Convert from Judaism, b. at Strasburg, 6 March, 1791; d. end of January, 1868, at Rome. Rosenthal’s “Convertitenbilder” (III, 48) prefaces the autobiography of Drach with the following words:
“The conversion of this learned Jewish proselyte is undoubtedly one of the most important conversions effected by the grace of God during this century in France and became the source of salvation to many of his coreligionists.” This conversion, affecting one who enjoyed the highest esteem as an author and a learned rabbi, produced a most 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 endeavours to lead his coreligionists to the living fountain of truth, to the acknowledgment of Jesus as the real and true Messias, crystallized in numerous writings and were blessed by God. Herein lies the net result of this scholar’s conversion.
Drach received his first instruction at the hands of his father, a renowned Hebraist and Talmudic scholar, whose linguistic talents the son inherited. At the age of twelve Drach entered the first division of the Talmudic school in Edendorf near Strasburg. This course of study, lasting ordinarily for three years, he completed in one year, and entered the second division of the Talmudic school in Bischheim in the following year. He graduated in eighteen months and then matriculated in Westhofen to qualify as a teacher of the Talmud. When only sixteen years of age he accepted the position of instructor at Rappoltsweiler, remaining there three years; afterwards he followed the same profession in Colmar. Here the ambitious youth devoted himself zealously to the study of secular sciences to which he had already seriously applied himself while prosecuting his Talmudic studies.
Having obtained the rather unwilling permission of his father, he went to Paris, where he received a call to a prominent position in the Central Jewish Consistory and at the same time fulfilled the duties of tutor in the household of a distinguished Jew. The marked results of his method of teaching induced even Christian families to entrust their children to his care. It was under these circumstances that he received the first impulse towards a change of his religious views which ultimately resulted in his conversion.
He writes: “Stirred by the edifying examples of Catholic piety continually set before me to the furtherance of my own salvation, the tendency towards Christianity, born in earlier life, acquired such strength that I resisted no longer.” He now applied himself studiously to patristic theology and specialized in the study of the Septuagint with a view towards ascertaining the truth of the unanimous reproach of the Fathers, viz. that the Jews had falsified the Hebrew text. These studies resulted in his unquestioned belief in the Divinity and Messiahship of Jesus Christ. On Maundy Thursday, 1823, he renounced Judaism in the presence of Archbishop Quélen, in Paris, was baptized the following (Holy) Saturday, and on Easter morning received his first Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation. Two daughters and an infant son were also baptized. His wife, the only member of the family who adhered stanchly to the old faith, abducted the children. They were returned, however, after two years.
After a few years Drach went to Rome, where he was appointed librarian of the Propaganda (1827), which office he held at his death. Among the many converts who trace their conversion to the influence of Drach’s example are the Libermann brothers; Franz Maria Paul Libermann was especially indebted to Drach for his sound advice and active assistance in the establishment of the “Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. Of Drach’s numerous writings the following deserves particular mention: “Lettres d’un rabbin converti aux Israélites, ses frères” (Paris, 1825). He also published the “Bible de Vence”, with annotations (Paris, 1827- 1833) in 27 volumes octavo. He remodelled the Hebrew-Latin Dictionary of Gesenius, and published a Catholic Hebrew-Chaldaic dictionary of the Old Testament (ed. Migne, Paris, 1848). He wrote, moreover, “Du divorce dans la synagogue” (Rome, 1840); “Harmonie entre l’église et la synagogue” (Paris, 1844); and “La Cabale des Hébreux” (Rome, 1864).
Ed. The book, Harmony Between the Church and the Synagogue, has recently been translated into Spanish. It is available on Amazon.