The Mendele Review: Yiddish Literature and Language
              (A Companion to MENDELE)
Contents of Vol. 07.008 [Sequential No. 134]
3 August 2003

1)  About this issue of TMR (ed.)

2) "When Missionaries Wrote in Yiddish:  The Rise and Fall of Missionary
Yiddish in America."  (Yaakov Ariel)

Date: 3 August 2003
From: Leonard Prager 
Subject: About this issue of TMR.

In this issue of TMR, Professor Yaakov Ariel of the Department of
Religion, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explores the use
of Yiddish by converts to Christianity who worked as missionaries in
America, part of his comprehensive research on Christian missions to the
Jews.  His most recent publication in this field is _Evangelizing the
Chosen People:  Missions to the Jews in America 1880-2000_ (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 2000).  Professor Ariel has written
widely on Jewish-Christian relations and has also given us a moving
account of his grueling Yom Kippur War experiences as a prisoner of war
in Syria:  _Haderekh leDamesek; sipuro shel shavui_.  [English title:
The Road to Damascus -- a Story of a Prisoner].  Tel-Aviv:  Sifriat
Poalim, 1999 [ISBN 965-04-2371-0].

In the next issue of TMR, to appear on August 12th, Joseph Sherman
memorializes the Yiddish writers killed by the Soviet state precisely 51
years ago.

Date: 3 August 2003
Subject:  When Missionaries Wrote in Yiddish:  The Rise and Fall of
Missionary Yiddish in America

When Missionaries Wrote in Yiddish:  The Rise and Fall of Missionary
Yiddish in America

                            by Yaakov Ariel

Residents of and visitors to Jewish immigrant neighborhoods in America
at the turn of the twentieth century noticed a phenomenon that at first
glance seemed like an oxymoron -- Christian missionaries distributing
tracts in Yiddish.  To many, Yiddish symbolized a unique culture which
Jews had developed apart from the Christian society in which they lived
as a minority in Europe.  That missionaries would use Yiddish to promote
Christian beliefs and agendas seemed almost unthinkable.  While Jews
were amazed, and at times angry, at the unexpected use made of what they
conceived to be exclusive Jewish cultural tools by Christians attempting
to turn them into Christians, missionaries nonetheless created, between
the 1880s and the 1950s, a lively Yiddish subculture.(1)

The Yiddish missionary literature aimed at more than attempts to
evangelize individual Jews.  For many of the missionaries, writing in
Yiddish was more than a means of spreading the Christian Gospel.
Missionary leaders such as Joseph Kohn wished to influence the Jewish
views on social and political matters, hoping to convert Jewish
immigrants to Protestant middle-class values.  And, within the confines
of Protestant evangelical doctrines, missionaries gave expression to
their literary gifts and, perhaps to the surprise of most Jews,
missionary writers also wished to connect with Jewish life and culture.
While missionaries produced an extensive literature in Yiddish and were
a part of Jewish life in America for decades, students of Jewish culture
have, on the whole, not paid attention to the missionary literature in
that language.(2) Similarly, scholars of missionary and Christian-Jewish
literature have also overlooked the Yiddish missionary literature.(3)
This essay comes to fill a gap and to explore the various literatures of
Yiddish missionaries, as well as the reasons that gave rise to the
missionary use of Yiddish and that brought about its termination.

The Rise of Missionary Yiddish in America

The 1880s-1890s saw the emergence of a large and vigorous movement among
American Protestants to evangelize the Jews.  The new movement was
inspired by two socio-cultural phenomena:  the spread of a
premillennialist messianic faith among American Protestants that
kindled their interest in the Jews and the prospect of their conversion
to Christianity.(4) Emphasizing a more literate understanding of the
Bible, conservative American Protestants adopted the messianic faith.
Consequently, conservative Protestants saw in the Jews the chosen
people, heirs to the covenant between God and Israel, a nation with a
special mission in history.  The same period also saw the arrival of
large numbers of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.  Many of the
newly-arrived immigrants settled in poor neighborhoods in the major
cities, working in the garment industry or as pushcart peddlers.
Eschatologically oriented, conservative Protestants saw the immigrants
as potential converts and established missions in the Jewish immigrant
neighborhoods.  They disseminated their messages on street corners,
visited homes, and invited Jews to their centers to listen to sermons.
They also offered newly-arrived immigrants material help as a means of
establishing contact and bringing Jews into the mission houses.
Memoirs of Jewish immigrants from the turn of the 20th century point to
a strong presence of missionaries in the Jewish immigrant neighborhoods
and of many Jews approaching the missions out of need.(5) Yiddish was
the mother tongue of most immigrants from Eastern Europe of that
period.  Much of the interaction between missionaries and Jews had to
take place in _mame loshn_ ['mother tongue', another name for Yiddish].

While many Jews made an effort to learn English, a good number of them
still spoke and read Yiddish, even as they were acquiring skills in a
new language.  Missions recruited Yiddish-speaking missionaries, and
even taught non-Jewish missionaries to speak Yiddish.  Remarkably, the
first non-Jews in America to make a conscious effort to learn Yiddish
were Christian missionaries.  Speaking in Yiddish, missionaries
believed, added to their credibility and thus made them more effective.
It also helped them be come more familiar with the Jews and their
culture.(6) One non-Jewish missionary, the German-born Arno C.
Gaebelein, gave advice on how to speak Yiddish.  Knowing German was
enough, he claimed.  One should "just make as many grammatical mistakes
as one could," he advised.

The Williamsburg Mission to the Jews organized what were probably the
first classes in Yiddish to prospective missionaries at the beginning of
the 20th century.  By the 1910s, missionary schools in America
established programs to train professional missionaries to the Jews.
Such programs included the study of Yiddish in the curriculum.  A good
knowledge of Yiddish and the ability to teach it were among the
requirements when Bible Institutes were searching for professors for
their programs in Jewish evangelism.  The programs did not remain
confined to the classroom.  Students went with their professors on
evangelizing tours into Jewish neighborhoods and were expected to gain
practical training in the use of the language.  Ironically, conservative
Christian schools of higher learning such as the Moody Bible Institute
in Chicago offered courses in Yiddish decades before secular or liberal
Christian institutions of higher learning did so.(7) The directors of
such schools thought that missionaries should be acquainted with the
languages of the people they evangelized.  They expected their students
to be able to speak and even preach sermons in Yiddish.  The teaching of
Yiddish at the Bible colleges, while still retaining elements of
prejudice, also reflected the special attitude of premillennialist
Protestants towards the Jews and their culture, which was more
appreciative than that of most other Christian groups during the period.

Missionary Journals and Tracts in Yiddish

Conversing with Jews in Yiddish was only one activity of
Yiddish-speaking missionaries.  Much of the missionary Yiddish effort
was in the literary realm.  Missionaries published a large and varied
selection of written material for distribution among prospective
converts.  Central features of the missionary literature in Yiddish were
the missionary Yiddish periodicals.  They were intended for prospective
converts and gave expression to the missions' theological views as well
as their outlook on cultural and social issues.  Missionaries used
journals as pamphlets, distributing them on street corners or handing
them out in their centers.  Missions often published two journals:  one
in English, intended for donors and sponsors and meant to promote the
mission' s cause in the Protestant community, and one in Yiddish,
intended for Jews.  The Hope of Israel Mission English journal, _Our
Hope_, for example, became one of the leading conservative journals of
Protestant America and was circulated on a national basis.  The Yiddish
journal the mission published in the 1890s-1900s, _Tiqwas Yisroel_, on
the other hand, was distributed mainly on the Lower East Side of New
York.  Its name hinted at the mission's views, which stated that the
Jews' ultimate hope was with Jesus.

Another noted Yiddish missionary journal during the period was _Roe
Yisroel_ [' The Shepherd of Israel'], which the Williamsburg Mission to
the Jews (later the American Board of Missions to the Jews) published
from the 1890s to the 1960s.  Like other titles of Yiddish
missionaries, _Roe Yisroel_ also referred to Jesus.  The mission also
published an English journal, _The Chosen People_, which was still in
circulation all through the 20th century.  Whereas _The Chosen People_
was sent to subscribers and was intended to muster support for the
mission among middle-class Protestants, the Yiddish journal was much
shorter and was intended for distribution among prospective converts.(8)

The Yiddish journal, like its English counterpart, reflected the aims
and priorities of the mission.  It included theological essays on topics
such as Jesus, the Trinity, or the Virgin Mary.  It also related to more
current realities such as the rise of the Zionist movement, which the
mission endorsed with some reservations.  _Roe Yisroel_ also expressed
anti-communist and anti-socialist opinions.  As noted, the mission's
leaders wished not only to propagate Christianity among the Jews, but to
convert them to the values of Protestant America as well.(9) Its leaders
noted with pain that some Jews were attracted to, or at least tolerated,
Socialist and Communist ideas.  They sought to reeducate the Jews and
make them reconsider their views.  In relating to the singing of
"HaTikva", the Zionist anthem, and the International, the Socialist
anthem, by Jews on the same occasion, the editor of _Roe Yisroel_
remarked:  what a "mishmash".

A different kind of Yiddish missionary journal was _Der vekhter_ ['The
Watchman'], published as a supplement to the _Hebrew Christian Alliance
Quarterly_.  Organized in 1915 as the association of Jewish converts to
Christianity in America, the Hebrew Christian Alliance was strongly
associated with missionary work.  Many of its members were pastors of
Protestant congregations or missionaries, and the organization included
in its agenda the propagation of Christianity among the Jews.(10) The
Alliance people distributed their journal among members of the
organization as well as among non-Jewish supporters of the Hebrew
Christian Alliance in the Protestant community.  All members read
English well, and the Yiddish supplement to the _HCAQ_ was not intended
for those among the Alliance members who could not read English.  The
supplement was rather intended as a missionary tract to be distributed
among prospective converts in the Yiddish-speaking community.  The
supplement was smaller in size (4" x 3") and could be printed in large
numbers to serve as pamphlets for missionary purposes.

_Der vekhter_ served another purpose as well.  Unlike _Roe Yisroel_
['Shepherd of Israel'] and _Tiqvas Yisroel_ ['Hope of Israel'], where
most of the articles were translations from the English versions of the
journals, _Der vekhter_ presented original works in Yiddish.  While the
authors could read English, and perhaps also write occasional articles
in English, they felt more at ease writing in Yiddish.  The Yiddish
supplement contained some clear attempts at original literary
expressions, including short stories and poetry.  One might conclude
that while the official purpose of the Yiddish journal was evangelism,
its real aim was giving expression to missionaries with literary
inclinations whose language and culture were Yiddish.  (11) The journal
was published by the Hebrew Christian Alliance's "Literary Fund" and
the authors writing for it carried noms de plume such as "Ya'ar"
['Forest'].  The Yiddish journal provides an example of the cultural
world of missionaries writing in Yiddish.  Having converted to
Christianity, they acquired the theological premises of evangelical
Protestantism and built their homes in a Protestant social milieu.  But
they were still connected culturally to their Jewish roots, felt more
comfortable writing in Yiddish, and wrote on Jewish Eastern European or
Jewish American immigrant themes.  Their stories or poems combined
Christian evangelical theology with Jewish scenes and characters.

In addition to journals, missions also produced short booklets and
pamphlets in Yiddish to promote the Christian faith among Jews.  This
included such pamphlets as the lengthy, fifteen-page _Der Tolui_ by
Ya"el (also a nom de plume)(12) which explored and promoted the
Christian evangelical claim that the death of Jesus on the Cross served
as an atonement for the sins of humanity.  Another pamphlet was Aaron
Kliegerman's _Der Got-Mentsh -- Ver Iz Er?_ ['The God-Man, Who Is
He?'].(13) Laboring as a Presbyterian missionary in Baltimore in the
1920s-1950s, Kliegerman wrote books and articles in English, but his
Yiddish was equally good, and he wrote in both languages.  In a manner
typical of missionary publications, his English tracts were intended for
the Christian Presbyterians who backed the mission.  He wished to
persuade Christians of the importance of evangelizing the Jews.  His
Yiddish tracts, on the other hand, were written with potential converts
in mind.

Another pamphlet that deserves notice is the sixteen-page _Rosheshone_
['New Year's Day'].  The pamphlet concentrated on a calendrical mystery:
Why has the Jewish New Year been celebrated on the first day of Tishre,
the seventh month, whereas the "true date," as had been shown in the
Bible, is the first of Nissan, the first month.  If the Jewish
interpreters of the Torah:  Tannaim, Amoraim, Geonim, and following
generations of rabbis, erred on this crucial matter (whether
intentionally or innocently), could they not have erred equally on
refusing to recognize Jesus as the Messiah?  The readers were encouraged
to re-read the Hebrew Bible in the light of Christian interpretations
and see for themselves that Jesus was indeed the Messiah about whom the
Hebrew Bible (or "Old Testament"), spoke.

_Rosheshone_ is a good illustration of Yiddish missionary pamphlets
intended for Jews.  The author referred to the celebration of a Jewish
holiday and to the Jewish sacred texts in order to make a case for
Christianity.  Missionaries assumed that only those Jews who had
accepted Christianity would view Christian texts as authoritative.
Until then, one had to use Jewish sources to persuade the Jews to
consider the Gospel.  Accordingly, in Yiddish the author presented
himself as a rabbi, whereas in the English translation of the title
page of the pamphlet he presented himself as an ex-rabbi.(14)

American missions labored overseas and distributed tracts in Yiddish in
Europe, Latin America, and Palestine.(15) The American Yiddish book most
widely distributed, both in America and overseas, was probably _Dos
tsveyte kumen fun dem meshiekh_ ['The Second Coming of the
Messiah'].(16) Like many of the Yiddish missionary tracts, it was a
translation from the English.  The original _Jesus is Coming_ by William
E. Blackstone first appeared in 1878 and became a Protestant messianic
bestseller(17); Blackstone established the Chicago Hebrew Mission in
1887 and _Jesus Is Coming_ was much distributed by his mission(18).
Blackstone, like other missionaries, wished that, in addition to
becoming believers in the messiahship of Jesus, Jews would accept the
idea of Jesus' second coming.  The book promoted the idea that the
current era was about to end and the apocalyptic events were to begin
soon, culminating in the return of Jesus to earth and the establishment
of the 1000-year reign of Jesus on earth.  The book also promoted the
belief that the Jews were the Chosen People, destined to play a vital
role in the events that would lead to the arrival of the Messiah as well
as to the messianic kingdom.  In 1906, Blackstone received a large
amount of money from the Milton Stewart Fund to carry out evangelistic
work in America and around the world.  He used part of the funds to
finance missionary work among the Jews.  This included the translation
of _Jesus is Coming_ into Yiddish and its circulation in tens of
thousands of copies in North America and Eastern Europe.

The translator, Peter Gorodishz, was a missionary who worked in Russia
and Poland.  "In his preface, he described Blackstone as 'eyner fun
yisroels greste fraynd', one of the greatest friends of the Jews...."
who had advocated their return to their ancient homeland.  Accepting a
copy of the book and reading it was thus "kosher," as it was written by
a person who expressed pro-Jewish sentiments, helped the Zionist cause,
and militated against discrimination towards Jews.(19) Describing
Blackstone as an advocate of Jewish causes was helpful in making his
book less objectionable to Jews.  American Protestant missionaries such
as Blackstone saw themselves as friends of the Jews, evangelizing them
out of goodwill and concern for their fate.  They distanced themselves
from the bitter experiences that at times characterized Christian
relations with the Jews.  Such an attitude was essential for the
propagation of the Gospel among the Jews, since Jews were used to seeing
in Christianity an alien hostile religion.  The Yiddish title of the
book is suggestive.  In English, it is called _Jesus is Coming_, a title
that promotes the eschatological premillennialist faith in the imminent
return of Jesus to earth.  The Yiddish title, _Dos tsveyte kumen fun dem
meshiekh_, conveys a very different message.  The Yiddish translation
suggests that missionaries had to convince Jews that Jesus was indeed
the Messiah, and that the Messiah had already come to earth once before.
Soon he would come for the second time, bringing redemption to those
who put their trust in him.

Jewish community leaders and activists were not convinced by the
missionaries' claims of being friends of the Jews.  Jewish leaders have
viewed missionary activity as a delegitimization of Judaism and as a
continuation of the time-old Christian unwillingness to accept Jewish
existence outside of the Christian Church.  During the early decades of
missionary activity in Yiddish in America (the 1880s-1920s), it was
curiously members of the Jewish elite who were most opposed to the
missionary presence.  Although they hardly encountered missionaries,
and for the most part would not have been able to read the Yiddish
missionary tracts, they viewed missionary work among the Jews as an
insult and a threat to their own standing in American society.
Well-established middle-class Jews could not understand why Jews
would interact with missionaries and saw it as a lack of Jewish pride to
use services offered by the missions.(20) But their call to boycott the
missions fell on deaf ears.  As memoirs of Jews who grew up in the
immigrant community reveal, newly arrived immigrants visited the mission
houses, accepted material aid, and, at times, came to hear the
missionary messages.(21) While missionaries sometimes encountered
resentment among immigrant Jews, they had no difficulty distributing
their leaflets and tracts and making their voices heard in the Jewish
community.  Immigrant Jews encountered the Yiddish missionary
publications and presence on an almost daily basis.

The Yiddish New Testament

One of the more ambitious Yiddish ventures in America was the
translation of the New Testament into Yiddish.  Until the turn of the
twentieth century, Yiddish New Testaments were reprints of sixteenth-
and seventeenth-century publications with editorial touches.  These were
basically Yiddishized versions of German translations going back as far
as Martin Luther's major translation of the New Testament.  Missionaries
who knew Yiddish well considered them to be an embarrassment to the
missionary cause, particularly when read by educated Jews.  Jewish
antagonists to missionary activity cited inaccuracies in the Yiddish
texts as a part of their efforts to delegitimize the gospel message.(22)

A Jewish missionary, Henry Einspruch, decided to translate the New
Testament into modern literary Yiddish.  Einspruch was born in 1892 in
Tarnow, Galicia, a section of Poland that was then under
Austro-Hungarian rule.  He was raised in a Yiddish-speaking home and
studied Yiddish in the Jewish school in his hometown.  In 1911 he went
to Palestine as a halutz, a Zionist pioneer, and worked for a few weeks
on a newly founded Zionist agricultural farm, where he contracted
malaria and decided to leave.  On his return to Poland he met a
missionary, Khayem Lucky, under whose guidance Einspruch accepted the
Christian faith.(23) He decided to leave Poland for America, where he
could practice his new faith more openly, far from the intimidating
presence of family and friends.  He decided to become a missionary and
took a position with the Cleveland Hebrew Mission.  In 1917 he enrolled
at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.  In Chicago he began
writing missionary tracts, in Yiddish and English, which were published
by the Chicago Tract Society.  It was also during this period that
Einspruch began translating the New Testament into Yiddish.  His
translation of the Book of Matthew was published by the American Bible
Society, which sponsored the publications of many Bible translations.
Upon his graduation from the seminary in 1920, Einspruch began working
with the United Lutheran Church in America, which sponsored his Salem
Hebrew Mission in Baltimore, Maryland, giving him a great deal of

Einspruch devoted much time to writing, establishing his own missionary
journal, _The Mediator_, in 1928.  The name was symbolic.  It indicated
that its purpose was to mediate between the Jews and their salvation.
In this case, it might have also demonst rated the mission's purpose as
a mediator between the beliefs and values of Protestant Christian
America and the immigrant Jewish community.  This Yiddish and English
quarterly enjoyed a circulation of more than fifty thousand copies at
its peak.  While t aking pride in the good Yiddish of his own journal,
Einspruch was dissatisfied with the Yiddish texts the missionary
movement in general provided:  "Most Jewish missionaries are familiar
with the derisive appellation 'missionary Yiddish'. To say that the
greater part of our Yiddish tracts are a horrible mutilation of a
people's language (and in this I include the Yiddish Old and New
Testaments) is to put it very mildly."(24)

Einspruch's magnum opus, a Yiddish translation of the complete New
Testament, was motivated by his desire to provide prospective Jewish
converts with an accurate, modern edition of the Christian gospel.  It
also reflected Einspruch's literary aspirations as a Yiddish writer and
gave him an opportunity to express his gifts.  In this respect,
Einspruch was not unique; the task of translating the Bible often gave
missionaries with scholarly and literary inclinations an opportunity to
express themselves and their creativity while serving missionary needs
and without stepping out of line doctrinally.(25) Einspruch's desire to
translate the New Testament into Yiddish might have also been inspired
by a wave of translations of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, into Yiddish
that took place at the turn of the 20th century.

Yiddish glosses of the Tanakh constitute the very beginnings of Yiddish
literature and the numerous editions of the so-called "Women's Bible,"
the _Tsenerene_ were actually also read by men who were not
scholars.(26) With the rise of a more secular Yiddish-speaking culture,
and the realization that many Yiddish-speaking Jews would prefer to read
the Bible in Yiddish, Jewish writers proposed to translate the sacred
text into the Jewish vernacular.  A number of ambitious literary
enterprises ar ose to translate the Jewish Bible into Yiddish.  Yiddish
literary luminaries, such as Mendele Moykher-Sforim, Sholem Aleichem,
and Y- L. Peretz translated portions of the Jewish canon of sacred
scriptures.  The most ambitious and complete translation into Yiddish of
the Hebrew Bible was that of Solomon Bloomgarden, who chose the nom de
plume Yehoyesh [< Hebrew:  Yehoash], and whose work came out during
Einspruch's early years as a missionary.(27) Though there is a large
corpus of Yiddish Bible translations, and poems based on biblical books,
it was not until the poet Yehoyesh undertook his monumental rendition,
which is both literary and scholarly, that a full and adequate
translation into modern Yiddish was created.

Einspruch must have been aware of the new wave of translations, and had
likely read some or all of them.  Likewise, Einspruch must have been
aware of and influenced by the new missionary translations of the New
Testament into Hebrew.  Franz Delitzch's late-nineteenth- century
translation of the New Testament into biblical-like Hebrew, for example,
became the most accepted one among missions and has been in use
throughout the 20th century, and might have served as a model for
Einspruch.  Unlike Einspruch's earlier translations, this enterprise was
not carried out through the American Bible Society but rather as his
mission's independent enterprise.  This demanded attending to all stages
of production.  Einspruch decided that in order to p roduce the book, he
had to acquire his own printing equipment.  Some Christian presses, such
as Fleming H. Revell or the American Bible Society, published books in
Yiddish, as did a number of missions.  But Einspruch wanted the printing
of his translation to be of the highest possible quality and wanted to
choose the font.  The cost of this project, as well as Einspruch's other
literary ventures, was considerable, much more than the local Lutheran
church in Baltimore was willing to spend on Yiddish literary
enterprises.  Einspruch approached private donors and was successful in
gaining the support of a philanthropist, Harriett Lederer, for the
mission and its publications.  Lederer's assistance gave Einspruch's
mission financial security and greater independence.  When the United
Lutheran Church later on lost interest in Jewish evangelism, the mission
became an independent organization and assumed the name "the Lederer

The first edition of Einspruch's New Testament in Yiddish came out in
1941 in a 590-page edition.  Translations involve theological and
cultural choices, and, in the course of his work, Einspruch made some
major ones.(28) It was important for him to write in good Yiddish
prose, yet he was also a missionary and tried to choose words and
expressions that would promote the Christian evangelical message and
would make the text more inviting to Jews.  Einspruch, for example,
chose for his translated New Testament the title "Der bris khodoshe"
instead of "Dos naye testament", which had served as the title of the
New Testament until the late ninteenth century.  Literally, "Bris
khodoshe" does not mean 'New Testament' but rather 'New Covenant'.  The
new title was probably borrowed from Franz Delitzsch's
late-nineteenth-century translation of the New Testament into Hebrew.
Einspruch thus conveyed through the title of his translation a message
that emphasized the Christian messianic interpretation of history which
the missionaries promoted, namely that there would be a new covenant
between God and his people.

The translation was accompanied by a number of illustrations reminiscent
of those of Ephraim Moshe Lilien (1874-1925), a popular Bible
illustrator; they created a familiar atmosphere meant to make the New
Testament more acceptable and legitimate for Jews.  The first page of
the text shows an old Jewish man with a long white beard, dressed with a
yarmulke ['skullcap'], and talit [' prayer shawl'], surrounded by
burning candles, and reading a book.  The scene suggests that the New
Testament is an old Jewish book that should be read and studied like a
sacred Jewish text, just as dedicated rabbinical scholars study Jewish
texts deep into the night.  The illustration correlates with Einspruch's
translation, which begins:  "Dos iz dos seyfer fun dem yikhes fun
Yeyshue hameshiekh, dem zun fun Dovidn, dem zun fun Avromen,"
familiarizing Jesus as a descendent of David and Abraham.  In his use of
the crucial word _yikhes_ [< Hebrew _yichus_], which in Jewish culture
means much more than 'lineage' or 'genealogy', Einspruch wisely follows
earlier translators.  Often used in match-making to point to the high
value of potential brides and grooms, _yikhes_ means "pedigree"; it
relates to honored ancestors and boosts the credentials of the "yakhsan"
-- the individual claiming the pedigree.  Jesus, it is implied, has
excellent credentials by virtue of his "yikhes".

His missionary intentions notwithstanding, Einspruch's translation
aroused the interest and appreciation of the Yiddish literary community.
Meylekh Ravitsh (1893-1976), a noted Yiddish writer of the day,
published a review of the work in Yiddish.  At that time he lived in
Mexico City and wrote for the Yiddish daily _Der veg_; he was not a
Christian, but rather a non-Zionist Jewish nationalist.(29) He did not
care for Einspruch's Christian messianic understanding of history and
missionary aims, but he appreciated the translation.  In his review
article, Ravitsh explained to his readers why he thought it necessary
for Jews to read the New Testament:  "For well known reasons, the New
Testament has remained for many Jews a book sealed with seven seals.
And that is truly a pity, for to some seven hundred million people it is
a sacred book.  A cultured person should know such a work; I myself have
read it and recommend it to every intelligent Jew....  The New Testament
[is] one of the most important books in the world.  How then can we Jews
afford to ignore it?"

Ravitsh welcomed the new translation, which he felt was the first decent
one, and remarked, "The Einspruch translation of the New Testament is
unquestionably beautiful.  One feels that the translator is familiar
with modern Yiddish literature and that he is a master of the finest
nuances of the language.  In comparison with previous translations, this
is truly an outstanding work."(30) Ravitsh's appreciative outlook
reflected a common trend among Yiddish writers.  Although they were
hardly enthusiastic about missionary work among their brethren, they
did not ostracize Jewish Christian Yiddish writers, not even those who
made their livelihood by missionizing fellow Jews.  Contrary to a
prevailing Jewish myth, the dislike of "shmad", or Jewish conversion to
Christianity, did not necessarily bring about a termination of the
convert's connections with Jews and Jewish life.  It only made these
connections more complicated.  Einspruch's literary achievements gave
him an entry into Yiddish literary circles, which had opened its doors
to other converted Jewish writers as well.

Einspruch took great pride in his literary achievement, but his hope
that his book would become the exclusive Yiddish New Testament
distributed in America did not materialize.  A mixture of missionary and
literary rivalries stood in his way.  At the same time that Einspruch
was working on his translation, a few thousand miles away another
missionary was preparing a translation of the New Testament into
Yiddish.  Aaron Krolenbaum had also been born in Poland, converted to
Christianity in the early 1920s, and moved to England, where he received
a thorough Christian education as a minister.  Krelenbaum became a
missionary with the Mildmay Mission to the Jews and worked among the
Jewish immigrants of the East End of London.(31) Like Einspruch, he
pursued his studies and obtained a bachelor's degree.  A scholar by
inclination, he learned Greek and took upon himself the task of
translating the New Testament into Yiddish.  Like his American fellow
missionary, Krolenbaum wanted to present his readers with an accurate,
respectable version of the New Testament.  He, too, saw it as a personal
challenge and an expression of his scholarly and literary abilities.  It
might well be that when the two missionaries began pursuing their great
literary tasks they did not realize that they were competing with each
other.  But they both possessed an almost passionate determination to
translate the New Testament into Yiddish.  In 1949, just a few years
after the triumphant appearance of Einspruch's translation, Krolenbaum's
translation appeared in England to even greater acclaim.  Paul
Levertoff, the patriarch of Jewish Christian writers, wrote on the
Acknowledgements page:  "I think this Yiddish translation can compare
favorably with any standard translation of the New Testament, whether
Hebrew, German, Russian, or any other language with which I am familiar,
and Aaron Krolenbaum is to be congratulated on his arduous and
successful work."

A number of missions in America, such as the Million Testaments Campaign
headquartered in Philadelphia, and the American Board of Missions to the
Jews (the largest mission to the Jews in America), decided to publish
and distribute Krolenbaum's translation when it appeared in 1949 instead
of Einspruch's translation.(32) The decision was not based on literary
considerations.  The leaders of the American Board of Missions to the
Jews, for example, viewed Einspruch's missionary endeavor as
competition.  In their vision, their organization was to be the only
mission to the Jews and they did not wish to boost Einspruch's morale
and promote his mission.  Consequently, they printed Krolenbaum's
translation instead.  The relationship between Krolenbaum and Einspruch
became one of open animosity.(33)

Their clash, too, showed them to be not unlike many other Yiddish
writers of their day -- jealous and grudging.  There was an irony in the
Yiddish writers' competing ambitions, as well as a tragic touch.  The
publication of accurate and respectable transl ations of the New
Testament into Yiddish came out just when Yiddish was ceasing to be the
major language of the Jewish masses.  Einspruch's and Krelenbaum's was
the last generation that could make widespread use of their
translations.  Even when published , most American Jews were reading
English.  The missions themselves contributed to the move from Yiddish
to English.  English language courses were an important part of the
services the missions offered in an attempt to bring Jews to enter the
missions and take interest in the Christian message.  Ironically, this
took place at the same time that missions were producing extensive
written material in Yiddish and young missionaries were making an effort
to study the language.  The missions were aware that im migrant Jews
were eager to learn English and that the use of Yiddish was on the
decline.  In this respect, missionaries were not unlike some leading
Jewish cultural figures of the period.  The editor of the largest
Yiddish daily in America, Abraham Cahan, promoted Americanization and
saw the use of Yiddish as a transitory stage in the life of American


In the early 1960s, Yiddish journals including Einspruch's _Mediator_
and the American Board of Missions to the Jews' _Shepherd of Israel_
closed down, one after the other.  The segment of American Jews that
preferred Yiddish to English dwindled considerably, and was about to
disappear almost entirely.  The Moody Bible Institute removed the
teaching of Yiddish from its curriculum in 1965 -- thus bringing an era
to an end.  Producing literature in Yiddish or teaching Yiddish to
prospective missionaries was, from the point of view of the missions, a
non-productive move.

The rise and fall of missionary Yiddish in America correlated with
developments in the larger Jewish culture.  Coming into being at the
same time that a large Yiddish-speaking population settled in America,
it reached its end when that population dwindled and almost disappeared.
Some of the dilemmas that faced Yiddish writers in America were shared
by missionary Yiddish writers.  The culture of many of the writers was
Yiddish, and writing in Yiddish allowed them to give expression to their
gifts in a lan guage that was their own.  Yet they were writing for an
aging and dwindling audience.  They wrote for themselves perhaps more
than for their audience.

Missionary Yiddish was never as free and creative as secular Yiddish.
Operating under the auspices of conservative Christian organizations,
and committed to a Christian premillennialist philosophy of history and
a conservative view of culture, missionaries writing in Yiddish had to
confine themselves to the doctrines and worldview of conservative
Protestant Christianity.  They were not allowed to discuss sexual or
erotic themes and could not produce the kind of literature that many
secular Yiddish writers did.  They opposed the theater and could not
write plays such as those that Goldfaden and others had produced.  Their
theological and cultural standing drastically limited their literary
scope.  In this respect, they could be compared to Orthodox Jewish
writers in Yiddish, who could write only on religious, social, or
political themes.  It was no wonder that most of the missionary Yiddish
literary accomplishments were in the realm of translations.

Producing literature in Yiddish nonetheless meant a great deal to
missionaries.  It was much more than a vehicle to reach Jews.  It
signified their connection to Jewish life and culture.  Speaking and
writing in Yiddish -- they were Jews.  It further served to signify
that the missions took genuine interest in the Jewish people and showed
respect for their culture.  They were their friends.  Enemies of Jews
would not speak or write in Yiddish.  Since the 1960s, missions have
found other means to convey such a message.  They have begun to use
Hebrew names, play Israeli music, have expressed support for Israel, and
organize tours to that country.  In this realm, too, the trend in the
missions correlated to that of the general Jewish public, where Hebrew
and attachment to Israel replaced Yiddish culture.

In the 1970s, Messianic Judaism, a more Jewishly assertive movement of
Jewish converts to Christianity, came into being, emphasizing the
loyalty of converts to their Jewish roots.  While almost no one among
the new generation of converts knew Yiddish, messianic Jews and
missionary groups, such as Jews for Jesus, began incorporating Yiddish
words and expressions into their vocabulary, thus emphasizing their
attachment to their Jewish heritage.(34) This development, too, was in
line with the changes in American culture at large, where the search
for roots and the rediscovery of heritage became prevalent.  It also
correlated with the attitude towards Yiddish in the general Jewish
population, where a renewed interest in Yiddish has taken place among
the grandchildren of Jewish immigrants.

In the late 1980s, about a decade after Einspruch's death, when Yiddish
was virtually a dead language, as far as the masses of Jews in America
were concerned, and the Yiddish New Testament ceased being distributed,
the directors of the Lederer Foundation donated the Yiddish printing set
and equipment, which Einspruch had acquired half a century earlier, to
the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts.  Posthumously, and
unwittingly, missionary Yiddish became part of the Yiddish heritage in


1. I would like to thank Ruth Blum, Victoria Hertz, Leonard Prager,
Jorge Quinonez, Wes Taber, Robert I. Winer, M.D., and Sheva Zucker, for
their help.

2. Benjamin Harshav, _The Meaning of Yiddish_ (Stanford:  Stanford
University Press, 1990); _Yiddish Language and Culture:  Then and Now_,
edited by Leonard Jay Greenspoon (Omaha:  Creighton University Press,
1998).  The collection carries a much welcomed es say on Bible Societies
in Britain, and their efforts to translate the Bible into Yiddish;
Miriam Weinstein, _Yiddish:  A Nation of Words_ (New York:  Ballantine
Books, 2001).

3. Karl Pruter, _Jewish Christians in the United States:  A
Bibliography_ (New York:  Garland, 1987).

4. Cf.  Yaakov Ariel, _Evangelizing the Chosen People:  Missions to the
Jews in America 1880-2000_ (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina
Press, 2000), 1-76.

5. Rose Cohen, _Out of the Shadow_ (Ithaca:  Cornell University Press,
1995).  Such descriptions corroborate both Christian missionary sources
and Jewish anti-missionary ones.

6. Arno C. Gaeblein, _Half a Century:  The Autobiography of a Servant_
(New York:  Our Hope, 1930), 30.

7. On the program at the Moody Bible Institute, see Ariel, _Evangelizing
the Chosen People_, 93-100.

8. In the latter decades of the journal's existence, the mission
published _Roe Yisroel_ in two languages, English and Yiddish.

9. See, for example, in the pages of _The Shepherd of Israel_.

10.  Cf.  Robert I. Winer, _The Calling:  The History of the Messianic
Jewish Alliance of America 1915-1990_ (Wynnewood, Pennsylvania:
Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, 1990).

11.  Cf. for example, _Der vekhter_ ['The Watchman'], Vol. 2, No. 1,
January 1918.

12.  Ya"el [Joseph Emanuel Landsmann], _Der Tolui_ (Newark, N.J.:  Light
Bearers Publication Society, 1926).  I owe thanks to Leonard Prager, who
brought the booklet to my attention, and to Mr. Jorge Quinonez, for
sending me a copy.

13.  Arn-Yude Kliegerman, _Der Got-Mentsh -- Ver Iz Er_ (Chicago:  The
Book Store, n.d.)

14.  Khanokh K. Bregman, _Rosheshone_, (Toronto:  Beys Dorshey Emes,

15.  Cf.  Harold A. Sevener, _A Rabbi's Vision:  A Century of
Proclaiming Messiah_ (Charlotte, North Carolina:  Chosen People
Ministries, 1994), 182-183.

16.  WEB (William E. Blackstone), _Dos tsveyte kumen fun dem meshiekh_
(Chicago:  Fleming H. Revell, 1917), 152-153.  I owe thanks to Mr. Wes
Taber, who very kindly sent me a copy of the Yiddish version of the

17.  William E. Blackstone, _Jesus is Coming_ (Chicago:  Fleming H.
Revell, 1878).

18.  On William E. Blackstone, see Yaakov Ariel, _On Behalf of Israel_
(New York:  Carlson, 1991), 55-96.

19. Blackstone, _Dos tsveyte kumen fun dem meshiekh__, 10-18.

20. _American Hebrew_, 91 (Septermber 27, 1912), 617.

21. Cohn, _Out of the Shadow_, 160.

22.  Henry Einspruch, "Literature for the Christian Approach to the
Jews," in _Christians and Jews:  Report of the Atlantic City Conference
on the Christian Approach to the Jews_ (New York:  International
Missionary Council, 1931), 97-102.

23.  On Einspruch's life, see _Henry Einspruch, the Man with the Book_
(Baltimore, Lederer Foundation, 1976).

24.  Ibid.

25.  Cf.  William F. Smalley, _Translation as Mission:  Bible
Translation in the Modern Missionary Movement_ (Macon, Georgia:  Mercer
University Press, 1991), 16, 39-40.

26.  On the _Tsenerene_, see Weinstein, Yiddish, 23.

27.  Harry M. Orlinsky, "Yehoash's Yiddish Translation of the Bible," in
_Essays in Biblical Culture and Bible Translation_ (New York:  KTAV,
1974), 418-422.

28.  Cf.  Ibid, 83-132.

29.  Ravitsh is the father of the Israeli painter Yosl Bergner.

30.  Yiddish readers in America who have read Einspruch's translation
tend to agree with Ravitsh's assessment of its beauty.  See, for
example, Peter Heineg's opinion (in a letter to Yaakov Ariel, June 23,

31.  Leonard Prager, _Yiddish Culture in Britain_, (Frankfurt-Am-Main:
Peter Lang, 1990), 383-84.

32.  The American Board of Missions to the Jews would not distribute
Einspruch's translation even before Krolenbaum's translation came out.
Instead, in 1947 they used "a translation made and published by the
British and Foreign Bible Society of London, England in 1901 and now
reprinted with their approval." The American Board called the 1947
reprint the "Leopold Cohn Memorial Edition" in honor of its founder and
first director.

33 . Cf.  Cynthia Ozick, "Envy or Yiddish in America," in _Pagan Rabbi
and Other Stories_, 39-100; Abraham Shulman, "Boulevard Isaac Bashevis
Singer," -- In the Heart of New York, _Midstream_ 41:8 (November 1995):

34 For example, the column "In the Little Shtetl of Vaysechvoos." In
_Issues:  A Messianic Jewish Perspective_.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill                                       cCopyright 2002-2003 Yaakov Ariel.  All Rights Reserved.
End of The Mendele Review 07.008
Leonard Prager, editor
Joseph Sherman, associate editor

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