In the 19th century, secular trends developed in Europe which caused a decline in the respect of rabbinic authority among Jews. They drifted away from Jewish education, and Jewish educationalists, scholars, and rabbis felt the need to reform Judaism. Many Jews were attracted towards Christianity during this period. The Jews who converted to Christianity were known as Jewish Christians. Among them were people from different spheres of life, and they also included many famous Jews. There were a few reasons behind this conversion. Most of the famous Jews lived in a Christian society and found the Christian principles and practices quite attractive and acceptable. The Jewish Encyclopedia has provided some statistical data about the Jews’ conversion to Christianity. According to this source, about 2,000 European Jews converted to Christianity every year in the 19th century. During this period, 1,000 Jews from Hungary, 1,000 from Russia, and 500 Jews from Germany converted to Christianity.
1. Fritz Haber
Fritz Haber was born to Paula and Siegfried Haber in Breslau, Germany on December 9, 1868 and died in Basel, Switzerland on January 29, 1934 at the age of 65 years. Haber was a German chemist and a Nobel Laureate. Haber converted to Christianity from Judaism to promote his career in Germany where Jews were looked down upon and subjected to discrimination. He was the co-inventor of the famous Heber’“Bosch process for the production of nitric acid. His career was like a double-edged sword. He developed a method to produce a fertilizer which increased productivity and saved many from death by starvation. On the other hand, he invented the use of chlorine gas in wars and developed Zyklon B, used to kill in gas chambers millions of Jews in the Holocaust.
2. Benjamin Disraeli
Benjamin Disraeli was born in London, England on December 21, 1804 and died in London on April, 19 1881 at the age of 76. He was a Jew by birth but converted to Christianity and became a devout Anglican since he was 12 years old. He served the British Government for a long time, and this included twice as the British Prime Minister. He was a known rival of Gladstone. Queen Victoria helped Disraeli as she hated Gladstone. He had been in the House of Commons for about 40 years. He was created Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876 and shifted to the House of Lords. He was a famous social and literary figure. His writings, however, are atypical to Victorian literature. He introduced the political novel as a new genre. His best known political novels are Sybil and Vivian Grey.
3. Sarah, Theodora
Sarah, Theodora was the second wife of Tsar Emperor Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria. She was a Jewish daughter of a Venetian banker who lived in a Jewish neighborhood in Tarnovo. After many years of marriage, Ivan Alexander divorced her, forcing her to be a nun for the rest of her life. Sarah converted to Christianity adapting the name Theodora. She became a devout Eastern Orthodox Christian and extended her fullest support to Christianity. She played a pivotal role in dividing Bulgaria between her two sons; Ivan Shishman and Ivan Sratsimir. Although her date of death is not known exactly, it is generally accepted that she died in 1380.
4. Robert Moses
Robert Moses was born in New Haven, Connecticut, U.S. on December 18, 1888 and died in West Islip, New York, U.S. on July 29, 1981. He was the master builder of the 20th century in New York City, Rockland County, Westchester County, and Long Island. Ethnically, Moses was a Jew, but he was raised in a secular environment under the influence of the 19th century Ethical Culture Movement. He converted to Christianity and remained a devout Christian throughout his life. He contributed in the planning of huge and successful projects like New York’s large Parkway Network. He had control over many public authorities. He inspired a whole generation of engineers and urban planners.
5. Robert David Sanders Novak
Robert David Sanders Novak was born in Joliet, Illinois, U.S. on February 26, 1931 and died in Washington, D.C., U.S. on August 18, 2009 at the age of 78 years. He was an American author, television personality, and a conservative political commentator. Novak was raised as a Jew, but in the early 1990s he started attending Christian services. He converted to Christianity in 1998. He contributed to CNN since its foundation. He wrote for many magazines like Reader’s Digest. He also reported for the Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal. His friends called him the Prince of Darkness. He liked this expression and titled his autobiography after it. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and expired from this disease on August 18, 2009.
6. Hermann Goldschmidt
Hermann Goldschmidt was born as the son of a Jewish merchant in Frankfurt, Germany on June 17, 1802 and died of diabetic complications at Fontainebleau, France on August 26, 1866 at the age of 63 years. He was a German painter and an astronomer, but he spent most of his lifetime in France. In 1852 he discovered the asteroid Lutetia, and this followed the discovery of another 14 asteroids. For discovering more asteroids than anyone else, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1861. Goldsmith converted to Christianity, and at one time commented in reference to inter-faith dialogue ‘each tradition displays deficiencies as well as genius, as it were, in its prophetic stance.’
7. Lauren Frances Winner
Lauren Frances Winner was born to a Jewish father and a southern Baptist mother in 1976. During her studies for her master’s degree at Columbia University, she converted to Christianity. Her book A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith: Anglican Religious Practice in the Elite Households of Colonial Virginia is based upon her dissertation. She has worked as an assistant professor of Christian Spirituality at Duke Divinity School. Christianity Today demoted her to staff reporter when people started asking about why such a recent and young convert was given the status of a senior writer. She authored many books including: Mudhouse, Sabbath and Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity. On December 17, 2011, she was ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
8. Ludwig Dessoir
Ludwig Dessoir was born the son of a Jewish trader in December, 1810 and died on December 30, 1874. He later converted to Christianity. Ludwig Dessoir was best known for his interpretation of Shakespearean characters. He started his career at a theater in Posen and then was attached with Leipzig from 1834 to 1836 and later with the municipal theater of Breslau. He became famous after his performance as Othello and Hamlet in Berlin. He married twice, the first time to the famous actress Theresa. His second wife became mad after the death of their son.
9. Lovisa Sofia Augusti
Lovisa Sofia Augusti was born as Ester Salomon to a Jewish singer Israel Salomon in Germany in the year 1756 and died in Stockholm, Sweden on June 25, 1790 at the age of 33 years. She was a court singer and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. She became famous at an early age after singing in Gothenburg. In 1767 she converted to Christianity adapting her name as Lovisa Sofia Augusti. She converted along with her violinist brother to avoid regulations for non-Christians. At the age of 17 years, she sang for King Gustav III of Sweden in Kristianstad who was pleased to make her a court singer.
10. Michael Solomon Alexander
Michael Solomon Alexander was born in SchÃ¶nlanke, Provinz Posen, Prussia, on May 1, 1799 and died at Bilbeis, Egypt on November 23, 1845. He started learning the Talmud at the age of 7 years, and by the age of 17 years he was teaching the Talmud in German in his community. In 1820, he immigrated to England and became a rabbi at Norwich where he met William Marsh, an influential member of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews. He converted to Christianity in 1825. He was appointed bishop of the United Church of England and Ireland in Jerusalem and was ordained as a bishop at Lambeth Palace on December 7, 1841.
Company and communication have undeniable influences on the minds and hearts of people. Compared with Judaism, Christianity has been shared with more people and more effectively too. The conversion of famous Jews to Christianity in itself has been remarkable, and one conversion to Christianity by a famous Jew has almost always attracted many others Jews to follow. Quite a few Jews converted to Christianity in order to secure or promote their careers.