Israeli Soldier Encounters Yeshua

Shalom from Jerusalem! I am writing this quick note from the Holy Land. I have been here for a month working with our staff, participating in Chosen People Ministries’ celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the modern State of Israel, mentoring young leaders, and sharing the gospel with Israelis.

We also organized a special outreach event at our Ramat Gan/Greater Tel Aviv Center. We invited all those who have responded to our Hebrew Facebook ads by ordering a copy of the book I wrote, Isaiah 53 Explained. It was billed as a Meet the Author event. Of course, the author of Isaiah 53 is only Isaiah in part, since God Himself is the true author of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16)! So, they came to meet me, but I was hoping and praying they would meet Him!

A handful of Israeli non-believers attended, for which I was grateful. The conversations were lively with a lot of interaction, and they respectfully listened as I shared the truth of the gospel from this great chapter of the Bible. Afterward, I spoke with Ronit,* a young woman currently in the army who attended the event in her fatigues! She came with another young female soldier from her unit who was her friend. Ronit approached me with a copy of Isaiah 53 Explained in Hebrew and asked if I would sign the book. I did, and I also asked her what she thought of my talk. She was all smiles and told me how much she enjoyed it. Then she said something I will never forget. I asked her if she had heard about Jesus before and she said, “Absolutely!” When I asked how, she hugged her friend and said, “This is my friend and she has been talking to me about the Messiah…and it is beginning to make sense to me.” She replied that there was another female soldier who was a believer in her unit, and with a big smile said, “They are the best people I have ever met!”

I was delightfully surprised by her heartfelt and evident respect and love for her two believing friends. There is no doubt in my mind that she is not far from the kingdom. I was reminded of the power of our personal witness in word and through our lives! As Peter describes,

But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).

Please keep reading for another moment and let me explain what really goes into my being able to meet a young woman like Ronit.

First of all, we need to write and edit books like Isaiah 53 Explained. We had to print the book and pay for the mailing costs, Facebook ads, and rent for a center in very expensive Tel Aviv. Remember, we cannot easily rent a church or another facility for an outreach as there is only one church within twenty-five miles of our center!

I am so grateful for your sacrificial gifts that help us make the message of the gospel known to a sinful and broken world.

In fact, if this precious young soldier is the only person that ever comes to faith because of the ways God uses our very “human and frail” efforts, then I will be satisfied and rejoice. But, we know there will be others and that God is faithful to His word. As Paul writes, “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

Please continue to pray for the work of Chosen People Ministries. You have a vital part in bringing the gospel to Jewish people in Israel, Brooklyn, and around the globe through your prayers, support, and encouragement.

Thanks so much and I pray you have a great rest of the summer.

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Who Are The Haredim?

Shalom in the name of our Messiah Jesus.

I am writing from Israel where Chosen People Ministries is hosting about 600 fellow believers for a tour, a Bible conference, and a glorious celebration of Israel’s seventieth anniversary. The fellowship has been wonderful and so many of us have had good opportunities to share the gospel with both Jewish Israelis and lots of Arab Muslims as well.

We have also enjoyed having many of the Chosen People Ministries Israel staff share their testimonies and tell us about the good things God is doing in the Holy Land. Please pray for our ongoing work in Israel among Holocaust survivors, children, soldiers, young people, and families. Please pray for Maxim, one of our most faithful and effective workers who needs a kidney transplant and is on daily dialysis. We are praying for a donor! Meanwhile, he leads our work among the elderly Holocaust survivors. We had the joy of having about fifty survivors join us for dinner the other night, and we heard the testimony of one of them who came to faith through this ministry. There was not a dry eye among us!

There is so much more to tell, and I will try and dedicate an upcoming newsletter to our work in Israel, especially as we enter this seventy-first year of modern Israel’s existence. All I can say is that there are many more Jewish believers in Jesus in Israel today than probably since the first century. According to a recent survey, there are about  25,000-30,000 Jewish believers in Jesus in Israel. We are using Facebook to reach many Israelis. A week does not go by when we do not send out more than fifty Isaiah 53 Explained books in Hebrew to Israelis who request them.

We even have quite a few who indicate that they are religious Jews. This is amazing and encourages us to pray that the Lord will reach even the most observant Jewish people in Israel and across the globe. I share the same broken heart as the Apostle Paul who wrote, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge” (Romans 10:1-2).

ULTRA-RELIGIOUS JEWISH PEOPLE: THE LAST FRONTIER?

If I asked you what group of Jewish people would become the largest group of Jewish people in the next twenty years, you would probably answer, “non-religious Jewish people.” This is really common wisdom as our society is becoming more and more secular as the days go by. And this is true of the Jewish people as well. Already, most Jewish people do not regularly attend synagogue any more than non-Jews attend church. I cannot speak about Hindus or Buddhists but can only surmise that the more they live in the West, the more they will also become secularized.

Our world is quickly moving further and further away from the Creator and this is especially true in North America and Europe. Yet, this is not the whole story according to those who study the Jewish community. In fact, it is predicted that the most identifiable group of Jewish people in the years ahead might actually be those who are identified as ultra-Orthodox, or what we call Haredim. The Hebrew word Haredim means “to tremble,” since these very religious Jewish people tremble before God and show Him honor and devotion by keeping the Law, known as the Torah, which refers to the five books of Moses as interpreted by the sages of the Jewish people.

MY OWN JEWISH UPBRINGING

I was raised modern Orthodox, went to synagogue, learned about the Jewish religion, and studied how to read the Bible in Hebrew. But, I was still very different from the religious Jews you see wearing black clothing, having lots of children, and living the Haredi lifestyle. There are a few hundred thousand of these folks in Brooklyn alone and about a million in Israel, with the majority in Jerusalem.

I wish I could tell you that there are many Haredim who have come to know the Lord, but really there are just a few. When they come to faith in Jesus, they often lose their families and jobs and are rejected by the community. Of course, the community does not really understand the gospel. They do not know that Jesus and His first disciples were Jewish and they are only aware of the type of Christianity that persecuted the Jewish people. Most religious Jewish people have never met a born-again Christian!

ON THE DEREKH

This burden for the Haredim led Chosen People Ministries to spearhead a conference with other Jewish ministry leaders this past January. “On the Derekh” means “On the Path.” We named the conference as such since Haredi Jewish people place a high value of walking by the ways of God and staying true to the Torah. When they are not, they often say they are “off the derekh.” So we want to get them back on the derekh by coming to faith in Yeshua! The conference focused on learning, brainstorming, and praying for the salvation of ultra-Orthodox Jewish people. It was the first conference of its kind since the Holocaust and all who attended recognized how much our movement needs God’s wisdom and power to know how to present Yeshua to the Haredi Jewish community. As believers in Jesus, we know that He is the one true path! In John 14: 6, Yeshua says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

This week-long conference on reaching ultra-Orthodox Jewish people was held at our Charles Feinberg Brooklyn Messianic Center, which is in the heart of one of the key Orthodox Jewish areas of Brooklyn. I gave a lecture on evangelistic work in the past, and Zhava, my wife, taught on the history of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish movement. She lectured about how this community began and how so many of these precious people ended up in Brooklyn! We also had sessions on what is currently being done to reach these folks with the gospel and had many discussions on the development of strategies and new tools for evangelism.

We had about fifty people attend the training conference, and most were missionaries to the Jewish people from more than a dozen different ministries. We studied together, prayed, and discussed various strategies and ways that we can work together to reach this group with the gospel. One of the high points of the conference was having an Orthodox rabbi speak to our group about the lifestyle of this unique community of Jewish people.

We also conducted a prayer walk through the Orthodox areas of Brooklyn and had short conversations with many, even about the Lord. It was a great time, and I believe that in the future we will do a lot more to reach this group for the Lord.

WHAT’S NEXT?

We are asking you and others to pray for God to raise up leaders with a heart for outreach among the Haredim. We are working toward creating resources to support those who leave the community. Last year, during our summer outreach, Shalom Brooklyn, we completed more than one hundred surveys of Haredim on the streets of Brooklyn and discovered that 12 percent of Haredim say that they have read at least parts of the New Testament. This is probably a higher percentage than I had previously thought!

This was encouraging, and we believe this indicates an openness to reading the New Testament. We are also developing ads on Facebook and using other forms of social media. We are committed to finding new and creative ways to share the gospel with these beloved Haredim. In fact, Chosen People Ministries has dozens of staff and volunteers sharing the gospel this month on the streets of Brooklyn. They are again using surveys as a way to learn more about the Haredim, and, oftentimes, the surveys lead to good conversations about the gospel.

We are also experimenting this summer with service projects in the Haredi community. We clean up parks in the religious areas, visit the sick and elderly, and find other ways to show God’s love through the Messiah Jesus to Haredi families. These things are always a good testimony. We also have a special burden for ultra-Orthodox Jewish women. Our Shalom Brooklyn teams, especially women, are meeting Haredi women and their children in local parks and trying to befriend some of them. As you will read further, the Haredi moms have many children, and as believers we have a lot to learn from them about raising children.

Your prayers and support are so important to us, especially as we begin to focus more of our efforts on reaching the Haredim. One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Zechariah 12:10 where the prophet tells us what is going to happen at the second coming of Jesus. Zechariah writes,

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.

When I think about those Jewish people turning to Jesus at this future moment, I envision the majority of the men dressed in black with long beards and side curls and the women wearing long dresses and scarves on their heads. Can you see it? Who else would be so eagerly expecting the Messiah at that time?

So, please pray with me for the salvation of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and for our staff and volunteers in Israel and for those on the streets of Brooklyn who are sharing the gospel with the Haredim and many others. We could not do this without your loving generosity and prayers.

Shalom from Jerusalem.

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The Next Generation of Israeli Believers!

The Lord is moving powerfully among young Israelis today in ways I never thought possible!

We are thanking God that young, native-born Israelis are now coming to faith in Jesus the Messiah! We are not only experiencing a “second generation” of Israelis coming to faith and serving the Lord—they are also sharing the Good News with their friends, army buddies, and families.

One of the great challenges Your Mission to the Jewish People faces today is how to help disciple this new generation of Israeli believers. We really need your help.

THE NEW GENERATION OF ISRAELI FOLLOWERS OF JESUS

My first trip to Israel as a believer was in 1976. I met a handful of Messianic Jews, and there were probably only a dozen Messianic congregations at the time. Most of the Israelis I met had become believers outside the Land. Many had actually come to the Lord during the “Jesus Movement” of the 1970s, and moved back to Israel or immigrated under the Law of Return to be a witness in the Holy Land. By the mid-1990s, there were probably a few thousand Jewish believers in Israel. But now, based on our most current research, there might be as many as thirty thousand Israeli Jewish followers of Jesus.

This younger generation of Israeli believers is in need of deeper biblical studies and practical ministry training. They want to impact their families, cities, communities, and country. They want to pray with one another, collaborate with each other in evangelistic efforts, and be used as God’s instruments to unify the Church in Israel.

New ministries are also growing within Israel, such as crisis pregnancy centers, drug rehabilitation centers, and extensive ministries among the poor and elderly Holocaust survivors—most of whom are over the age of 80.

Younger Israelis are some of the most digitally connected in the world, and Chosen People Ministries is using online videos, websites, and social media to reach this generation. We are touching the lives of  thousands of Israelis through our Hebrew language Isaiah 53 Campaign. This campaign, focusing on the prophecy of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, has been used of God to touch thousands of Jewish people throughout the world. This has been especially true in Israel.

We have sent 5,000-plus Isaiah 53 Explained books in Hebrew at the request of   Israelis—95 percent of whom are not yet believers in Jesus! More than a half million Israelis have watched the Hebrew language testimonies we helped develop with our partners at One for Israel Ministry. This success is why we have begun a number of ministries geared toward the younger generation. We are doing all we can to personally follow up with these contacts. We are continually thanking God that we are seeing Israelis coming to faith through various ministries to both young and old.

RAMAT GAN CENTER

Ramat Gan, an urban suburb east of Tel Aviv, is home to hundreds of thousands of unreached young Israeli families. We have established and staffed a new Center in this area, and we have already shared the gospel through our café, public lectures, Bible studies, a moms’ group, and more! The Lord is working powerfully, and through the generosity of friends and supporters, we have already been able to add a couple of Israeli believers to our staff this year.

The Center has also been used by other ministries in the greater Tel Aviv area for outreach to soldiers, discipleship Bible studies, and more! The ministry is growing and we are thrilled with what the Lord is doing. Again, younger Israelis are more open to the gospel today than I can remember, so the opportunities to proclaim the Good News are plentiful.

LIVING WATERS

This new generation of Israeli believers is more engaged with Israeli society and needs practical training in church leadership, evangelism, and discipleship strategies. This is why we have developed mentoring retreats called Living Waters, where we gather twenty-five to thirty of these young Israeli believers for a weekend of training and fellowship. The retreats take place once or sometimes twice a year.

Some of our Living Waters mentees sell medical and technology products, lead moms’ Bible studies, lead youth and soldiers ministries, and others work as software engineers. You name it! Each one is thoroughly engaged in their local congregations and usually responsible for a key area of ministry. They need the input we provide to encourage their hearts and to develop skills for their lives and ministries. Through the Living Waters mentoring retreats, we impart practical biblical teaching as well as hands-on life and ministry skills, while creating and strengthening relationships and helping these young believers build a lifetime of gospel partnerships. I know you would like to hear from some of the young leaders for yourself!

Ariel Z. works with youth in a Russian-speaking congregation:

“I currently serve in a local congregation and have found the subject of ‘burnout’ to be very relevant. It was encouraging to know that I was not the only one experiencing burnout at times, but that it has also been a concern for others. The seminar was very helpful to me as Dr. Polischuk addressed the subject not only from a psychological point of view but also from the Scriptures. I was already aware of some of the ways to avoid burnout, but many were also new to me, such as the importance of having a hobby!”

David S. is a business manager at a Bible college and works with youth in a Hebrew-speaking congregation:

“The topics of the seminar were very interesting and relevant to my life. As a married couple, we have been asked many questions during our conversations with singles and other couples, and we need the wisdom to know how to answer those questions. The lectures helped me to know how to advise on issues such as burnout or marriage problems. The lectures gave me a deep desire to offer support and encouragement to the body in Israel.”

YOUR PARTNERSHIP IN BUILDING GOD’S WORK IN ISRAEL

It is clear that the Lord is at work among Israelis and that the indigenous Church within Israel is changing dramatically. It is a joy to know that we are part of God’s plan to raise up a new generation of Israelis to proclaim the Good News within Israel and to disciple those who come to faith. This generation will make a difference in the very moral fiber and culture within Israel, since these young Israeli believers are no longer marginalized in the same way as their parents once were.

This is an important time in history for us to be fully engaged in shaping the lives and vision of these young leaders, who in time will become significant leaders within the Israeli Church. We not only have the privilege of training new leaders, but we also have an opportunity to be involved in having a direct impact on secular society for the Lord.

Your brother in the Messiah,

Mitch


1 The tractate of the Mishnah about Passover
2 Literally, washing or cleansing
3 Literally, To wash or bath
4 Leviticus 8:6, Leviticus 16:24-25
5 Craig S Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), 906.
6 Ibid. 906–907.
7 Carson, D. A.. The Gospel According to John. (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p. 473.

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Jesus, the Passover Lamb

We are approaching the Passover
/Easter season, and I pray this will be a spiritually enriching time for you and your family. Hundreds of Jewish people—
both believers in Jesus and seekers—will be attending Chosen People Ministries’ Passover events around the globe. Please remember to pray for these outreaches, as many Jewish people will be introduced to the Lamb of God for the first time in a very “Jewish way!”

Your Mission to the Jewish 
People has produced two new books, which are now available. Both books cover similar material, but the longer book, Messiah in the Passover, goes into greater depth regarding Passover in the Bible, Jewish history, and even Church history. The Gospel in the Passover focuses on the way in which Jesus fulfills the festival.

Passover and the Gospel of John
My chapter in Messiah in the Passover focuses on the Gospel of John, and so, based on that wonderful Gospel, I will try to answer this question: “Was the Last Supper a Passover Seder?” The following is a small portion of the chapter.
The Gospel of John is critical to understanding the Jewish story of Jesus. Many scholars argue that the Gospel of John was primarily written to Gentiles, perhaps because of its A.D. 90 date of authorship as well as for a variety of textual reasons. However, the Gospel of John really should be viewed through a Jewish lens. John himself was Jewish and one of the earliest disciples of Jesus. Traditionally, and without argument, he is thought to be the author of the Gospel that bears his name, the Epistles (First, Second and Third John), and the Book of Revelation. According to early Church tradition, John lived longer than any of the other apostles and died as an exile in the late first century on the island of Patmos.

John’s first-hand experience with Jesus gives him great insight into the details of Jesus’ life. He traveled with the Messiah, heard His sermons, and was perhaps the one who was described as “beloved.” He was present at the foot of the cross, unlike his peers, and was given the task of caring for Miriam (Mary), the mother of Yeshua (John 19:26-27).

He was present with Jesus at every Jewish festival the Savior celebrated. Perhaps this is why we learn some unique aspects of the last Passover supper of Jesus through John—especially from the teaching of the Savior during that meal, generally referred to as the Upper Room Discourse.

John mentions Passover quite often in his Gospel. In his very first mention of Jesus, John refers to Him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We may assume that his hearers would have understood this comment in light of the Passover.

John describes three different Passovers observed by Jesus: John 2:13, 6:4, and the final Passover, the focus of this chapter, found in John 11:55, 12:1, and 13:1, with additional references in John 18:28 and 19:14. It should also be noted that Luke tells us that John was asked by Jesus to make preparations for this final Passover meal (Luke 22: 8-13).

The Foot Washing
We understand that the Seder observed by Jesus and His disciples would have been more primitive and not as well developed as what was described 200 years later in the Mishnaic tractate, Pesachim,1 or found in the modern Haggadah, the guide to our modern Passover Seder. However, some of the traditions recorded by John run parallel to our modern day Passover Seder and cause us to think that, in fact, Jesus observed a similar Passover to what we know today and what I was raised celebrating each year! As most of us know, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet during the Last Supper.

The washing of hands during the Passover Seder is foundational to foot washing. The modern Haggadah calls upon participants to wash their hands twice for the sake of establishing ritual purity. The first ritual hand washing is called, in Hebrew, Urchatz.2 In this instance, water is poured from a cup, once over each hand and recited without a blessing in preparation for taking the greens, either parsley or lettuce, which is part of the traditional Seder meal.

The second hand washing is called Rachtzah3 and it is done a little later in the Passover service just prior to eating the matzah (unleavened bread). This time, a blessing is said when pouring the water over the hands: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His laws and commanded us to wash our hands.”

These washing traditions harken back to those linked to ritual purity found in the Torah and in particular to various commandments associated with the priesthood and Temple offerings, especially the preparation of the priests for their duties.4 Again, our modern Passover Seder rituals developed over centuries and cannot be simply “read into” the Passover Seder of Jesus. In this instance, however, it appears that the washing of the disciples’ feet should be associated with the liturgy of the Last Supper (or Last Seder) rather than the common washing of feet when entering a house as a guest.

The strongest indication is that the disciples are already sitting at the table and engaged with dinner when the foot washing begins. 5 Jesus decided to use His washing the disciples’ feet rather than their hands to teach the disciples some early lessons about true humility, suggesting that true spirituality is not simply a matter of performing rituals correctly but a matter of the heart. The lessons in humility demonstrated and then taught through changing the hand washing into a foot washing is dramatic and powerful.

So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. (John 13:12-17)

There are many rabbinic teachings found in the Mishnah and Talmud that emphasize the importance of humility.6 We find similar thoughts about humility in the words of Jesus Himself spoken during the Sermon on the Mount, especially as gleaned from the first three beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-5).

Reclining at the Table
Once again, we have good evidence that this meal is a Seder as Dr. Don Carson, in his commentary on the Gospel of John, suggests that the “reclining” posture of the disciples during the meal is another hint that the meal was a Passover Seder: “In short, the posture of Jesus and his men is a small indicator that they were, in fact, eating the Passover meal.” 7

The reclining posture of the disciples and Jesus indicates that the meal was a “special meal” and in this instance, because of the other elements mentioned and the date it took place, it may be seen as a Passover Seder.

The Sop and the Betrayal
Another key to understanding this meal as the Last Seder of Jesus comes when Jesus indicates to His disciples that Judas is going to betray Him. In response to Peter’s asking who the perpetrator will be, Jesus responds, ‘“That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.’ So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot” (John 13:26).

The dipping of the “morsel” likely refers to one of the various “dippings” that are part of the Seder. It could refer to the dipping of the greens (parsley or lettuce), the bitter herbs, or the charoset (the sweet mixture of apples, nuts, and honey used to symbolize the sweetness of redemption in the midst of the bitterness of slavery represented by the other dippings). We might not know which dipping Jesus is referring to exactly, but clearly this is an unusual action for a regular meal, but not for a Passover Seder.

There are many other reasons why we believe that the dinner recorded by John was an early version of a Passover Seder, but perhaps the above will suffice for now and give you a hunger to learn more about the Passover and the ways Jesus, the Lamb of God, fulfills the Feast.

Enjoy the rest of the newsletter and remember to pray for our staff serving in 17 countries around the globe as they present the Messiah through the Passover in churches, homes, and Messianic congregations and speaking one-on-one with Jewish people who need to know the Lord.

Thanks for your prayers for our ministry. Happy Passover and may the power of His resurrection give you strength to serve Him faithfully!

Your brother,

Mitch


1 The tractate of the Mishnah about Passover
2 Literally, washing or cleansing
3 Literally, To wash or bath
4 Leviticus 8:6, Leviticus 16:24-25
5 Craig S Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), 906.
6 Ibid. 906–907.
7 Carson, D. A.. The Gospel According to John. (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), p. 473.

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Reaching the Most Unreached Within the Jewish Community

Dear friend,

Shalom in His grace. Thank you for your prayers and faithful support of Chosen People Ministries. Your generosity is deeply appreciated!

One of the passages of Scripture that I find to be moving and encouraging is found in Romans 10, where the Apostle Paul speaks of Jewish people who were faithful to God and to the law. Of course, Paul’s argument is that even though a person might try to keep God’s law, it is simply impossible to do so! He writes,

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:1-3)

The Jewish apostle to the Gentiles is explaining to his readers that, no matter how righteous or holy one looks on the outside, God looks at the heart, and, as Scripture teaches over and over again, the hearts and souls of men and women are tainted by sin and thereby unable to please God with human effort alone (Romans 3:23, Jeremiah 17:9). This is the glory of the Gospel: that God sent His only Son, in that while we were yet sinners, Jesus the Messiah died for us (Romans 5:8).

REACHING THE MOST UNREACHED WITHIN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

My heart especially goes out to a particular group of Jewish people who live in Brooklyn, the greater New York/New Jersey area, Jerusalem, and in many major Jewish population centers around the world. This group of people is commonly known as ultra-Orthodox and include those we usually refer to as “old-style Orthodox,” dressed in long black coats, with beards, long side curls, and women all wearing long skirts.

There is another name for this group of Jewish people. In Hebrew, they are called “Haredim.” In English, this means the trembling ones, as they are said to live lives trembling before God. The Hebrew word is drawn from Isaiah 66:2, where the prophet writes, “…to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

NUMBERS AND NEIGHBORHOODS

There are approximately 15 million Jewish people in the world today, and about 2 million of them may be classified as Haredim. This group of Jewish people resists contact with the outside world, dresses distinctively as mentioned above, maintains a strong community that is founded upon the very traditional Orthodox version of the Jewish faith, and has lots of children! The children do not go to regular schools but rather attend what is known as a Yeshiva, a Jewish parochial school. There are schools for boys and schools for girls, for younger and older children. Many current Haredim do not attend college. Instead, the men continue to study the Bible and Jewish literature through their mid-20s and then continue to seriously study even while working at their jobs.

As Paul wrote, they have a zeal for God, and this group of Jewish people clearly does have a zeal for God that is impressive. They are awaiting the coming of the Messiah who they believe will fulfill the prophecies found in the Old Testament, but they do not believe that the Messiah will be God, as Jewish people traditionally do not believe God is triune. Of course, Messianic Jews do believe that Jesus is God in the flesh and that God is three persons—co-eternal, co-essential, co-equal—but in truth, this is viewed as idolatry by the Haredim and by most traditional Jewish people. They believe the coming Messiah will bring the Jewish people back to God, restore the Temple, and fulfill all of the promises of Moses and the prophets in establishing His kingdom in the Holy Land with Jerusalem as the capital.

How is it possible for our hearts not to long for the salvation of the Haredim? They are my neighbors in Brooklyn and I pray for their salvation. There are very few Haredim who profess faith in Jesus, as those who do are usually treated as outcasts by their community and families. It is so difficult for a Jewish person from one of these communities to follow the Lord and to stand for Him in the midst of their community.

A TRAINING CONFERENCE DESIGNED TO REACH HAREDIM

We just finished a week long conference at our Feinberg Messianic Center located in the heart of one of the Orthodox Jewish areas of Brooklyn. This was the first conference on how to reach the Haredim that we know of since the Holocaust. I gave a lecture on what missions to the Jewish people have done in the past to reach these folks. My wife, Zhava, taught on the history of the ways in which the Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish movement came into being and how so many of them ended up in Brooklyn!

We had sessions on what is currently being done to reach Haredim with the Gospel and had many discussions on the development of strategies and new tools for evangelism. We also walked the Hasidic areas of Brooklyn and had a time of prayer that was very meaningful. It was a great time and I believe that in the future we will do a lot more to reach the Haredim.

I was raised “Modern Orthodox.” so of course I went to synagogue and learned Hebrew and how to understand the Scriptures, etc. However, my family was very different from those who live the “Haredi” lifestyle. There is an excellent movie out now entitled, One of Us (you can look it up on YouTube), which describes the lives of those who have left the Haredi community. It will help you to understand and pray for this group of people as it tells the story of those who have left the community in order to live a more “normal” American way of life.

REACHING THE ULTRA-ORTHODOX

Again, I wish I could tell you that there were many Haredim who have come to know the Lord, but really, there are just a few. When they come to faith they often lose their families and jobs and are rejected by the community. Of course, the Haredi community does not understand the Gospel. They do not realize that Jesus and His first disciples were all Jewish. They think Jesus founded a new religion called “Christianity” that has persecuted the Jewish people throughout the centuries. They feel threatened by the “Christianity” they have heard about and know very little about the true Gospel and the real Messiah—Jesus!

Most Haredim have never heard the Gospel. I would be surprised to find out if any Haredim actually know Gentile Christians, as they remain in their community for life, work, education, and even for shopping, since they must have the highest level of kosher foods available.

OUR PLAN AND YOUR PARTNERSHIP

We are planning to do more outreach among the Haredim in 2018! We will be utilizing social media and more public types of advertising — in Yiddish— which is the language that most of them speak. I cannot describe in detail what we are planning because I know that many within the Jewish community read our letters. So, please pray that what we are planning in 2018 will be fruitful and well received.

I can tell you that the strategy will be focused in the New York area and that many who are part of our Brooklyn staff will be involved in implementing the strategy and follow-up with those showing interest in the Gospel.

Your prayers for ministries in Brooklyn, where there are almost 1 million Jewish people, are deeply appreciated. Perhaps as much as a third of these Jewish people would be classified as Haredim. God is blessing Chosen People Ministries on every front —in New York City, Israel, and in the 15 other countries where we minister to the Jewish community. We could not do this without you!

Your brother in the Messiah,

 

 

Dr. Mitch Glaser
President of Chosen People Ministries

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Remembering Billy Graham

Yesterday marked the passing of a great man of God: the evangelist Billy Graham. Though he did far more than preach the Gospel to millions and lead millions to the Lord, as founder of Christianity Today, leading his own organization, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and helped begin significant Christian groups like the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and the Lausanne Consultation on World Evangelism, he will still be known as an evangelist. Clearly Billy Graham viewed evangelism as his highest priority.

He was also a good father and husband, and kept a team together for five decades. He trained some of the most capable leaders of our day, including his son, Franklin, who now leads the BGEA and Samaritans Purse.

My view of Billy Graham changed drastically after I became a believer in Jesus. I was raised a Jewish New Yorker, and Billy Graham was not someone I paid attention to or who had any impact on my life. Once in awhile, I would watch one of his sermons on WOR channel 9 in New York. I changed channels quickly, as every Jewish person knew that we should not watch or listen to Christian evangelists like Billy Graham. I found him easy to listen to, although I admit I did not quite know what to do with him. He evidently had integrity, but he seemed so “puritanical” to me and he was just very Gentile and the epitome of what I was not. On the other hand, he did speak with passion and fervency that I appreciated, even as a young Jewish teenager living in New York City.

After I became a believer in Jesus I understood that every other believer in Jesus was my brother or sister, including Billy Graham. I learned a lot about the Bible and how to share the Gospel from him. When I was a brand new believer I even volunteered to counsel for one of his other evangelists at some rallies in the San Francisco Bay area where I was living at the time. I was really helped by learning how to share the Good News using my five fingers (anyone remember the hand illustration?) and appreciated the way he stood for the Lord in the public square.

Billy Graham produced two films, which were of particular significance to me as a Messianic Jew. The first was His Land, which showed how modern Israel was the fulfillment of prophecy. I loved it and took all my friends to see it! Billy Graham connected me to my own homeland and I was better able to understand what God did in Israel through the lens of Scripture for the first time. I could tell at that point that Mr. Graham was a friend of the Jewish people and of the nation of Israel, which he proved over and over again through his long 99 years of life.

The second film was the story of Corey Ten Boom – The Hiding Place. This movie again gave a clear Gospel message that was a powerful tool for Jewish evangelism. I saw the movie in Beverly Hills in a theater packed with Jewish people and you could hear a pin drop through the movie as we watched a Gentile woman suffer for her faith and love for the Jewish people. I understood that Billy Graham had a deep love for the Jewish people and for the nation of Israel.

Later on as I continued in my ministry, especially in the greater New York area, I had the privilege of being part of a number of committees for the Billy Graham rally held in Central Park on September 25th, 1991. One of my mentors was the chairman of the campaign committee and brought me into many different areas of the internal organization of the event. We formed a group that worked with Cliff Barrows and Dan Southern, who ran the campaign locally, to organize the follow up of the Jewish contacts. We also wrote papers and met and prayed together in order to help the Graham organization better understand the Jewish nuances of New York City. I was humbled because the Graham team really listened to us and changed their usual Crusade model for something that would be friendlier to the variety of ethnic groups in New York City – including the Jewish people.
They did not use the word crusade, which is a sensitive term for Jewish people. They had Marty Goetz sing some Messianic songs on the platform and Kathy Lee Epstein Gifford share her testimony as a Messianic Jew. The entire experience was wonderful. I was proud to be part of it and with great joy we were able to follow up on dozens of Jewish people who had committed their lives to the Lord at the Central Park rally.

The icing on the cake for me personally was when Billy Graham decide to do his last series of rallies in New York City in the Borough of Queens, where I grew up. I was asked to pray on the Sabbath, Friday night, June 24th, 2005, at the rally in Flushing Meadows Park, the site of the 1964 World’s Fair. It just so happens that I was raised a couple of miles from this venue and I was able to stand up that night and pray for the Jewish people of the greater New York area. I sat behind Billy – he sat in a chair because he was already too weak to stand and preach. The message was only 15-20 minutes long and his gentleness, directness, and love for the crowd was apparent and actually overwhelming – you could just sense it. I sat stunned by the pristine simplicity of the message preached by this man of God. I even had the joy of praying with a Jewish man that night to receive the Lord.

Billy Graham, though he did not really know me outside of the night I prayed for the service, was a big influence in my life. I had a deep affection for this man. I am sure that I am just one of millions of lives that he touched so deeply. I thank God for Billy Graham and want to go record as one of the many Jewish people who admired and respected him for his godly example, Gospel conviction, love for Israel and the Jewish people, and desire to bring Jewish people to a saving knowledge of Jesus the Messiah. He will be missed by all of us until the reunion!

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Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Dear friend,

Shalom and Happy New Year from Chosen People Ministries! We are praying that 2018 will be an amazing year of hope and promise! We are excited about reaching Jewish people with the Gospel in new ways in the new year!

We have developed some powerful new ministries in the United States and abroad—especially in Israel! We now have more than twenty workers in Israel and three centers (Jerusalem, greater Tel Aviv, and the Galilee). We are continuing with our children’s camping programs, a ministry among Holocaust survivors, outreach through our Isaiah 53 Hebrew-language campaign, and much more! Our center in Ramat Gan (a suburb of Tel Aviv) opened in 2017, and it is already a bustling hub of ministry activities designed to meet the spiritual needs of young professional Israelis and their families.

Also, I am proud to report that our work in the “other Holy Land,” Brooklyn, continues to grow. The five boroughs of New York City are home to more than two million Jewish people and have the highest concentration of Jewish people in the world outside of Israel. Five years ago, we did not have a presence in Brooklyn, but by God’s grace—and the support of our generous Chosen People Ministries extended family—we are now ministering in the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn! Here is an encouraging comment from Robert W., our Brooklyn branch director:

Recently we met with Sarah,* a former Hasidic woman living in Brooklyn. She has walked by our Feinberg Messianic Center building countless times, often enraged by our presence, but, through friendship, the Lord began to soften her heart. We met with her, prayed with her, and rejoice to share that Sarah has prayed to receive Jesus as her Messiah!

Thank you for your faithfulness which makes the labor of the Gospel possible! We hope to see the seeds sown in 2017 bear fruit in the New Year.

A New Survey

In December, the United States again formally acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and initiated the process of moving the U.S. Embassy to the biblical and historic capital of the Holy Land. Israel’s neighbors and their supporters around the globe disagree with this pronouncement.  The violence within Israel has been limited, but unfortunately, an innocent Israeli young man lost his life in a knife attack. We need to keep praying for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6)!

This past summer, Chosen People Ministries, along with Joel C. Rosenberg, helped design and support a survey conducted by LifeWay Christian Resources called “Evangelical Attitudes Toward Israel.” The results were released in early December at a press conference held in Washington, D.C. The survey results were discussed by The Jerusalem Post, Jewish News Service, The Forward, The Times of Israel, CBN.com, Christianity Today, Religion News Service, and forty-plus news outlets.

We were happy to see that 69 percent of the respondents are positive towards Israel, though that number seems to be going down among younger Christians. When asked about the modern rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948 and the re-gathering of millions of Jewish people to Israel, 80 percent of respondents said these events were fulfillments of Bible prophecy that show we are getting closer to the return of Jesus Christ, and 20 percent said these were simply interesting geopolitical events.

Sixty-six percent of evangelicals believe that Israel’s existence, security, and prosperity are things they should support. On the other hand, 23 percent of Bible-believing Christians said that the Palestinians should be allowed to create their own sovereign state, while 31 percent disagreed, and 46 percent were not sure! That is a massive amount of uncertainty for such a crucial question.

This uncertainty should be a signal to those who love the Lord to think through what the Bible says about the city of Jerusalem because knowing what the Bible says about Israel is so important at this moment. Israel needs the support of born-again Christians. My chief concern at the moment is for the future because younger Christians are undecided about their views on the modern State of Israel.

Your Mission to the Jewish People hopes to continue influencing the Church with great resources and communications intended to form a deeper love for Israel and the Jewish people among Christians.

What Makes Jerusalem So Special?

Do most Christians believe that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel? Most of us do not think of these questions in our daily lives, but, in the coming months, I believe it will become more relevant for us as the process of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem begins.

We should love and support Jerusalem and the State of Israel. Why? Because God promised the land of Israel to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12:1-3). Again in Genesis 17:7-8, the Lord confirmed His promises to Abraham and his seed:

I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

His promise would include Jerusalem, of course, which King David declared as the capital of Israel when he moved his throne to the city and brought the Ark of the Covenant back to the holy city! Chuck Swindoll, in his wonderful book about the life of King David, writes,

With his headquarters in Jerusalem, David finally had the limitless reign he had been promised as God’s anointed leader. He had great power and great blessing from God. (2 Samuel 5:6-12)

We also know that the greater son of David, Jesus the Messiah, will rule on the Davidic throne in Jerusalem when He returns and fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 9:6-7. In that day, the Messiah will reign as King in fulfillment of the promises God made to King David through Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 7:8-17).

We Should Love Jerusalem Because Jesus Loves Jerusalem

Jesus wept over Jerusalem because He loved the city where the Temple of God stood (Luke 19:41)! He also showed compassion for Jerusalem, predicting that the Temple would be destroyed because His chosen people were rejecting Him and the Jewish people would suffer at the hands of the Romans (Matthew 23:37-39).

Jesus’ words unfolded exactly as He said they would. Two generations after His death, the Romans tore apart the Temple stone by stone, destroying the city and exiling the nation for two millennia (Luke 21:21-24). The next two thousand years were a grim time for Jewish people, as they were dispersed from their land and subject to the hatred and cruelty of Gentile host nations.

Today, many Jewish people pray for the Messiah to come and restore His throne in Jerusalem, ending the two thousand year exile and bringing about a reign of peace. Yet, most Jewish people do not yet realize that this very Messiah they pray for is Jesus! When the Jewish people as a whole (or at the time of His return) say, “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord,” Jesus will return (Matthew 23:39, Romans 11:25 ff.). What an exciting promise!

The events of the twentieth century, the creation of the modern State of Israel in 1948, and the regathering of (most of) the Jewish exiles from the four corners of the earth show us that this time is close at hand.

As 2018 unfolds, help us put Jerusalem and the promises the Lord made to the Jewish people at the forefront of our attention. Together we will look forward to the amazing things God will do this year through Your Mission to the Jewish People!

I am especially excited about our work in Israel, but also about our work in many countries where young Israelis travel after their army service. We are now reaching Israelis in New Zealand, Argentina, Germany, and New York City!

And remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem! Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you” (Psalm 122:6).

This peace can only come through the Prince of Peace, Jesus, who longs to live in the hearts of all who call upon His name!

In Him,

 

Dr. Mitch Glaser
President of Chosen People Ministries

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