Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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FREY, Joseph Samuel Christian Frederick, clergyman, born in May at Stockheim, Franconia, Germany, in 1773 ; died in Pontiac, Michigan, 5 June 1850. His father, Samuel Levi, was a Jewish teacher, and expounder of rabbinical law. His mother supported the family by keeping a small shop. At six years of age he read the five books of Moses in the original, and was daily instructed by a private tutor in the Jewish lawand Tahnud, every opportunity being used to inspire him with a hatred of Christianity. At the age of nine the study of Mischna and Gemara, digests of Jewish traditions, were added to his theological Textbooks. On attaining early manhood he removed to Hesse and taught Hebrew children, as private tutor.
At twenty-one he became a leader in the synagogue, read the prayers and law, and spent a whole year in learning the Jewish method of killing fowls, or beasts. About this period, while journeying from Hamburg to Schwerin, in the hope of obtaining at the latter town a more lucrative office, he met a Christian, who suggested to him novel ideas regarding the Messiah. He was impressed with the doctrines of the new religion, and, after three or four years of mental struggle, adopted them as his own. In May 1798, he was baptized and received into the Protestant communion. In 1799 he entered the theological seminary established in Saxony by Baron yon Shiernding for the education of missionaries, studied there for one year, and then went to London, with the intention of going to Africa as a missionary. He afterward changed his purpose and decided to remain in England and become an evangelist to his own people, His family, on learning his apostasy, enacted all the ceremonies, which would have been performed at his death. For the next seven years he labored in connection with the London missionary society, traveling through the United Kingdom, preaching to whatever Jewish congregations he could muster, suffering much obloquy and privation and meeting with little encouragement.
In 1816 he removed with his family to New York, established the Mulberry Street Congregationalist Church, and was ordained its pastor in 1818. In 1820 he founded the American society for meliorating the condition of the Jews. The object of this association was to establish an asylum for Christian Hebrews from all parts of the world. The enterprise proved a failure, and occupied several years of fruitless labor. In 1827, Mr. Frey, convinced of the necessity of immersion, left the Congregationalist Church and became a Baptist. He held several small charges as a member of that denomination, and in 1837 resigned his pastorate to go to Europe as an agent for the American society for the conversion of the Jews. He remained abroad three years, but the mission was not favorably received. He returned to New York, lectured weekly in the South Baptist Church to such Jews as He could induce to form his congregation, went on missionary journeys through the southern and southwestern states, and finally settled in Pontiac, Michigan, where he taught Hebrew in the preparatory department of the State University. His published works are "Narrative of my Life" (New York, 1809);" Hebrew Bible" (1811); "Hebrew Grammar" (1813'23); "Judah and Israel" (1837); "Lectures of Scripture Types" (1841); and "Report of the Agency in Europe" (1842).
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