In 1820, a volume entitled Israel Vindicated, written by "An Israelite," was published in New York City. It was the first Jewish polemic composed in response to the founding of a missionary society, the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews, and it remained influential throughout the nineteenth century. The author of this work, however, has never been identified. Nor has the volume itself received the attention it deserves. This article attempts to fill both of these lacunae.
Section one describes and analyzes Israel Vindicated. It places the work within the context of its times, and compares it to other, more traditional anti-Christian polemics. Section two outlines the postpublication history of Israel Vindicated. Soon after it appeared, some New Yorkers attempted to have the work banned, and its author exposed and punished. Later, the work was variously invoked by Jews and Judeophobes alike, though, of course, for different purposes. In section three, the author of Israel Vindicated assumes center stage. A review of old and new evidence leads to the conclusion that the work flowed from the pen of freethinker George Houston, assisted probably by his Jewish printer, Abraham Collins. Finally, section four analyzes the motivations of George Houston and his Jewish supporters. As is shown, this was far from the first time that Jews joined forces temporarily with other, sometimes hostile minority groups in pursuit of self-interest. Adversity makes strange bedfellows.