The name “London Jews’ Society” might conjure up images of proper Brits at a Hadassah meeting, or of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (or maybe of a Fiddler on the Roof/Downton Abbey mash-up). But it was actually a 19th-century missionary society that began its work in London’s East End, and then focused its attention on Palestine.
This concerned a number of prominent Jews, in England and abroad. The Occident and American Jewish Advocate, the first general Jewish periodical published in the U.S., published a piece against the Society in 1844, ending with the words of God to the prophet Daniel, “Many will be purified, and made white and tried; but the wicked will do wickedly, and none of the wicked will understand; but the wise will understand.”
The Society’s mission to proselytize to Jews first, and to emphasize the Jewish roots of Christianity, was one of the most objectionable aspects of its operations, and the Society and various Jewish groups remained at odds with each other, as a broadside from 1902, asking for help paying off the Society’s legal debts, indicates. Though it wasn’t particularly successful in Palestine, the Society continues to operate to this day.
Watch this Downton Abbey/Fiddler mash-up: