Christadelphian involvement in the Kindertransport brought about the interaction of two different religions, two different cultures, and two different sets of values. In some cases, these values conflicted. For Christadelphians, preaching is a key part of their Christian duty. We believe that the Lord Jesus made that very clear:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Matthew 28:19-20 ESV
"And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation." Mark 16:15 ESV
Thus, in some of his last words to his disciples, he made it abundantly clear that their job was to teach the good news about him and salvation through him to everyone they met.
This would include Jewish children who arrived on the Kindertransport.
At the same time, the purpose of this is also clear:
"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Mark 16:16
Eternal life in the Kingdom of God could only be given to those who learned the gospel, believed it, and were baptized into Christ. Thus, out of duty and out of care, Christadelphians felt compelled to preach to the children.
On the other hand, however, many of the parents of the children would have wanted their children to remain Jewish. Or, the children themselves would have wanted to remain Jewish, but either had difficultly expressing themselves (because they didn't speak English) or simply felt awkward. To understand more about this, view Bertha Leverton's iWitness Testimony below:
Out of duty and love for the children, should the Christadelphians preach and bring them to church? Or out of respect for the parents and the children, should the Christadelphians attempt to follow the Jewish dietary laws and the Sabbath regulations? Or perhaps they could at least attempt to contact the parents about the new things the children would be learning?
Explore some of the testimonies below to get a feel for some of the things that took place.
"The Christadelphians, like the Society of Friends, the Plymouth Brethren, Methodists and Unitarian Church, fully accepted the Jews for what they were and therefore respected the Jewish faith. The same could not be said of the Christian Jewish Alliance, nor the Barbican Mission to the Jews, whose aim was to convert Jews to Christianity."
-Nicholas Burkitt; British Society and the Jews; pg. 77
An Abode of Hope
ELPIS LODGE, 117 Gough Road, Edgbaston, the Birmingham Hostel for Jewish Refugee Boys, was opened on Sunday, April 21st, 1940, by bro. Benjamin Walker, in the presence of a number of Jews associated with the care of refugees and of brethren and sisters who had been invited.
The Hostel has been provided by the Birmingham (Central) and Coventry ecclesias, with contributions from many other brethren and sisters, sent through The Christadelphian. It is to take about twenty boys of from 14 to 15½, who will be trained to useful occupations, and will be educated and cared for in an atmosphere of Orthodox Jewry by the warden and his wife, Dr. and Mrs. Hirsch. While the management of the Hostel has been handed over to Birmingham Jewry, the funds for maintenance will be provided by Christadelphians.
The key with which the hostel was opened was handed to bro. Walker by Mr. I. L. Jacobs, the doyen of the Birmingham Hebrew Congregation, who is in his 89th year. “You and your association,” he said, “have done exceedingly good work. I hope you may have the blessing of the Almighty to continue it for many years to come”.
Bro. Walker, after opening the door, presented the key to the Warden, and handed over the Hostel to the care of the Representative Council for Birmingham Jewry and the Council for Refugees.
A service of dedication was conducted by Rabbi Dr. Cohen, assisted by the Revs. S. I. Solomons and W. Lewi. Psalms 30, 146 and 121, and portions of Job 29, Isaiah 58 and Proverbs 3 were read.
Dr. Cohen, in an address, said the opening of that home fell very appropriately on the eve of the Jewish Passover. That festival called to mind the first attempt to enslave and annihilate the Children of Israel. The home presented to their minds the latest of a long series of similar attempts. One noteworthy point of difference must strike them. When the Israelites left Egypt to start on their journey through the wilderness, they were in their helpless state attacked by the Amalekites. When the victims of Nazi oppression were driven from the land of their birth or their adoption, the Amalekites were few, and there was aroused throughout the world a measure of sympathy and helpful kindness which must linger in the memory of all of them. The Jewish Community, true to its tradition, rallied to the help of their stricken brethren to the utmost of their means; but the problem was too gigantic and the numbers too vast to be dealt with by them alone.
“We can never appreciate sufficiently”, said Dr. Cohen, “the manner in which the Christian world rallied to our support. Among those not of our own people who were conspicuous in their sympathy and their endeavour to be helpful was the community of the Christadelphians. This is not by any means the first occasion on which they have shown their interest in the welfare and fate of the Jewish people. For long years they have contributed generously to our efforts to re-establish the Jewish people in their homeland; and therefore we appreciate to the full the magnificent act of generosity which has found its expression in this Hostel for Refugee Boys. We of the Jewish Community feel that a sacred trust has been committed to us, a trust we shall endeavour to discharge faithfully to the utmost of our ability”.
Their task was two-fold. The first was to care physically for the boys who were brought there, to mend so far as they could the ravages of privation to which these boys had been subjected, to build up their bodies and train them in a livelihood so that they might look forward to an independent future.
The other task was even more important. Those who had any understanding of human psychology must realise that these Jewish boys and girls who had been subjected to such bestial cruelty for the past seven years, might have their minds scarred and their souls embittered by what they had gone through. “These who are put into our charge must, so far as we can, have the effects of this ill-treatment eradicated from their minds”, said Dr. Cohen. “Just as Israel of old was told that in spite of what they had received at the hands of the Egyptians, ‘Thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian’, so we must teach these boys that they have only seen one side of the world, and that there is a higher and better side. They may have suffered at the hands of those who were not of their own people, simply and solely because they are Jews, but we shall tell them that in this Home, through the kindness and sympathy of those who also are not of our own race, they are being given a chance to live as self-supporting men in the future.
“The name which has been given to this house, Elpis Lodge, signifies the Abode of Hope, and above all I do hope our generous Christadelphian friends will have there ward for their act of generosity; that the boys, when they leave these portals after being in our charge, will go forth in the world imbued and enlightened with the hope of a better future”.
The service concluded with a beautiful prayer for the reign and righteousness of God.
Several speeches followed. Mr. S. J. Levi, Chairman of the Trustee and Management Committee of the Hostel, said that was a unique event not only in Birmingham Jewry but in Anglo-Jewry. In October last Mr. Newman, representing the Birmingham Christadelphian ecclesia, and Mr. Laxon, the Coventry ecclesia, came voluntarily to the Representative Council of Birmingham Jewry with an offer to purchase, equip and maintain a hostel for twenty Jewish refugee boys, and told them that on completion they would hand it over to be administered as an Orthodox Jewish Hostel. They had found a more than suitable home for it; he thought that they would agree they had found something of a palace.
He believed also that they had found absolutely suitable wardens in Dr. and Mrs. Hirsch. Dr. Hirsch was a doctor of philosophy, and before he and his wife and family were driven from Germany by Nazi persecution, he was headmaster in Frankfurt for two years of a school of 700 boys. He felt they could confidently hand over their charges to their care, in the assurance that they would maintain the ideals for which that Home was being established.
In the task of transforming that old house to its new use they had been helped by the vision and inspiration of their friend, Mr. Laxon. The various members of the Management Committee had been efficient and willing helpers; and he must especially mention the work done by Mrs. Newman. They had selected fifteen boys who they thought would be suitable for that Home, limiting the receiving age from 14 to 15½. They would come in on May 1. Lady Reading was extremely interested in the movement, and it would not be surprising if one day she came to Birmingham to see for herself what they were doing.
On behalf of the Management Committee, Mr. Levi presented bro. E. W. Newman and bro. S. Laxon with golden replicas of the key with which the Hostel was opened.
Bro. Laxon, in reply, explained the grounds of Christadelphian interest in Jewish affairs. They considered friendship for the Jews a privilege not only for the nation which showed it but for the individual who promoted it. The faith of Christadelphians was rooted in the Law which Jesus said he came not to destroy but to fulfil.
Bro. Newman also replied, explaining that the contributions of Christadelphians were made anonymously, and quoting the note in the January issue of The Christadelphian recording the receipt of a packet containing £350 for that Hostel. He referred to the willing spirit of co-operation with which they were met by the neighbours on either side of that house, and also expressed appreciation of the builders who had carried out the alterations.
Dr. Hirsch said the boys of 14 who would come to that home had lived half their lifetime in anxiety. They had not known freedom until they received the hospitality of kind men and women in this country. In that Home of Hope they would learn that they would not be friendless; and they would learn also the certainty that the Jewish faith would never die.
Mr. G. Philip Achurch, M.B.E. (Chairman of the Birmingham Council for Refugees), read the following letter which he had received from the General Secretary of the Movement for the Care of Children from Germany, Ltd.: “... I write to say that the Constitution of the New Hostel at Gough Road, Edgbaston, is a very satisfactory document from the point of the Movement. The existence of this Hostel will fulfil a long-felt want. We have experienced great difficulties in finding both homes and suitable employment for Orthodox Jewish refugee boys. I will be much obliged if you will kindly convey the thanks of the Executive Committee of the Movement for the Care of Children from Germany to the Christadelphian ecclesias of Birmingham and Coventry for their generosity in undertaking the support of the Hostel and to the Representative Council of Birmingham Jewry for the arrangements they have made for launching the scheme, and last but not least, our thanks are due to your Council which has piloted the undertaking”. The visitors inspected the house, and admired the well-equipped kitchen, the excellent bathrooms, and the light, airy bedrooms with comfortable-looking beds well spaced. The garden proved an astonishing little Eden in the midst of Birmingham: fine trees of many years’ growth are perfectly planned to give an effect of perspective; there is a long stretch of green lawn, a rockery, and a vegetable plot with fruit trees.
The boys duly arrived on May 1, and are settling happily into their new surroundings.
- The Christadelphian, June 1st, 1940
"There was also, of course, the Christadelphians, an organisation who did help the Kindertransports; really were there to convert some of the Jewish children to Christianity, so that really wasn’t great PR on their behalf."
- Ela Kaczmarska; Kindertransport: Britain's Rescue Plan; http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/kindertransport-britains-rescue-plan/
"I might add here that my father felt it an important factor in the lives of these young Jewish boys and girls that they should know at least something of their own history recorded by their own writers, Moses and the prophets. I remember the many happy and lively Sunday afternoons when he not only became their guardian and friend but their teacher, making their own scriptures come to life."
- Bruce Overton; http://www.bibleinthenews.com/Podcasts/474
"He also established a hostel, to look after teenage Jewish boys during the war years. The hostel 'boys' some now well advanced in years and now living in various parts of the world, still get together to remember those times. It was there that they were given a respect for the scriptures and where, they acknowledge, those scriptures were brought to life by their Christadelphian foster-father."
- Michael Barnes (Alan Overton's Grandson) in The Bible Missionary Magazine, 1999
"As time went on one became acclimatised to the surroundings. I enjoyed going to school although it was difficult for me to understand why 'yes' should be pronounced 'yessa' imtil someone explained that this was the respectful way to reply to one's teacher and that the spelling was 'yes sir'.
We went to church regularly (the family were Christadelphian)."
- Herbert Holden; I Came Alone; pg. 149
You've made it through the "Conflicting Principles" section. Great. Now, head over to the reflection.