Ed. Note: CMJ USA, founded in 1982, is celebrating 40 years of ministry. This month we share a prologue to the CMJ USA story of how Joseph Frey, the founder of what became the Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People, came to the United States in the 19th century to minister to his Jewish brothers and sisters.
In the Beginning
By Dr. Theresa Newell
CMJ was founded in 1809 in London by Joseph Frey, a Jewish believer from Prussia. Frey had come to faith in his own country and traveled to London with the intent of training for service with the Church Missionary Society there. He planned to go to Cape Town province, South Africa, but when he saw the plight of his Jewish brethren in East London, his heart was moved to reach out to them with the Gospel of their Messiah Jesus.
After beginning his mission among the Jews in 1805, he soon realized that a new work would need to be set up to minister particularly to the Jews. And by 1809 a group was formed which took the name of The London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews.
To the New World
News of this well-subscribed society soon found its way across the Atlantic. Ms. Hannah Adams, the first woman professional writer in the United States and a distant cousin to President John Adams, had authored The History of the Jews in 1812. In 1816 she published “Concise Account of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews” in Boston. She believed this work was “not generally known in New England . . . and she indulges the hope that the attention awakened to the welfare of the ’lost sheep of the house of Israel’ will be extended to America.”
One result of Adams’ article was that the Christian Herald, published in New York, recommended that a society of Christians be formed “to digest a plan of operations, to open a correspondence with the Society, and enter immediately upon the work in which they are engaged.” On June 5, 1816, “after supplicating the throne of grace for direction and a blessing,” the Female Society of Boston and vicinity was formed for the purpose of promoting Christianity amongst the Jews. Thus began the first organized prayer group interceding for the salvation of the Jews of America.
In the Meantime
This same Joseph Samuel Christian Friedrick Frey traveled to New York that same year and assisted in the formation of a Presbyterian missionary society for the evangelization of the Jewish people. Many encouraged Frey to follow his call to Jewish mission. As a result, on April 14, 1820, The American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews was chartered. By this time Frey had published a best-selling missionary biography and was known as a charismatic leader. While this Society was not directly connected with The London Jews’ Society (LJS) as CMJ came to be known in England, its intents were very similar and its outreach with the Gospel to Jewish people was paramount in its aim.
Among those serving on the Board of the newly formed society was another Adams – president John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams. Even though Frey left the Society in 1826, seeing no real progress being made in the work he was devoted to, he continued to preach extensively across the United States, calling the church to its responsibility to his Jewish people. Women’s groups spread from Boston to other major cities on the Eastern seaboard – all committed to prayer for the salvation of the Jewish people and for workers to be raised up for this ministry.
Dr. Theresa Newell is the founder of CMJ USA and serves on its board of directors.