Mark Kagan (1885 - 1987)
Mark Kagan was born in Riga, capital city of the little Baltic Republic of Latvia, long before that small country was swallowed up in the Soviet Union. There were three synagogues in that city, all served by one rabbi, Mark's father, whose family consisted of three boys and three girls. The boys just had to receive two kinds of education, a religious and a secular. The religious one was provided at home, but the secular required Mark, in particular, having to go to a school in Bremen for two years. One day, while there, Mark sat opposite a German pastor in a restaurant, and he had a large Bible on the table in front of him. The pastor looked at young Mark for a while, and then addressed him, "Excuse me," he said, "I believe you are a son of Abraham?" Mark replied with, "What has that to do with you?" The pastor responded, "I am very interested because I love the Jews." Mark's retort was: "How can a German pastor love the Jews?" his reply was, "Because Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew, as were the apostles and prophets".

Opening his large Bible the pastor read to him from Isa. 52:13 right through to the end of chapter 53. Mark had never heard that passage read before. The pastor explained that those words referred to Jesus of Nazareth whom he claimed was the Jewish Messiah. Mark couldn't accept that and the conversation ended with the pastor volunteering that he was giving up his church in Bremen and moving to London.

Mark completed that part of his education and in 1902, he too moved to London where he had relatives. (His sisters went to Canada but his brothers remained in Riga where they were eventually murdered when their country was overrun by the Nazis.) Mark settled in the East End of London where there was a large Jewish population. One day he was walking in Whitechapel when he felt a hand on his shoulder. It was the pastor from Bremen who said, "God has put you in touch with me again and I will not let you go." They met regularly for about six months when the pastor led him to Christ. Mark always said, "A Jew led me to Christ and his name was Isaiah."

The pastor introduced him to Gorringe Park House Mitcham, a Home for about twenty young Jews where he met another Hebrew Christian, J. Yoelson-Taffin, also from Riga. They became lifelong friends working together in Jewish mission. Young Mark attended a church in London pastored by an evangelical who taught him that Jesus was not only the Jewish Messiah, but also Mark Kagan's Lord. As a result he was baptised.

Gorringe Park House belonged to the Barbican Mission, through which a large number of Jewish young men were brought to Christ. Mark went to work with that Mission and was put in charge of their work in Whitechapel, where he continued for thirteen years. Later he transferred to the Mildmay Mission to the Jews, which was more evangelical. Mark married a Christian lady school-teacher in 1915, by whom he had one daughter. He might have been interned as a foreigner in World War One but he volunteered for service in the Non-Combatant Corps. He became a naturalised British citizen in 1920.

Workers with the Mildmay Mission received no salary as a faith mission and the Lord was expected to supply all the workers' needs. He led many Jews to Christ in those days, but was not entirely happy with the Mission and he finally left them, venturing out completely on faith to preach wherever the Lord called him.

It was natural for Mark Kagan to have a keen interest in the spiritual welfare of his fellow Jews. Therefore he was for years Director of the American Board of Missions to the Jews. He was also a frequent contributor to their Yiddish paper, "Shepherd of Israel". His longest connection with a society was his lifelong membership of the Society for Distributing Hebrew Scriptures which was founded by his friend, Mr. Yoelson-Taffin.

It was in the early 1920's that Mark Kagan sought fellowship with the saints in South Park Chapel, in which fellowship he continued until the end of World War Two. From 1945 until 1968 he fellowshipped in High Barnet. The remaining years of his life he was in Berrymede Hall in Acton.

If it is natural for a converted Jew to seek the salvation of his fellow Jews, it is equally natural for him to be interested in the prophetic word. It was probably in the inter-war years that Mark Kagan was most busy moving about the assemblies giving addresses on prophecy. The bound volume of "The Believers' Magazine" for 1936 tells about him addressing New Year conferences at Ayr and Kilmarnock on January 1, at Glasgow and Larkhall on January 2, and at Dalry and Newmilns on January 3. He spent a week that same month at Airdrie and another at Overtown in Lanarkshire. The next month, February, he was in Larkhall and Kilmarnock, Glengarnock and Wishaw. He was still in Scotland in March and spoke at the Ayrshire Missionary Conference as well as at Shawlands, (Glasgow), at Rutherglen and Blantyre.

One of Mark's great joys was to visit Palestine for himself before it became the State of Israel. An even greater joy was to point a Jew to the Saviour while he was there, and then at his own request to baptize him in the River Jordan where the Lord Himself had been baptised. That visit added to the list of subjects on which Mark Kagan gave addresses - evangelism among Jews, prophecy, and now the Life and Customs of Bible lands illustrated with slides.

In addition to magazine articles, Mark Kagan published booklets including "Palestine and the Jew today in the Light of Scripture", "The Certainty and Nearness of Christ's Coming","The Jewish Passover: How is it Kept Today?" "God and the World Crisis" and "British Israelism Examined by an Israelite". Service-wise, Mark Kagan's first love was the Society for distributing Hebrew Scriptures. He actually retired from its Council shortly after his 100th birthday, saying, "Now that I am one hundred years and four months old, the Lord has told me that I can retire from the Council. You can do without me now. I will not be leaving the Society for I will always be part of this work." Within a few months he had withdrawn his resignation because he couldn't bear to live and not be involved. That Society has sent bi-lingual New Testaments to almost every country the world. Its motto, and Mark Kagan's was "To the Jew first."

The grand old saint attended his own 100th birthday celebration and spoke for almost an hour without notes on the Messiah in Isaiah’s prophecy. He attended one more annual meeting of the Council of the Society for Distributing Hebrew Scriptures at which he pronounced the blessing in Hebrew and spoke with power about the return of the Saviour. Within a week of the next meeting, suffering from a slight cold and cough, he slipped off his chair and into the Lord's presence at the advanced age of hundred and one and a half years.

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