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David Paul Drach

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David Paul Drach (b. Strasbourg, 6 March 1791; d. end of January, 1868, Rome) was a Catholic convert from Judaism, and librarian of the College of Propaganda in Rome.

Drach received his first instruction at the hands of his father, a renowned[specify] Hebraist and Talmudic scholar. At the age of twelve Drach entered the first division of the Talmudic school in Edendorf near Strasbourg. 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 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 in Rappoltsweiler, remaining there three years; afterwards he followed the same profession in Colmar.

Here the youth devoted himself to the study of secular sciences to which he had already seriously applied himself during 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 a Jewish household. The results of his method of teaching induced even Christian families to entrust their children to his care. 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 arguing that the Jews had falsified its 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 remained Jewish, is reported by the Catholic Encyclopedia to have 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. His conversion apparently inspired others, including that of Libermann brothers; Francis Libermann was especially grateful to Drach for his advice and assistance in the establishment of the "Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary".

Published works

  • Lettres d'un rabbin converti aux Israélites, ses frères (Paris, 1825)
  • Bible de Vence, with annotations (Paris, 1827- 1833) in 27 volumes octavo.
  • He remodelled the Hebrew-Latin Dictionary of Gesenius
  • Catholic Hebrew-Chaldaic dictionary of the Old Testament (ed. Migne, Paris, 1848)
  • Du divorce dans la synagogue (Rome, 1840);
  • Harmonie entre l'église et la synagogue (Paris, 1844)
  • La Cabale des Hébreux (Rome, 1864).


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