The Digital Jewish Missions History Project Moves to LCJEBy Rich Robinson, Jews for Jesus
In a previous issue of the LCJE Bulletin, I reported on the development of the "Digital Jewish Missions History Project." In brief, the goal of this project is to preserve in electronic form the primary source documents from the history of Jewish missions, especially materials prior to 1945. In other words, this means missions reports, testimonies, tracts, journal articles, personal correspondence, mission conference papers, sermons, and similar items from the past centuries of Jewish missions. The majority of this material will be 18th, 19th and early 20th c. Much of it is public-domain, some may require permission to post. It is ambitious, yes, but it is important that it be done.
Incidentally, the ambitiousness of such projects hasn't stopped the proliferation of electronic libraries online. The Gutenberg Project (www.gutenberg.net) has produced over 6000 electronic books, mostly secular literature, with the help of a cadre of worldwide volunteers. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library (www.ccel.org) is spearheaded from Calvin College in the U.S. and also relies on volunteers. There are many collections of electronic documents online.
When the Jewish Missions project began, it was initially housed on the Jews for Jesus web site. Then, at the LCJE International conference this past summer in Helsinki, ideas were put forth for a number of projects that could be effectively put under the LCJE umbrella. In the course of the discussion, it was decided that the Jewish Missions Project could be moved over to the LCJE web site, with myself as "editor" (just as other projects would have their own editors or project directors). As I write in October 2003, the Project will still be found at www.jewsforjesus.org/history. But shortly it will be migrated over to the www.lcje.net website.
One of the reasons for incorporating the Project under the LCJE umbrella is that this sends the message that this is not the project of one mission or individual. No, this is a cooperative project that should interest all the Jewish missions. In fact, it really cannot be undertaken without cooperation and involvement: it will take a team of volunteers to make it happen. Under the LCJE auspices, it will be easier to build such a volunteer cadre and for the various missions and volunteers to keep in touch about the project.
So how exactly will the Project work, then? There is no one best way to go about it, no voice from Mount Sinai to guide us. As you visit the various online digital libraries, you realize that they use different technologies, different approaches, different ways of networking, and so on. The experiment in various approaches tells you that online libraries are new enterprises bursting with creative energy.
But the basic approach is like this. Different ones want to volunteer. Maybe she discovered the project on the LCJE site, maybe he is employed by a Jewish mission and has recruited a volunteer or even a volunteer coordinator. She is near a mission headquarters, or an archive, or a library where she can get ahold of the materials, perhaps working from a listing of needed materials posted on the Project's web site. Or he may order something via inter-library loan from his public library if he is not near such a collection.
Then she makes a photocopy, or if she has access to a scanner, she scans the item into her computer. Or she sends the photocopy to someone who does have a scanner and he does the scanning. Or he re-types the material manually, or sends it to someone who does that.
Then it goes on to someone who proofreads the material or who "cleans up" the results of the scan. And then to a second proofreader for a final and second set of eyes.
This kind of coordination is typical of online libraries. Someone can scan something (as a picture to be turned into searchable text at the next stage), then the scan can be posted on the web site for someone else with suitable software to turn into text, then that can be posted for someone else to proofread, and so on. It's a bucket-brigade approach and if it works smoothly, quite a lot can be accomplished.
In other words, it is not important that a particular person or organization have access to a computer, and a scanner, and the software to make the scan into text. What is important is that we begin and network to make it happen. If we can, we'll set up a message board to help volunteers help one another with offers of what they can do, by answering questions based on their own experience, and so on. We'll try to provide the coordination needed for as many as want to participate to do so.
Some sites, like the Christian Classics Ethereal Library referred to above, are quite high tech when it comes to on online system for getting volunteers working together (not surprising, since the editor of the CCEL is a professor of computer science). The Gutenberg Project, on the other hand, relies on a much simpler system, though even they have a cadre of regional coordinators and a technology coordinator. For now, we are starting smaller, but we will build.
How can you join? For now, send me an e-mail (email@example.com) and let me know of your interest, and especially if you are able to do hands-on work (locating material through a library / mission archive; typing; scanning; proofreading). Once the site has migrated over to LCJE, we will be in a position to begin utilizing volunteers. But don't wait till we make the move to let me know of your interest!
If you are interested, I suggest that you visit the two web sites above, each of which has been in existence for some time now. Read their Frequently Asked Questions section or their pages on how their volunteers help out. It will give you a "feel" for what has already been done and encourage you that it CAN be done. And then, see if you yourself, or others known to you, would make a good volunteer.
There is already a substantial amount of content online, though it represents only the tip of an iceberg. In the last Bulletin I listed out the current content, and it bears listing again in a more compact format.
There are mission reports, namely the Jewish mission sections of the Annual Reports of the Boards of Foreign / Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States for the years 1845-46, 1853-73, 1923-26. There are sermons, including Michael Solomon Alexander's Farewell Sermon of 1841 as well as "Our Duty to Israel" by Robert Murray McCheyne, 1852.
Then there are the reports from various missionary conferences. Online are papers from the Centenary Conference on the Protestant Missions of the World, London, 1888; papers from the Fourth International Convention of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions from 1902; and the World Missionary Conference's Report of Commission I: Carrying the Gospel to all the Non-Christian World of 1910.
Then, there are testimonies, including Testimony of a Believing Jew by Harry A. Burgen from the early 20th c. and Driven from Home: A True Story of a Converted Jewess, 1905, by Jeannette Gedalius, missionary to the Jews in San Francisco. There is also Leila Ada, the Jewish Convert: An Authentic Memoir, by Osborn W. Trenery Heighway from 1853 and also From the Rabbis to Christ: A Russian Jew's Story of His Soul Struggle for Light and Peace, by Henry A. Hellyer, 1922.
Periodical articles are to be found including David Baron's 1911 piece, "Messianic Judaism; or Judaising Christianity", "Biblical Thoughts on the Conversion of the Jews" by noted scholar Franz Delitzsch, 1890, and ""The Baptism, in Berlin, of Joseph Rabinowitz (a Russian Jew)" by C. M. Mead, 1890.
Not just articles, but whole periodicals as well, such as Salvation and the Jewish-Christian, ed. by William Cowper Conant, 1899 with further years to be posted. It was Conant's publication that served as the vehicle for New York City missionary Hermann Warszawiak's monthly letters.
Organizational histories or descriptive brochures are represented by The Aim of the Hebrew-Christian Publication Society by B. A. M. Schapiro, ca. 1920 and by A Brief History of the Zion Society for Israel [50th Anniversary Edition] by C. K. Solberg, 1928.
The collection would not be properly represented without the inclusion of the general Jewish mission histories and memoirs such as A Century of Jewish Missions by A. E. Thompson, 1902 and Missionary Journal and Memoir of the Rev. Joseph Wolff, Missionary To The Jews: Comprising His First Visit To Palestine In The Years 1821 & 1822.
Besides the above, there are also denominational records such as items from the Christian Reformed Church's Acts of Synod and The Banner magazine, as well as other CRC materials, dating from 1907-1928.
Newspaper articles are represented, so far largely an assortment of New York Times pieces from the 1890s and early 1900s dealing with Hermann Warszawiak. And last but not least, there is one piece of fiction, Proselytes of the Ghetto, by Amos I. Dushaw, 1909.
Since the above listing was compiled, these new items have been added:
The lengthily titled The Converted Jew, or, An Account of the Conversion to Christianity of Mr. Lapidoth and Family, and of the Baptism of Himself, His Wife and Thirteen Children, Who Were Publicly Baptized, According to the Rites of the Dutch Church, at Vianen, in Holland, March 18, 1805.
Concise Account of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews by Hannah Adams, 1816.
Extract from the Report of the Committee of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews. With Dr. Buchanan's Speech, as to the State of the Jews in the East, dated 1811.
All these are fully searchable as text files, and many contain images. You may feel excited by the potential of the Digital Project to make all this available immediately online, or overwhelmed by how much material there is that isn't online, or both. But we do not need to build Rome in a day. What is important is that we start someplace, with something, and go on from there. Have a look at the Jewish Missions History Project if you haven't yet, and send me an e-mail to let me know that you can participate in some way. If you have suggestions on anything from networking to recruiting volunteers to the usability of the site, by all means send those along too. Once on the LCJE site, we will look to make opportunities to volunteer and connect available right from the web site.