Dear friend in the Messiah,
There is no doubt in my mind that the college campus is one of the best places there is to engage Jewish students with the Gospel. According to the recent Pew Report, 60% of the Jewish population in the United States are college graduates, which is twice the number of our general population.1
We know that students are more open to new ideas as they are often away from their parents and other types of community support. Since Jewish young adults are generally taught not to believe in Jesus, this fresh openness to new viewpoints in general is a great time to introduce Jewish students to the Jewish Messiah.
We of course must be careful to be sensitive to the vulnerability of many young adults and respect the way they have been raised. We need to meet the students in the marketplace of ideas and make sure these Jewish students want to hear the Gospel. We need to offer the Good News and make Jesus so attractive that Jewish students will want to hear more and more!
We usually encourage campus evangelism to be primarily done student-to-student if possible, though of course, campus ministries, local churches and Messianic congregations near campuses can be supportive of believing students reaching out to Jewish young adults and provide wisdom, warm fellowship, a home-cooked meal and lots of love!
There are many challenges to reaching Jewish students on campus. Any significant effort will likely be opposed by the campus rabbi, Hillel (the largest national Jewish campus group) and an Orthodox (Chasidic) group called Chabad, which is active on many campuses.
Additionally, antisemitism is on the rise on many college campuses in the United States. More than 50% of Jewish college students said they have experienced some type of antisemitism during this past year.2
This is terrible, but it gives Christians the opportunity to show support and solidarity with the Jewish students, letting them know that true Christians love the Jewish people and oppose antisemitism. This is a great testimony to Jewish students.
Meanwhile, in spite of the challenges, our ministries on campus are going well. May I share some wonderful reports with you?
Michael Cohen, our Los Angeles director, writes,
Our ministry is now fully involved and has partners in outreach on three college campuses in the Los Angeles area. One of the keys to having a ministry to Jewish students on campus is to gather a group of volunteers! At Pierce College, in the very Jewish San Fernando Valley, I met a young student, a Jewish believer, who also comes out and witnesses with me. We also have great opportunities to share the Gospel with Jewish students from other countries. At the University of Southern California, I spoke with a Jewish student from Australia. As we spoke, he shared that he was once Orthodox but is now more secular. I asked how that happened. He told me that over time he simply stopped participating in religious activity until he finally decided that he was no longer Orthodox. Interestingly, he also has some Messianic Jewish friends back in Australia. As I shared the Gospel with him, I told him that Jesus wanted to set him free and to give him the gift of new life. All of this was very appealing to him, as clearly he had been searching for God. Please pray for Jacob,* as I know that God wants him to know the truth. I have had the privilege recently to work with YWAM’s School of Prayer and Mission. For a week in November I helped equip a ten-person team on Jewish Evangelism and Apologetics, including hands-on training at Cal State Northridge. Together, we have shared the Gospel with many students on campus. Please pray for our continued partnership with them.
Ari Hauben, one of our new staff members serving in Philadelphia, describes the following:
Last week, I attended a citywide event in Philadelphia sponsored by one of the Christian student groups. The leaders of this group found out I was a Messianic Jew, working with Chosen People Ministries, and they were excited. I found out why when they introduced me to a very special female student! This young woman is a believer and is Jewish and both her parents are rabbis! She wanted to hear my testimony and had lots of questions about how my family responded when I told them I was a believer in Jesus. She told me she once tried explaining her faith in Jesus to her mom and that her mom started crying and was very upset. Her mom told her not to spend any more time with the Christian groups, which is a usual response because our Jewish parents view Jesus as a threat. She has not tried talking to her mom about Jesus since—and has never spoken to her dad.
She was especially interested in how I continue to identify as a Jew who believes in Yeshua and how I incorporate some Jewish practices, such as Passover, as part of my walk and identity with Jesus. I am looking forward to following up with her!
I am happy to say our work at New York City area campuses is going well. One of our most experienced campus representatives, Doug P., writes,
The Israel-Palestinian debate is a hot topic on campus and unfortunately questions about Israel are often combined with an underlying antisemitism that seems politically driven at first but is much more…and far more sinister! A recent experience at Columbia University highlights this concern and matter for prayer. One large man on occasion stands at the main gate of the school and holds up a large sign that reads “Divest Israel” and spews antisemitic remarks. Another student stopped by our campus literature table there last Wednesday to tell us that many students at Columbia are against Israel.
So, you can see that this is a real problem. But God is still blessing!
An Israeli professor stopped by the table to say: “Keep up the important work!” and took a copy of the small prophecy booklet on Isaiah 53! Our work at Queens College continues unabated, giving out booklets and many cards for the new ifoundshalom.com website. One Israeli girl especially stands out in my mind as she argued that the idea of a Son of God is not a part of Jewish thinking. When I showed her Psalm 2:7-8 in Hebrew, which speaks about God’s Son, she was silent and told me she would have to look it up and study the text. She left me her email to contact her. We need and deeply appreciate your prayers for these many Jewish students who stop by our tables!
Immediately before the Jewish festival of Hanukkah I stopped by our Charles Feinberg Center in Brooklyn and spent some time with our younger missionaries who were about to go out to witness on the Brooklyn College campus. They decided to try a new strategy—a potato pancake (or latkes for all of you Jewish-cooking aficionados) giveaway! The team made 300 latkes and handed them out to students at one of the most Jewish schools in the country. They had more conversations than they could handle, and besides…it was lots of fun! We have an ongoing ministry at this school, which is barely a mile from our Brooklyn Center!
Most of all, I hope you will pray for Jewish students and encourage Christian young people to reach their Jewish friends. Perhaps your church has a student group and would like additional training in campus ministry among Jewish people. We would love to help.
May the Lord fill you with joy, vision and strength in the Holy Spirit!