FAITH IN ACTION FOR 250 YEARS

The Jewish Mission

  The years 1903 to 1907 were a time of great unrest in Russia. Nicholas II’s incompetence, coupled with high taxation and a humiliating defeat in the
Russo-Japanese War, led to the first Russian Revolution in 1905 and to a few short-lived reforms.

  The period proved even more disastrous for the empire’s Jews. With 284 pogroms and more than 50,000 casualties, Russian Jews were looking for a way out, and that meant emigration.

  It was the worst time in Russia for the Jews, but not the first time they felt the need to emigrate. Between 1881 and 1914, some 50,000 or more of Russia’s Jews left every year, for an estimated total of 2.5 million Jews. Thousands flooded into Philadelphia, primarily to the area surrounding St. Peter’s, especially along South Street.

  By 1889, the weekly Presbyterian was reporting:

"In Philadelphia we are likely to have a Jewish section, where emigrants from Eastern Europe will congregate. From Fifth Street to the Delaware
River and south of Lombard Street these foreign Jews are crowding in, and being very poor, the Hebrew Charities are drawn upon heavily."

As that article’s mention of “foreign” Jews implies, Philadelphia already had an established Jewish community—in fact, there had been one since the city’s early years, though the numbers remained small until the 1870s. The early arrivals blended in easily, but the Russian Jews were alien to the English and German Jews who had preceded them. Yet, as the follow excerpt from a book of the period shows, the newcomers were up to the task of settling in to the life of the city, with or without others' help.

More on the Jews in Philadelphia.


The words of the Rt. Rev. Philip Rhinelander, used to sum up the life of the Rev. Andrew Jacob Weinstein (1850-1915), whose "changeful life," while "tried and troubled," would never be forgotten "by those who knew him well."


  Who was Andrew Weinstein and how did he become part of St. Peter's history?

  Born in Kiev (now Ukraine, then Russia) on May 1, 1850, Andrew Jacob Weinstein presents a mystery in his early years. The only other facts known about his youth are that he was born a Jew and that his first language was Yiddish. Later, it was said that he became fluent in seven languages. Indeed, his peregrinations before arriving in Philadelphia were remarkable. In 1870, at age twenty, Weinstein was baptized 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 in 1882 in Port Said, Egypt; and William, born in 1884 in Baden, Switzerland, Elizabeth’s hometown. Somewhere, perhaps in Poland, he came into contact with a missionary from the London Jews Society (formally, the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews), and through the society he began to work in Egypt as a “colporteur”—a distributor of religious books and tracts.

  His work there was chronicled in an 1884 article in 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. . . . 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 Europe—to Elizabeth’s hometown in Switzerland—but then
headed to England, where Andrew graduated from King’s College in 1888, became a
British subject, and was ordained an Anglican deacon in 1889 and a priest in 1890. While

More on the Rev. Andrew J. Weinstein       In the beginning

The 18th Century

The 19th Century

The 20th Century

The People of St. Peter's

The Choir

Mission and Outreach

Did You Know?

The Next 250

The Hero of Tripoli

The Book