Beer Goldberg 1780-1848
Goldberg was born in 1780 in a town called Hatzenplotz, in Selesia. His devout mother dedicated him to God at birth, and resolved to educate him as a rabbi. At the age of thirteen he was sent to a rabbi in Moravia. There he and a close friend began to pray fervently for the coming of the Messiah and spent much time reading in the Psalms and the Hebrew Bible. However, when the rabbi found this out the two were separated, lest they encourage each other in converting to Christianity. Goldberg was sent to Berlin to continue his rabbinical studies. Once there, however, a friend encouraged him to give up the idea of becoming a rabbi and enter the secular work. He began to work in the bank of a relative, and in the next years worked in commerce. He rejected the Talmud and began to have doubts as to whether the word of God was true. The advice he received from a Protestant minister astonished him: be a good Jew!
Goldberg marred a lovely Jewish girl in 1806 in Neuwied, and accepted a position as Jewish teacher. He was recognized as having modern, liberal ideas and wrote Hebrew articles for a Jewish paper called “Measeph’. In these years he was far from God, and lacked spiritual peace.
In 1817 Goldberg was informed by a friend that a man had come around asking if any Jews would like to read the New Testament, which he had available in Hebrew. Goldberg’s friend had sent him on his way with short shrift, and warned Goldberg to stay away from him because he was likely a friend of missionaries who wished to convert all the Jews to Christianity. Rather than stay away, Goldberg sought this man out and offered to help him copy articles in Hebrew. Thus began a friendship between Mr Keetmann, a pious Christian and member of the Moravian brethren, and the Jewish teacher. Goldberg read the New Testament and believed that it must be true; but continued to argue with Keetmann and the Moravians he met in his house. He became a regular visitor to Keetman’s home, studying the Bible with him every Shabbat.
After several months, Goldberg fell gravely ill and feared for his life. Now, all he had studied became real to him and urgent. He knew he was not ready to die, and had no redeemer to stand before God for him. In his delirium, he spoke of the Messiah of Israel, his theory become a living truth to him. Once he recovered, he resigned his position in the Jewish community and left his family to seek instruction in the Christian faith. Six months later, with the assistance of the London Society, he was reunited by his family in Germany. Together, he and his wife and their four daughters received instruction and were baptized together in 1820 and he took on the names “John Peter”. At least two of his daughters went on to marry Jewish Christians who themselves were active in God’s service.
Soon after, in 1821, Goldberg accepted a post with the London Society and served in Dresden as a teacher at an institution for Jewish children, and as an instructor to Jewish seekers. He served there until 1838.
Hausmeister, one of Goldberg’s sons-in-law, writes that he was especially gifted in witnessing to his people. “He knew how to improve every opportunity and every word spoken by a Jew for beginning a religious conversation with him. He knew not fear… He visited the Jews frequently, n their houses, and was very active in labouring among the Polish and Oriental Jews who attend the fairs at Leipsig, and scattered the good seed far and wide, and not without success.”
He goes on to relate that “Many oriental and Polish Jews became Mr. Goldberg’s intimate friends, and believers in the Messiah; they invited him to dinner, and once, when he spent a Saturday afternoon with many, and had a long discussion, one put a piece of paper in his hand, as he left the room, on which the following words were written in Hebrew: ‘Jesus of Nazareth is the true Messiah, our righteousness. Through the son of Isai, of Bethlehem, my soul is redeemed….”
Tragedy was not unknown to the family. In 1823 Goldberg was blessed with a son of his old age, a particularly gifted and pious child who became the delight of his father’s eyes. Tragically, he fell ill in 1829 at the age of six, and died after just three days. While Goldberg and his wife were still reeling with the grievous loss, they lost their youngest daughter and their beloved son-in-law. It was a trying time for Goldberg, and his trials were not yet over. He suffered several serious illnesses brought on by exhaustion from overwork, and in 1838 he lost his sight. Thankfully, his prayers for healing were answered and his sight was restored, but his eyes remained very weak. He began to feel he could no longer carry the burden of work alone, and the Society sent him to work with his son-in-law, Hausmeister, in Strassbourg. There he continued to minister, to join in missionary travels, and to teach new believers until just a week before his final illness.
In 1844, another son-in-law, a Jewish Christian by the name of Boerling, died.
In 1848, Goldberg died of complications following a bout of influenza. His soul departed even as his loving son in law, Hausmeister, prayed with him at his bedside, at the age of 67.
For the full tale of Goldberg’s life, read the obituary written by Hausmeister for the London Society’s magazine, TheJewish Intelligence, vol. VII, March 1848.