By Theresa Newell
Editor’s note: As we celebrate 40 years of CMJ USA, we’ve been looking back to those who plowed the ground before us in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today we offer brief profiles of two pioneering American Jewish believers in Jesus. Next month we’ll start with remembrances from former directors of CMJ USA.
Andrew Jacob Weinstein
Andrew Jacob Weinstein, born in Kiev in 1850, migrated to New York in 1907. Having worked under the London Jews’ Society in Port Said, Egypt, as a colporteur (a distributor of books and tracts), Weinstein ministered in Baden, Switzerland, and London before coming to the USA. In 1909, he served in Philadelphia as port chaplain and assistant at St. Peter's Episcopal Church which had run a Jewish mission since 1890 (supported by the Good Friday offering). Weinstein ministered to the Russian Jews fleeing the pogroms, which intensified after 1905.
As in England, their arrival was resented by the established and wealthier (German) Jewish community – some of whom had become Episcopalians at St. Peter's. Another British parallel was the stress on assimilation and becoming 'good citizens' made by some of those, both Christians and Jews, working with immigrants. Weinstein himself achieved citizenship in 1914. He ran English classes, with over 800 attendances in his first year, and was at pains to show that Christians revered the Hebrew Scriptures. At Christmas 1910, St. Peter's choir sang hymns for his students, six of whom were presented with Yiddish Bibles.
It is recorded that in 1910 he met 74 ships bringing 5,379 immigrants. His rector said that Weinstein spoke seven languages besides 12 dialects which were “of untold assistance in this work; it is sometimes said that he is the only person able to understand the speech of the foreigners who come to the port, and therefore the only one able to help relieve their needs on arrival in a strange country.”
Mark Levy, who attended the first Hebrew Christian Alliance meeting in July 1903 in Mountain Lake Park, Maryland, was an Episcopal priest in New York City who “advocated the idea that Jews who accepted Christianity could, if they wished to, retain Jewish rites and practices . . . Levy had more success in advocating his cause with the leadership of his Episcopalian church, which approved of Jews retaining their ethnic and cultural distinctiveness while practicing the Christian faith.” (Yaakov Ariel, Evangelizing the Chosen People: Missions to the Jews in America, 1880-2000. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2000, 49). Levy was one of the earliest in the USA to put forth the concept of Messianic Jewish worship practices.
A history of Grace Episcopal Church in Sheffield, Alabama, contains the following notice for a church event on August 31, 1905:
“Mr. Mark Levy, of London, England, who for many years has been a Jewish follower of Jesus Christ the Messiah, and who is now a member of the Reverend R.W. Hogue’s church at Wilmington, North Carolina, will speak at Grace Episcopal church on Sunday morning and night on “The Gospel of Christ and The Customs of Israel.” And “The Revelation of the Messiah and the Trinity in the Old Testament.” Mr. Levy states that Jews who follow Christ do not cease to be Jews and many still observe Israel’s National and Social Holidays.”