Jacob Gartenhaus was born an orthodox Jew in Austria on January 15, 1896. His father was a rabbi for many years, and Jacob was raised in the strict observance of his family’s religion, graduating from Cheder and Yeshivah Rabbinical Schools. As a young man, seventeen years old, he came to the United States to seek his fortune. He joined his uncle who was in business in New York. He found no peace for the empty longing in his heart. Eventually he was forced to consider the claim of Jesus Christ to be the Messiah. He studied the Hebrew Scriptures, bringing his immense training and intellect to bear on the search for the truth.
At last he acknowledged Christ as Messiah and accepted Him as Savior in a mission in New York City. His family disowned him, and his former friends beat him so severely that he almost died.
He left for Moody Bible Institute where he was forced to use an interpreter for his classes, as he still spoke no English. He was very active in evangelistic efforts toward the Jewish community, working in the Chicago Hebrew Mission. He attended and graduated from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He was ordained to the ministry by the Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville. In 1921 he was appointed as director of the Jewish Department of the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. For over twenty-seven years he led the work of Southern Baptist in Jewish evangelism. He authored numerous articles and pamphlets and represented Southern Baptists on many conference programs. He often gave reports on his work to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.
He served in that position until 1948 when he and his wife established the (independent) International Board of Jewish Missions. This organization, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has been responsible for organizing a concerted effort to take the message of the Messiah to the Jewish population of the world. Dr. Gartenhaus continued as head of the mission board until his death in 1984.
On his deathbed a nurse asked him if he was afraid to die. He replied, “No, but there is so much more yet to be done…so much more yet to be done.”
Una Roberts Lawrence Papers
Gartenhaus, Jacob. Traitor? : A Jew, a book, a miracle: an autobiography. Nashville: Nelson, 1980