Ludwig Jacoby 1813-1874
Jacoby was born in Mechlenburg, Germany, to an orthodox Jewish family. His family apprenticed him to a Hamburg merchant, for whom he became a travelling salesman. He came into contact with many Christians, whose way of life impressed him. Curious, he began to investigate about the Christian faith and became convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah of Israel, and the Redeemer of all mankind.
As his work developed he travelled to England and, ultimately, to America. While working in Cincinnati he chanced to hear the renowned Methodist preacher William Nast. On Christmas Eve, 1839, Jacoby joined the Methodist church and was “licensed to exhort”. Ten days after his conversion he had written in glowing terms about prayer meetings to friends in Germany: “My only wish is that all my fellow German countrymen could see the joy that prevails in such meetings, and if their hearts were not made of stone they certainly could not resist the Spirit of God.”
Jacoby married Amelia Theresa Nuelsen, also a Methodist. He was commissioned as a missionary to St. Louis, MIssouri, by the founder of the German Methodist church in America, William Nast, and traveled there with his wife and newborn baby in 1841. There they found an old church building and decided to hold services there. When no one turned up for the meetings, Jacoby took to ringing the church bells vigorously. Within a short time, people came to the church to see what was happening. This was how Jacoby assembled his first congregation for the first Methodist church west of the Mississippi.
In the early days at St. Louis, Jacoby encountered many difficulties and met with many obstructions. Ruffians fired pistols in the congregation, smeared the church steps with tar, and tossed rocks through the windows. But within three months the church had twenty-two members, and within a year his congregation built its own church at a cost of twelve hundred dollars. Two more congregations were eventually established in other parts of the city.
Jacoby was also involved in matters of education, particularly for the German immigrants. He helped to found German day-schools that taught English, and composed an English-German grammar textbook.
In the mid 1840s Jacoby traveled to Germany and brought Methodism there. He established churches, orphanages, and missions in both Germany and Switzerland. Later, he returned to America where he died in 1874.
Gartenhaus, Jacob. Famous Hebrew Christians. Baker Book House, 1979.
Olasky, Marvin. Timeline of notable Jewish Christians of the Past five Centuries. World Magazine, March 2, 2002.
Puy, William Harrison de. The Methodist Year-Book 1921. No. 88. Methodist Book Concern.