Intellectual Origins of the Voice of Jacob




Joseph Meyerhoff Professor of Modern Jewish History

Project Summary

­This summer I spent time in the archives at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, The British Library, the University of Southampton Library, the University of Pennsylvania’s Katz Center library, and the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., deepening my understanding of the intellectual, cultural and political atmosphere in which The Voice of Jacob was conceived and circulated. Most of my time was dedicated to working through all of the issues of the) periodical, which was founded in 1841 by Jacob Franklin, and which was operative till 1848, after which it merged with the Jewish Chronicle. The paper itself, since it is not a self-conscious document, does not intend to educate an external public about the community by which it was produced or for which it was printed. Therefore, in order to establish a greater understanding of the publication, I read through Jacob Franklin’s personal papers, the Papers of the Church’s Ministry Among the Jews, and the other published work of writers who are featured in The Voice of Jacob (such as Jacob Franklin himself, Elizabeth Tonna, Abraham Benisch and Chief Rabbi Solomon Herschel). At the University of Southampton, which is about a two hour train ride from London, I read through Jacob Franklin’s personal papers, his correspondence with coworkers, family and friends, and his will in which he left all his money to Jewish educational institutions. At The Bodleian library in Oxford I read through the London Society for the Promotion of Christianity Among the Jews’ archives. That society is mentioned in virtually every edition of The Voice of Jacob and was enormously influential, wealthy and far reaching – though I did not understand its reach till after looking through its meticulous records, which run from 1808- 1956. There I discovered exactly how much money the society spent each year paying off poor, ignorant Jews to convert to Christianity, their plans for the establishment of a missionizing institution in Jerusalem, and the handbook for its school for Jewish children designed to estrange them from their communities and assimilate them into Christian culture. At the British Library I read through the published work on the decimal system that Franklin undertook in his final years as editor in his capacity as an auditor, which was his second job. I deduced from these works that that work may have contributed to the cessation of his editorial career.

Celeste examining historical document