New York (May. 13)
Approxicately 2,000 Jews have been converted by Presbyterian Churches in America, the report of the Presbyterian Board of National Missions on Missionary Activity among Jews, which has just been issued here claims.
The great number of Jewish stock in our Churches, the report says, reveals the value of the work carried on among the Jews. For many Jews the ancient faith is losing its religious appeal. Many Jews have left the synagogues, many to become irreligious; others are philosophical atheists, while the rest are still in search of spiritual satisfaction.
The leading Rabbis here denounce the report, and contend that the claim of 2,000 converts is immensely exaggerated. The missionary efforts of the Christian Churches are not successful, they declare, and the money they spend in winning Jewish converts is wasted.
The Home Missions Council, representing 30 denominational groups meeting in the First Presbyterian Church in Atlantic City in January 1929 adopted a declaration reaffirming its belief in “the right to spread the Gospel of Christ among all people”. The declaration was made in reply to an appeal by Rabbi Dr. Israel Goldstein, of New York, who pleaded with the Council for the cessation of prcselytising activities among Jews. “To neglect this”, the declaration said, “would be a direct violation of this central command of our religion.”
We desire to assure Dr. Goldstein, the declaration went on, of our hearty co-operation in the cultivating and propagating of goodwill, civic righteousness, social service, and national loyalty between Jews and Christians everywhere. We wish to say that when little children from Jewish families come to our churches, Sunday schools, and neighbourhood houses, we believe that it is desirable they should come with the consent and approval of their parents. We do not believe in the conversion of men and women to Christianity by bribes or bait. We are grateful for the spiritual contributions to our American civilisation by every faith and are in perfect sympathy with the American principle of giving the largest possible liberty to all faiths in contributing to our American life. In accordance with this American principle, we insist that every group has the right to propagate their faith, and in accordance with this principle, we affirm that the Gospel of Christ is the Gospel for the whole world.
Protests against the conversionist activity carried on by the churches in America were made also a few weeks before that, in December 1928 by Rabbi Nathan Krass and Rabbi David de Sola Pool, at a Jewish-Christian Goodwill meeting held in New York attended by 800 representatives of the Jewish, Protestant and Catholic faiths, including the Rev. Dr. S. Parkes Cadman, the Honorary President of the Goodwill Committee of the Federal Churches of America, and Rev. Howard Robbins, Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
The Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations have several times made formal protests against Christian conversionist Activity.
The Rev. Thomas Burgess, the Secretary of the National Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America, speaking at the annual Synod of the Provinces of New York, New Jersey and Porto Rice, claimed that many American Jews can be converted to Christianity. “if the proper education method” is employed. There are three million Jews in the Province of the Synod, he said, many of whom can be converted.
In a survey of the activity of Mission Houses in the East Side of New York made by the Metropolitcan League of Jewish Community Associations, contained in a report of its investigations into the activity of eleven institutions, whose avowed purpose it is to carry on proselytising activities among the younger generation of Jews, it was said: The facts presented here are evidence of an organised effort on the part of Christian missionaries to attract the Jewish youth and adults for the ultimate purpose of breaking down the ties of their own faith and adopting Christianity. The Missions have fanatical workers, considerable funds and in most cases attractive facilities and activities to offer to the Jewish population gratis. The very fact that they do succeed in attracting considerable numbers of Jews and even converting some to Christianity, encourages these Missions in their efforts. While the figures reported by the Missionaries for Jewish attendance and conversions may be exaggerated and are even suspected to be so by the leading missionaries, the fact remains that the Missions are a pernicious influence to the well-being of our Jewish life in this area and form a problem that requires attention and action on the part of the Jewish Community.