The first coming of CMJ to America

CMJ USA, founded in 1982, is celebrating 40 years of ministry. However, we are not the first CMJ-related ministry in the United States. Here's the story of how the first American iteration of CMJ came in the late 19th century.
Rev. Louis C. Newman
Rev. Louis C. Newman

Last month, we learned that Joseph Frey, the founder of what became the Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People, came to the United States to start a similar work in the 1820s. It would take another 50 years for the society Frey started in London to venture over the pond.

In the meantime, other Anglican Christians were proclaiming the good news of the Messiah to American Jews. In the mid-19th century, The Protestant Episcopal Association for the Promotion of Christianity Among the Jews was formed as a local work in Philadelphia in 1859. However, following its “21st Annual Report” in 1880, the Society ended. That same year the Rev. Louis C. Newman, a Jewish believer in Jesus who had been the society’s main evangelist and worker, died.

Former headquarters of Church Society in New York City
Photo by Alice Lum of No. 68 East 7th Street in New York City, once the home of the Church Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews. Click the photo to read more on the building history.

 

In 1878, the Church Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews was incorporated in the state of New York. In their first annual report (1879), the organization references the confusion regarding the group’s name so closely resembling the name of the Philadelphia-based society. The two organizations overlapped only a few years.

After the Protestant Episcopal Association in Philadelphia disbanded in 1880, its remaining funds were turned over to the Church Society as recommended by the Bishop of Philadelphia.1

This American CMJ Society, based in New York, was recognized as an auxiliary to the Board of Missions of the national Episcopal Church in 1883. It was subscribed by every bishop of the Church at that time, including Bishop Joseph Schereschewsky, a Jewish believer from Lithuania who went on to become the Bishop of China and first translator of the entire Bible from the original languages into both Mandarin and Wenli. 

By 1892 the Society reported that it “had missions and schools in New Orleans, Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York.” The group published a newsletter, Gospel of the Circumcision, and eventually moved its headquarters from the society house to the Church Mission House of the National [Episcopal] Church.  

As church giving decreased, especially in the Good Friday collection which was stipulated by the Episcopal Church to go to Jewish outreach, only the New York and Philadelphia centers remained open. In its 26th and final annual report in 1904, the Society’s Board of Managers wrote that “It seems a reflection upon the Church to abandon this work among God’s ancient people when it is borne in mind” that in the 19th century some 224,000 Jews came to recognize Jesus as the Messiah of Israel “through the efforts of societies organized for this special purpose. Of that, however, God will be the judge in due time.” 2

Others took the mantle of announcing the good news of Jesus to the Jews in the United States. In 1894, Leopold Cohn, a Jewish believer from Hungary, founded what would become the American Board of Missions to the Jews, now known as Chosen People Ministries. In 1970, Moishe Rosen founded what became Jews for Jesus. The current iteration of CMJ USA followed in 1982.

Dr. Theresa Newell is the founder of CMJ USA and serves on its board of directors.

Footnotes

  1. Reported in the Seventh Annual Report of the Church Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews (1883-1884).
  2. Episcopal Church Archives, Austin, Texas. 

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Article published on 03/15/2022