To the Jew First

Your Mission to the Jewish People has experienced more than 125 years of the
Lord’s loyalty and love! We have enjoyed a wonderful year of joyous celebration.
On November 15, we concluded our year of gratitude with a banquet in Brooklyn,
the birthplace of our ministry. We heard from Jay Sekulow, founder of the American Center for Law and Justice, and Janet Parshall of Moody Radio. Chosen People Ministries’ staff workers in Israel, former board members such as John Holbrook, as well as friends of our ministry including Ken Barun of the Billy Graham Association and Wayne Hilsden of the Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries (FIRM) gave testimonies of God’s transforming power through Chosen People Ministries in the lives of Jewish people worldwide. Finally, we “met” Leopold Cohn himself, our founder, through the one-man dramatic presentation by staff member Alan Shore.

Very Humble Origins

Chosen People Ministries was founded by Rabbi Leopold Cohn, who came to
the United States from Hungary in 1892. Not long after he arrived, he heard a Polish Presbyterian missionary and preacher on the Lower East Side of Manhattan proclaiming the gospel inside a Dutch Reformed Church. Once the Lord captured the rabbi’s heart, he committed himself to a lifelong ministry of reaching Jewish people with the gospel. Years of reports indicate that Rabbi Cohn had baptized almost 1,000 Jewish people before his death in 1937! His second eldest son, Joseph, led the Mission until his passing in 1953. Harold Pretlove, Daniel Fuchs, Harold Sevener, and Sam Nadler all faithfully led Chosen People Ministries, and in 1997, I became the mission’s seventh president.

Personally speaking, I know the significance of Chosen People Ministries. The
Mission discipled me, paid my way through Bible college, provided opportunities to serve the Lord, and has equipped me with the skills to lead and enable others to share Jesus with their Jewish friends and family.

My wife, Zhava, was raised in a Jewish home in Argentina and moved to Los Angeles with her family as a young teenager. She came to faith through the work of a Chosen People Ministries missionary. This missionary trained a group of Korean Christian teens to proclaim the gospel to Jewish people, and they shared the good news with their classmate, my wife.

As president of Chosen People Ministries for twenty-two years, I am excited as ever about the growth and potential of the mission. The world is changing dramatically and the Jewish community is too. Chosen People Ministries is changing as well, and its relevance continues today.

Yet, along with all the dynamism of change, the biblical essentials of the Mission remain the same as in the days of Rabbi Cohn! The board, leadership, and staff remain committed to the unchanging gospel best expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, where the Apostle Paul wrote:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures….”

Our strategies, methods, and tactics are changing in order to reach a new generation of Jewish people with the gospel, but the message remains the same. The writer of Hebrews declared: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

My dear friends, we need your prayers more than ever to help us, support us, and love our people and ministry. Your partnership enables us to accomplish our calling. We are serving the Lord among Jewish people in more than twenty-five cities in North America and nineteen countries around the world. As we step into our 126th year of ministry, we are ready to serve Jesus the Messiah by initiating a Romans 1:16 “To the Jew First” campaign in 2020.

Leave a comment

Filed under evangelism, Uncategorized

Defeating the Darkness of Antisemitism

Shalom dear friend,

I am sure you remember or know the opening line of Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I think the entire quote is worth reading:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

As I write to you this morning, I completely identify with these words. A certain darkness has settled upon my soul as I write with a broken heart about the repeated antisemitic attacks in the New York City area!

Like you, I was trying to enjoy the recent holiday season with my family. Yet, over the course of a few weeks, I was shocked to hear about the latest series of antisemitic attacks in New York City, where I live and where Chosen People Ministries has our world headquarters. It became a daily nightmare to discover that another attack against my Jewish people had taken place!  I suppose I was hoping they would just end once and for all!  But this is not the case.

It seems to me that our world is going mad and Satan is again freely roaming the earth as when he discovered Job! These antisemitic incidents are inspired by the enemy of our souls who seeks to destroy all that is good and holy. He has the deepest hatred for the Jewish people and the role God’s chosen people play in His plan of redemption. Every time you think the evil one is done and the Jewish people are finally safe, a new legion of Haman-like characters emerges on the world scene. This time, the demonically inspired hatred of Jewish people is perched on our very doorstep, in our land of the free and home of the brave.

Early on Sunday morning, December 28, I awoke to this headline: “Five Jewish People Attacked in a Home During the Festival of Lights.” My Orthodox Jewish friend, and someone I have grown to love and appreciate through our many debates, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, sent out an alert that his son, a Hasidic rabbi, lived five houses away from this attack. Shmuley, of course, reacted to the attack very personally. We all understand that when things like this happen, we feel horrible. But when it happens close to home, we also feel terribly threatened…and grateful to God for His protection over our loved ones.

I live in Brooklyn and my family lives in New York City and nearby areas. The Jewish community is my community and God’s chosen people, and I am sounding an alarm—an alarm that will hopefully spur us on to action and to pray for the Jewish people. We simply cannot allow this to continue without raising our voices in prayer to God and in opposition to those who are perpetrating this evil or creating the climate that encourages violent and aggressive attacks against the Jewish people.

This past summer, we held a rally against antisemitism by the courthouses in downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, and we were joined by hundreds of Christians and many Jewish people who might not have agreed with us on the messiahship of Jesus but they appreciated our willingness to stand with the Jewish community.  We are planning to take action once again and hope you will join us in opposing this “oldest hatred”— antisemitism! I will tell you what we plan to do and how you can help. But first, let me give you an overview of the events that transpired a few months ago that we are now working to counter!

Remember, the following took place within eighteen months of the killing of eleven people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and since the murder of the precious Jewish woman who tried to protect her rabbi during the attack on the synagogue in Poway, California. According to Kenneth Jacobson, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, there have been thirteen arrests of white supremacists intended to attack synagogues since the Tree of Life shootings.

The Antisemitic Attacks

Allow me to list the specifics of the attacks that took place in 2019 immediately before and during the Hanukkah-Christmas season. There were many news sources reporting on the incidents, but I prefer to share information gathered locally by the New York NBC affiliate, beginning with the vicious attack at the Hasidic rabbi’s home during a Hanukkah party.

  • The Monsey home attack: Authorities say five people were stabbed at a rabbi’s home late Saturday night in Monsey, New York, “the latest and most violent in a string of antisemitic attacks in the greater New York City area in the last few days. Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel said the suspected attacker entered the residence around 10 p.m. armed with a knife. Saturday was the seventh night of Hanukkah and was being widely observed in Monsey, a hamlet that is home to thousands of Orthodox Jews.” The Hasidic organization Chabad, citing sources in the community and witnesses at the scene, said someone in the home threw a table at the attacker, chasing him off. He then allegedly tried to gain access to the synagogue next door, but the occupants barricaded themselves inside.[1]
  • The Jersey City Kosher market attack: “Authorities identified the suspects as David Anderson, 47, and Francine Graham, 50. Jersey City Police Detective Joseph Sealswas killed Tuesday shortly before officials say the suspects attacked the store. The victims in the store were identified Wednesday by authorities as Mindy Ferencz, 31; Miguel Douglas, 49; and Moshe Deutsch, 24. According to three sources, Anderson was a one-time follower of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, whose members believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites, and his social media pages include anti-police and anti-Jewish writings. Investigators are looking to see if it was Anderson himself who posted that material.”[2]
  • Upper East Side attack: “The first attack of Hanukkah was on Dec. 23 on the Upper East Side, according to the NYPD. A 65-year-old man was hit in the face with a closed fist after the suspect made an anti-Semitic remark, then was kicked while on the ground. The victim suffered cuts to his face and hand, police said.”[3]
  • Brooklyn attack: “A 34-year-old woman and her 4-year-old son were attacked in Brooklyn Thursday by someone who yelled anti-Semitic slurs and hit the mother in the head, the latest in a spree of hate during the Jewish holidays that has the community and city officials alarmed.”[4]
  • Brooklyn attack: Another attack took place in the early morning in Brooklyn “when a 25-year-old Jewish man was walking on the sidewalk when he saw a large group of people walking toward him, police said.” That man told police that members of the group yelled curses at the obviously Jewish man “before hurling a Slurpee at him.”[5]
  • Brooklyn attack: “A man in his 50s was standing in front of a building on Union Avenue in a Hassidic neighborhood when he said he saw as many as six people approach him after 5 p.m. on Dec. 24, according to police. One of the people who came up to the man punched him in the back of the head, and the group took off.”[6]

What Can We Do Together to Oppose Antisemitism?

This is a critical moment for those who love the Jewish Messiah to show the Jewish people their concern and opposition to the rise of antisemitism. Whereas we are grateful for all legislation that identifies and even defines antisemitism as illegal activity, this is simply not enough. As followers of the Jewish Messiah, we need to act now on behalf of His “kinsman according to the flesh.”

Antisemitism has been the concern of Your Mission to the Jewish People for more than a century. One of the early leaders, Joseph Hoffman Cohn, the son of our founder Rabbi Leopold Cohn, often appealed to evangelical churches in the United States in the 1930s to take a stand against antisemitism. He took many trips to Europe at that time attempting to rescue Messianic Jewish leaders from the terrible times ahead. Joseph did not know exactly what was coming, but early on recognized the serious threat to the Jewish people in Europe.

One of our ministry’s values is to “seek the welfare of the Jewish community.” We are now doing this by shining the light on modern antisemitism and calling Christians to action!

And so, we must act!

We intend to continue holding rallies in New York City against antisemitism. I also encourage you to consider initiating some type of anti-antisemitism event at your local church or in your community. We have found that Jewish people who are not yet believers in Jesus are willing to stand with our efforts to protest antisemitism. So, do not be surprised if Jewish people in your community will want to be involved with your efforts to counter antisemitism.

Chosen People Ministries would be happy to help you organize this event. It can be as simple as a prayer meeting where you invite folks from your church and the local Christian community to pray for God’s protection of the Jewish people. Contact us for additional ideas.

We are immediately launching a digital petition campaign and will continue the campaign for the foreseeable future.

We are praying that we will move at least 50,000 people to sign this petition of concern for their Jewish friends as a very tangible way of demonstrating God’s love for His chosen people. 

I cannot tell you how much your efforts on behalf of the Jewish people are appreciated. Jewish people, especially those who do not believe in Jesus, will align themselves with us in our joint opposition to the growing antisemitism in our country.

Thank you for your prayers and for your generous support to help us combat antisemitism—in the name of Jesus! Thank you so much for standing with the Jewish people and with Your Mission to the Jewish People as well. I know this will be a wonderful testimony to your Jewish neighbors.

In our Messiah,
Mitch

[1] Jonathan Dienst and Ken Buffa, “5 Stabbed at Rabbi’s Home in Ny; Suspect Charged: Police,” NBC New York, December 28, 2019, https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/mass-stabbing-at-jewish-synagogue-in-rockland-county-ny-reports/2251668/.

[2] Jonathan Dienst and Minyvonne Burke, “Jersey City Suspects Targeted Kosher Store Where 3 Died, Officials Say,” NBC News, December 11, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/jersey-city-suspects-targeted-kosher-store-where-3-died-motive-n1099606.

[3] Erica Byfield and Myles Miller, “‘Open Season On Jews’: Outrage Over Spike in NYC Hate Attacks,” NBC New York, December 27, 2019, https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/open-season-on-jews-reports-of-anti-semitic-attacks-during-hanukkah-cause-for-concern/2250584/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anti-Semitism, Brooklyn, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, New York City, Uncategorized

Hanukkah: The Messiah is the Light of the World

Shalom dear friend in the Messiah,

‘Tis the Hanukkah–Christmas season! It is a time of good cheer when, generally speaking, Jewish people are celebrating Hanukkah and Christians are celebrating Christmas. Though I must admit, even in New York, there are quite a few “Hanukkah bushes” (a Christmas tree decorated for Hanukkah) displayed in homes throughout the area.

It goes without saying that there are many differences between the holidays, but through the years I have discovered many parallels as well.

One of the most obvious similarities is that both Hanukkah and Christmas are observed the same time of year. The precise date of the Messiah’s birth is a bit controversial in some circles, but what is absolutely clear from the New Testament is that the God of Israel became man, dwelled among us, died for our sins, and was raised to life in fulfillment of the plan of God’s redemption detailed in the Bible.

This year, Hanukkah, which is an eight-day celebration, and Christmas overlap once again. This creates a natural tension between the two festivals, especially in Jewish communities. I grew up believing that one of the ways you could tell a Jew from a Christian was by the holidays he or she celebrated. For that reason, celebrating Hanukkah was viewed as a symbol of loyalty to the Jewish people. My family and other Jewish people who know that I believe in Jesus as my Messiah often ask me which holidays I celebrate. The underlying question being so subtly asked is whether or not I still view myself as Jewish now that I believe in Jesus!

In case you are unfamiliar with Hanukkah, let me give you a brief overview of the celebration. Hanukkah celebrates the great victory of the Maccabees, a family of Levitical priests, over the armies of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian Greek general whom the Jewish people nicknamed “Antiochus the madman”! He tried to destroy the Jewish people by turning them into Greeks, but failed.

Hanukkah is also called the “Festival of Lights.” According to Jewish tradition, when the Temple was recaptured from Antiochus, there was only enough oil to keep the menorah in the Temple lit for one day. However, a miracle happened, and the eternal light of the Temple menorah lasted for eight days, the time it took for the ceremonial olive oil to cure and keep the lights perpetually burning. Jewish people see this as a great dual miracle—that God gave the Jewish people a humanly impossible military victory and marked the event by ensuring the lights lasted the full eight days. That is why we light a candle each night as part of the eight-day festival.

The lights provide an obvious bridge between Hanukkah and Christmas. When my kids were small, I used to take them through parts of Brooklyn during the Christmas season just to see the homes decorated with lights in the most magnificent ways. Some neighborhoods looked like they belonged in Rockefeller Center or Times Square at New Year’s!

The tradition of giving presents is also important for both holidays. Jewish people give one gift to their kids each night of Hanukkah, and the tradition of giving presents on Christmas, in the tradition of the magi at Jesus’ birth, continues until this very day. Of course, both holidays are often over-commercialized, but in my opinion, there is never a bad time to give presents, as long as you are focused on the real reason for this season. Jewish people are thankful to God for preserving the nation and express this thanksgiving by giving presents to one another. This is similar to Christmas, as we show our gratitude to God for sending His only Son to die for our sins by giving presents.

This is a great time of the year to show your gratitude to God and to the Jewish people by giving an end-of-year gift to Chosen People Ministries that will be used to reach Jewish people for Jesus!

And then there are the wonderful and delicious traditional holiday foods! Jewish people eat potato pancakes (latkes) and jelly donuts (sufganiyot). These are all cooked in oil and eaten to remind us that God enabled a day’s worth of oil to miraculously last for eight days. Christmas, depending on where you come from, is replete with wonderful and different types of food as well. From Christmas cookies to Norwegian pinnekjøtt (lamb or mutton rib) to delicious Italian panettone, the holiday foods are an essential part of our celebration.

What I like best about both Hanukkah and Christmas, though, is the focus on family. It is one of the reasons why this holiday season can be so sad for those who have lost loved ones or do not have a family, either physical or spiritual. Enjoying the holiday with family, whether relatives or “congregational family,” is truly beautiful. I pray that, if you have lost a loved one recently, God will give you a full measure of His grace and joy during this season of the year.

A Messianic Jewish Perspective

As a Messianic Jew, I am always looking for deeper links between the festivals and believe there is an absolutely amazing parallel that I want to share with you.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 10, we see that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, also called the Feast of Dedication. (The Hebrew word Hanukkah literally means “dedication.”) The festival also served as a platform for Jesus to make one of His most profound statements about His person and ministry recorded in the New Testament.

It is this one statement that I believe brings Hanukkah and Christmas together in the most dramatic and profound way.

At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:22–30).

When asked if He was the Messiah, Jesus did not give a simple yes or no. Rather, He revealed His true nature to the Jewish leaders and declared that He and His Father were one. This declaration affirms the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah who predicted that, one day, God would take on human flesh, dwell among us, and reveal the character of our heavenly Father in the most tangible of ways.

Isaiah wrote, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

It is only fitting that Jesus made this declaration on the Feast of Dedication, which reminds us of the great miracle of the Incarnation and revelation of God’s glory and light. This parallels the symbolism found in the menorah in the Temple as God Himself is the true light that illuminates our hearts and souls. As Jesus said earlier in John’s Gospel, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12).

The real link between Hanukkah and Christmas is Jesus Himself. He is God in the flesh; the light of the world who dispels our personal darkness and transfers us to the kingdom of His Son. As Isaiah predicted and Jesus fulfilled,

“But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (Isaiah 9:1–2).

And Paul adds,

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son…” (Colossians 1:13).

I hope you have great joy in this marvelous deliverance! I also pray you have a wonderful season of joy and that the light of your personal testimony of God’s grace and victory will shine brightly among Jews and Gentiles during this special season of the year!

Your brother in the Light of the World,

Mitch

P.S. We are now beginning our 126th year as a ministry among the Jewish people. Thank you for your faithful prayers and support. We are excited about 2020. Stick with us!

Leave a comment

Filed under Holidays & Festivals, Jewish Holidays, Jews and Christians, Uncategorized

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

Shalom in the great name of Jesus our Messiah.

Can I tell you a very personal Jewish Christmas story?

I was raised in a traditional Jewish home in New York City. I was born in what I like to call the true Holy Land—Brooklyn, New York! Both of my parents were Jewish and fairly typical of their post-Holocaust generation. Although my mom was more religious than my dad, they were both very committed to their Jewishness and, as a family, we celebrated all of the Jewish holidays.

Hanukkah was, without a doubt, my favorite holiday. This eight-day festival of lights celebrates the great victory of the Jewish people over the Greco-Syrian “madman” Antiochus Epiphanes. We celebrated the holiday by lighting candles for eight days and by giving gifts to one another on each night. And there were the holiday foods—potato pancakes dipped in applesauce or sour cream and delicious jelly donuts, called sufganiyot—mmm!

Sound great? Family, friends, gifts, and very unhealthy food. There is nothing like it!

In New York City, Hanukkah menorahs or beautifully decorated Christmas trees grace the windows of homes and apartment buildings. It always gets dark early in New York around this time of year, so it is easy to see which holiday the families are celebrating.

I was raised as a Hanukkah loyalist, which I equated with allegiance to my Jewish people. When I began considering the gospel, I thought I would have to choose between Christmas and Hanukkah. At that time, I thought if I accepted Jesus and agreed to celebrate Christmas then I would be a traitor to my heritage and might be committing a version of ethnic suicide by believing in Jesus and observing His birthday.

Yet, God was working in my heart, and I was drawn to Him through the transformed lives of my two closest friends who had become believers in Jesus. It was still very hard to make the leap because I thought this decision would mean I was no longer Jewish. How would I ever explain this to my family?

I began reading the New Testament seriously and soon discovered that even Jesus celebrated Hanukkah, or the Feast of Dedication, as recorded in John chapter 10. At the heart of the holiday is the celebration of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from those who oppress and persecute us. I also found out that the Old Testament, my Jewish Bible, predicted that the Messiah would actually be God in the flesh. Therefore, the whole idea of the incarnation was not foreign to Judaism but was there all the time in my Jewish Bible.

So, I embraced Jesus as my Messiah and discovered that it was possible to be Jewish and believe in Jesus.

You might ask, “What holiday do you celebrate now?” Both, of course! Why give away eight presents for one when you could have nine? Seriously, what greater present could even come close to the gift of eternal life resulting from a personal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through Jesus the Messiah? Over the years, I discovered that it is easy to be Jewish and believe in Jesus. It is like the proverbial “hand and glove,” as Jesus is the fulfillment of all my people’s hopes and dreams. He is the Deliverer and Redeemer we are waiting for.

He is Messiah, Savior, and Lord. The son of Abraham and David, and the Son of God. As the great prophet Isaiah predicted, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

The prophet continued,

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6–7).

JEWISH EVANGELISM IN THE 21ST CENTURY

And now I have the joy of serving as the seventh president of our 125-year-old mission to the Jewish people, and we are about to begin our 126th year of faithful service among the Jewish people. Thousands of Jewish people have come to faith through the energetic, visionary, and faithful staff of Chosen People Ministries.

And we could not have done this without your faithful prayers and support.

THE ROMANS 1:16 TO THE JEW FIRST CAMPAIGN

During the next 12 months, we want to continue focusing on three special areas of ministry. Let me briefly tell you what they are now, and I will explain further in the months ahead.

ISRAEL

We are pouring financial and human resources into ministry among Israelis. Our twenty-five full-time workers in Israel are reaching Israelis day in and day out. We are also reaching Israelis as they travel after their army duty. We have been touching lives everywhere from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to countries such as New Zealand and India. Soon we will be starting a new ministry among Israelis traveling through Brazil. These young people are incredibly open, especially when they are away from home. Also, we are able, with a good-sized staff in Israel, to follow up with those who show interest in the gospel when they return home from overseas.

DIGITAL EVANGELISM

We are also investing heavily in the modern “Mars Hill” of digital evangelism through websites, video creation, and social media. God is leading us to thousands of Jewish people each year who we meet through the web and who are interested in the gospel. It is not cheap, but it is absolutely worth it. We have spoken now to tens of thousands of people through these ministries!

THE NEXT GENERATION

We are looking toward the future and providing training for the next generation of missionaries to the Jewish people. With a track record of 125 years of faithful service for the Lord, we fully understand the importance of passing the torch to the next generation. In light of this, we are continuing to train young people through our Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies seminary program in Brooklyn. We are investing in the next generation of Israeli leaders through our Living Waters mentoring program in Israel and around the world via our global young adult conference, Muchan (Hebrew for “ready”), usually held in Europe. We are also providing a variety of internships and extending our outreach among Jewish students. We call this next generation effort The Joshua Initiative because we want to raise up a new generation of leaders like Joshua who will serve the Lord faithfully with courage and power (Joshua 1:5–6).

We can do this because of Him and your partnership and prayers.

YOUR FAITHFULNESS

May Jesus, the joy and reason for the season, fill your home with warmth, happiness, and grace during the holidays. I want to thank you for supporting Chosen People Ministries. You are an important part of our ministry family.

We are now serving in nineteen countries around the world and in twenty-five cities throughout North America. As we wrap up our 125th year of celebration and begin 2020, I cannot help but reflect upon His faithfulness, the amazing things He has done, and how much we have expanded the ministry, even this year. We want to be ready for tomorrow. And, by God’s grace, I believe if we embrace the opportunities of the New Year together, arm in arm, following in the Savior’s footsteps, we will.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

Because God became flesh,
Mitch

Leave a comment

Filed under evangelism, Holidays & Festivals, Israel, Jewish Holidays, Uncategorized

A Vision for the Next Generation

Dear friends,

Shalom in His grace and Happy Thanksgiving. I am sure you are grateful for all the Lord has done in your life and in the life of your friends and family.

Years ago, I did my master’s thesis in seminary on Psalm 119. I examined the supposed synonyms for the Hebrew word Torah (Law) in this lengthy psalm of 176 verses! I concluded that the various terms that seemed to be interchangeable with Law—commandments, testimonies, judgments, etc.—were actually different parts of the corpus of the Law and not merely synonyms. It was a fascinating study and I learned to love the Word of God even more than before! But one of the added benefits of the project was that I regularly had to pass through Psalm 118 to get there!

Psalm 118, which invites us to thank God for His lovingkindness and mercy, and for His person, is quite different from Psalm 119, which teaches us to appreciate God’s Word. The two psalms are fairly close in theme and are great portions of Scripture to read and reflect upon during the Thanksgiving Day meal. Of course, if you read all of Psalm 119, your turkey might get cold!

David writes regarding the Law, the true love of his life:

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day (119:97).

How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth (119:103).

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (119:105).

Therefore I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold (119:127).

These are beautiful words and an invitation from the King to feast on Scripture and not just on mom’s delicious sweet potato casserole! I find myself grateful for His provision of the Bible as I am able to better understand the will and mind of God and be guided by His Word to live according to His holy plans and purposes.

I am thankful for the Word of God and the beauty of His person.

His nature is also revealed in Scripture and by His Spirit in my everyday experience. As the psalmist penned, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Psalm 118:1).

I rejoice this Thanksgiving because of Him. He is good and He is gracious! The Hebrew term chesed, translated lovingkindness, should be understood as “covenant loyalty.” I am grateful He is a loyal God who cares for His children. And further, His grace and loyalty to me and to the Jewish people extends throughout eternity.

125 Years of Service for the Lord on Behalf of the Jewish People

Your Mission to the Jewish People has experienced 125 years of this loyalty and love! In fact, we only have one more month to go in our celebration of 125 years of ministry to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It has been a wonderful year of joyous celebration. On November 15, we concluded our year of gratitude with a gala in Brooklyn, where we were born as a ministry. We heard from Jay Sekulow and we were blessed by Janet Parshall of Moody Radio, America’s most beloved radio host. We heard testimonies from Chosen People Ministries staff workers in Israel and Brooklyn and from friends of our ministry who were able to testify to God’s transforming power in their lives through the work of this 125-year-old ministry among the Jewish people.

Very Humble Origins

As you know, we were founded by Rabbi Leopold Cohn who came to the United States from his native Hungary in the late 19th century. Not long after he arrived, he heard a Polish Presbyterian missionary and preacher on the lower side of Manhattan proclaiming the gospel inside a Dutch Reformed Church. Once the Lord gripped the heart of the rabbi, he committed himself to the lifelong effort of reaching his fellow Jewish people with the gospel, and before his death, baptized almost 1,000 Jewish people!

I am the seventh president of the Mission and grateful to be called by God to this incredible position. I know the value of Chosen People Ministries because it was this mission that discipled me, paid my way through Bible college, and gave me opportunities to serve the Lord. Chosen People Ministries also helped me gain the skills to help others who want to tell their Jewish friends about Jesus.

My wife came to faith in Los Angeles through the work of a Chosen People Ministries missionary who trained a group of Korean Christian teens at a very Jewish high school to share the gospel with the Jewish people and, praise God, they shared the good news with my wife.

I have been president of Chosen People Ministries for twenty-two years, and am as excited as ever about the growth and potential of our ministry. Of course, you have heard the aphorism, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life!” Funny thing about this…it is true. Walking with Jesus is never static; it is always dynamic. Our world is changing, the Jewish community is changing, and Chosen People Ministries is changing, too.

We are not changing or adapting the eternal message of the gospel, although our culture pressures us to do so each day. We remain more committed to the essentials of the gospel than ever! But our strategies, methods, and tactics are changing in order to reach a new generation of Jewish people with the gospel.

Without you, we simply could not do the ministry to which God has called us. Your Mission to the Jewish People is now in more than twenty-five cities in North America and in nineteen countries around the world serving the Lord among the Jewish people.

And as we step into 2020—our 126th year of ministry—we are ready, available to God, and thankful for the opportunity to serve our Lord, Jesus the Messiah.

Three Major Focuses in 2020 and Beyond

After a long season of prayer, planning, and discussions with our staff, board, and friends, we have decided to embrace three major areas of ministry starting in 2020 and beyond.

Israel

First of all, we are going to do all we can to reach Israel with the gospel. There are more than six and a half million Jewish people in Israel, and more are moving there all the time. Israelis are now more open to Jesus than ever before. I believe that it is the time to strike while the iron is hot—we are increasing our staff and establishing congregations and centers all across the country. We now have ministries in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and in the northern part of the country among young adults, children, Holocaust survivors, and more! We have more than twenty staff members serving the Lord in the Holy Land.

Digital and Social Media

We are using the power of digital and social media for His glory. We want to focus on evangelism, discipleship, and building community online for those who come to faith. We are having good success through our Facebook campaigns that engage people with Isaiah 53 and a new discipleship series entitled Follow Messiah. Soon, we will roll out other websites like Chosen People Answers, an almost encyclopedic apologetics website for Jewish people that I believe will revolutionize Jewish evangelism.

The Joshua Initiative

We are also investing in the next generation of Messianic Jews and leaders in the field of Jewish missions. This is why we started the Feinberg Seminary program in Brooklyn almost fifteen years ago, which has graduated thirty students, most of whom are serving the Lord in Jewish ministry. We are discipling new Jewish believers and helping them become part of our congregations and centers. We will also intensify our efforts on college campuses and emphasize children’s ministries through camping and providing educational resources. What a joy it is for us to train young people for the Lord.

The Future Is Bright for Israel and the Jewish People

According to the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:25–29, a day is coming when all Israel will be saved. But until then, please join me in praying, supporting, and helping us reach God’s beloved chosen people with the unchanging message of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.

On behalf of our staff, I cannot thank you enough for your faithfulness in response to His faithfulness.

Thankful to the Lord and for you.

Mitch

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation” (Romans 10:1).

Leave a comment

Filed under Brooklyn, Digital Media, evangelism, Israel, New York City, Uncategorized

We live in exciting times!

Dear friends,

Shalom in His peace.

We are excited and energized by new ministry opportunities in 2020! Allow me to quickly share some thoughts on three trends in Jewish ministry that profoundly impact our work and that we believe will lead us forward in new and dynamic ways!

Three Significant Trends

An increase in congregations and believers in Israel

When I first went to Israel as a believer in Messiah in 1976, there were fewer than 500 Messianic Jews living in the land and just a handful of congregations, especially Hebrew-speaking ones. There were some Jewish believers who survived the Holocaust and a few who had moved from North Africa to Israel, but most of the believers were not native Israelis. They had come to Israel as believers from other parts of the globe. Some came to be part of the great Israel experiment and others came to serve the Lord in the Holy Land. Now, 70 years later, there are more than 150 congregations and upwards of 25,000 Messianic Jews, most of whom came to the Lord in Israel. 

In fact, I believe we are in the midst of a second-generation outpouring of the Spirit that has transformed the national Israeli Messianic body within the Holy Land. This movement of the Spirit has also transformed our ministry in Israel. We continue to reach younger generations of Israelis along with hundreds of elderly Holocaust survivors whom we have served for more than twenty years. 

This second generation of Jewish believers were born in Israel, speak Hebrew as their first language, were raised in Israeli schools, and served in the Israeli army. They are young, bold, Israeli through and through, and willing to give their all for Jesus the Messiah! 

This is the reason we continue our Living Waters mentoring seminar each year and why we have a newly rented center in the greater Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan. Each month, we organize outreach Sabbath dinners, concerts, café nights, Bible studies, reading groups for mothers and children, and so much more.

New ministry opportunities among traveling Israelis

We are also reaching post-army Israelis by meeting these wonderful young adults in places like the Upper West Side of New York City or on the South Island of New Zealand. We are also meeting them in India, Australia, Germany, South America, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China. Additionally, we are about to open up a permanent mission station in Brazil to reach these young Israelis. We are sharing the gospel with them as they hike, over a BBQ, during hummus nights, through late night chats, or while enjoying a lovely meal of traditional Chinese cuisine! 

We engaged with 3,000 Israeli travelers this year, and we will be meeting more in 2020! Let me share a couple of stories:

“The Lord gave us such a wonderful surprise last weekend: an opportunity to host Idan.* Within 30 minutes of his arrival, Idan asked, ‘Why do you host Israelis?’ We love this question because it is such a catalyst to a deeper spiritual conversation with our guests. For the next two and a half days, our conversations about Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, were frequent! We quickly realized we were not the first to share with him. The reason our conversations were possible is because Idan was processing questions from the conversations he previously had with other Christian hosts. On the morning he left, Michael shared his testimony as well as the words of his very first prayer as a believer. We were able to give him a Hebrew New Testament as well as a copy of  Isaiah 53 Explained. Please pray for Idan as he continues to stay with other believing hosts in New Zealand!”
                        —Teresa and Michael, New Zealand

“Today I got an unexpected phone call from our Israeli friend, Tom, who wanted to congratulate us on our baby girl. Carissa and I met Tom on Christmas Day 2015 at the Shelter on the Lake where we were serving and sharing the gospel with backpackers from Israel and around the world. Those three weeks we spent in Bariloche, Argentina, were transformational. I got to teach my very first Bible lesson for seeking Israelis…on Christmas Day! We saw that hiking, rock climbing, and camping are strategic opportunities for sharing the gospel. We gained experience applying what we learned in Bible school. We stayed up until 2:00 or 3:00 AM many nights with Israelis talking about spiritual things.”
        —BJ and Carissa, Backpacking Ministry

An increasing openness toward Jesus and the gospel among Jewish young people

We are surprised by the great numbers of young Jewish people from all over the world who are responding to our social media and Facebook ads, as well as engaging with our new campus ministries. A Barna survey revealed that Jewish millennials (aged 23–38) are more open than their parents to the possibility that Jesus is both Messiah and God in the flesh. We also discovered that the majority of the more than 10,000 Jewish people we met online through our digital outreach campaigns are younger. These efforts include our Isaiah 53 Explained Facebook campaign in the United States and in Israel, as well as our I Found Shalom video testimonies broadcast on YouTube and other social media platforms.

I am also very excited about our new residential outreach ministry at New York University called The House of Living Waters. NYU has the largest concentration of Jewish students in the United States. We chose four young men to live in an apartment across the street from the campus, and they are actively engaged in sharing the gospel with dozens of Jewish students.  They also collaborate with and train Christian students to share the good news with their Jewish friends. 

Some of the conversations these godly young men are having are just wonderful:

“We met Isaac,* a young freshman photography major in nearby Washington Square Park. He was drawn to the Hebrew literature on our table. We showed him prophecies related to Israel and then had him read Isaiah 53. He was not sure who it was about, but, on reflection, he said it seemed like it could be Jesus. We asked him what he thought that would mean, and he said that if his family understood this connection they would not be happy. We gave him a copy of Isaiah 53 Explained and received his email address. Hopefully we will be able to meet with him in a few weeks and hear his thoughts about the book!”

“We met Eitan,* a young performer in Washington Square Park who sang us a song. We talked a little bit about I Found Shalom and what shalom is, and he expressed interest in receiving a book and making time for coffee. We had coffee the other day and began building a rapport with him. He is not particularly interested in spiritual things, but he said that recently he has gained more respect for the Jewish traditions of his youth. We gave him a copy of Isaiah 53 Explained and asked him if he would like to come to a Sabbath dinner, and he said that he would really enjoy that! We are going to invite him for the Sabbath in the next couple of weeks, and hopefully he will come!”

All of these opportunities and the openheartedness of a new generation give me incredible hope for the future of our ministry. Such new horizons build my faith in the Word of God where Paul tells us that the day is coming when “all Israel will be saved…” (Romans 11:25–29). However, we know what we need to do until that great day. By God’s grace, we must preach the gospel and be faithful to the unchanging message of God’s grace through Jesus the Messiah. 

With love and gratitude for His faithfulness and yours,
Mitch

Leave a comment

Filed under evangelism, Israel, New York City, Uncategorized

Understanding the Hebrew Scriptures

Shalom!

For decades we have dedicated the October edition of our newsletter to addressing both those who already believe in Jesus and those who are seeking the Lord. If you are one of those curious and brave individuals who is pursuing a relationship with the living God, let me especially thank you for taking the time to read the newsletter. This month, we are focusing on the Hebrew Scriptures, or as it is known to many, the Old Testament. Of course, if you are Jewish and do not accept the New Testament as holy Scripture, then there really is no such thing as an Old Testament! The Hebrew Scriptures is simply known as the Jewish Bible, with the first five books being referred to as the Torah.

We will discuss the impact and importance of the Hebrew Scriptures in Western society and in the hearts of those who believe these words were spoken by God Himself at Mount Sinai and through the mouths of prophets.

The Hebrew Scriptures impact every area of life: from issues of the heart, to practical wisdom, amazing prophetic predictions of the age to come, and of course our moral code and behavior. The older testament—if you can appreciate this new terminology—has been extremely influential in our lives, personally and corporately, even when we did not realize it! In fact, as the article will suggest, the Hebrew Scriptures have helped shape our culture and society more than the Constitution and Bill of Rights combined. Additionally, a good argument can be made to demonstrate that these documents that were so foundational in the formation of our country were based upon the words of the Hebrew Scriptures.

It would be virtually impossible for me, as a Messianic Jew, to believe in Jesus if I did not believe that the Hebrew Scriptures referred to Jesus in the promises and prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah. This rationale for faith in Yeshua (His Hebrew name) is critical for a Jewish follower of the Messiah and also for those who are not Jewish. When more than a thousand years of biblical prophecy are so remarkably fulfilled in this one person, it gives us tremendous confidence in Him and also in the Old Testament where He is described. So much of what we understand about salvation, the nature of God, and His plan for each of us is firmly rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures. As King Solomon wrote so beautifully,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5–6)

Admittedly, at times, the Hebrew Bible is not the easiest to understand, especially in light of today’s cultural trends and ideas about morality. Frankly, the Hebrew Bible might seem out of sync with our modern world upon a first, surface-level glance. But, consider that the voice of the Hebrew Scriptures, though contrary to many of our current cultural values, might very well be a voice worth listening to. It has led so many of us to a fulfilling and meaningful life. The Psalmist David wrote about those who read, meditate, and obey what is written in the Hebrew Scriptures:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1–2)

I hope that you will enjoy the rest of the newsletter. My prayer is that it will motivate you to study the Hebrew Scriptures, to learn more about God’s plan for you, and that the very specific predictions about the coming of the Messiah will become personally meaningful to you. There is so much in these 39 books of the Old Testament to understand, and I hope you will take the time to read through the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures to try and better understand one of the world’s great works of literature. You might not take my position in believing that the Old Testament is the inspired Word of God, but I think, if you have an open heart, you will find so many of the statements in these ancient pages to be comforting, relevant, and life-changing.

Enjoy the journey, and, if you are seeking the Lord, may I encourage you to take a look at followmessiah.com, which is a 16-part video study of the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, which will help guide you towards a deeply personal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

A belated Happy Jewish High Holidays!

Mitch

Leave a comment

Filed under Jews and Christians, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, Uncategorized