The Rev. Andrew J. Weinstein (1850-1915)
In the last few months, I’ve learned enough about Andrew Jacob Weinstein to piece together a look at extraordinary life and work as a priest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Andrew Jacob Weinstein was born in Kiev, (now Ukraine) Russia, on May 1, 1850. Nothing is known about his early years, although we know he was born a Jew and his first language was Yiddish, although when he was assigned to St. Peter’s and was diocesan port chaplain from 1908 until his death in 1915, he was said to be fluent in seven languages.
At age 20, on Sept. 25, 1870, he was baptized a Christian by a Roman Catholic priest, probably when he was studying at the French College in Beirut. He married a Swiss woman named Elizabeth, with whom he had two children: Alfred, born May 2, 1882, in Port Said, Egypt; and William, born Nov. 29, 1884, in Baden, Switzerland.
Somewhere, perhaps in Poland, which was also part of the Russian Empire, he came into contact with a missionary from the London Jews Society, which took him to Port Said as a colporteur, distributing religious books and tracts.
His work was chronicled in an article in an 1884 issue of the Bible Society magazine:
“Port Said is probably one of the most trying spots on the face of the earth, owing to the intense heat and want of shade, for a European permanently to reside at. Mr. Andrew Weinstein, whose zealous efforts in the cause of Bible circulation have been frequently referred to in these pages, has at last been compelled, through failing health, to resign the post held by him of colporteur in the town and among the shipping at Port Said. The Rev. R. H. Weakley, the Society's Agent for Egypt and Syria, has fortunately been able promptly to supply his place by the engagement of Mr. William Lethaby, formerly a colporteur at Jerusalem, who at once proceeded to Port Said to take up Mr. Weinstein's work.
“Mr. Weinstein, before leaving, kindly introduced his successor to the British Consul, the chiefs of the Customs and Port police, the local chaplain, the chaplain of the guardship, and all other persons to whom it was expedient that he should be known as being in the Society's service, handing over to him also the boat in which Mr. Weinstein has been in the habit of plying, in the exercise of his calling, as colporteur from ship to ship.”
The Weinsteins returned to Elizabeth’s hometown of Baden, Switzerland, but then emigrated to England, where Weinstein graduated from King’s College in 1888, became a naturalized British subject and was ordained an Anglican deacon in 1889 and a priest in 1890, according to Crockford’s Clerical Directory.
Weinstein was one of seven clergymen who served in three London East End churches – St Mark Whitechapel, Christ Church, Watney Street, and St. John the Evangelist, Grove Street – in the mid to late 19th and early 20th century who were converts from Judaism.
The East End was considered the heartland of British Jewry, and the seven – Aaron Emmanuel Suffrin, Herman Caplan, Hermann Hirsch, Alexander William Schapira, Albert Elias Abrahamson, Michael Rosenthal and Weinstein – spent some of their careers ministering to the Jewish population.
For parts of their careers, they worked for the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews, also known as the London Jews Society. Founded in 1809, and supported by many of the well-known evangelical Anglicans, including William Wilberforce (instrumental in ending slavery in the British Empire), its original object was “visiting and relieving the sick and distressed, and instructing the ignorant, especially such as are of the Jewish nation”; this was later modified “to relieving the temporal distress of the Jews, as well as to promoting their spiritual welfare.”
There are, therefore, striking similarities between the work of the society in the East End and St. Peter’s Jewish Mission in the early 20th century, more striking because the work was done among Russian Jews.
In London’s Bethnal Green, the society established the Episcopal Jews' Chapel (for Christian worship) and schools for Jewish children. A printing press to provide employment for converts had been set up in 1811, and later they were taught bookbinding at the separately-run 'Operative Jewish Converts' Institution' (1829).
Much of the impetus behind the society came from the Rev. Lewis Way (1772-1840). Convinced that the Jewish nation would again arise, return to its ancestral home, embrace Christianity, and convert the Gentiles, Way traveled at his own expense through Holland, Germany, and Russia, in order to study the condition of the Jews, ameliorate their social and political status, and urge the Christians to missionary work among them.
In 1817, Way induced Czar Alexander I to issue two edicts assuring all baptized Jews of imperial protection and promising them land for farming. Further, Way wrote a work "Mémoires sur l'Etat des Israélites Dédiés et Présentés à Leurs Majestés Impériales et Royales, Réunies au Congrès d' Aix-la-Chapelle" (Paris, 1819), in which he emphasized the Messianic importance of the Jews, considered their relation to the Biblical promises and their ultimate fulfillment, and pleaded for their emancipation in Europe.
The society asserted that its aim was not to baptize Jews, but to introduce them to the claims of Christianity, though about 5,000 Jews were in fact baptized during its first century of work. The fact that there were not more has been put down to the fact that, as the Jewish Chronicle editor O.J. Simon, who corresponded with Suffrin, explained to a missionary, emancipation had removed the most practical argument formerly used in favour of baptism: the most pious, the most learned, the most cultivated and the most enlightened [Jews] remain honourably by the covenant.
The society, which also supports the Anglican bishopric of Jerusalem and the Middle East, is known now as the Church’s Ministry to the Jewish people, a worldwide ministry to share with Jewish people our belief that not only is Jesus the Saviour of the world, he is the Jewish Messiah. The group is heavily involved in the church in Jerusalem.
Weinstein was one of 250 missionaries of the society worldwide in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was, in turn, curate at St Andrew Undershaft and St John the Evangelist-in-the-East (1890-93) and Bow, also completing further study at University College in Durham in 1892.
He headed to South Africa in 1894, where was curate in charge of St. James Church, Dundee, Natal, Province; he spent a year as the first rector of Christ Church, Polokwone, Diocese of Pretoria, in 1895, arriving on May 12 and preaching, as his first sermon, on “God’s love to man.” He also served at churches in Vryburg and Harding. He returned to England, as a curate in Leicester for several months in 1896, before going to Australia from 1897-1906.
He arrived in Brisbane in 1897, and was rector at Blackall, Queensland, from 1897-1903; All Saints, Collie, Western Australia, from 1903-1905, and priest in charge in Norseman, Western Australia, in 1905-1906.
At Collie, in 1904, it was reported that since his arrival “he has visited diligently from house to house and has met with a hearty welcome. All the services, which are hearty and bright, are well-attended. The newly formed choir is making satisfactory progress.”
Weinstein left Australia in 1906 and headed to Baden, Germany (not Baden, Switzerland, where his son Alfred now lived (William was living in Paris). By now, Elizabeth was dead. Weinstein spent a few months in Germany, then went to Le Havre, where he boarded the Le Bretagne and sailed to New York City, arriving Aug. 11, 1907.
He lived at 142 Second Ave., in New York, an apartment house built in 1900 and still standing and declared on his arrival his intention to become a citizen.
The declaration offers a description of the now 57-year-old Weinstein. He was 5 feet 4 inches, 129 pounds, fair complexion, with grey hair and eyes and no distinguishing marks.
He remained in New York for a few months, then headed to Washington D.C.’s Northeast neighbourhood of Brookland, where he served as a chaplain at the Church of Our Savior in 1908. Weinstein then headed to Philadelphia in late 1909, where he was hired as an assistant at St. Peter’s, which had a Jewish Mission attached to St. Peter’s House since the 1890s, and appointed port chaplain by Bishop Ozi Whitaker.
St. Peter’s rector, Dr. Edward M. Jefferys, was looking for some way to deal with the influx of Russian Jews to the neighbourhood south of the church. Weinstein, who spoke seven languages, including Russian and Yiddish.
Unprecedented immigration from Russia between the late 1880s and the middle of the first decade of the 20th century was changing the face of the church’s neighborhood once again, and St. Peter’s felt a calling to deal with its repercussions.
According to the Jewish historian Rabbi Ken Spiro, between 1903 and 1907 was a period of great internal unrest in Russia. Nicholas's incompetence coupled with excessive taxation and the humiliating defeat of Russia during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) let to the first Russian Revolution in 1905, which led to a few short-lived reforms in the government. This period also proved disastrous for the Jewish community. There were 284 pogroms with over 50,000 casualties. The level of violence was unbelievable.
There was only so much of this kind of thing that people could take. The Jewish community was being devastated and people were looking for a way out, and that was emigration.
Between 1881 and 1914, some 50,000 or more Jews left every year to an estimated total of 2.5 million Jews. Thousands flooded Philadelphia.
The city had a Jewish presence since its founding, but this was different. The Jews who had helped settle the city were German Jews, well-educated and wealthy, who assimilated into Philadelphia society with ease. Some, the Levys and the Madeiras, actually became Episcopalians and members of St. Peter’s.
Weinstein’s efforts in the first year of his ministry were “encouraging,” according to Jefferys. He conducted classes in English in the parish house four evenings a week, and had 70 students on his rolls who attended whenever they were able. Attendance between 1910-11 was well over 800.
“As opportunity presents itself, the Jews are taught that Christian historical emblems are not objects of worship, and that Christians, as well as Jews, revere the Hebrew scriptures as one of the foundation stones of their religion,” Jefferys wrote.
Weinstein’s students were taught to be “useful and loyal citizens.” He is welcomed into their homes, and has won many friends by his “genuine interest in their welfare.”
Unemployed Jewish men were sent to the City Mission, and in some cases, are able to find work. All of this effort was paid for by St. Peter’s (Jewish missions benefited from the Good Friday offering, as the Middle East benefits today).
At Christmas time 1910, his class assembled in the main room of the Sunday School and “listened with respect to some our hymns sung especially for them by St. Peter’s Choir. Then followed the prize-giving, with the Rev. Percy J. Brown, one of Jefferys’ assistants, awarding six successful students copies of the Bible in Yiddish.
Since Weinstein also was diocesan port chaplain, in 1910-11 he met 74 immigrant ships bringing 5,379 immigrants.
“The fact that he speaks seven language besides 12 dialects is of untold assistance in this work,” Jefferys said. “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.”
Weinstein continued his work at St. Peter’s House and at the port, as well as with the City Mission, for the next four years. In the meantime, probably to show that he, too, wished to assimilate into American society, he began his efforts to become a U.S. citizen – something he had declared a few weeks after arriving in New York from Le Havre in 1907 (Sept. 12 was that declaration, federal court documents show, and show that he arrived in Philadelphia on Nov. 18, 1909.
The affadavit was completed and signed on Jan. 19, 1914, and showed that Weinstein was living at 232 South Second St. Signing as witnesses were Tobias L. Fretz, of 4912 Irene St., who the 1930 census describes as a “missionary” and Aaron Fretz, a stenographer living at 1038 Orleans St.
There was a handwritten notation at the bottom of the application for depositions to be taken in Washington, D.C., concerning Weinstein’s U.S. residency before coming to Philadelphia.
There is no indication whether citizenship was approved, although it was unlikely it was not approved.
The Diocesan Church Almanac simply states that “Weinstein served in this capacity [port chaplain] until the day of his death, Dec. 12, 1915.
Andrew J. Weinstein was 65 when he died. He is buried in St. Peter’s Churchyard, midway along the northern wall.
His bishop, the Rt. Rev. Philip Rhinelander, said of Weinstein in his annual report of 1916:
“ANDREW WEINSTEIN, on the staff of St. Peter’s Church, died 12th December 1915. Mr. Weinstein was born in Russian Poland in 1850. Educated and trained in the strictest Hebrew sect, he was baptised and entered the French College near Beirut, Syria, at the age of 24, graduating also from Kings’ College, London, in 1888, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1890. His early ministry was passed in widely separated places: London, South Africa, Australia, on the European continent and in Washington D.C., where he laboured most successfully among his own people.
In 1910 Mr. Weinstein came to Philadelphia, accepting the appointment at St. Peter’s for Jewish work, to which was added in the following year the Port Chaplaincy, where he very quickly proved his worth. His competent knowledge of several languages, and his personal and loving ministry to those needing help and friendly counsel, made him immensely serviceable to many an immigrant coming to our port.
“Modest and devoted, much tried and troubled throughout his changeful life, those who knew him well will not easily forget him. He was a “hidden servant”, circumscribed in sphere of influence, but close to, and known by, God.”