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The Conversionists and Their Intrigues.


Those who know anything of the Jews, will acknowledge that they are an order-loving and peace-seeking people, to such an extent that we have often accused our brothers, in our own heart, of cowardice and an unbecoming submissiveness in bearing so much contumely, when the press is free to them to expose their grievances. Whether this submissiveness is inherent in us, or the remnant of ancient oppression, matters little in this inquiry, enough that it exists, and has been carried so far that it has ceased to be a virtue; and the time has come, at length, when many feel that they must speak out, or else suffer the shame of indifference to their highest interests, their religion, to be attached to their name. Those who imagine that the Jews do not feel keenly, are wofully deceived; and those who suppose that the “worm of Jacob,” as we are impressively called by the prophet, will not rise to his defence, and this triumphantly, are equally labouring under gross delusion. What has hitherto been wanting among us was an independent press, wherein Jews could speak out their sentiments boldly, without the fear of the civil power, or the supervision of the censor of the press. But, thank God, we have, in this land at least, the power of free speech, <<586>>and a vehicle of our own, small in size, and limited in circulation though it be, to express our thoughts without fear or favour. It is a pity, indeed, that we have no means of bringing our grievances before an extensive reading public; but this matters little; so that we have but the means of making ourselves heard in a narrow circle, which under Providence may widen, till it agitates the public far and near, as a pebble thrown into a pond will put in motion wave on wave, till it reaches the far distant shore. All that man can do is to work within his sphere; the remainder he must leave to the high Power that controls all things. So then we will use our press to speak of the wrong which is attempted against our religion, and we cheerfully place it at the disposal of our colleague, the Rev. H. M. Kahn, to speak in behalf of our people.

“But what is this all about?” will our readers ask? We will tell them. They must be aware, at least we told them occasionally, that there exists a society in New York, with branches in many parts of the country, whose professed object it is to fish for Jewish souls. We will gladly acknowledge that the members, who number among them some of the first divines in the land, are honest and sincere; but honest or not, every candid man must acknowledge that they are pursuing a very foolish, sinful, and fruitless course. When speaking on a subject like this, it is of no use to be over cautious in the choice of words; so we will not take back one of those which we have written, and maintain that the course pursued, or attempted at least, is all that which we have characterized it.

Now the means relied on for success are twofold, so far as we can judge. They print a magazine in New York, called the Jewish Chronicle, which contains, occasionally, abusive articles, on the Jews, some long disquisitions on subjects of Christian doctrines, reviews of books, and a plentiful account of Missionary labours among the Jews. The editor of this magazine and his work have come in for a full share of the charitable notices of the editor and his aids; but this is nothing to the point; we can well forgive them our personal wrong; but we only mention it to point out the means resorted to in part to injure the Jewish religion, by abusing those whom the people have chosen as their leaders, and to render them suspected, if possible. The second method is to send hired men, under the name of missionaries, and these converted Jews, no doubt bought for money or the hope of rising to a height which was unattainable to them among their own people, among the Israelites of the various cities, to induce, if possible, the unwary to forsake the Synagogue and to enter into the communion of one of the many sects of which this country boasts, as forming its Christian <<587>>population. It is natural enough that these men must say something for the organ of their employers, to fill its pages with the most available show of success every month. The pages of the Chronicle will testify abundantly to the truth of this; hence we de not complain that reports should be written; for otherwise the pious souls in various parts of the states could not be induced to part with their money, that indispensable pabulum for all such enterprises. Money must be had, or else missionaries could not live; nor Chronicles be printed; so it is but fair that both should labour for and play into each others’ hands.—But we do complain of the malignity of heart of those who were once Jews, and who profess still to love Israel, for their false and heartless calumnies, which they scatter abroad through the length and breadth of the land, and the shamelessness of a man who styles himself, and is for that matter, a clergyman of a church which professes to preach a religion of peace and good will to all mankind, in publishing monthly libellous statements against men, one of whom he knows at least personally, and against whom he would not dare to say a word of reproach, under his own signature. Is it lawful to do a wrong through the agency of another, which he cannot do himself? Our code of morals teaches us very differently; but then we and our brothers are Jews, and the missionaries and their aiders are not Jews; this is all we need say.—

Now it so happens that in spite of the low state of the funds of the parent society in New York, and the little or no success that has attended the efforts hitherto attempted, they have established missionary stations in (a) New York, (b) Philadelphia, (c) Baltimore, and (d) Charleston. We will not now advert to the calumnies uttered by those at a and c: as our present business is with him at b, who lately came among us, and as is usual with men of his order, he obtruded himself in the Synagogue on our notice, and openly showed there his disregard of the feelings of Israelites by writing in the house of God on the Sabbath day, well knowing that such an act from an apostate even is odious to all honest Jews. He called at our residence, two days after. We did not ask his name, nor whence he came, and whither he was going. We would not enter into argument with him, as we were alone, and did not wish to be misrepresented. We spoke to him as we would to a Jew, and urged upon him the folly and sin of being engaged in misleading a people whom he in his own heart must know to be right, and that he must feel the superior sanctity of the Jewish faith. The latter he denied, and professed sincere faith in Christianity. Perhaps he is sincere, we are not able to divine a man’s thought; but when he was going away, he offered us his hand; we, however, refused to give him ours in return, <<588>>as we did not think him worthy of such a mark of friendship from an Israelite; we admonished him to be reconciled to the Synagogue, when we would cheerfully give him our hand; of course he understood not such an appeal; and asked us whether we thought him a deceiver? We unhesitatingly answered him either that or a madman. His proffered hand was a second time decidedly refused, and we again averred that we would have no intercourse with an apostate, and advised him not to go near us or any other Jew, though we did not forbid him to come again to our domicile, if he had a wish to do so upon the terms of our first interview. Did such conduct show that we were indifferent, or anything like it, to religion? Perhaps it may be called over zeal, or undue harshness; but it showed no compromise or half-measures. We did not think that he would make anything public concerning us, or the Israelites in Philadelphia, as he professed that he was not one of the eaves-dropping intruders, who drag everything before the people, as he thought  he could employ his time more usefully in his calling.—But did ever an apostate Jew say and do the same thing? it would be preposterous to expect it; and why this one be an exception? We were therefore not surprised, though sincerely grieved, to see the subjoined in the Jewish Chronicle for January, and we give it, unkind notices and all, so that our Jewish friends, who do not see the Chronicle, may learn something of the tactics of the conversion fraternity,—we mean the bigot employers and the hypocritical employed.

Letter from Mr. F. I. N——.

Mr. N.’s communication gives a very sad, but alas! a too faithful picture of the religious condition of the Jews in Philadelphia. God knows, we publish it from no feeling of self-righteous superiority or taunting insult, although there is a sense in which we do desire to “provoke Israel to jealousy,” while we also strive to awaken the prayers of the churches in their behalf.

Philadelphia, Dec. 9, 1847.

Dear Brethren in Christ:—It is impossible for me to give you by letter a very exact account of the missionary work among the Jews here, or to detail every conversation, as you would find the questions as well as the answers nearly the same as in time past. But one thing I can say to the glory of God; I have not yet been repulsed by any Jew of this place; and my hope is, that, if your means shall allow, it will be very necessary to undertake a great work here.

Here there are nearly 5000 Jews; about half of them neither Jews nor Christians; neither baptizing nor circumcising their children. The rest, who make an external profession of Judaism are divided into four classes:—1. The Portuguese, at once the most numerous and the most wealthy, and regarding themselves as the noblesse. They have a large Synagogue, and their rabbi is juste milieu, that is, he believes neither one thing nor another, but meanwhile, pretends to be a good Jew.—2. The Polish, who have no Synagogue <<589>>at present, but are about building one. They pretend to piety, but for all that have no difficulty in trading on Sabbath and festival days. Their rabbi is one of the old Pharisees.—3. The Germans, who are rich, ignorant, doing whatever is contrary to God and the Jewish law, and yet disposed to retain the name of Jew. They have purchased a fine church from certain rationalistic Christians. Their rabbi has been well educated, but sees the impossibility of mending matters among the young, and so, having become disgusted with his situation, wants to turn merchant.—4. The fourth class is also German, and, along with their rabbi generally ignorant.—Of the Jewish children there are more than 400 in attendance on the public schools.

Christians here take a great interest in the work. I have lately been invited to take part in a large meeting in behalf of the Jews, but was prevented by a sickness, which confined me to bed for ten days . . . . Yesterday the Ladies’ Society held their meeting, at which I made my report, and spoke

from Is. 49:13-22. Some impression, I trust, was made. . . . . And now, my dear brother, may God preserve you from evil, and grant His blessing on your undertakings. Accept the fraternal salutations of

Your affectionate,


Mr. N. greatly laments that he is unprovided with Hebrew Bibles and tracts, which he regards as the missionary’s necessary “ammunition.” Will no one help us to furnish a supply?

We have but little to say in addition to that above. The Rabbi of he Portuguese congregation, is no doubt the editor of the Occident, although he has no claim to that title, being merely Hazan, Minister, or Reader, as the Synagogue officials are indifferently called. What will the numerous readers of the Occident think now of one with whom they they have had so long an acquaintance?  are we not unmasked; and that by a man who heard us preach but once, and conversed with us as often? But enough for our own grievances; and we will let Mr. Kahn now lay before the public what he thinks in the premises.

To the Editor of the Occident,

“I was not much surprised at not finding any reply in your esteemed periodical, to the insulting report of the missionary and converted F. I. N., contained in his letter to the Jewish Chronicle, of New York, for January last; well knowing that no expressions flowing from the pen of such a man can in anywise injure you, and that you must be convinced at the same time, that from the same cause the others who are attacked by his remarks, are not hurt by them to the extent as to deem it their duty to enter the lists against them. If then I feel myself induced to ask of you to insert this communication in your pages, you will surely not refuse my request, because I do not speak for ourselves, the least of all for myself alone, since the missionary mentions me in so favourable a manner, (though I would nevertheless say to him in the language of the old proverb, אומרים לצרעה לא מדובשך ולא מעוקצך ‘they <<590>>say to the wasp, we want not thy honey nor thy sting;’) but because we cannot well deny to a man sunk in grief and pain, our feeble aid; and when you have read the Jewish Chronicle, you will doubtlessly perceive, how much pain the editor of that work does actually suffer. Permit me then to administer to him some few words of comfort.”

“Honoured Sir.—Following in your footsteps, I offer you unbidden, a word of consolation in the grief which you have suffered through the epistolary report concerning the situation of the Jews in this city, by your missionary agent, Mr. F. I. N——; and no doubt your heart will feel lighter, when I tell you briefly and truly, that Mr. N. has not given you the pure truth in his report. Would you only feel less for the one idea of your agents, you could not have avoided being struck with the impossibility of a man being able to give a true representation, not alone in general, but also in especial terms, of our condition in so short a space of time. If you had but thought of this, you could have saved yourself some portion of grief, and not imposed on me the little trouble which I now take. If then Mr. N. is not quite a prophet withal, having the divine faculty of not alone looking into the eye, but the heart likewise: it must surely be a mystery to you, how Mr. N. could give those sketches of character, when he, as I can assure you, had but a brief conversation with the Minister, Rabbi as it calls him, of the Portuguese congregation; and it is certainly saying a great deal to be able to unmask and to probe thoroughly in so short a time, a man who has acquired universal esteem by his uniform course of life; both in a religious and a moral respect.

“What eyes must a missionary have? Or was it the object of Mr. N. to revenge himself because the said Minister did not receive him in the most polite manner? or because he would not even shake hands with him? But a missionary and revenge!—Still a missionary too is a man, and occasionally succumbs to the infirmity of the flesh. Rut I am still less able to comprehend, my worthy editor of the Jewish Chronicle, how Mr. P. the Rabbi of the Polish congregation has obtained the honourable title of an old Pharisee, since to my certain knowledge Messrs. P. and N. met but once, and this in my presence, and then our conversation was of so general and unimportant a nature, that it is an unpardonable presumption—and this you will yourself acknowledge—to mistrust, even in thought, upon so slight a foundation, a fellow-being, let him be who he may.  But I know Mr. N. to be quite too intelligent to believe, that he said what he did from as malevolent a motive as you make it appear; and it is possible, Mr. Editor, that you have misunderstood, or desired to misunder<<591>>stand him; I should suppose this to be the case the more, as Mr. N. could hardly so far violate all the rules of social intercourse, to put in print what I communicated to him concerning my own affairs in conversation, since it is already a very grievous wrong to write such thing in a private letter, which last breach of faith I would have not thought amiss in him as he is a—missionary.

“I will not positively assert, that Mr. N. must have looked through magnifying spectacles when he counted the infidels of this town; because I rather believe that he had the intention to produce in you the painfully agreeable sensation which many philosophers think so very delightful. But I can assure you with truth, that the estimate is unduly exaggerated. If now, in conclusion, I must dread to wound your heart, so full of benevolence towards Judaism, by confessing, that I have myself publicly stated the sarne complaint concerning the present position of my co-religionists, which Mr. N. has uttered: I must nevertheless offer you also the assuaging balm, in informing you, that to the glory of God be it said, many symptoms of amendment are becoming visible, and that the belief in the One Sole God, embraced in the words, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, is the sole Lord,’ is deeply impressed in the hearts of my brethren, and that all the arts and eloquence of your missionaries are not able to arrest the former, and to deform the latter. Take back, Mr. Editor, your ‘but alas!’ and spare your prayers, likewise your—money. Farewell.

“Your obedient servant,
H. M. Kahn,
“Minister of the Hebrew Congregation Rodef Sholum.”

Phila. Feb. 5608

Now one would have supposed that the missionary had done enough for his employers by his inventions in the Chronicle for January; but no; there is yet a lower deep which apostates can reach, and it consists of a third or additional means to the two mentioned above, and one in which the old well-known itinerant sinner who formerly exhibited his love for “his brethren in the flesh,” in the many lectures he delivered all over the country, was at one time quite active in, when residing in London, we mean the perversion of youth and children, through a pretended system of general education, artfully contrived to induce the poor and moderate in circumstances to avail themselves of, and only when too late they discover that a false god has been planted in the hearts of their offspring, instead of the simplicity of the Jewish faith. The February Chronicle brings us the farther report of the Missionary <<592>>N., in which he would appear to devise means to embrace the Israelites only to crush them, like the anaconda the helpless deer by its deadly embrace within its fold, and to betray by the baleful kisses of the enemy. None but a heart steeped in sin could counsel such a step, such ensnaring of the innocent and helpless, and well does such an adviser entitle himself to the epithet bestowed on Jeroboam, “who sinned and caused Israel to sin.” We  need not invoke the indignation of all our readers, whether Jew or Christian, upon such a man, such employers, and such means; for we believe that the human heart generally feels and judges too correctly not to condemn what is so infamous and base. But we say more than is required, and so would merely subjoin some extracts from the report, and the notes of the Reverend Editor.

Philadelphia, Jan. 6, 1848.

Rev. John Lillie:

Dear Brother.—Having now, by the grace  of God, surveyed the field in which I am placed, I perceive difficulties on all sides. The field is stony:  everywhere are the sheep scattered like bones; the hedges around are full of thorns, and are watered by crafty keepers, who seek only their own gain.

And now let me show you from my point of view the only method, that by the blessing of God may bring some success to our work.—First of all, I must confess to to you, that we need have no great hopes of those advanced in life. I rather regard them as the dying ones in the wilderness in the time of Moses; but neither do I reject them, for all things are possible with God. But the young people, who have especially engaged my attention, are very numerous, and it is worth our while to begin our work with them, considering the experience that has been had at Posen, and at Constantinople, among the Armenians, and my own experience among the Jews, in various parts of the world. I look upon a school as the only sure way of propagating the gospel among the Jews. As for other methods, it should be recollected that it is not every tract that a Jew can understand; indeed, most tracts are not adapted to their capacities. Then, for conversation, you know well that it is a very rare thing to find the Jews disposed to converse about Christianity.* The only other plan is to hold public meetings, where the Jew is in a manner compelled to fix his attention on the propositions advanced by the speaker. The advantage is that one can then speak positively without interruption. The seed thus sown, will, sooner or later, bring forth fruit. But even in this respect, there is nothing like good schools. The little scholars are the true domestic missionaries. You may then believe me that there is reason for my averment, that, unless we establish here schools and public meetings, we shall obtain no fruit of our labour.

The field here is very large, and requires several labourers. As a general rule, it is well not to scatter our force. There is more advantage in concentrating our means on a single point, than in a precarious occupation of a large extent of ground. N.

* Mr. N. probably speaks from his experience in other countries. The experience of our missionaries here, and our own personal experience, would justify a different statement.—Ed. Jew. Chron.

<<593>>The Committee heartily approve the suggestions of their brother regarding the desirableness of Jewish schools, and an increase of the missionary force. But what can we do without means? For several months the income of the Society has not met even its present very moderate expenses. At every turn, and at every station—New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston—the Board feels itself crippled and embarrassed from want of funds. That is the plain fact, and we make no attempt to conceal it. “Help, Lord!”

It will be seen that money is wanted; no doubt that will be got; as there are fanatics enough who will always spend their means upon any impracticable effort; and hence we advise our friends, the Israelites all over the country, to watch cautiously the approach of these pretended friends. We do not fear them; God forbid! that such a thought should enter our mind; but we wish to render them innocuous; and this is best done by publicity. We regret that we had to touch so unclean a subject, as the Missionary N. and his reports; but occasionally even the disagreeable has to be approached; and having now discharged our duty, we leave him to the sting of his conscience, and the abhorrence of all true Israelites.