Please Pray for Our Mission

Shalom, friend.

I hope you are well and taking good care of yourself and your family at this critical time in our world’s history!

Your Chosen People Ministries family is doing our best to care for our staff and staff families, which number about 150 people serving in the United States, and we are linked to another 100 in 18 other countries around the globe.

Even in the midst of this global pandemic, we continue to reach the Jewish people with gospel through online Bible studies, virtual congregational meetings, as well as personal discipleship through digital follow-up of those who requested Isaiah 53 Explained. We are finding that more and more Jewish people are opening their hearts in this desperate hour. We do not want to scale back, but rather meet them in their hour of need.  Because of you and your love for the Lord and the Jewish people, we have grown as a ministry over the last decade.  I believe it is just another sign of His soon return (Romans 11:11–29).

The missionaries and administrative staff of Chosen People Ministries devote their lives to sharing the gospel with the Jewish people. As president of the Mission, it is my responsibility to care for the welfare of our missionaries. In light of this, I am writing to ask you to take a moment—maybe right now—and pray for the missionaries of Chosen People Ministries. Please also pray for our administrative staff, mostly in New York City and Florida, who are now working from home and are dedicated to serving the missionaries in the field.

James writes, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16b). Therefore, I would like to give you some specific things that you can pray for at this time.

  1. Please keep our missionaries, both in the United States and abroad, in your prayers. Many have needed to adjust their plans and goals during this time. A large part of their income comes from speaking engagements, and many of them are having to postpone their plans until it is possible to travel, conduct public ministries, etc.
  1. Pray for our Messianic Centers, which have been forced to close for safety: Brooklyn, Chicago, Florida, Jerusalem, Ramat Gan, Buenos Aires, and others.
  1. Pray for our digital ministries, such as online Bible studies, meetings, discipleship, and evangelism. Please pray that we can continue to reach Jewish people and have meaningful conversations with them about faith.
  1. Pray for our House of Living Waters (HOLW) outreach, which is our campus ministry. Even though the New York University students have gone home, our HOLW interns continue to minister to them both digitally and by phone.
  1. Please pray for the Jewish people at large—many are afraid and uncertain right now and need the good news now more than ever.

Please consider taking a moment now to pray for Your Mission to the Jewish People.

We cannot allow our ministry to the Jewish people to decrease at this crucial time, when Jewish people are seeking more now than ever before.

Also…let us know how we can pray for you!

We have prayer teams organized who would be more than happy to pray for you and your loved ones during this difficult time. Visit chosenpeople.com/pray to leave us your prayer request.

Thank you so much for standing with Your Mission to the Jewish People.

 

Blessings in Messiah and stay safe!

Mitch

 

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Three New Missionaries Join Us in Israel!

Shalom in His grace. As you probably know, we had a wonderful year celebrating our 125th anniversary. As we turn our eyes to the future, I want to take a moment to honor God by remembering the past. Rabbi Leopold Cohn—our founder—along with hundreds of missionaries, board members, prayer partners, and faithful supporters are now part of that host of heavenly witnesses cheering us on towards the future (Hebrews 12:1–3)!

We now must move forward in serving the Lord among His chosen people until He comes again!

Our missionaries will continue our everyday ministries, presenting Jesus the Messiah one-on-one and heart-to-heart to Jewish people in the dozens of cities and nineteen countries in which we serve.

We will continue teaching Bible studies, planting and leading Messianic congregations, serving poor and elderly Jewish people, and hosting children’s camps through the leadership provided by our Messianic Centers in densely populated Jewish communities such as Brooklyn, Tel Aviv, Buenos Aires, and another half-dozen cities around the world.

Our leadership has prayerfully decided to focus on three distinct essential ministries.

We are calling this effort our To the Jew First campaign. As Paul wrote in Romans 1:16:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Allow me to summarize the three parts of the campaign:

ISRAEL

We will continue to build our work in Israel. We now have twenty-five staff members serving in the Holy Land, but we need more! We are finding that Israelis are more open today to the gospel than ever before, and we want to seize the moment!

DIGITAL MEDIA

We will intensify our ministry through digital media—utilizing the web, social media and videos—using all these modern tools God has made available to us to proclaim the gospel and disciple those who come to faith.

THE JOSHUA INITIATIVE

Finally, we will invest more time, treasure, and talent in mentoring the next generation of missionaries to the Jewish people. We have started new and unique ministries on many campuses, training more and more new leaders at our Charles Feinberg Center in Brooklyn, and bringing young adults together in training conferences to send into the harvest.

GOD IS DOING AMAZING THINGS IN ISRAEL!

Our ministry over the last two decades in the Holy Land has touched the lives of thousands of Russian Jewish immigrants and elderly Holocaust survivors, children through our camping programs, and many others through church planting and the general work of evangelism.

The Lord brought the right people to the right place for the right moment of ministry!

We are thrilled to see a second-generation movement of the Holy Spirit within Israel.

Many of those who are now serving the Lord in Israel are young Israelis whose parents became believers decades ago. This new generation of Israeli Messianic Jews is serving the Lord among their friends and family members in the Land.

They were raised in Israel, speak fluent Hebrew, served in the army, and many want to serve in full-time Jewish ministry. We are focusing on this next generation of Israeli young adults and families.

We will certainly not forget the older and very precious Israelis. But now, we must turn our attention to the next generation of Israelis, especially those who live in the greater Tel Aviv area, which has the largest population in Israel. For example, we are now active in a suburban community called Ramat Gan, which is adjacent to Tel Aviv. Ramat Gan and the surrounding area has about a half-million Israelis without one congregation or church. And—until we moved into the area—there were no missionaries serving them at all.

We now rent an attractive sixteen-hundred-square foot center in Ramat Gan, where we have some younger staff members already in place. Yet, for the last two years, we have been specifically praying for God to bring new staff members who are native-born Israelis and are willing and able to serve the Lord with Your Mission to the Jewish People.

Praise God—over the last twelve months, He has answered our prayers!

I have now served as the leader of Chosen People Ministries for twenty-three years, and what a joy it has been. I must say, that in more than two decades of service, I never thought that I would see such openness in Israel, nor such high-quality young people with a willingness to serve.

We now have three wonderfully gifted young Israelis who are well-trained and ready to move forward in service for the Lord. In fact, we have already taken two of them on our staff, and the third is just about to begin. These three staff members are currently involved in the ministry in the Tel Aviv area; meeting with younger adults and families, conducting Bible studies, mother’s groups, outreach concerts, Sabbath dinners for millennials, and hosting a series of regular public lectures that are gospel-centered and appealing to the more secular Israelis living in the area.

I have included their pictures and a little more information about each of these young missionaries with so much potential, talent, and willingness to serve the Lord.

rsz_motiMordechai “Moti” was born in 1984 in Haifa, Israel, the only child of an Orthodox Moroccan Jewish family. As a young adult, Moti learned radio broadcasting and served in the Israel Defense Forces between 2003–2006. Moti traveled to the United States in 2007 pursuing his dream of becoming a photographer. He took classes at Photo Manhattan in New York while also working as a kosher supervisor on the Upper West Side. During this time, he became acquainted with Chosen People Ministries. He was challenged to read the Bible for himself and seek God on his own terms. After much prayer, thought, and study, Moti came to believe that Jesus was, in fact, his Jewish Messiah. When Moti returned to Israel in 2010, he signed up for classes at the Israel College of the Bible (ICB) to learn the Bible in a deeper way. Currently, Moti works with youth, soldiers, and students, teaching the Bible and sharing the good news in Israel. Moti and his wife, Orel, are both passionate about reaching their fellow Israelis, especially working with youth and young adults.

AyeletAyelet was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, and was raised in a Messianic Jewish family. She came to believe the Bible and placed her faith in Yeshua at an early age. By the age of five, she was sharing the gospel. In her teens, she became active in camp and youth ministry. Ayelet always appreciated the cultural diversity in Israeli society, with Jews from all over the world. The Lord led her to study anthropology, Bible and theology, and apologetics, with a desire to minister to her diverse people in a culturally sensitive and biblically accurate way.

God has given Ayelet a heart for Israel and the nations, and she feels called to the work of discipleship, biblical teaching, evangelism, and missions. She recently completed her studies at Talbot Seminary, where she received a Master of Arts degree. Ayelet is excited to serve at the Ramat Gan center in outreach and discipleship. She desires to equip and challenge Jewish Israeli believers, calling our people to faith in Yeshua.

rsz_davidDavid was born in Latvia to a family of Jewish believers in Jesus. As a teenager, he moved with his family to Israel and then served in the Israel Defense Forces. David committed his life to the Lord at the age of seventeen while reading John 3:16 in a weekly congregation service. God’s love for him suddenly became so apparent and alive, he was amazed and devoted his life to serve and live for Him. David and his wife, Victoria, have always had a heart to share the gospel and make disciples by opening their home for fellowship, evangelism, and studying the Bible.

Currently, David is volunteering as the associate pastor at a large Hebrew-speaking congregation in Tel Aviv. In 2019, David joined the staff of Chosen People Ministries. David and Victoria are wholeheartedly committed to ministry at the Ramat Gan center, facilitating Café and Music nights, seminars, Sabbath dinners, and many other events. They have two children: Orel and Emanuel.

I know that so many more Israelis will hear the gospel and be saved because we invest in the lives and futures of these young missionaries. Three young Israelis like these do not come along every day.

We have a big vision—to share the gospel with hundreds of thousands of Israelis in Ramat Gan and the surrounding neighborhood. Finally, by God’s grace, we have the available people to serve!

I believe the Lord is about to do something marvelous, and you and I can have a part in this!

I hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction to David, Moti, and Ayelet.

For Jesus and for Israel,
Mitch

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To the Jew First in the 21st Century

Dear friend of the Jewish people,

Shalom from New York City. I recently visited South Florida where I enjoyed some warm weather and spoke at our To the Jew First Conference.  This was a Bible conference on Jewish evangelism held at the First Baptist Church of Boca Raton. Boca Raton is the epicenter of the Jewish population of Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. It was an exciting conference and hopefully the first of many regional conferences on Jewish evangelism hosted by Jewish-friendly local churches.

Hosting a conference like this is a great way to introduce your church to the importance of Jewish evangelism. You can also invite a Chosen People Ministries speaker to your church for a Sunday or special service.

The name of the conference reflects the statement of the Apostle Paul: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

These conferences can be scheduled for a Friday evening through Sunday, or a Saturday morning. Whoever speaks can then be invited to give the sermon on Sunday, as well. You could even invite other churches in the area to join in the joy of learning more about God’s plan and purposes for Israel and the Jewish people. The Chosen People Ministries speaker will help you learn how to pray and share the gospel with Jewish friends and family.

If you would like to help make one of these events happen in your area, simply fill out this form, which will let us know you want us to approach your church to schedule a To the Jew First Conference in 2020. We will provide the program and help promote the conference.

The Importance of Romans 1:16

I hope you enjoy this month’s special article, penned by Dr. Albert Mohler, the current president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Mohler is a great friend of the Jewish people and for many years he has encouraged the church to reach Jewish people with the message of Jesus. Some years ago, Dr. Mohler gave one of the best messages on Romans 1:16 I ever heard at the First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach. We adapted this sermon into an inspiring booklet, a portion of which you can read here.

Prayer with a Promise

I believe that bringing the gospel to a Jewish person is the best way to bless God’s chosen people! The gospel is the Lord’s greatest gift to us and the best gift we could ever give to our Jewish friends. In Psalm 122:6, we are told to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” There is a promise attached to this prayer as the Psalmist adds, “they will prosper who love you.” The Hebrew term used for “prosper” refers to the internal peace, quiet, and calm that we receive from the Lord when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

This prayer with a promise was also mentioned in Genesis 12:1–3 when God made His foundational covenant with Abraham, our forefather. At that time, He outlined the role the Jewish people would play in His plan and purposes for mankind. God tells Abram that He will bless the world through the Jewish people: “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). In other words, the Jewish people were created and called for the benefit of the Gentile nations! The Jewish people formed God’s bridge of redemption to a dark and broken world.

The prayer with a promise in this instance is profound since two different Hebrew terms are used, which are both usually translated into English as “curse.” Let us look at the text carefully for a moment.

God promises that those who are not physical descendants of Abram will experience His blessing for blessing Abram and his descendants. Additionally, those who curse Abraham’s seed will be cursed. The Hebrew word used for curse in the first instance literally means to make light.1 The second word translated curse2 refers to the usual term for judgment, often used in both Deuteronomy chapter 28 and Leviticus chapter 26. The play on words should not be missed: Those who devalue or make light of Israel and her role in God’s plan or who in some way disparage the Jewish people will experience the very same curses God warned would fall upon the Jewish people for disobedience to His law.

In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus speaks of the judgment awaiting those who mistreat His followers by allowing them to go thirsty, hungry, sick, and uncared for (Matthew 25:41–44). He takes this mistreatment personally as the Lord says, “…‘ Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:45–46).

Many scholars believe the mistreated ones referred to by Jesus are the Jewish people. Whether you believe the Savior is speaking of the Jewish people or His disciples among the Jewish people and the Gentiles, it is clear that the Lord does bring a unique judgment upon those who mistreat His people.

Simply stated, the Lord wants us to understand and appreciate the role of the Jewish people in His plan and to act upon what we know! This also means that those guilty of antisemitism, which is on the rise today, will experience His judgment!

I do not equate a lack of sharing the gospel with the Jewish people as cause for judgment, but withholding the good news from the Jewish people is certainly not taking advantage of a promised blessing. After all, what greater way to bless the Jewish people is there than to bring the message of Jesus to our Jewish friends and family?

The gospel is the greatest gift we can give to a Jewish person.

A Survey of Evangelicals

In the recent survey by LifeWay Research and sponsored by Chosen People Ministries and Joel C. Rosenberg, we discovered that one of the areas where the church needs to be strengthened is in its efforts to bring the gospel to the Jewish people.

The survey of more than 2,000 evangelical participants revealed that 32 percent of evangelicals shared the gospel with their Jewish friends in the last year.

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Additionally, only 35 percent prayed in the past week for the salvation of their Jewish friends.

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The survey results show how important it is to understand the biblical argument for why Jewish evangelism is important. I am sure you will appreciate Dr. Mohler’s article.

Join Us on the Journey!

We are now in our 126th year of ministry! In addition to our regular everyday work of Jewish evangelism, we hope to especially focus on three critical areas of ministry: reaching Israel; proclaiming the gospel through digital media; and our Joshua Initiative, by which we hope to train a new generation of workers among the Jewish people! This three-fold emphasis is what we call our To the Jew First Campaign.

This is going to be a great adventure, and I hope you will prayerfully partner with us on the journey!

Blessings in our beloved Messiah,

Mitch

קָלַל1 (kalal)
אָרר 2 (arar)

 

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I am excited about 2020—are you?

Shalom in our Messiah!

Happy New Year! Your Mission to the Jewish People is now entering our 126th year of ministry. We had many wonderful celebrations for our 125th year including conferences, banquets, and evangelistic ministries in New York, Israel, and around the globe.

We spoke to more than 5,000 Jewish people about Jesus during our summer outreach in New York City and housed almost 2,000 young Israelis traveling in New Zealand who heard the gospel through our staff and volunteers. We also met almost 10,000 Jewish people online, many of whom asked for the free copy of our evangelistic book, Isaiah 53 Explained, in English and Hebrew!

Our I Found Shalom video testimonies were viewed by millions!

We prayed with Jewish people to receive Jesus as their Savior everywhere from New York City to Tel Aviv, as well as Jerusalem, Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, and in many other countries around the world.

What a year, and by God’s grace we have now expanded our ministries into nineteen countries!

Last year, we took every opportunity to honor our spiritual forefathers who laid a solid and lasting foundation for Chosen People Ministries. But now, it is time to pivot toward the future and look ahead to the opportunities for Jewish evangelism in 2020 and beyond!

After all, we really do not know how much time we have until Jesus returns.

Do you believe we are in the end times? I do, and let me tell you why.

  • Israel now has the largest population of Jewish people in the world.
  • Israel is surrounded by enemies—especially the new coalition between Iran, Russia, and Syria in the north. This is especially dangerous, and we need to keep our eyes open and focus our prayers on this concerning situation.
  • Missiles continue to rain on Israel from Gaza, again funded by Iran.
  • Internally, Israel is in deep trouble because it has been unable to elect a prime minister, which creates instability within the country.

Followers of Jesus have been expecting His return at any moment since the day He ascended. I cannot imagine that Peter, Paul, and the other apostles thought it would take more than 2,000 years.  The fact that we have expected His return in every generation since the ascension does not mean we can become lax and not eagerly await His return today!

I still believe the Lord is coming soon! In fact, according to Zechariah 12:10, where the prophet tells us that Israel will ultimately look to the one who was pierced, Jerusalem needs to be in Jewish hands for this prophecy to be fulfilled. This happened, of course, in 1967!

When speaking of His return, it is true that “of that day and hour no one knows” (Matthew 24:36), but we should not ignore the obvious signs of the times!

There is a growing remnant of Jewish people in Israel and around the world starting to believe in Jesus. There are probably more Jewish believers in the world now than ever before with an increasing number of Messianic Jewish believers in the Holy Land. There are more than 150 congregations in Israel, and thousands of young Israelis are now serving the Lord….in the Land!  This is clearly a sign of His soon return in light of what Paul wrote in Romans 11:25–29!

Chosen People Ministries is in the midst of this exciting time through our ministries in Jerusalem, Ramat Gan (Tel Aviv), Galilee, and northern Israel.

I believe we need to preach the good news to the Jewish people more intensively than ever before!

Next Steps in 2020

This is exactly what your Mission to the Jewish People plans to do in 2020!

And this is why we are initiating our To the Jew First Campaign, based upon Romans 1:16, where Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

We will focus on three critical areas:

Israel

We are intensifying our outreach in the Holy Land—doing more and more as the Lord enables. We hope one day soon to purchase a center in Tel Aviv. For now, renting a center in the heart of Ramat Gan, one of the largest, most populated, but unreached suburbs in Israel. This has been an exciting venture as we continue to reach younger and more secular Israelis each week through our concerts, Bible studies, evangelistic lectures, and Sabbath dinners.

There were almost forty people who are not yet believers at our last outreach Sabbath dinner, along with protestors standing outside the doors of our little center in Ramat Gan!

We now have more than twenty staff serving the Lord in Israel, and most of them are native Israelis. Our efforts among Holocaust survivors, children’s camps, congregational planting, and much more is all going well!  Thank you for your prayers and for your ongoing support for this work in Israel.

Opportunities Online

We are maximizing the use of digital media in Israel, the United States, and around the globe for the gospel.

We now have more than one hundred testimonies of Jewish believers online.

Our Isaiah 53 campaign continues, and we are meeting lots of Jewish seekers online!  The campaign costs about five dollars per book, including advertising and shipping costs.

This year we will send out more than 10,000 Hebrew Isaiah 53 Explained books to Israelis!

We also developed a full range of online discipleship Bible studies so Jewish people seeking the Lord can study the Bible and grow in their faith once they become believers.

The Joshua Initiative

Finally, we are increasing our efforts around the globe to train young believers to serve the Lord.

This is what we call the Joshua Initiative.

This includes those seriously studying the Word of God and learning more about Jewish evangelism at our Charles L. Feinberg Seminary program in Brooklyn. Thank God, our beloved supporters enabled us to purchase the Feinberg Center’s facility without debt!

You can tell how excited I am about entering 2020 and beginning our 126th year of Jewish ministry!

I would rather be disappointed if He does not come today, tomorrow, or even this year. I still believe we need to do all we can with the greatest sense of urgency to proclaim the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles each and every day.

So, call me a fanatic!  I suppose I am and if you want to know why, please watch my testimony on our I Found Shalom web site and you will know why!

Please join me with your prayers and efforts in reaching out to a dark and broken world—to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.

Have a Happy New Year and know that our staff loves and appreciates you. We could not do all we do without your partnership.

Blessings in 2020—however long we have to enjoy it!

Your brother and fellow fanatic,

Mitch (Romans 1:16)

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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