Daniel Landsmann The First LCMS Missionary to the Jewish People
From Russia (now Belarus) Born in Pinsk June 18, 1836 –Jewish businesses employed thousands of Jewish workers in chemical- factories, sawmills, a match-factory, a shoe-nail factory, a candle-factory, a cork-factory, a parquet-factory, a brewery, and tobacco-factories. –One cork-factory, owned by a Christian, employed 150 Jewish workers. The shipyards, owned by a Frenchman, employed Jewish laborers to build large steamers and sailing vessels. Many Jewish laborers work on the docks. –Jewish artisans worked as nailsmiths, founders, workers in brass, and tanners; in soap-factories, small breweries, violin-string factories, the molasses-factory, the flaxseed-oil factory, and the tallit-factory. –Jewish Sabbath and holy days are strictly observed. –In 1905 the total population was 28,000; about 18,000 were Jewish. –In 1942, 16,000 Jews were killed in the holocaust. - from the Jewish Encyclopedia -1898 http://www.jewishgen.org/belarus/je_pinsk.htm)
Landsmann’s Family 15 th of 18 children of Jacob and Rona. Only he and one sister survived infancy. At his bar mitzvah, his parents announced who he would marry. He and his wife lived with her parents for 6 years. He began studying the Talmud, full time.
Talk About a Hard Life… Suddenly, about age 19, both parents died. He had a life threatening 2 year illness. He vowed to go to Israel if God healed him. He recovered, but walked with 2 canes. When he left for Israel, to fulfill his vow, no one expected him to survive the trip. He was near death on the 250 mile wagon ride to the Black Sea port of Galatz, Romania.
Obstacles? The captain said he was too sick to travel! He paid a local Jewish broker to ship him in a wooden crate! 28 hours later, he was ‘unpacked’ in Constantinople. He arrived in Israel about September, 1858. By 1860, in better health, and a tailor, he brought his wife and sister.
What Is This? He found a page in Hebrew on the street. He didn’t know it was from the Sermon on the Mount. He was fascinated. Who was this Rabbi?
A Stern Customer Paulus Stern, a Jewish believer, missionary with the London Society (CMJ?), came to Landsmann’s tailor shop. When business slowed, some said, “why don’t you ask Stern for help?” Landsmann refused to ask a convert for help. When Stern brought up Jesus, Landsmann hit him…and was praised by Jewish friends.
Could Jesus be the Messiah? The next time Stern came to his shop, he didn’t mention being hit. Somehow, he discovered that the author of the page he found was Jesus! He began studying the NT with Stern. “When I began searching the Bible 28 years ago in Jerusalem, the Rabbis strictly forbade me and named me an apostate (rebel), and when I ignored their threats they took everything I had from me; wife and children, even wrote forged checks in order to force me to stop reading the Bible.”
The Anglican ‘Inquirers’ Home Seeking safety, he spent 3 weeks at what was to become the Anglican International School (now affiliated with CMJ). While he was there, a diphtheria epidemic claimed the life of three of his children! Grieving, he returned to his wife, and tried to comfort her with the Gospel. It didn’t work: his wife divorced him. In 1863 he confessed faith and was baptized.
Blessed are the persecuted He was beaten, one group put spikes in his hands, and another tried to bury him alive. He went to Cairo, but the Jewish community drove him away. In Beirut and Smyrna, he met a missionary with the Free Church of Scotland. He was reluctant to serve, but Bishop, Samuel Gobat, shared the lesson of Jonah. –Irony: Gobat translated the Bible into Arabic and focused on reaching Muslims.
In Constantinople… Landsmann served as a missionary to the Jewish people from 1863-1881. –Many Jewish people confessed faith. –He led Bible Studies and started and led a congregation of Jewish believers. –Eliezer Basin (to the right) confessed faith, and also became a Scottish Free Church Missionary.
A Son! Landsmann married Angelika Bik, a Dutch deaconess. On February 8, 1880, they had a son: Theodore Anton Landsmann. He was baptized by Alexander Tomory, a Missionary of the Scottish Free Church, in Constantinople.
Why ‘LCMS’ Jewish Missions? 1881 Synod Convention at Ft. Wayne –Pastor Otto Spehr, from Milwaukee, wrote 6 articles in Der Lutheraner after an appeal from pastors in Central Illinois. –12 reasons why the LCMS should begin Jewish missions Proximity, many German speakers, conversions, OT theology, and availability of Hebrew NT’s All that was needed was a missionary!
The following, (from the General Proceedings of the 18th General Synod, p. 78), is a Resolution from the LCMS Convention in Ft. Wayne in 1881: Jewish Missions “As a result of a petition of the Illinois Central District Conference, this issue was submitted for discussion and observed. Although each Christian can prove himself to be a true Jewish missionary in his environment, as often as the occasion arises, we should still earnestly consider pursuing the unfortunate Jews through the appointment of an actual Jewish missionary. Above all, it will be necessary to, first of all, awaken an interest in this mission in our congregations…”
How to find a Jewish Missionary? Pastor John Sieker, from St. Matthews, 854 Broom Street, Manhattan, helped in the search. Finally, Stephanus ‘Samuel’ Keyl (married to CFW Walther’s sister), who was called to immigrant missions in NY from 1869- 1905, heard about a Jewish believer serving in Constantinople…
The LCMS Connection In Constantinople, Landsmann had a friend, a Swedish Pastor Sward, who knew Keyl, the LCMS Missionary in New York. Keyl invited Landsmann to come and serve with the LCMS in New York. Landsmann accepted!
Welcome to the LCMS! He was told he needed to be ‘seasoned’ in orthodox Lutheranism. First stop? Seminary in Springfield, IL. He was successful at deputation in Central Illinois. At a Pastor’s conference: “he pled with us… to begin a mission to the Jews”.
Zeal? “Every true Lutheran is always a true missionary, full of zeal for the spreading of the holy, saving Gospel.” - Missionstaube In 1883, the only LCMS effort to non- Lutherans was the four station “negro” mission in the South. In 1884, LCMS missions ended the year with a deficit.
When can we begin? His biographer, Pastor Steup, wrote that by the end of the academic year, he “had no peace”. In 1883, after hearing Landsmann, the clergy in Pekin, IL, demanded LCMS President, Henry Schwann, begin Jewish missions…NOW! In 1883, the Central Illinois District wrote another series of articles in Der Lutheraner: –We need to share with the elect remnant of Jews so they can come to faith! –“How inexpressibly great will be our joy when converted Jews…testify… that our activity… had been the means of rescue…”
What should we call him? He was not ordained, not installed, and had no service or ceremony. He was called “an evangelist”. Some said, “one who has served in a Reformed missions society could hardly be or become Lutheran.” –After all, he was Jewish and NOT German! His appointment was temporary, and he had no authority to baptize or teach.
To Him the Glory! Landsmann served three churches in NYC from 1883-1896: –He made initial contacts and taught them how to read and write German. –He did not have a congregation of Jewish believers. Converts joined LCMS churches. –Landsmann was not mentioned in the church records of those who were baptized!
So What Could One Man Do? He went to every bris and wedding he could, gave out tracts and Bibles and invited people to hear more. Police protection was required at his public meetings. He had about 30 a year, with 20-25 UJ’s at each! In 13 years, 37 Jewish people were baptized in the LCMS. How many others came to faith?
Impact? LCMS? –At the LCMS Convention in 1884, a Commission on Jewish Missions was established at the national level. –It continued until 1932. Jewish Community? –Landsmann needs to be stopped!
Rabbi Friedmann? Rabbi Nathaniel Friedmann was sent from Russia to win Landsmann back to Judaism. Friedmann confessed faith, and was ordained as a Lutheran Pastor. He became Landsmann’s successor, serving in NYC until 1941.
Friedmann’s Obituary The New York Times, May 11, 1941
Lasting Fruit: Yiddish Gospel Tracts Titles: –“Jew and Jewish- Christian, a Discussion Between an Unconverted and Converted Jew”. –“What Does The Kabbala Say Concerning The Triune God.” –“What Do Rabbis Say Concerning the Messiah.” –“Memra Jehovah or Logos Jehovah?”
Yiddish Tracts (cont’d) “Sabbath, Holidays and Circumcision.” “Jesus of Nazareth the True Messiah.” “Jesus the Sovereign Expression of God’s Countenance.” “Bible and Talmud, How Do They Compare?” Published by American Tract Society. Despite warnings from the Jewish Community, these tracts were ordered by Jewish people from NY, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Portland and the State of Washington.
Landsmann and a Rabbi The following is from A Witness of Jesus Christ Out of Israel, published in “Zeuge der Wahrheit” (“Witness of the Truth”), New York, New York, in March of 1897 : Rabbi: “I have read your NT and found many contradictions in it. The apostles were dreamers, Jews given to exaggeration.” Landsmann: “In what way… show me!” Rabbi: John 1:1-5: “Is that not fanaticism? Is my Word a person? That is dumb and illogical. The other fisherman have destroyed the Torah and abolished everything. Fooey! Shame on you!”
Reply to the Rabbi Landsmann: “Who is the Word of God about which your Targum speaks?” I took my Hebrew Bible and read for example: –Psalm 33:6: “By the Word of the LORD were the heavens made.” –Genesis 1:3: “And God spoke: Let there be light”, –Proverbs 8:22-35, speaking of Wisdom: “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works…I was appointed from eternity…I was the craftsman at his side… blessed is the man who listens to me… whoever finds me, finds life…”
The Word became flesh… Landsmann: “This Word has become the Son of David, a man like us in order to redeem us. About Him all the prophets have prophesied. Without Him I am a lost man.” Rabbi: The Rabbi paced back and forth and was very agitated. “It was a mistake”, he said, “to have invited this man, the devil has done that.” He went away, came back again and said loudly “A woman cannot bear a child without a man. You are either possessed by the devil or you have lost your mind.” He trembled with rage.
Beyond our understanding Landsmann: “Dear Doctor, you are correct, it is certainly beyond our understanding… but we must believe it because it is in the Bible and God does not lie. God can do anything. The passage Jeremiah 31:22 says, ‘The LORD will create a new thing on earth - a woman will encircle a man.’ It is saying that this will be the Messiah, additionally, the Messiah must be called zemach (shoot, descendant) and will be born without a human father. ”
Death and Legacy? He died May 13, 1896. Left much fruit, and a well trained successor! We are still translating and just beginning to use his Yiddish tracts. Lord willing, the LCMS will recapture some of his zeal!
What Can We Learn? 1.The life and testimony of one person can inspire. 2.Articles on Jewish Missions can generate interest. 3.When he started in the US, 1st step was deputation! 4.EVERY opportunity to start relationships and share the Gospel was precious. 5.He knew the Talmud, but found a way to get Jewish people to set it aside and study the Hebrew Scriptures… that point to Jesus.