Almost Consul to Jerusalem
Can you name the first man appointed U.S. Consul to Jerusalem? In 1844, Warder Cresson was appointed, but never served, as the appointment was revoked while he was en route. Cresson’s journey to the Holy Land would have a profound effect on this earnest, truth-searching man.
Born in Philadelphia in 1798, Cresson was raised as a Quaker. In his middle years, married with a family and a successful farm, he began questioning his fellow Quakers’ way of life and wrote a scathing pamphlet calling on them to live more humbly.
Cresson’s appointment to Jerusalem was no accident. It appears, in fact, that he may have even petitioned for it, believing that in Jerusalem he would be able to watch the ingathering of the exiles and the “second coming.” A few years prior to his appointment, Cresson had met Rabbi Isaac Leeser of Congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia. Their friendship inspired Cresson’s interest in Judaism.
Although he had no official office, Cresson remained in Jerusalem. He was fascinated by the vibrant Jewish life, particularly noting the sacrifice of material wealth that these Jews made in order to live according to the rules of the Torah. By mid-1848, Warder Cresson chose to convert. He had himself circumcised and officially became Michael Boaz Yisrael ben Abraham.
Warder Cresson’s journey of faith did not please those whom he had left behind. When he returned to the States to settle his affairs before moving to Jerusalem permanently, his wife, Elizabeth Towsend, and one of his sons had him declared insane by the court. His appeals trial called nearly 100 witnesses and turned into a major media event. Four years after he first returned from Jerusalem, the court found in Cresson’s favor.
With the court case resolved (and his sanity confirmed), Cresson returned to Jerusalem and assumed the lifestyle of the Sephardic Jews there. He remarried and devoted himself to the goal of agricultural redemption of the land. He died in November 1860 and was buried on the Mount of Olives.
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A Convert of the Inquisition
Abraham ben Abraham
The Emperor’s Nephew
Lord George Gordon
The Book of Ruth