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.
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.