Solomon de Vidas
De Vidas was just seventeen years old when he came to faith, apparently through the testimony of Lewis Way, a missionary of the London Society in Smyrna (Turkey). Gidney writes of him in his history of the London Society.
“Lewis shewed unremitting attention to Jews suffering from cholera in 1832, and this gave him access to many families. He also attempted to establish a dispensary for the sick and wretched victims, which further increased his opportunities and brought him into contact with Jews from Trieste, Venice, Ancona, the Ionian Islands, Salonica, Egypt, and Syria, as well as from Smyrna. On August 19th he reaped the first-fruits of his self-denying labours in the baptism of two young Israelites. In January of the following year (1833), two Jews, natives of Trieste, were baptized; and on Good Friday, a Venetian Jew. Lewis thus received five Jews into the Church within a few months, whilst others had been under Christian instruction.
The Jews soon commenced their persecution of these enquirers. Lewis was seriously thinking of sending twelve of them to Patmos, or to Greece, out of harm’s way, when his purpose was frustrated. The young men were in their own Jewish quarter, waiting for the moment of embarkation, when one of them, Solomon de Vidas, a lad of seventeen, was apprehended and taken before the chief rabbi. Referring to this Lewis said :
He bore testimony to the truth respecting the Messiah as well as he was able, and in such a firm manner, in the midst of a crowd of Jews, as to astonish every one. The old rabbi could make nothing of him, and he exclaimed in a rage, as Solomon was going on quoting texts from the Bible, “Let him be sent to the wicked one!” Off he was then dragged and put into the hands of the Turkish authorities. The horrible dungeon was, of course, immediately opened to receive him. The tortures common on such occasions were, without loss of time, prepared, and his feet and limbs were put into them. He was now threatened with the hot irons, in order to oblige him to declare the names of all the others who were in the habit of frequenting our house; but notwithstanding every threat and everything that was done to him, he still stood firm, and betrayed no one. He passed a dreadful night, and had been four and twenty hours in torture, when it was determined to have him regularly bastinadoed.
Lewis interfered, and got him removed to a prison attached to the Dutch Consulate, where he visited him. Compared with the place from whence he had been taken, Solomon must have felt himself to be in a palace. Lewis said :
Few can imagine what the miseries of a Turkish dungeon are, especially to a Jew thrown in for religion’s sake. From the little Solomon was able at that moment to state, he must have suffered dreadfully, but indeed he seemed to be so exhausted and worn down, though so short a time amongst his cruel persecutors, that he could scarcely speak.
Lewis endeavoured to comfort and encourage him. He sent him a bed and brought him food and the New Testament. Eventually, through the influence of the Dutch Consul, he was released, and carried away in triumph. Lewis relinquished the work in 1838, having been appointed British Chaplain. John Cohen, who had been assisting Lewis for some years, now took charge of the mission.
Gidney, W.T. The HIstory of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews, from 1809 to 1908. London, 1908 chapter XXVII