Pastor Russell, of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, Addresses an Enthusiastic
Audience at the Hippodrome, New York, N.Y.
October 9, 1910
Brother Russell received an invitation to address a Jewish Mass Meeting in the great Hippodrome Theater of New York City. The invitation and Brother Russell’s response to the same follow:
NEW YORK, September 20, 1910.
Pastor C. T. Russell, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Your sympathetic interest in the Jewish people for years past has not escaped our notice. Your denunciations of the atrocities perpetrated against our race in the name of Christianity has added to our conviction that you are a sincere friend. Your discourse on “Jerusalem and Jewish Hopes” has struck a responsive chord in the hearts of many of our people. Still we doubted for a time if any Christian minister could really be interested in a Jew as a Jew and not merely from a hope of proselyting him. It is because of this feeling that some of us request you to make a public statement respecting the nature of your interest in our people and we desire you to know that the statement you did make was very satisfactory. In it you assured us that you are not urging Jews to become Christians and join any of the sects or parties of Protestants or Catholics. That statement, Pastor Russell, has been widely published in the Jewish journals. We feel, therefore, that we have nothing to fear from you as a race. On the contrary, in that statement you mentioned that the foundation of your interest in our people is built upon your faith in the testimonies of our Law and the messages of our Prophets. You may well understand how surprised we are to find a Christian minister acknowledging that there are prophecies of the Bible still unfulfilled, which belong to the Jew and not to the Christian, and that these prophecies, according to your studies, are nearing a fulfillment of momentous interest to our Jewish race and, through us as a people, to the nations of the world.
These things, Pastor Russell, have led to the formation of a Jewish Mass Meeting Committee, which, by this letter, requests you to give a public discourse, especially to our people. If you will kindly accept this invitation, will you permit us to suggest a topic for your address, which, we believe, will be very interesting to the public and especially to the Jews, namely, “Zionism in Prophecy.”
As for the meeting: We suggest Sunday afternoon at 3 o’clock, October 9. We have secured an option on the Hippodrome, New York’s largest and finest auditorium, for that date, and we hope that this date and the place will be agreeable to your convenience. We assure you also of a large audience of deeply interested Hebrews, besides whoever may come of the general public.
Trusting to hear from you soon, we subscribe ourselves,
Yours respectfully, JEWISH MASS MEETING COMMITTEE.
BROOKLYN, N.Y., September 21, 1910.
Jewish Mass Meeting Committee, New York City.
Your kind invitation to address the Jewish Mass Meeting in the New York Hippodrome Sunday, October 9, at 3 p.m., came duly.
I thank you for the confidence which this invitation implies. The date you have selected is not only appropriate in its relationship to the Jewish New Year, but it is very suitable for my own arrangements, as I leave on October 12 for appointments in London and elsewhere in Great Britain.
Amongst the several prominent members of your race suggested for chairman of the Mass Meeting, I select Mr. John Barrondess, because I have had the pleasure personally of conference with him and because I know him to be very loyal to the interests of your people and because I believe him to be very highly esteemed as such in the counsels of your race.
Faithfully and respectfully yours, C. T. Russell.
During the week preceding the Mass Meeting many thousand copies of a special paper printed in Yiddish were sold at news stands and distributed with other Yiddish papers. This paper contained quotations from Brother Russell’s writings and sermons, and a report of his findings in Palestine during his recent visit to the Holy Land. In this paper were two very significant cartoons.
One represented an aged Jew seated in a graveyard, surrounded by tombstones. Each of these stones represented one of their dead hopes. The picture shows that the Jews have reached their limit – all hopes practically dead, and they do not know which way to turn.
The other picture represents the Jew as waking up – he hears a voice, and, looking up in a surprised manner, he sees Pastor Russell who holds in his hand a scroll of their prophecies, and is pointing to them, and to the New Jerusalem in the background, which will soon rise out of the ruins of the present city within the walls. Thinking these cartoons will be of interest to others, we reproduce them on the following pages.
(New York American, Monday, October 10, 1910)
Pastor Russell Cheered by an Audience of Hebrews
Four Thousand in Hippodrome Applaud When Venerable Brooklyn Clergyman Advocates Establishment of a Jewish Nation. Hearers Who Came to Question Gentile’s Views on Their Religion Find He Agrees in Their Most Important Beliefs. Preacher, After Hailing Them as One of the Bravest Races on Earth, Says Kingdom May Return to Them by 1914.
The unusual spectacle of 4,000 Hebrews enthusiastically applauding a Gentile preacher, after having listened to a sermon he addressed to them concerning their own religion, was presented at the Hippodrome yesterday afternoon, where Pastor Russell, the famous head of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, conducted a most unusual service.
In his time the venerable pastor has done many unconventional things. His religion is bounded by no particular denomination, and encompasses, as he says, all mankind. His ways of teaching it are his own. But he never did a more unconventional thing than this – nor a more successful one.
He won over an audience that had come – some of it, at least – prepared to debate with him, to resent, perhaps, what might have appeared like a possible intrusion. “Pastor Russell is going to try to convert the Jews to Christianity,” was the word that many had received before the meeting “He wants to proselyte us.”
RECEIVED AT FIRST IN SILENCE.
In the crowd which filled the big show house were scores of rabbis and teachers, who had come to speak out in case the Christian attacked their religion or sought to win them from it. They had questions and criticisms ready for him. He was received at first in a dead silence.
But the Pastor did not seek to convert the Jews. To their unbounded delight, he pointed out the good things of their religion, agreed with them in their most important beliefs as to their salvation, and finally, after a warm advocacy of the plan of the Jews establishing a nation of their own, brought about a tumult of applause by leading a choir in the Zionist anthem: “Hatikva – Our Hope.”
A more interesting audience the Hippodrome never held, perhaps. From all parts of the city came serious‑minded Hebrews to hear what it was an alien, a Gentile, might have to say to them at a service held during their week of feasting, Rosh Hoshkana. They were quiet, well‑dressed, thinking men and women.
Among them were many prominent figures of the Hebrew literary world. Some of these escorted Pastor Russell to the Hippodrome in a motor car and then took places in the auditorium. The literary men recognized the pastor as a writer and investigator of international fame on the subject of Judaism and Zionism. Some of those present were Dr. Jacobs, editor of the American Hebrew; W. J. Solomon, of the Hebrew Standard; J. Brosky, associate editor of the same; Louis Lipsky, editor of the Maccabean; A. B. Landau, of the Warheit, Leo Wolfsohn, president of the Federation of Roumanian Societies; J. Pfeffer, of the Jewish Weekly; S. Diamont, editor of the Jewish Spirit; S. Goldberg, editor of the American Hebrew; J. Barondess, of the Jewish Big Stick, and Goldman, editor of H’Yom, the only Jewish daily.
NO RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS THERE.
No symbol of any religion at all greeted them when they gazed at the Hippodrome stage. It was entirely empty save for a small lectern and three peace flags hanging from silken cords above. One was the familiar white silk banner with the Stars and Stripes in its center, together with the words, “Peace Among Nations,” in letters of gold. Another bore a rainbow and the word “Pax.” The third was a silken strip bearing miniature representations of all the nations’ flags.
There were no preliminaries. Pastor Russell, tall, erect and white‑bearded, walked across the stage without introduction, raised his hand, and his double quartette from the Brooklyn Tabernacle sang the hymn, “Zion’s Glad Day.” The members of this organization are Mrs. E. W. Brenneisen, Mrs. E. N. Detweiler, Miss Blanche Raymond and Mrs. Raymond, Emil Hirscher, C. Meyers, J. P. MacPherson and J. Mockridge. Their voices blended perfectly, and the hymn, without any instrumental accompaniment, was impressive.
But still there seems an air of aloofness about the audience. They did not applaud, but sat, silently watching the stalwart figure of the pastor. When he began to talk, however, they gave him respectful attention.
With a powerful, yet charming voice, that filled the great playhouse, the unconventional clergyman made his every word audible to every hearer. His tones pleased their ears, his graceful gestures soon captivated their eyes, and in a few moments his apparently thorough knowledge of his subject appealed to their minds. Though still silent, the 4,000 were “warming up” to him.
RESERVE AND DOUBT VANISH.
It was not long before all reserve, and all possible doubt of Pastor Russell’s entire sincerity and friendliness were worn away. Then the mention of the name of a great Jewish leader – who, the speaker declared, had been raised by God for the cause – brought a burst of applause.
From that moment on the audience was his. The Jews became as enthusiastic over him as though he had been a great rabbi or famous orator of their own religion. He hailed them as one of the bravest races of the earth – having kept their faith through the persecutions and cruelties of all other people for thousands of years. And he predicted that before very long they would be the greatest of the earth – not merely a people, any longer, but a nation. By a system of deductions based upon the prophecies of old, the pastor declared that the return of the kingdom of the Jews might occur at so near a period as the year 1914. Persecution would be over and peace and universal happiness would triumph.
As he brought his address to a conclusion the pastor raised his hand again to his choir. This time they raised the quaint, foreign‑sounding strains of the Zion hymn, “Our Hope,” one of the masterpieces of the eccentric East Side poet Imber.
The unprecedented incident of Christian voices singing the Jewish anthem came as a tremendous surprise. For a moment the Hebrew auditors could scarcely believe their ears. Then, making sure it was their own hymn, they first cheered and clapped with such ardor that the music was drowned out, and then, with the second verse, joined in by hundreds.
At the height of the enthusiasm over the dramatic surprise he prepared, Pastor Russell walked off the stage and the meeting ended with the end of the hymn. He was congratulated by scores of men and women who had come in indifferent, if not hostile, frames of mind, and he made a friend, they all declared, of everyone who had heard him.
A stenographic report of the entire discourse is presented in No. 475B, June 1996.