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Some Notable Jewish Catholics of the Past and Present

The following list is from Rosalie Marie Levy's (a Jewish Catholic) book, The Heavenly Road

In it she quotes the words of Pope Pius XI, who in 1925 on being told that he man he was greeting (a Mr. Boas) was a Jewish convert, said: "Then it is for you a sacred duty of gratitude to make all possible efforts to share with other Jews the grace which you have received."  It is in that spirit that this list is being presented:

Alfonso, de Zamora, a Spanish rabbi, was baptized in 1506. He gave valuable assistance to Cardinal Ximenes in compiling his Polyglot Bible, and died in 1531. (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. I, p. 309.)

Alionsus, Petrus, 1062 (born Moses Sephardi), was converted on St. Peter’s day, 1106, and died in 1110. King Alfonsus I of Aragon, whose physician-in-ordinary he became, stood sponsor at his Baptism. As his conversion was attributed by his former coreligionists to ulterior motives. he published a famous reply in twelve dialogues, frequently re-edited.

Alimena, Marchioness Fede, of Rome, Italy, and her mother, Mrs. Levy.

Baroness Franchetti, and son. Battista, Giovanni Giuda Giona (originally Jehuda Jona Ben-Isaac), was born in 1558, As he was a rabbi, his conversion created a sensation.  In later years he taught Hebrew and Aramaic at the Academy of Pisa and then at the Propaganda in Rome.  His principal literary work was the translation of the Gospels from Latin into Hebrew, which were published with a preface by Pope Clement IX.

Benziger, Mrs. Gertrude Lytton, wife of August Benziger, the painter.

Bertha, Princess, wife of Prince Alexander. Duke de Wagram. and her sister, the Duchess of Gramont. Daughters of Baron Charles de Rothschild. banker of Frankfort, Germany.

Brother Anthony (Wallerstein), Capuchin Monastery. Brooklyn, N. Y.

Cassel, Sir Ernest, the great Jewish financier of I.ondon, who died in September, 1921. In his will he directed that his funeral be held at the Jesuit Church in Farm Street. He was a close friend of King Edward VII.

de Forest, Lord, London, England (born Maurice Arnold Bishoffsheim), adopted son and heir of the great Baron Hirsch.

dc Graffenreil, Baron Leo, Paris. Born in New York.

de Ponte, Lorenzo (originally Emmanuel Conegliano), was born in 1749 and died in 1838.  When he was fourteen years of age his father and all the members of his family were baptized in the Cathedral of Ceneda, Italy. The Bishop, Lorenzo de Ponte, seeing the talents of the boy, gave him his own name and sent him to the diocesan seminary to he educated for a literary career. After teaching in the University of Treviso, and it writing for Mozart the librettos of the operas "I.e Nozze di Figaro," "Don Giovanni" and "Cosi Fan Tutti," he went to London and later emigrated to New York, where he taught Italian and was connected with Columbia University. He was the first teacher in America to lecture on Dante’s "Divina Commedia."

de Spina, Alfonso. After his conversion he entered the Franciscan Order. For many years he was superior of the house oi studies of the Friars Minor at Salamanca, in Spain, and in 1491 was created Bishop of Thermopylae in Greece. He was a man of great learning and a renowned Preacher.  His chief title to fame was the "Fortalitium Fidei." (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 14, p. 216.)

 Drach, David Paul, was born in 1791 and died in 1868. He was baptized by Archbishop Quelen, in Paris, on Holy Saturday, 1823, with his two daughters and son. As he enjoyed the highest esteem as an author and a learned rabbi, his conversion produced a profound impression on all active and earnest minds of the rising generation and incited them to the study of the more serious problems of life. His endeavors to lead his coreligionists to the living fountain of truth, to the acknowledgement of Jesus as the real and true Messiah, crystallized in numerous writings and were blessed by God.  "Many converts trace their conversion to the influence of Drach's example" (Scheid,) (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 152.)

Drach, Paul Augustin 1817-1895, son of the preceding, was baptized in 1823. He studied for the priesthood at the Propaganda College in Rome, and was ordained there in 1846. For many years he was a Canon of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris.  As a Biblical exegete he held an important place, and to him we are indebted for a large commentary in French. (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, p. 152.)

Fellner, Miss Julia Marie, was haptizcd March 3, 1895, at St. Francis Xavier’s Church, New York City. She later became a religious. Her sisters also embraced the Catholic Faith.

Fox, Rev. Wm. A., S.S.S.   (son of Prof. Wm. B. Fox), and his sister, who became a religious in Montreal, Can.

Fox, Prof. Wm. B., B.Sc., Professor of Physics, College of the City of New York.

Goldstein, David, ex-Socialist, author and lecturer, Boston, Mass.

Goschler, Rev. Isidore, was born in 1804 at Strasbourg. where became a barrister. He attended the lectures on philosophy of M. Bautain. He embraced the Catholic Faith in 1827 with his fellow-student, Jules Lewel, and became Professor of Philosophy at Besancon. He was ordained priest  at Strasbourg in 1830 and later became Director of the College Stanislas in Paris, in which city he died in June, 1866.

Harte, Bret, Jr., son of Bret Harte, the novelist.  Grandson of Bret Harte, of the New York Stock Exchange.

Held, Anna, the French actress, was received into the Church prior to her death.

Hepner, Rev. Martin G., C.SS.R., St. Mary's College, North East, Pa. (1899.)

Hilarius, Rev. Fr., who was at rabbi in Ingolstadt, Germany, before he embraced Catholicism, became a Benedictine Monk and died at the Benedictine Monastery in Warsaw on May 3, 1928.

Hill, Rev, Ernest Samuel. He was ordained in 1905 and was stationed at Shanklin, Isle of Wight.

Hirsch and Lehmann, the painters.

Hoffsugoth, Rev. Jacob, C.P. He was pastor of St. Michael's Church, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Isaacs, Godfrey, of London, brother of the Earl of Reading, Viceroy of India. (1925.)

Joseph, Count of Scythopolis, an important personage in the reign of Constantine. In thanksgiving for his conversion he built the first church at Tiberias, and one at Capharnaum, where Jesus had chosen His first disciples.

Keiley, Mrs., wife of Judge A. M, Keiley, Judge of the International Court at Cairo.

Klacko, Julian, was born in 1825 and died in 1906. After taking the doctor`s degree in 1847 at the University of Konigsberg he went to Heidelberg to continue his studies under Gervinus, who appointed him a collaborator on the "Deutsche Zeitung," a periodical for Russian and Polish affairs. "He was by far the most powerful intellect and the most brilliant writer of Poland during the latter half of the nineteenth century." (Tarnowski.) (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 8, p. 665.)

Klyber, Andrew B., Kirkwood, Mo. (1920.)

Kohn, The Most Rev. Dr., Prince Archbishop of Olmutz, Bohemia.

Kronold, Madame Selma, the New York singer.

Lemann, Joseph, and brother, Augustin, of France. They both became priests.

Levy. Father, Dominican priest, who gave his life for the Faith in Mesopotamia.

Levy, Mr. Harry, Superintendent of a department in the City Hospital, Boston, Mass. (1908.)

Lewel, Rt. Rev. Jules, who was born in Nancy in 1801. He studied philosophy at Strasbourg under M. Bautain and was baptized a Catholic in 1827. He was ordained priest in 1829 and later was appointed Apostolic Protonotary and Rector of St. Louis in Rome, in which city he died in October, 1870.

Lewel, Rev. Nestor, brother of ]ules Lewel.

Libermann, Father Francis Mary Paul (born Jacob), Alsace, France.

Marcus, Benjamin. Rabbinical scholar; author of "Kur Hayem,” etc.

Mendelssohn, Dorothea, was born in 1765 and died in 1839. She was the  daughter and eldest child of Moses Mendelssohn, the philosopher, and aunt of the renowned composer, Felix Mendelssohn -Bartholdy. By her first marriage, to a Jew named Simon Veit, she had two sons, the younger of whom, Philip, followed his mother into the Catholic Church.  Dorothea married, secondly, the brilliant Friedrich Schlegel in 1808, becoming at the time a Protestant.  Two years later they both became Catholics. Dorothea's later years were spent with her husband and sons at Rome and finally at Frankfort-on-the-Main. This gifted woman was a novelist and litterateur in general, musical, and famed for her repartee.

Mendelssohn, Henrietta, sister of Dorothea, conducted a boarding school in Paris.  At first she was bitterly opposed to Catholicism, but through the edifying example of one of her pupils, Fanny Sebastiani (subsequently the Duchess de Choiseul-Praslin) she entered the Church about 1813.

Mergentheim, Rev, Leo, J.U.D. (Bonn University.)  Priest of the Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany. Son of a Jewish banker in Chicago, Ill.

Meyer, Arthur, director of Le Gaulois, a Paris daily. He was the son of Rabbi Meyer oF Le Havre. He became a Catholic a few years before the war and died Feb. 2, 1924, at the age of eighty years.

Mickle, Mrs. Elizabeth Etting, wife of Robert Mickle of Philadelphia, Pa.; Member of the famous Etting family of merchants and bankers of Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Monaco, The Princess of, born Alice Heine, New Orleans, La., daughter of the wealthy Jewish banker and grandniece of the poet Heine.

Mother Lucie (formerly Madame Marx Mayer) and Mother Marie (formerly Madame Pierre Franck) were baptized on May 1, 1845. They served for more than sixty years as religious in the Congregation of Notre Dame de Sion.

Nathan, the Misses, daughters of Grand Master Nathan of the Italian Free Masons.

Netter, Blanche, daughter of Grand Rabbi Netter of Metz. She later be-came a Carmelite nun.

Netto, His Emminence Sebastian Cardinal, O.F.M. Patriarch of Lisbon.

O’Brien, Mrs. Sophie Raffalovich, London. Novelist.

Olmer, Abbé, priest, whose entire family followed him into the Church, two of his sisters entering the religious state.  

Paul of Burgos (born Solomon Ha-Levi), a Spanish Archhishop, lord chancellor and exegete, was born at Burgos about 1351 and died on August 29, 1435. He was the most wealthy and influential Jew of Burgos, a rabbi and scholar of the first rank in Talmudic acid rabbinical literature. The irresistible logic of the Summa of St. Thomas led him to become a Catholic. He received Baptism on July 2, 1390. His brothers, Pedro Suarez and Alvar Garcia, together with his daughter and four boys were baptized with him. (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 11, p. 588.)

Pescarole, Senator, one of the greatest surgeons of Italy, was received into the Catholic Church by Cardinal Gamba in 1927. He died in 1930.

Pfefferkorn, Johannes, was born in 1469. He embraced Catholicism in 1505 at Cologne, together with his wife and children, and died in 1522. His efforts to convert his former coreligionists were unceasing.

Polonnais, M., Editor of the Paris "Gaulois." (1902.)

Raffalovich, Andre Sebastian, London. Poet and essayist.

Ratisbonne, Father Marie Theodore, Strasbourg, Germany

Ratisbonne, Father Marie Alphonse, Strasbourg, Germany

Rosenfeld, Rev. Hilary, O.S.B. Priest of the Diocese of Leavenworth, Kansas. (Deceased.) Son of a Bohemian rabbi. Hilary, too, became a rabbi and served in that capacity for 2 1/2 years at Cham, Bavaria.  He was baptized a Catholic on Oct. 18, 1887, and studied for the priesthood.

Schaffel, Rev. Paul, D.D. Priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wis.

Sister Mary Agnes, O.S.D. (Rose Goldstein of Newark, N. J.) (1920.)

Sister M. Aquin, Milwaukee, Wis. (1918.)

Sister M. Philip, Milwaukee, Wis., sister of the above. (1918.)

Sister Mary of St. Therese (Blanche Elkan, Boston. Mass,). Good Shepherd nun, Montreal, Can.

Sister St. Ignatius (Miss Levy), Marysville, Cal.

Sister Josephiine, Rome, Italy.

Sister Josephine (Theresa Zeitler of Philadelphia, Pa.). She entered the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis in Cincinnati in 1872 and spent 56 years in religious life. She died on June 9, 1928, at the Provincial House, Hartwell.

Sister Stanislaus, Sister of Charity (Priscilla Cohen of New Orleans, La.). She died in 1914. All of her family, with the exception of her father, ernbraced the Catholic Faith after her conversion.

Sister Stella (née Cecilia Hermann), of New York City. (1908.)

Souhami, Mrs., her two daughters, and son, a Benedictine monk.

Veit, Rev. James. Priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

Veit, Philip, was born in 1793 and died in 1877. He was the son of Dorothea Mendelssohn and was baptized in 1810. He became one of the leaders of the Rornanticist school of painting, and was the best pupil of Overbeck and Cornelius at Rome. First, he directed the Stadel Institute at Frankfort, making it one of the chief centers of German Romantic art.    Later he accepted a call as director at Mainz. His art lectures have been edited by Kaufmann.

Veith, Johann Emmanuel, was born in 1787 and died in 1876. He was famous both as a physician and preacher. Before his conversion he was director of the school of veterinary medicine at Vienna, and author of a valuable compendium in two volumes of veterinary surgery, and an outline of botanical medicine. After his Baptism in 1816 he turned to theology and was ordained in 1821. He became a Redemptorist and for forty-two years served as a priest at Maria Stiegen and the Cathedral at Vienna. "He never made use of the arts of secular orators to create a sensation; least of all did he wish to be a fashionable preacher ..., Priests, scholars, literary men, artists, and students came with eagerness to hear him proclaim the word of God." (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, p. 322.)

Wurmser, Madame, of Hungary. She was baptized Nov. 7, 1842, in Paris. with her two daughters, Elisa and Anna. Elisa changed her name to Alphonsine and later became a religious of Notre Dame de Sion.


 Alcalda, Mayor, of Nacodoches, Texas. He was confirmed in 1850 by Bishop Odiv. the hrst Bishop of Texas.

Allers, Professor, renowned psychologist, formerly of Vienna; now at the Catholic University, Washington, D. C.

Baerwald, Friedrich, eminent economist; now teaching at Fordham University, New York City.

Baggers-Szekeres, Eugene. He has risen to fame in America and Britain.

Boas, Mr J., Editor "De Maasbode", Holland.  During an audience with Pope Pius XI in 1925, the Holy Father on being told that Mr. Boas was a convert from Judaism said: "Then it is for you a sacred duty of gratitude to make all possible efforts to share with other Jews the grace which you have received."

Cattaoni, Geoges, diplomat of Egypt.

Chorin, Dr. Franz, Budapest; industrial and political leader, son of Rabbi Aaron Chorin. (1925.)

Cohen, Prof. Gustave, at the Sorbonne.

De Menasce, Rev. Jean, member of the French Embassy at the Vatican.

Doeblin, A., novelist of Germany. He entered the Church while living as a refugee in the United States.

Friedmann, Walter Heinrich, of Germany, author of "'The Cross and the Star: The Way of a Convert from the Torah to the Host."

Gurian,  Waldemar, of Russia; now Professor at Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, Ind., and editor of "Review of Politics."

Herz, Rev. Lukas, O.S.B., Oberbayer, Germany.

Jacob, Max, poet and surrealist painter of France. He died in a concentration camp during the war.

Karpeles, Dr. Benno, formerly a writer on the staff of the "Arbeiter-Zeitung," a Socialist newspaper in Vienna.  After visiting Theresa Neumann, the stigmatist of Konnnersreuth, Gerrnany, several times, he was baptized on March 14, 1932, in the little church at Konnersreuth, and Theresa was his godmother.