Manly missions: Jews, Christians, and American religious masculinity, 1900-1920.
Gaebelein's interests point to a larger missionary attention to the relationship between Jewishness and masculinity. Other missionaries, in particular Jews who converted and subsequently became missionaries to other Jews, grappled with ways to understand Jewish difference in the context of both religion and gender. On the one hand, they painted Christian masculinity with the broad strokes of physical prowess, might, and willingness to fight. On the other, they associated Jewish masculinity with gentleness and quietness in the face of suffering. These missionary sources suggest that this difference in masculinity represented an instance of Joan Wallach Scott's now axiomatic proposition of gender as a "primary way of signifying relationships of power." (5) In the context of American Protestant missions to the Jews, the available signifiers were not simply masculine versus feminine, but rather different kinds of masculinity. For instance, instead of a situation in which one might feminize the enemy or masculinize the victor, Christian missionaries perceived a situation in which two religions each espoused a different version of manhood.
As Jews who had converted and then become Christian missionaries to other Jews, "Hebrew-Christian" missionaries, as they were called, occupied a liminal space in the religious landscape. As such, missionaries Samuel Freuder, Joseph Goldman, Leopold Cohn, and others on the missionary margins associated a physically powerful and intimidating masculinity with Protestants and a gentle, non-violent masculinity with Jews. (6) Although these men represented a tiny segment of the population, their rhetoric suggests that the discourse on manliness and religion may be more complex than historians have proposed. These missionary sources offers a new perspective on the cultural construction of Jewish masculinity and the interactions of Protestant and Jewish masculinities.
American Protestant missions to American Jews grew in both number and visibility between 1880 and 1920, despite few baptisms and permanent converts. (7) The increase resulted from a combination of the rise of premillennialist theology, which emphasized the role of Jews in the end times, and the growing numbers of working-class Jewish immigrants, who were the most responsive to the missions, even if it was only out of curiosity or a desire for assistance. (8) (Premillennialist theology holds that the human world will deteriorate until Jesus physically returns to earth to usher in the millennium. Many premillennialists also believe that when Jesus returns to judge the wicked, the faithful will be caught up in a rapture and therefore will avoid the terror and suffering. Postmillennialists, on the other hand, hold that the kingdom of God will gradually spread over the earth--with the help of humans--and this gradual improvement will ultimately result in the millennium.) According to most premillennialist interpretations, 144,000 Jews who knew the Christian gospel but had not yet accepted it would survive the rapture. The Hebrew-Christian missionaries to the Jews were seen as those who would be able to teach these 144,000 Jews who were not yet Christians. Furthermore, any current success in bringing Jews to believe in the Christian gospel became a harbinger of the time when the 144,000 would come to believe.
Missions to the Jews were urban phenomena. By offering some of the same social services as the settlement houses of the era, they were able to attract some immigrant Jews through their doors. But a soul through the door of a sewing class did not often translate into a soul won for Christ. Although these missions created a presence in most major cities with Jewish populations, they never gained significant numbers of converts. The Philadelphia Sunday Dispatch had wryly noted in 1871 that the Society for the Promotion of Christianity Among the Jews had averaged the conversion of "a sixth of a Jew per annum." (9) The situation had improved only marginally by the 1920s. (10) While there were a larger number of missions, the trend of the fractional Jewish convert continued for many decades. Gotthard Deutsch explained during the 1917 Central Conference of American Rabbis convention that the activities of the mission to the Jews "are very insignificant and [the] results, except in so far as they give employment to a converted Jew, are practically nil." (11) Nevertheless, Jewish communities across the country fought against missionaries and their propaganda. (12)
Many Protestants continued to care about these missions because of their theological convictions, in particular the idea that converted Jews could facilitate the fulfillment of prophecy about the millennium. But it is less clear why Jews would continue to expend any effort fighting such unsuccessful conversion projects. Although the threat to the Jewish community would never be a large number of conversions, the continuing presence and message of these missions emphasized Jews' difference from their mostly Christian neighbors. Missionary literature frequently expressed the content of this theological difference through bodily metaphors, such as blindness and hardheartedness, common biblical tropes associated with nonbelievers. (13) It also included the embodied differences in manhood. In his history of American Christian missions to convert Jews, Yaakov Ariel briefly suggests that Jews perceived missionary activity as "a threat to Jews' status in the American polity, (14) which, as Matthew Frye Jacobsen, Gail Bederman, Julian Carter, and others have argued, had intimate ties to ideas of proper white, middleclass masculinity in the Progressive Era. (15) Although the discourses of citizenship and civilization were important for both acculturated Jews and nonmillennialist Protestants, they rarely appeared in the narratives of the millennially inclined Hebrew-Christian missionaries themselves.
As Eli Lederhendler has argued, the idea of Jewish "regeneration" in physical and cultural centers also percolated to the surface during the early twentieth century. (16) Lederhendler argues that a significant amount of Jewish rhetoric--from such diverse sources as Judah Magnes and Israel Joseph Zevin, a Yiddish writer known as Tashrak--connected Americanization to the "regeneration" of men in particular. Becoming American meant becoming a man. The details of this regeneration and manliness varied from full emancipation and citizenship (Magnes) to self-control and cleanliness (Tashrak). The missionary literature suggests that Lederhendler's thesis about the reach of this discourse about manliness should not be confined to those specifically interested in Americanization or citizenship. Pamphlets and publications of missions to the Jews rarely mentioned the meaning of America, the role of American culture, and democracy in the making of manly men, or the value of "one hundred percent Americanism," a popular phrase that emphasized the value of complete assimilation. They framed their thoughts in a theological context. They did not seek to effect "regeneration" or to remedy manliness through secular means like gymnastics or sports, nor did they think that Jewish gentleness or meekness represented a negative quality.
Because few non-Jews spoke Yiddish or understood all of the cultural idioms and religious practices of Jewish immigrants, Hebrew-Christians urged their Jewish converts to become missionaries themselves. (17) Although there are no definite statistics, a significant proportion of missionaries to the Jews were themselves converts to Christianity, although the raw numbers remained very small. For instance, of the 36 American missionaries to the Jews whom Albert Edward Thompson names in his 1902 book A Century of Jewish Missions, at least 21 are Jewish men who converted to Christianity. (18) Women occupied only auxiliary roles, typically as helpers to their missionary husbands. These newly Christian men proved immensely unpopular within Jewish communities. (Isaac Mayer Wise once called them "rascals without exception." (19)) They wrote mostly for Christian audiences who were curious about Judaism or for possible donors to the cause of Christian missions to the Jews. They did, however, have the experience of living in--although often at the margins of--both Jewish and Christian communities. (20)
Yet all Jews who converted, even if they became Christian missionaries, never stopped being Jews in the eyes of other Christians. Both theologically and sociologically, they lived perpetually in the liminal category of "Hebrew-Christian." (The converts themselves and the Christian community also used the terms "converted Jew" or "Christian Jew.") These labels themselves emphasized their distinctiveness. Rarely identified simply as "Christians," these individuals gave lectures, wrote reflections, and even identified with communities that made reference to their Jewishness. Many who had had traditional Jewish training even retained the title "Rabbi" in their missionary activities. (21) They continued to refer to themselves as Jewish and they framed their belief in Jesus as "the real Jewish faith. (22)
Furthermore, many missions, like Gaebelein's Hope of Israel, encouraged Jewish converts to continue Jewish religious practices. A 1908 conference attended by both gentile Christian and Hebrew-Christian missionaries to the Jews produced "general agreement on the position that Hebrew Christians should be ... free to observe what Mosaic laws and customs they choose, without depending on them as means of salvation or grace." (23) Continuing to practice Jewish ritual (even if in a new theological context) marked Hebrew-Christians as different from gentile Christians. Jewish symbols like the Magen David that appeared on the materials of much missionary literature reinforced the continuity of the identity "Jewish" in the eyes of premillennial Protestants. Missionaries pursued several efforts to create congregations composed solely of Hebrew-Christians. Without them, many Hebrew-Christians found it difficult to integrate themselves into gentile Christian communities. Lastly, for theological reasons, identifying Hebrew-Christian missionaries as Jews (and therefore educators of the 144,000) emphasized progress toward the "end days" of premillennial Protestantism.
Authors Joseph Goldman, Leopold Cohn, and Samuel Freuder each took a liminal position between religions, and each associated Christianity and Judaism with two different versions of masculinity. Goldman converted to Christianity and then sought to explain Judaism to American Christians; Cohn converted to Christianity and built a modest (but quite controversial) New York-based mission; and Freuder converted to Christianity and back to Judaism and then wrote of his impressions of both communities. While their writing cannot offer us definitive accounts of Christian or Jewish masculinities, their position in the borderlands of American religions offers us a vantage point from which we have a view of the gendered religious landscape that sheds new light on discourses about masculinity and religion. Perhaps their position in a liminal space allowed them to imagine a third space when it came to manliness. Between the antisemitic vision of the effeminate Jew and the normative muscular Christian, they saw a gentle and sympathetic Jewish man.
As Sander Gilman and others have demonstrated, early twentieth-century scientific knowledge in Europe and the United States produced strong links among Jewishness, nervous diseases, and nonnormative masculinity. (24) Jews and non-Jews alike participated in the medical discourses that created a constellation of weakness, nervousness, lack of physical activity, and Jewishness. But many in both groups also saw benefits to this nonnormative masculinity. For instance, this discourse also claimed that Jewish men were less likely to engage in masculine vices such as drinking, spousal abuse, and interpersonal violence.
The American missionary imagination of gender presents a situation that suggests another perspective. First, neither Hebrew-Christian missionaries nor their audiences imagined that male Jews were "feminine" in any significant sense of the word. Rather, they imagined that Jews embodied a different kind of masculinity, characterized by gentleness, quietness in the face of suffering, and even, occasionally, domesticity. Second, these missionaries confound the idea that a differently gendered Jew is always a category of antisemites and self-hating Jews. These Hebrew-Christian missionaries saw themselves as ethnically (or, "racially," to use their term) and physically Jewish, with an identity and religious system that had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. They did not think that they were degenerate or feminine men, and so they did not use the language or concepts of regeneration, as some other American Jews did. (25) Instead, they imagined themselves to embody the gentleness and peacefulness called for by Scripture and epitomized by Jesus, whose Jewishness they often noted. (26) The multifaceted nature of the missionaries' gender discourse can be best understood within religious ideals.
Furthermore, missionary activity and the response to it, as Yaakov Ariel has demonstrated, drew attention from both Jewish and Christian communities. Missionary activity became a contest between elements of the Jewish and Christian communities. Many missions heeded Jewish objections to activities Jews saw as bribery, trickery, and the targeting of children. (27) At the same time, as Jonathan Sarna has argued, nineteenth-century missions, as a stone in the shoe of American Jewish existence, had impelled Jewish communities to provide needed social, educational, and medical services for working-class Jews. (28) But in the early twentieth century, missionary texts suggest that there were debates not only over social services and theology, but also over cultural assumptions (and accusations) about the status of masculinity in Christianity and Judaism. The fact that many Christian missionaries were themselves converts from Judaism further complicated interaction between the communities.
Many historians have explored the pervasiveness--and often the contradictions--of the construction of American manhood during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (29) These authors have explored how this culture of manliness both produced and was produced by literature, science, medicine, and even armed conflict. The first decades of the twentieth century were the heyday of Teddy Roosevelt and his African safaris, the psychologist G. Stanley Hall and his reclamation of a kind of savage stage of boys' development, and dozens of professional boxers. Scholars of American religion, especially Christianity, have also explored how this complex culture of manliness was created and expressed within religious communities. For instance, Clifford Putney demonstrates the ways Protestant leaders promoted competitive sports and physical education to recreate ideals of Christian manhood. (30) American Jewish masculinity, especially as it relates to religion, still demands attention. (31)
In these years, Christian missionaries--both men and women--often assumed that men were the "natural" missionaries, and women were best suited to be auxiliaries (32) Therefore, barring a few exceptions, most American missionaries to the Jews were men. (33) Furthermore, most missions concentrated their efforts on young immigrant Jewish men because they were the most likely to convert. As Susan Glenn notes in her study of Jewish immigrant women, young Jewish men were more likely to immigrate alone, to live apart from parents, and to marry non-Jews than their female counterparts. (34)
Several of the Jewish men who became missionaries framed part of the difference between Christian and Jewish men in explicitly physical terms. Self-styled "Ex-Rabbi Joseph Goldman" commented on circumcision, the fundamental bodily marker of male Jewishness. He wrote: "I could not explain to you the great meaning and benefit to man of circumcision. I may explain to any man privately, or by mail, if required." (35) By declining to discuss circumcision, he also shrouded the practice and the Jewish male body in mystery, enhancing its "otherness" for the assumed Christian reader. Although the practice was becoming widespread among non-Jews, Goldman still framed it as a practice with esoteric meaning. (36) As a Jewish man, he had knowledge of sexual "meaning and benefit" that were unsuitable to be shared publicly or with women. The dual characterization of "meaning" and "benefit" indicated that the covenant with God, through removal of the foreskin, was a difference that was at once theological and physical and essential to Jewish manhood. (37) Gold man's text also reflects the idea that Jewish converts to Christianity could never completely shed their identity as Jews in either social or physical contexts. (38) Goldman's very discussion of circumcision reinforced this perception; a convert's body would always be marked as Jewish, even though the convert had pronounced his belief in Jesus as the messiah. In this sense, the Jewish male body confounded the idea of complete conversion. (39)
Goldman also characterized "the Jewish man" on the Sabbath as a gentle man dressed in flowing garments: "Father comes in looking like a prophet, his long beard combed clean, wearing his silk robe and slippers, a smile on his face. He takes the baby on his arm and the other children [hold] his robe." The picture of robe, slippers, and children suggests a man comfortable and happy with domesticity. The rabbi, too, as the leader of the community, fit very much the same description: "With his long silk robe and white beard, his usual smile on his face and his top hat on his head, he looked like a prophet." (40) In contrast, the Jewish man at work had a "back bent with burden"; he was a "suffering Jew" and "a slave." (41) The Jew at his happiest was the Jew on the Sabbath, when he was the learned prophet, benevolent father, and religious practitioner. While Goldman portrayed much of Jewish religious practice as superstitious or even downright silly ("The fingernails must be washed because Satan was resting through the night under my fingernails" (42)), he retained a respectful tone for individual Jewish men and women. This was typical of missionaries; whatever their misgivings about Jews' opinions and behavior, they knew that Jews were essential for the divine plan for the end times. Yaakov Ariel suggests that premillennialist theology thereby created a "new appreciation for the Jews" among missionaries and evangelical Protestants more generally. (43) Goldman's picture was not the feminized Jew of antisemitic literature, but neither was he Max Nordau's muscle-Jew. (44) Instead, he was gentle, learned, domestic, downtrodden, and suffering.
Other Hebrew-Christian missionaries also emphasized the themes of their own physical suffering. (45) Leopold Cohn relayed stories of Christian children physically abusing his children. After fracturing one boy's leg and cutting his lip, Cohn wrote, these boys said, "This is the way sheenies cry," and "This is the way we have to do with sheenies." (46) The neighborhood boys identified Cohn's children as Jewish. Cohn's wife, who was also a convert, told the boys "how the Lord Jesus suffered" in order to comfort them. In narrating the story, Cohn aligned the Christian theology of the suffering servant--Isaiah 53 was a favorite among Hebrew-Christian missionaries--with the gentleness of Jewish masculinity. His tale also functioned as an inversion of the myth of ignorant Jews persecuting a peaceful and nonretaliating Jesus.
Cohn, a high-profile immigrant missionary working mainly in Brooklyn, also claimed he noticed a change in men's behavior once they converted. In his The Story of a Modern Missionary to an Ancient People, a piece intended as a rejoinder to his detractors who challenged both his integrity and his bookkeeping, he wrote: "A woman testified that her husband had become a better man since he began to come to the mission." The transformation turned him from a neglectful Jewish man to a responsible and protective Christian head of the household; the woman explained that "now he takes her and the baby out." (47) Edward Steiner, a Jewish convert who became a Presbyterian minister, attributed his success to both his Americanization and his Christianity. And both, he indicated, contributed to his ability to become truly manly. "I felt like kneeling down and thanking God for my confidence in my fellow men and for this country; for the opportunity it gives us all to rise from the pit of the mine and from the burning furnaces to the full glory of manhood." (48) Steiner took a particular interest in transforming new immigrants into strong and virtuous young Americans, but he explained that he had "[n]ever met more manly men" than his "brother ministers." (49)
Like Goldman, Cohn, and Steiner, Samuel Freuder had lived in the marginal space of the Hebrew-Christian missionary. But unlike Goldman, who converted to Christianity and then wrote from the perspective of a Hebrew-Christian, Freuder returned to Judaism before writing a book about his experience. He had been born and raised in an observant Jewish family, converted to Congregationalism (with a nonmillennialist theology, which does not affirm a literal thousand-year earthly reign of Jesus), (50) preached and served as a missionary for seventeen years, and then dramatically converted back to Judaism. As Freuder told the story (and as it was reported in the Boston Globe), he was expected to give a lecture on Jesus in the Talmud. Instead, he stood up, derided American missions, and announced his return to Judaism. (51) Although Freuder's later writing respected much Christian theology, he ultimately found the missionary enterprise deceitful and unpleasant. (52)
After his "theatrical" (53) return to Judaism, Freuder penned a detailed account of the Hebrew-Christian missionary world and his own experience as a missionary more broadly. Despite concerns about his "grave error" in converting, a geographically and religiously diverse group of Jewish leaders banded together to send letters promoting his A Missionary's Return to Judaism: The Truth About the Christian Missions to the Jews. (54) Leading Jewish dignitaries wrote to other high-profile Jews that they were "of the opinion, that Mr. Freuder deserves our generous sympathy and that the book is worthy of a wide distribution." (55) They included Gotthard Deutsch (on the faculty at Hebrew Union College), Max Heller (a New Orleans Reform rabbi and outspoken Zionist), Albert Lucas (the honorary secretary of the national organization of Orthodox congregations and the contact person for ordering the book in bulk), Henry Pereira Mendes (probably the most high-profile Sephardic rabbi of the period), Joseph Stolz (a Chicago Reform rabbi), and Martin Meyer (a San Francisco Reform rabbi). Not only did the book present "an interesting document of human psychology," they wrote, but more importantly, "it is a clear presentation of the nefarious practices of the missionaries, and will prove valuable both as an exposure of the methods of Hebrew-Christian Missions and as a warning to our communities of the temptations and dangers to which our young people are constantly subjected." (56) Zionists and anti-Zionists, Reform and Orthodox Jews such as these men could agree about the importance of promoting the volume, making it clear that these missions and missionaries stirred the concern of leading American Jews.
Freuder's book, in addition to exposing "nefarious" practices, also shed light on perceived differences between the ways in which Jewish men and Christian men enacted their gender, part of what Gotthard Deutsch and his coauthors deemed "interesting human psychology." Freuder disparaged what he saw as the religiously "misguided" gender roles of Hasidic Jews from Eastern Europe: "The Hasidim are fervent in their prayers, which they recite with a great deal of shouting and even dancing, and which occupy most of the day, while their wives are tending to the shop and other bread-winning occupations." (57) Freuder found this stereotyped image of shouting and dancing men surprising and out of place, especially in prayer. (58) But his dismay was compounded by what this meant for the Jewish women in Orthodox communities, at least as he imagined them. While the men were dancing and shouting all day, the women worked in shops and other "bread-winning" occupations. Freuder viewed these roles of Jewish men and women as signs of an unwillingness to join modernity.
Freuder portrayed one fellow Jew-turned-Christian-missionary at length. "The missionary shammos [attendant or sexton]" as Freuder termed his acquaintance, illustrated assumptions about the differences in masculinity and femininity in Christianity and Judaism. Freuder's narration of the shammos painted a picture of the triumph of the physical over the mental: "His strong arm came to be known and respected by all who brought to the meetings an exuberant spirit of frolic and fun. If any of them showed the slightest inclination to break up the meeting, he would raise his powerful arm, clench his fist, and shout at the top of his voice, 'Say, fellows, if you don't shut up, I'll make you. I'll throw you out of doors, Christianity or no Christianity!'" Freuder identified this missionary by his "strong" and "powerful" arm; unlike the image of the sages of traditional Judaism, this shammos was all brawn and few brains. He addressed the other attendees as "fellows" and instructed them to "shut up," and in doing so he commanded respect. Rather than turning to the respectful debate of traditional Jewish learning, he verbally dominated his opponents. The shammos showed his preference for physical strength in the form of forcible removal over any theology when he announced, "I'll throw you out of doors, Christianity or no Christianity!" Certainly, Freuder had a contentious history with missions, and this is doubtless part of the reason for his implication that the shammos seems to know and care little about the tenets of his new religion. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that he portrays the shammos as delighting in the physicality of the possible encounter with rabble-rousers.
Freuder explained that the shammos also backed up these threats with physical actions: "In case his warning went unheeded he would rush at the offender, lift him out of his seat, and shove him out into the street as if he were a sack of flour. His drastic methods of dealing with refractory hearers of the Gospel were of course openly disavowed by the Christians present, but he did not mind their rebuke, because he felt sure his Christian friends inwardly approved and admired his exhibition of 'muscular Christianity.'" (59) The shammos, according to Freuder, used his physical strength and intimidation to control attendees at least in part because he imagined that this kind of display of manliness was an embodiment of the ideals of "muscular Christianity," a contemporary term for the movement that sought to redefine ideal Christian manhood in terms emphasizing physical strength and well-being through competitive sports and physical education. (60) That is, the shammos associated Christianity with a masculinity of strong arms and self-assertion. Therefore, he felt certain that other Christians "inwardly approved and admired" his display of these gender ideals.
In Freuder's eyes, unlike the Hasidim who (seemingly ineffectually) sang and danced their prayers while the women did "real" work, (which for him was synonymous with men's work) this shammos prayed at a different gendered extreme. "Even while he prayed, he would shake his fist at some disturber," (61) Freuder recounted. Even Christian prayer, in the shammos's case, was an exercise in exerting one's muscular strength and physical dominance. Proper comportment for a man in prayer, one can imagine Freuder thought in accordance with middle-class norms of the day, included decorum and reverence; appropriate men would veer neither toward ecstatic dancing and singing nor toward physically dominating others around them. Ultimately, the shammos's career as a missionary came to a fitting end when another missionary made "a slurring remark about the Jews ... [; the shammos] ran up to him, and smote him in the face." (62)
According to A Missionary's Return to Judaism, fifteen years later, after the shammos had left the Christian fold and returned to Judaism, he and Freuder had a conversation on the street. In it, both the shammos and Freuder himself ruminated about the nature of masculinity in religious life. Freuder began by indicating the shammos's poor grammar, a sign of his lack of education valued in Jewish tradition: "Speaking of his missionary life, he said: 'Christianity has learned me that money is power.'" But if the shammos was mostly ignorant and therefore different from the ideal Jewish man, he was nevertheless manly in a different way. Freuder recalled: "On the subject of religion, he delivered himself thus: 'I know very little of religion, but I know as much as most of the religious grafters. I am as good a Jew as anybody, and if any one insults a Jew in my presence I knock him down, no matter how big a man he may be.'" In telling the story, Freuder associated physical intimidation--which the shammos discussed in the context of fighting to defend Jewish honor--seamlessly with the shammos's Christian days. In Freuder's account, the shammos associated his Christian life with muscularity, physical dominance, and power. "He became suddenly reminiscent, and with pride in his manner and a touch of tenderness in his voice, he exclaimed: 'But didn't I make those fellows at the mission behave?' And involuntarily he raised his arm, still powerful, and rolled his fingers into a fist, just as he used to do nearly a score of years ago when keeping in check the would-be disturbers of the meetings at the mission." Even though he had distanced himself from Christianity, he recalled with fondness his ability to "make those fellows" behave.
This association is particularly striking because Freuder's depiction suggests that the shammas was, in fact, violent and aggressive regardless of his religious affiliation. But both the shammos and Freuder nevertheless linked his Christian experience with physical aggression. Freuder concluded his account of the shammos by reflecting on how the shammos associated physical strength and authority with his Christian days: "How strange, I thought to myself, that the only feature of his Christian life which he considered worthwhile treasuring up in his memory and recalling with a certain pleasure and pride was the brief, little authority which he exercised in his capacity as a missionary shammos." (63)
In the conclusion to his volume, Freuder himself reflected some of the discourse about American masculinity. However, he juxtaposed what he saw as enlightened constructions of masculinity with the current state of Jewish men, which he saw as a consequence of oppressive environments: "In the onward march of progress and enlightenment the Jew will, of course, leave behind him some of the traits of character that have been forced upon him during his weary pilgrimage of centuries." In addition to leaving behind certain traits, Freuder's future Jew (assumed to be a man) would also become more like a normative American version of the ideal man: "He will grow in physical strength, and will thus be able to take care of himself when a beardless hoodlum feels inclined to pull his beard; he will also give up his patient submission to injustice, and assert and defend his right as a man and citizen under all circumstances; in short, he will give the lie to the aspersions cast upon the Jewish race by the example of his own life." (64) Freuder's own millennial Jew (after a sort) would be a physically strong, assertive citizen who could nevertheless stand up for his Jewishness. In Freuder's vision, "progress and enlightenment" would create a Jew who would be both an American man in his strength and citizenship and a Jewish man.
After his experience on the margins of both Christian and Jewish communities, Freuder detailed a major difference between Jewish masculinity and Christian masculinity, although in the end he suggested that Jewish masculinity would eventually become stronger and more assertive, that is, closer to (what he imagined to be) the American Christian version. Unlike Goldman and Cohn, who remained Christian missionaries, Freuder did not frame the gendered differences in theological terms. Instead, he used the language of modernization and Americanization, more familiar discourses for the Jewish community to which he returned. Despite his theological differences from others who became missionaries, he was aligned with them in his depictions of Christian and Jewish masculinities. As these Hebrew-Christian missionaries demonstrated, even men who were intimately familiar with both Judaism and Christianity in America saw significant differences in gender norms.
The wider Jewish community also used the language of manliness to promote the image of gentle Jewishness. In his objection to a 1916 Episcopalian resolution about proselytizing among American Jews, Rudolph Grossman, the rabbi of New York's Temple Rodef Shalom, insinuated that Christians had twisted manliness to an extreme. In the process, they had also deserted American values, Grossman told The New York Times: "The resolution is not only un-American, an insult to American liberalism, but it is petty and trivial, entirely unworthy of a body of earnest churchmen, particularly at the present crisis in the world's history. In a day like the present, when the millions of Christendom are engaged in brutal, [fratricidal] slaughter of one another ... would it not seem that a great Church convention would find more important matters to consider than how to lure inoffensive Jews away from their ancestral faith?" Grossman linked Christian civilization with brutal, fratricidal slaughter, an accusation of muscular Christianity taken to an aggressive extreme.
Grossman continued in explicitly gendered language: "Would it not have been more manly and honorable for that conference of religious leaders to devise methods for converting their own people to the Christian faith, rather than, by such a resolution, to offend and insult their Jewish brethren? (65) The appropriately "manly" action, he explained, would have been the non-violent and candid recruitment (not "luring") of "their own people." Grossman also linked proper manliness to Americanism; "inoffensive" Jews were not violating American values, but the overzealous Christians who lured and slaughtered them were.
In doing so, Grossman at once contested Christian missionary activity and Christian supersessionist discourse about "civilization," which deemed Christianity to be superior to Judaism. Unlike the premillennialist missionaries (such as Goldman and Cohn), who saw themselves much more as players in an eschatological drama, some Jews and nonmillennialist Christians (such as Freuder and Steiner) situated their ideas about religious masculinity in discourses of historical progress and nationalism. (66) But most active missionaries to the Jews interpreted both historical and contemporary Jewish life as signs of the unfolding of theological events. They viewed the world around them, from political events and movements like Zionism to interpersonal interactions between a single missionary and a Jewish child, in the frame of biblical history and prophecy. When they did refer to the wider philosophical and psuedoscientific discourse of civilization, they did so only as a peripheral way of supporting their interpretation of the divine schema. In this way, these missionaries placed gender roles in a context more theological than sociological. Nevertheless, in their own way, they participated in a broader cultural discourse about religious masculinity.
Freuder, Cohn, Goldman, and other Hebrew-Christian missionaries occupied a position at the social margins of both Christian and Jewish groups. Both communities, however, retained a special interest in them. Premillennialist Protestants hoped their own work would help bring about the second coming of Jesus Christ, while Jews reviled their attempts to "steal" young and unwitting Jews. Although they likely never thought of themselves as writing about gender, their observations and ideologies broaden our understanding of early twentieth-century assumptions about American Jewish and Protestant masculinities.
Through their writing, these Hebrew-Christian missionaries articulated a third space for Jewish manhood. By rejecting the polar-opposite images of the weak, feminized Jew and the muscular, brawny Christian, they espoused a different ideal of the Jewish man. Gentle, family-oriented, and willing to bear suffering stoically, this image of the Jewish man refracted themes present in Judaism, American Protestantism, and American culture more broadly while refusing to espouse any of them wholesale. Although perhaps not for the reasons he expected, Freuder was right when he penned the third edition of his tale: "It cannot but attract the attention of this historian." (67)
(1.) "The Lord will scatter you among all the peoples from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, whom neither you nor your ancestors have experienced. Yet even among those nations you shall find no peace, nor shall your foot find a place to rest. The Lord will give you there an anguished heart and eyes that pine and a despondent spirit. The life you face shall be precarious; you shall be in terror, night and day, and with no assurance of survival. In the morning you shall say, 'If only it were evening!' and in the evening you shall say, 'If only it were morning!' because of what your heart shall dread and your eyes shall see." (JPS translation)
(2.) "Notes on Prophecy and the Jews," Our Hope 19 (1912), 509. Thank you to the staff at the Moody Bible Institute's Crowell Library for access to the missionary journals.
(3.) Gaebelein undoubtedly was referring to Maurice Fishberg's social scientific study The Jews, in which Fishberg associated nervous diseases primarily with environmental,
rather than racial or theological factors. Maurice Fishberg, The Jews: A Study of Race, and Environment (New York: Scribner, 1911).
(4.) "Notes on Prophecy and the Jews," 509-510. The gendered implications of linking Jews and nervousness was particularly striking in this issue of the journal because the "Notes on Prophecy and the Jews" column was directly followed by a column reprinted from The Maccabaean, the United States' most important Zionist journal. The Maccabaean, with its frequent valorization of Jews in the military, painted quite a different picture of the potential of Jewish masculinity. Our Hope tended to reprint the facts rather than the valorization, presumably to be consistent with its overall depiction of the Jew as sad, downtrodden, and blind.
(5.) Joan Wallach Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 44.
(6.) Scholars of Judaism, most notably Daniel Boyarin, have argued for similar constructions of Jewish masculinity in other contexts. See Daniel Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1997).
(7.) Yaakov Ariel, Evangelizing the Chosen People: Missions to Jews in America, 1880-2000 (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2000), 2-4.
(8.) Most missions openly targeted immigrants, as evidenced by the predominance of Yiddish in missionary literature and the offering of free services, such as medical care, food, English lessons, and the procurement of employment. Yaakov Ariel demonstrates that "the social, cultural, economic, and demographic realities of the immigrants' community shaped much of the missions' work, character, means of approaching prospective converts, the languages used, and the way missions chose to present their messages" (23). Many Jewish immigrants expressed some curiosity--even if it was sometimes mixed with fear--about Christianity. Although Eastern European Jews would have encountered Christians, many lacked even a basic understanding of Christianity. Acculturated American Jews, on the other hand, were much more familiar with their Christian neighbors' beliefs and practices and also less in need of the basic social services and charity the missions offered. Also see Ariel, 12-15, 38-41.
(9.) Quoted in Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering: The Second Migration, 1820-1880 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 177.
(10.) Using the numbers of Louis Meyer, Yaakov Ariel estimates that about 150-200 Jews were converted to Christianity each year. Given that some did not remain Christian, this is a very small proportion when the overall American Jewish population boom is considered. See Louis Meyer, "Protestant Missions to the Jews" Missionary Review of the World 25 (December 1902); Ariel, 39.
(11.) "Report of the Special Committee on Christian Missions to Jews" Central Conference of American Rabbis Annual Report 45, (Cincinnati: Krehbiel, 1917), 105.
(12.) In addition to many ad-hoc articles and community organizations, several more formal efforts coalesced in the early twentieth century. In 1911, after a New York Jewish girl was baptized, a group organized to draft a bill to make the proselytizing of minors illegal. Also, Jeffrey Gurock traces the (brief) work of the Jewish Centers Association in his "Jewish Communal Divisiveness in Response to Christian Influences on the Lower East Side, 1900-1910," Jewish Apostasy in the Modern World, Todd Endelman, ed. (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1987), 255-271.
(13.) Our Hope and The Jewish Era, for example, describe blindness, crying, and hardened or stone hearts in every issue.
(14.) Ariel, 68.
(15.) Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995); Julian Carter, The Heart of Whiteness: Normal Sexuality and Race in America 1880-1940 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007). Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).
(16.) Eli Lederhendler, Jewish Responses to Modernity: New Voices in America and Eastern Europe (New York: NYU Press, 1994), 104-158.
(17.) By the turn of the century, some--including some Jewish converts themselves--began to question the wisdom of "Hebrew-Christians" as missionaries. Still, knowledge of Judaism and Yiddish was seen as essential for the position, so many missions to the Jews employed a significant percentage of converts.
(18.) A Century of Jewish Missions (Chicago: Fleming Revell Company, 1902), 235-253.
(19.) Isaac Mayer Wise, Reminiscences, translated and edited by David Philipson (Cincinnati: Leo Wise, 1901), 68.
(20.) If Freuder, Goldman, and Leopold Cohn are any indication, however, many Jewish converts who became Christian missionaries did not always feel that they fit into the larger missionary community. Leopold Cohn, The Story of a Modern Missionary to an Ancient People (New York: American Board of Missions to the Jews, 1908).
(21.) Leopold Cohn and Joseph Goldman are two examples of this. It was a feather in the cap of these missions that they had attracted rabbis. It also traded upon the social status of learned men within the immigrant Jewish community.
(22.) Leopold Cohn used this phrase frequently. See, for example, A Modern Missionary to An Ancient People, (Brooklyn: Brooklyn Mission, 1908), 20, 28.
(23.) "Signs of the Times," The Missionary Review of the Worm 32 (January 1909), 7
(24.) Sander Gilman, Freud, Race, and Gender (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 93-133. Mitchell Hart, Social Science and the Politics of Modern Jewish Identity (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2000), 106-130. Allard E. Dembe, Occupation and Disease: How Social Factors Affect the Social Conception of Work-Related Disorders (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 45-54.
(25.) Cf. Lederhendler, 104-158
(26.) Jesus the Jew was a popular figure in American Jewish pulpits and literature during the early twentieth century. See Stephen Prothero, American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (New York: FSG, 2003), 229-266.
(27.) The American Hebrew, for instance, printed an article entitled "Stealing Jewish Children," (October 16, 1903). See also Abraham Simon, "Conversion," Emanu-el, April 24, 1896, 7, quoted in Ariel, 56; Ariel, 59-61.
(28.) Jonathan Sarna, "The American Jewish Response to Nineteenth Century Christian Missions," Journal of American History 68 (June 1981), 35-51.
(29.) Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization; Matthew Frye Jacobson, Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounter with Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001). John Kasson, Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man: The White Male Body and the Challenge of Modernity in America (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001). Kristin Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).
(30.) Two of the outstanding studies of the period are: Gail Bederman, "The Women Have Had Charge of the Church Work Long Enough: The Men and Religion Forward Movement of 1911-1912 and the Masculinization of the Middle-Class Protestantism," American Quarterly 14 (1989). Clifford Putney, Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920 (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2001). Mark Carnes argues that the related phenomenon of men's fraternal organizations also responded to the crisis of masculinity by creating gender ideas defined against those of prevailing Victorian masculinity in the nineteenth century. Mark C. Carnes, Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America (Yale, 1989).
(31.) David Kaufman's Shul with a Pool, for instance, is topically related and well researched, but offers no analysis of gender. David Kaufman, Shul with a Pool: The "Synagogue-Center" in American Jewish History (Hanover, N. H.: Brandeis University Press, 1999). The burgeoning literature on American Jews and sports, conversely, analyzes masculinity but says little about religious belief or practice. See, for instance, the essays on the United States in Jack Kugelmass, ed. Jews, Sports and the Rites of Citizenship (Urbana, Ill: University of Illinois Press, 2007) and Steven Riess, ed. Sports and the American Jew (Syracuse: SUNY Press, 1998). Jeffrey Gurock's Judaism's Encounter with American Sports is the exception, offering an analysis of the possibilities and difficulties in combining Judaism with participation in athletics. Although Gurock does not explicitly theorize how gender and masculinity operate in historical context, his work is nevertheless sensitive to both men's experience of manhood and religion. Jeffrey Gurock, Judaism's Encounter with American Sports (Bloomington, Ind: Indiana University Press, 2005).
(32.) Ariel, 35.
(33.) The best-known exception was Tryphena Rounds, who occupied the position of "temporary" superintendent of the Chicago Hebrew Mission for twenty years. But even for Rounds and the generally woman-friendly Chicago Hebrew Mission, a permanent title of authority seemed to be off-limits. See Ariel, 26-28.
(34.) Susan Glenn, Daughters of the Shtetl: Life and Labor in the Immigrant Generation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990); See also Ariel, 38-54.
(35.) Joseph Goldman, Judaism and Its Traditions (J.E Rowny Press, 1919), 34. Perhaps he is referring to Maimonides' assertion that circumcision served to curb sexual appetite. See Josef Stern, "Maimonides on the Covenant of Circumcision and the Unity of God," in Michael Fishbane, ed. The Midrashic Imagination: Jewish Exegesis, Thought, and History (Albany: SUNY Press, 1993).
(36.) See David Gollaher, "From Ritual to Science: The Medical Transformation of Circumcision in America," Journal of Social History 28 (Fall 1994): 5-36.
(37.) The idea of Jewish distinctiveness as related to circumcision is nothing new. In his Theological-Political Treatise, Baruch Spinoza wrote, "The mark of circumcision, too, I consider to be such an important factor in this matter that I am convinced that this by itself will preserve their nation forever. Indeed, were it not that the fundamental principles of their religion discourage manliness, I would not hesitate to believe that one day they will ... establish once more their independent state and that God will again choose them." Theological-Political Treatise, trans. Samuel Shirley (Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett, 2001), 46. For a recent scholarly exploration of the meaning of circumcision for the making of Jewish manhood, see Melvin Konner, The Jewish Body (New York: Schocken, 2009), 20-47.
(38.) Paul used circumcision as a central part of his argument against the continuation of Jewish law in general and mitzvot in particular. His polemic against physical signs of the covenant and in favor of spiritual signs was rooted in the theological movement from the people of Israel "in the flesh" to a spiritual Israel, i.e., Christians. See Daniel Boyarin, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 36-38.
(39.) Menchot 43b discusses brit milah as a fundamental mitzvah. When King David went to the bathhouse and momentarily felt naked of mitzvot (no two tefillin, arba kanfot, or mezuzah), he saw his circumcised penis and felt reassured. Reemerging from the bathhouse, he wrote a specific psalm for circumcision. Even in the event a born [male] Jew became an apostate, he need only look down and remember his bodily inclusion in the covenant as a Jew. Even for quite secular and halakhah-repudiating Reform Jews in Europe and the United States, it was the one (sometimes only) mitzvah they maintained.
(40.) Goldman, 10
(41.) Ibid., 14.
(42.) This refers to the practice of nagel wasser ("finger water"), a kabbalistic custom in which one washes his fingers in the morning before he takes three steps. Ibid., 17.
(43.) Ariel, 18.
(44.) For a thorough analysis of European Zionist masculinity, see Michael Berkowitz, "Mind, Muscle, and Men": The Imagination of a Zionist National Culture for the Jews of Central and Western Europe, 1897-1941. Dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison (1989).
(45.) This theme also appeared in conversion narratives in England. For instance, H.L. Hellyer explained, "Christians were the boys who ran about barefooted with whips and cudgels in their hands, and from whom I myself had been obliged to flee on more than one occasion" H.L. Hellyer From the Rabbis to Christ: or, In Quest of the Truth (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1914), 11.
(46.) Cohn, 39-40. Throughout his writings, Cohn most often refers to Jesus as "the Crucified One." This locution suggests the Hebrew toleh and Yiddish toyleh (both meaning "the hanged one") used in both the Talmud and everyday speech by traditional Jews to refer to Jesus, rather than using his name.
(47.) Cohn, 55.
(48.) Edward Steiner, From Alien to Citizen: The Story of My Life in America (New York: Fleming, 1914), 121. Unlike Freuder, Goldman, and Cohn, Steiner did not espouse a millennialist theology.
(49.) Ibid, 316, 315.
(50.) He was affiliated with the Congregationalists during his religious training and early years as a missionary; later, he affiliated himself with the Episcopal Church.
(51.) Samuel Freuder, A Missionary's Return to Judaism: The Truth A bout the Christian Missions to the Jews (New York: Sinai Pub. Co., 1915); "Apostate Jew Turns from Adopted Faith," Boston Globe, June 4, 1908. For a full account of Freuder's life, see Dana Evan Kaplan, "Rabbi Samuel Freuder as a Christian Missionary: American Protestant Premillennialism and an Apostate Returner, 1891 - 1924 "American Jewish Archives Journal (1998).
(52.) Ibid., 8-12. Freuder never married, and Dana Evan Kaplan's correspondence raises the possibility that Freuder may have been gay. Kaplan, note 71. There is no historical evidence about his sexual practices or "identity," so this must remain at the level of speculation.
(53.) In its review of the year, the American Jewish Year Book noted his return to the community with the adjective "theatrical." Louis Levin, "The Year, 5668," American Jewish Year Book (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1908), 198.
(54.) Letter from Gotthard Deutsch, et al, to Felix Warburg, August 8, 1913. Felix Warburg Collection, box 163, folder 23, American Jewish Archives. I would like to express my gratitude to senior archivist Kevin Proffitt and the American Jewish Archives for their help acquiring this and other documents.
(57.) Freuder, 132.
(58.) "Decorum" and the idea of orderly, composed worship became an important concept for nineteenth-century Jews seeking to Americanize. Freuder seems to have assented to norms of worship that included orderliness, timeliness, unified ritual actions (rather than individual ones), and moderated volume. An 1888 article in the American Israelite explained that Freuder had discouraged indecorous worship, especially that associated with the popular Spiritualism of the time, in his own synagogue: "Since Dr. Freuder has put his foot down on Spiritualism, its devotees are out of spirits." American Israelite, December 14, 1888, P.7, quoted in Kaplan, 45.
(59.) Freuder, 139.
(60.) Putney, Muscular Christianity.
(61.) Ibid., 140.
(62.) Ibid., 147.
(63.) Ibid., 148-149.
(64.) Ibid., 185.
(65.) "Proselytizing Effort Resented By Jews," New York Times, October 29, 1916.
(66.) Scholars of late nineteenth-century gender, such as Karla Goldman and Louise Michelle Newman, have framed womanhood in its relation to the discourse of civilization. [See Newman, White Women's Rights: The Racial Origin of Feminism in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Beryl Satter, Each Mind a Kingdom: American Women, Sexual Purity, and the New Thought Movement (Berkeley: University of California, 1999) and Goldman, "The Limits of Imagination: White Christian Civilization and the Construction of American Jewish Womanhood in the 1890s" in Jack Wertheimer, ed. Imagining the American Jewish Community (Brandeis University Press, 2007).] In short, the discourse posited that the more "civilized" a society, the larger the differentiation of sex roles, and, as a corollary, the more its women were respected. Many Americans of the early twentieth century also saw the differentiation of sex roles in these terms. However, premillennialist missionaries saw themselves much more as players in an eschatological drama, rather than as part of a mundane process of historical progress. Many of their nonmillennialist neighbors asserted, for instance, that the downtrodden state of Jewish immigrant life was in part a result of the inferiority of Jewish civilization vis-avis Christian civilization. More acculturated Jews countered those claims by pronouncing the ways in which Jews had "contributed" to modern civilization. But Hebrew-Christian missionaries used theological language to link their understanding of Jewish manhood to the gentleness, nonviolence, and willing suffering of Isaiah 53 and as a prefiguration of the suffering to come during the Tribulation.
(67.) Samuel Freuder, My Return to Judaism, 3rd ed. (New York: Bloch, 1924), 196.
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|Date:||Apr 1, 2013|
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