Ephraim Menachem Epstein 1812-1913
Epstein was born in Minsk in 1829. Not much is known of his early life, however, he emigrated to the USA in 1850 at the age of 21. A year later he was baptised in New York.
Epstein was active in the fledgling Hebrew Christian movement. and served with the A.S.M.C.J. from 1856. We find him in 1857 as the assistant editor of Lederer’s The Israelite Indeed; and one of the participants in the first Hebrew Christian conference of the US held at Mountain Lake Park, MD in 1903.
During the summers Epstein studied theology at the Andover Theological Seminary, graduating in 1856. His studies continued with medicine, which he studied in both New York and Kingston, Ontario from 1856-59. He received his medical degree in 1859 and the same year was ordained by the presbytery of Kingston. The Presbyterian Church in Canada sent him to minister to the 3000 strong Jewish community in Monastir, Turkey. There he found a community in great need of his medical knowledge. A fire had ravaged the town a while earlier, decimating the Jewish quarter, of which only a handful of houses survived. Epstein found the Jews empoverished, and wrote:
“Want of work is the great cause of much of the evil existing among the Jews here. Another cause is a great fire which took place here some years ago, from which terrible calamity they are not able yet to recover.”
In May 1862, Eppstein resigned his post, because “he did not feel that with a good conscience he could continue to remain there in receipt of a salary” while unable to reach the Jews for Messiah. He remained there, however, serving as physician until his death in 1913.
The Presbyterian, A Missionary and Religious Record of the Presbyterian Church of Canada in Connection with the Church of Scotland, 14:2, p. 22 (1861, Feb.)
Cohen, Mark. “Disaster and Change in an Ottoman Sephardic Community: Moses Montefiore and the Monastir Fire of 1863” . Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. LV, no. 1, spring 2004.
Cohen, Mark. “Last Century of a Sephardic Community: The Jews of Monastir”; The Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture (NYC)
Minutes of the First Hebrew Conference of hte USA, held at Mountain Lake Park, MD July 28-30
Acts and Proceedings of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada in connection with the church of Scotland, Session 30 (Montreal: Lovell, 1858), p. 50