houses and cabarets where emotional Russian and Polish Jews — all enemies to all government — shout the words amid torrential excitement. When you see the hymn in point you are utterly puzzled to understand the excitement it arouses.

And this rallying cry has now been obtruded into the midst of the theatrical world.

The term "incantation" here used is used advisedly. The term is used by Kurt Schindler, who adapted the Yiddish hymn to American use. And its effect is that of an incantation.

In translation it is as follows:

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
With fire and flame they have burnt us,
Everywhere they have shamed and derided us,
Yet none amongst us has dared depart
From our Holy Scriptures, from our Law.

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
By day and night I only yearn and pray,
Anxiously keeping our Holy Scriptures
And praying, Save us, save us once again!
For the sake of our fathers and our fathers' fathers!

"Listen to my prayer and to my lamenting,
For only Thou canst help, Thou, God, alone,
For it is said, 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord is Our God,
The Lord is One!'"

The words of the hymn are so much resembling a lament that they strangely contrast with the spirit which the hymn itself seems to arouse; its mournful melody inspires a very different spirit among the Jewish hearers than the same sort of melody would inspire among other people. Those who have heard its public rendition can better understand how a hymn of such utterly quiet and resigned tone could be the wild rage of the anarchists of the East Side coffee houses.

The motive, of course, for the singing of the hymn is the reference to non-Jewish people.

"With fire and flame THEY have burnt us, everywhere THEY have shamed and derided us?" Who are "they"? Who but the goyim, the Christians who all unsuspectingly sit by and who are so affected by the Jewish applause that they applaud too! Truly, in one way of looking at it, Jews have a right to despise the "gentiles."

"THEY have burnt us; THEY have shamed us," but we the poor Jews, have been harmless all the while, none among us daring to depart from the Law! That is the meaning of "Eli, Eli." That is why, in spite of its words of religious resignation, it becomes a rallying cry. "They" are all wrong; "we" are all right.

It is possible, of course that right-minded Jews do not approve all this. They may disapprove of "Kol Nidre" and they may resent the use which the Jewish leaders are making of "Eli, Eli." Let us at least credit some Jews with both these attitudes. But they do nothing about it. These same Jews, however, will go to the public library of their town and put the fear of political or business reprisal in the hearts of the Library Board if they do not instantly remove THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT from the library; these same Jews will form committees to coerce mayors of cities into issuing illegal orders which cannot be enforced; these same Jews will give commands to the newspapers under their patronage or control — they are indeed mighty and active in the affairs of the non-Jews. But when it is a matter of keeping "Eli, Eli" out of the theater, or the "Kol Nidre" out of the mouths of those who thus plan a whole year of deception "aforehand," these same Jews are very inactive and apparently very powerless.

The Anti-Defamation Committee would better shut up shop until it can show either the will or the ability to bring pressure to bear on its own people. Coercion of the rest of the people is rapidly growing less and less possible.

The "Kol Nidre" is far from being the worst counsel in the Talmud; "Eli, Eli" is far from being the worst anti-social misuse of apparently holy things. But it will remain the policy of THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT, for the present at least, to let all such matters alone except, as in the present case, where the number of the inquiries indicates that a knowledge of the facts has been had at other sources. In many instances, what our inquirers heard was worse than is stated here, so that this article is by way of being a service to the inquirer to prevent his being misled, and to the Jew to prevent misrepresentation.

[THE DEARBORN INDEPENDENT, issue of 5 November 1921]