Wednesday, 23 January 2019

A missionary from Prague
who had links with Dublin
and a controversial role

The Spanish Synagogue in Prague at night … but where in Prague was Adolph Paul Weinberger born? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

One of the most curious connections between Prague and Ireland that I have come across in recent days is provided by the story of the Revd Adolph Paul Weinberger (1859-1937), who is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.

Weinberger was born 160 years ago on 29 June 1859 in Dejevikow, which is said to be near Prague, although I have yet to find out where that place is. At the time, there was a thriving Jewish population in this city, which was one of the principal cities in the Austro-Hungarian empire, alongside Vienna and Budapest.

Weinberger is said to have been born into a pious Orthodox Jewish family, and may even have studied to be a rabbi. He moved to England, and probably converted to Christianity through his contacts with the London Jews’ Society, also known as the Jews’ Society, a proselytising mission agency set up evangelical Anglicans in London in 1809.

CMJ, which remains one of the recognised mission agencies in the Church of England, began to work began among poor Jewish immigrants in the East End of London and Weinberger was involved in similar work in Hamburg and Liverpool before moving to Dublin to prepare for ordination in the Church of Ireland.

Weinberger graduated BA from Trinity College Dublin in 1896, and was ordained deacon in 1897 and priest in 1898 by Joseph Peacocke, Archbishop of Dublin. He served briefly as curate in Saint Matthias, Dublin (1897-1899), before returning to London as a curate in Whitechapel (1899-1900).

From London he moved to Constantinople in 1900, and he remained there as the only missionary London Jews Society in the Ottoman capital until 1914.

Weinberger married Alice Paterson, a daughter of Colonel Daniel Paterson Barry, a medical doctor who was a surgeon-major in the army and who had taken part in the Punjab Campaign (1848-1849), the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny.

The couple had three sons as well as two daughters who married two brothers: Eva Barry Weinberger married Captain William Bolton Battersby, son of Revd Francis Hoffman Battersby, curate of Booterstown (1885-1892), and Hope Barry Weinberger married Jason Hassard Battersby.

The Weinbergers returned to live in Dublin, where she died on 30 June 1930, and he died on 1 April 1937 at 17 Oakley Road, Ranelagh. They are buried in Mount Jerome cemetery in Harold’s Cross.

In response to changing attitudes towards proselytising work by Christians among the Jewish people, the society has changed its name several times over the years, first to the Church Missions to Jews, then the Church's Mission to the Jews, followed by the Church’s Ministry Among the Jews, and finally to the current name of the Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People, which was adopted in 1995.

The missionary focus of CMJ attracts criticism from the Jewish community, which sees these activities as highly detrimental to Jewish-Christian relations, and many rabbis and Jewish organisations have called for CMJ to be disbanded.

In 1992, George Carey became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 150 years to decline to be the Patron of CMJ, a decision that was praised by Jewish leaders and reported as front-page news in the Jewish Chronicle.

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