Read this short overview of our beginnings:
In 1795 a young Jewish man named Joseph Levi, from Maynstocheim in Germany, rode in a carriage with a Pietest Christian (Pietism was a Christian movement which began in the late 17th century, reaching its peak in the mid-18th century, and declined through the 19th century. It combined the Lutheranism of the time with the Reformed emphasis on individual piety and living a vigorous Christian life). As a result of the conversation they had on that journey, based around Jeremiah 31, Levi believed in his heart that Yeshua was the Messiah. Three years later upon his baptism, Joseph Levi became Joseph Samuel Christian Frederick Frey – his change of name being an unfortunate impact of the anti-Semitism which permeated through the Church at that time.
Frey and a group of his supporters founded the ‘London Society for promoting Christianity amongst the Jews’ (LSCJ) in 1809
Frey went on to study in London with the London Missionary Society (LMS) – one of three young men who were being trained for work overseas in 1801. It was while he was waiting to be sent to Cape Colony in South Africa, that Frey witnessed for himself how the Jewish People were living under terribly harsh conditions, so he sought permission from his LMS leaders to work among his own people. This was granted and Frey began work in 1805 among London’s Jewish community.
After disagreements with LMS, Frey and a group of his supporters founded the ‘London Society for promoting Christianity amongst the Jews’ (LSCJ) in 1809, which was later changed to ‘Church’s Ministry amongst Jewish people’ (CMJ). By 1810, William Wilberforce became Vice President of CMJ and, with his friends from the Clapham Sect, Thomas Babington and Charles Simeon, provided CMJ with both the credibility and authority within the Church and outside it, for the work they were doing. By 1812, Lewis Way – a beneficiary of a large fortune which had been stipulated was to be used “for the glory of God” – found in CMJ the worthy cause he had been waiting for into which to invest his fortune… for “the Restoration of the Jews”.
From the outset, CMJ were pioneers in taking the Gospel to the Jewish people, publishing materials which would help achieve this, including an early translation of Matthew’s Gospel into Hebrew, as well as building a specific Chapel in Bethnal Green where Jewish Believers in Jesus could worship and relate to one another, and where they could minister to and encourage each other. This was known as Palestine Place, the foundation stone of which was laid by the Duke of Kent, Queen Victoria’s father, in 1813. Frey also realised that when a Jewish person followed Jesus they were cut off from their community, losing their livelihood and support network, so he set up industrial schools for training, as well as educational Free Schools for children to learn the ways of the Lord from an early age.
CMJ’s mission-field soon spread across Europe, South America, Africa, and into Israel and CMJ became the biggest mission organisation in the world
After its initial beginnings among the poor Jewish immigrants of East London, CMJ’s mission-field soon spread across Europe, South America, Africa, and into Israel and CMJ became the biggest mission organisation in the world with over 250 missionaries.
In the 1830s Lord Shaftesbury joined CMJ and throughout the course of his 50 year service with them, he used his political influence to encourage the restoration of Israel and the return of Jewish people to their homeland. Some of the first projects he supported were the building of a Church in Jerusalem, the establishment of a British Consulate in Jerusalem and the sending of the first protestant Bishop of Jerusalem, Michael Solomon Alexander, who himself was Jewish.
The efforts and generosity of CMJ’s early members laid a strong foundation for us today as we continue to uphold that original vision to sow into the spiritual rebirth of the Jewish people, while today’s members and supporters will propel us forward into the future as we continue our calling, until the day when, “All Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26)
For more information on the history of CMJ, two excellent resources are ‘For the Love of Zion’ and ‘The Restoration of the Kingdom to Israel’. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details of how to purchase these books. You can also download a PDF of our CMJ History leaflet.