Poland, Mission Among the Jews in
Poland, Mission Among The Jews In.
The Polish mission was commenced by the London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews in the year 1821. The first missionaries there were the late Dr. A. M'Caul (q.v.), at that time a simple graduate of the University of Dublin, and the Rev. W. F. Becker. The center of their operation was made in Warsaw. For a while all seemed promising, but the missionaries were compelled for a time to quit Warsaw. Early in the year 1822 the missionaries were summoned to appear before the "Commission of the Religious Confessions," and had to sign a protocol as to what was their object, of which it was said that it would be sent to St. Petersburg. Learning, however, that the answer which would be given them would be that foreign missionaries were not wanted in the country, and that if the Jews wished to be converted there were priests enough for that purpose, the missionaries— in order to avoid being sent out of the country, and hoping to get permission from the emperor Alexander-left Warsaw and went to Posen. The permission was obtained not only for Poland, but also for Russia. The first two missionaries were now joined by two others, Messrs. Wendt and Hoff, and in the winter of 1822 missionary operations were fairly commenced at Warsaw. In the year 1823 a service according to the ritual of the Church of England was established in the Reformed Church, Mr. M'Caul having received ordination in England; and this, in 1824, was followed up by the commencement of a German service in the same place in the afternoon. As the labor increased two more missionaries were sent, Messrs. Reichardt and Wermelskirch. Visits were paid to various towns, and for a time Lublin was made the scene of missionary labor. The chief work of the winter of 1825 was the preparation of a translation of the Word of God, for the use of Hebrew women more especially. It was completed by M'Caul, with the assistance of the other missionaries, as far as the end of the Pentateuch, by the spring of 1826, and has proved a work of considerable value.
The death of the emperor Alexander rendered it necessary to apply to his successor for a confirmation of the permission which had been accorded to them. The answer to their application was of a modified character: it gave them liberty to labor among the Jews of Poland, but was silent concerning Russia itself, and as was afterwards stated by the grand-duke Constantine, that, as far as Russia was concerned, the permission was withdrawn. All efforts to reobtain it were without success.
In 1829 Lublin was permanently occupied as a missionary station, and proved a success, for no less than forty-four Israelites were there admitted into the visible Church. The year 1830 was marked by some events materially affecting the state of the mission and the position of the missionaries: by an order from St. Petersburg the missionaries were placed under the General Protestant Consistory, and their correspondence with the committee was required to be laid before it, the Commission of the Interior, and the police. On Nov. 29 in the same year the Polish revolution broke out, without affecting materially the missionary labors. This year may be regarded as marking the close of the second period in the history of the Polish mission, lasting from the year 1823 to 1830.
The event of most consequence that marked the following years was the occupation of a new station, in 1834, in the south of Poland. Kielce was the place selected, a place equidistant from Warsaw and Lublin. The main features of the work that now present themselves are the missionary journeys to Suvaltri, Calvary, and other places. We have now arrived at the year 1841, and up to that period, in connection with the mission, there had been baptized at Warsaw 115, at Lublin 33, and at Kalisch-selected in 1838 as the station and other stations, occupied only for a short time, 5, making altogether a total of 153. During the year 1842 the missionaries made several journeys, and in spite of the "Cherem," or Jewish excommunication, pronounced against those who should have any intercourse with the missionaries, the work went on with great blessings, and in the year 1851 the number of those who were baptized through the mission in Poland was 326, some of the converts occupying the highest stations in life. We have now brought the history of the Polish mission down to that period when the door was closed against it. The war of England with Russia effected this change, for it could not reasonably be expected, while that war was carried on with the greatest vigor, that an English mission, however peaceful its object, would be tolerated in the very heart of the Russian empire, and indications were not wanting that soon its work was to cease. Various tracts about to be printed, which had already received the sanction of the Consistory, were unaccountably detained at the censor's office; and in the month of May, 1854, "the missionaries in Warsaw were summoned before the Russian authorities to receive various injunctions and restrictive orders on pain of being expelled from the country. One of these was to submit all their official correspondence with the committee to the Russian government, who promised to forward it to London; and to circulate no books, not even the Bible, among Christians. The letters and journals were from that time submitted as prescribed, but never reached London. This state of things continued from the end of May till Dec. 28, when the missionaries were again summoned to appear before the Russian authorities to hear an imperial order read, which imposed upon them and their brethren in the country the discontinuance of all missionary work from that day, and to be prepared to leave the country in three weeks, viz. on Jan. 13, 1855, the New-year's day of the Russian Church." Thus closed the Polish mission, just three weeks before the death of the Russian emperor, a mission which had not been in vain, for, besides the 361 members of the house of Israel who were admitted by baptism into the Christian Church, more than 10,000 Bibles, in different languages, and upwards of 10,000 New Testaments have been circulated, of which many had come into the hands of Jews.
The missionary work which had thus been suspended for over twenty years was again resumed in the year 1877, permission having been granted by the present emperor. To the Rev. J. C. Hartmann, one of the oldest missionaries of the society, was intrusted the temporary charge of the mission-field at Warsaw, where about 100,000 Jews reside, divided into Talmudists, Chasidim, and Reformers. According to the latest report of 1877, the Warsaw station is now occupied by the Revs. O. J. Ellis and H. H. F. Hartmann, son of the above, N. D. Rappoport, A.E. Ifland, and a colporteur. Comp. the Jewish Intelligencer and the Annual Reports of the London Society. (B.P.)