Rev Henry Aaron Stern

Rev Henry Aaron Stern

A carte-de-visite portrait of the Anglican missionary Henry Aaron Stone, at one time a captive in Abyssinia.

Born a Jew in Germany in 1820, Henry Aaron Stern converted to Christianity in London in 1840 and in 1842 entered the Hebrew College of the London Jews' Society, with the intention of eventually becoming a missionary to the Jews. Between 1844 and 1849 he worked as a missionary in Palestine and Persia, being ordained deacon by the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem on 14 July 1844. In 1849 he returned to England and was ordained priest by the Bishop of London on 23 December 1849. In 1853 he returned to Bagdad, where he remained for three years before taking charge of the society’s mission in Constantinople. In 1856 he conducted a mission to the Caraite Jews in the Crimea, followed by a missionary tour among the Jews of Arabia in 1856. In 1859 he travelled to Abyssinia where King Tewodros gave him permission to preach to the Falashas. However, following various slights at the hands of Lord John Russell and the British Foreign Office, the king’s attitude to Britain changed. Stern was summoned to appear before Tewodros in October 1863 at Gondar, where he was beaten and put in chains, along with his LJS assistant, Mr Rosenthal. Incarceration in various Abyssinian locations followed and in 1864 they were joined in captivity by the British consul, Cameron, and other Europeans. Stern was subjected to particularly cruel tortures and indignities, having reflected in print on the king’s ferocity and having stated that his mother had been a vendor of Kosso, a drug derived from the Hagenia plant.

The captives eventually gained their freedom through the successful British expedition to Abyssinia in 1868. Stern immediately returned to England where large audiences attended his many lectures on the story of his captivity. He continued his work on behalf of the LJS among the Jews of London until the end of his life. He died in Hackney on 13 May 1885 and was buried in the City of London cemetery in Ilford.

Photographed by Maull and Co of London.

An inked inscription verso in a fine period hand reads: 'Reverend H.A. Stern / Missionary and sometime / captive in / Abyssinia / Wellington Jan 14th / 1869'.


Code: 123439
© Paul Frecker 2023