Category Archives: Judaism

Introducing some of my heroes . . .

I hope you have time to read a little story. I love good stories, and this is a good one! 

Isaac Feinstein is one of my heroes. He became a martyr for Jesus at the start of World War II. Joseph Hoffman Cohn, the son of another of my heroes in the faith, Leopold Cohn, the founder of Chosen People Ministries, tells the story. 

THE COHNS’ LIFE AND MINISTRY 

As you might know from Chosen People Ministries’ history, Leopold Cohn immigrated to the United States in the early 1890s and came to the Lord in 1892. He founded Chosen People Ministries in 1894 and held outreach meetings in a cleaned-out horse stable in Brooklyn! 

Leopold grew up in the Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, among whom most members who remained in Europe died during the Holocaust. However, by God’s grace, quite a few from the Satmar community landed safely on the shores of the United States of America, where they have thrived and grown to become one of the world’s largest Hasidic sects.1 

Naturally, Leopold Cohn’s ministry focused on the millions of eastern European Jewish immigrants, like the Satmar, who settled in turn-of-the-century New York City. Leopold’s son Joseph became the director of Chosen People Ministries in 1932 after his father passed into the presence of the Lord. As the ominous Nazi plan to annihilate the Jews of Europe became known, Joseph began to share in the desperation of his fellow Jews in Europe. 

Joseph Hoffman Cohn traveled throughout Europe from 1938 to 1939, encouraging Messianic Jewish leaders to leave the continent because he sensed what was coming. This trip to Europe was Joseph’s last-ditch effort to help as many of the Jewish missionary leaders as possible. His reports of his conversations and adventures appeared in various issues of the Chosen People magazine, some of which I have included below. 

THE MARTYRDOM OF ISAAC FEINSTEIN 

Joseph Cohn was especially fond of Isaac Feinstein, who led the Norwegian Israelite Mission work in Jassy, Romania, before the Nazi invasion. Cohn visited with Feinstein before the war and tried to persuade him and his family to leave Europe: 

It was the summer of 1938. We were walking together on the Buda side of the Danube at Budapest. My companion was Isaac Feinstein, a beloved young Jewish brother who was then stationed at Galatz in Romania, about 200 miles farther east than Budapest, and was carrying on a faithful and brilliant testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ under the support of some Christian brethren in Norway. I coveted this young man and his talents for our work here in the States. 

Every time I looked into his face I could not help thinking of Nathaniel of old, the Israelite in whom our Lord found no guile. His eyes burned with the explosiveness of impassioned zeal. He had the perfect background for a marvelous ministry to the Jews of New York City. He was young, he was steeped in all the Hebrew lore as on his way he was a master in Israel and could speak to his Jewish compatriots with authority. So I turned to him suddenly and asked him if he would leave Romania, take his wife and six children and come to America and join our staff. 

I pointed out to him the imminent dangers developing in Europe and brutal thoughts of Nazism and asked him to ponder and to pray seriously over the question as to whether the Lord would not have him leave these lands of horror and come to America for a greatly enlarged field of service and testimony. 

He was overwhelmed for a moment, but soon recovered his poise and told me frankly with affection and emotion how grateful he was for this compliment. But that he felt it would be an act of cowardice to leave his post in the face of threatened dangers. He felt that Nazis or no Nazis, it was his duty to stay at his post. There were so many of his Jewish brethren in Galatz who were depending on him for spiritual comfort and leadership that he would feel all his life the terrible shame of having deserted them in the hour of their need. So, we parted, and my last words to him then were that if ever the time came that he found himself compelled to leave Romania, he should take the first boat to New York and report to our office.2 

Cohn continued, 

Came the war, one by one the Nazi beasts took captive country after country. And soon Romania fell victim and the Nazis stormed over the land like the lice in Egypt. And to Galatz they came, spreading cruelties and death on every side. They seized this young brother, who had done them no harm but was a faithful servant to the Lord Jesus Christ. They tied him to a stake and then for days they tortured him. His tongue hung out of his mouth in desperate body-torturing thirst, but never was he shown one shred of mercy or decency. Finally, he died from sheer torture and exhaustion.

Cohn printed a letter from Isaac’s wife, Esther, in the Chosen People magazine in which she thanked him and Chosen People Ministries for their support. She also provided insight regarding her continued ministry among the refugees and the plight of the survivors in general: 

This week I had the great joy to receive a letter from you, though with the date January 14, 1944, so it is just a year ago. 

I cannot tell you how thankful I am for your help which I had never expected, and which came in such a wonderful way to us. I really see that the Lord sent it and I take it from his hand praising him. Of course, I had heard of you through my dear husband, but I shouldn’t have thought to ask your help. It was Richard (Wurmbrand) who wanted me to do it. How glad I should be to have news from our friends there, but what a terrible time they must have gone through. I am looking forward very much to seeing you when you will come to Europe. I shall have lots to tell you. 

Somehow, I feel that you are a sort of a father for my little orphans and I am so happy that you take an interest in them. For the present I am working among Jewish refugee children and am trying to be a mother to those poor dear ones who lost so much. My own children are well, living with friends, except my six-year-old, little Gabrielle, was not healthy like the others and must be looked after in a special home. I use part of the money to pay her board. I ask the Lord to bless for all you do and have done for us.3 

Cohn wrote of the ministry’s continued concern for the wife and children of the martyred Feinstein. He also shared with us his expectations for post-war ministry among the survivors. 

His widow with her six children escaped to Switzerland, and like the woman in the wilderness of Revelation, it is our privilege to nurture her as we send each month, through your generosity, $100 that she may have food for herself and her children. This is only a sample of what will await us once the war is finished and we are told to go across and minister to these, His disciples.4

HEROES OF THE FAITH 

Many Jewish refugees also came to Jesus through the efforts of Isaac’s wife, Esther! I cannot help but think that if the author of Hebrews wrote chapter eleven today, Isaac and Esther would take their place next to Abraham, Sarah, and the other heroes and heroines of the faith. Hebrews chapter twelve describes a cloud of witnesses, and I wonder if Isaac and Esther are in the heavenly stands cheering us on as we reach Jewish people for Jesus today! (Heb 12:1–3). 

YOUR PARTNERSHIP IS DEEPLY APPRECIATED 

I wish you could meet our brave missionary staff serving the Lord in Israel, Ukraine, Brooklyn, Buenos Aires, and many other places where Jewish people are plentiful, and there are few Christians. There are many obstacles and much opposition to presenting Jesus to His kinsmen in the flesh. 

Yet, I rarely hear a complaint about the difficulties our staff experience. Moreover, I believe their peace of soul and confidence in the Lord is partly the result of your faithful prayers and support. We see the light of God’s love shining through the dark clouds of difficulty because of you! So, thank you for caring about the Jewish people and our missionary staff.

1 Hasidism is a form of ultra-Orthodox Judaism characterized by conservative religious values and an insular lifestyle, of which the Satmar group is one of the most extreme. 

2 Joseph Hoffman Cohn, “Salutation,” Chosen People 48, no.7 (1944a): 6. 

3 Esther Feinstein, “Jewish Notes,” Chosen People 51, no. 2 (1945b):14. 

4 Cohn, Chosen People (1944a):6. 

5 Latte Neanni, “Romanian Jewish Chronology,” The Romanian Jewish Community, December 9, 2020, accessed September 6, 2022, https://www.romanianjewish.org/. 

6 Tuvia Friling, Radu Ioanid, and Mihail E. Ionescu, eds., International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania: Final Report (Iași, Romania: Polirom, 2005), 249. 

7 “The JUST Act Report: Romania,” United States Department of State, accessed September 1, 2022, https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/romania/. 

8 Romania: Ukraine Refugee Situation Update (UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency, July 12, 2022), https://data.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/94235.

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Filed under evangelism, Holocaust Survivors, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Messianic Jewish

The Tabernacle: A Portrait of Redemption

Let me tell you how excited I am about a new Bible teaching project we have been working on these past several months! We are partnering with a wonderful Christian production company to create a virtual three-dimensional model and tour of the Tabernacle, which was the “portable Temple” where God dwelt during the Israelites’ journeys on the way to the promised land. The Hebrew for “tabernacle” is mishkan, which means dwelling place.

In Exodus 25:1–27:19, Moses outlined the plan for the Tabernacle, which God revealed to him on Mount Sinai. In many ways, the Tabernacle is a biblical type that points to the person and work of Messiah Jesus. That is one reason why I believe it is crucial that we understand the Tabernacle! Within this incredible structure, we find the “spiritual essentials” we need to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Once done, we hope our 3D model will help you experience the Tabernacle in a fresh and deeper way. You will find several images of the model in this newsletter.

Now, allow me to give you a “sneak peek” by examining the Tabernacle’s components and showing why they are important for anyone who wants to live for the Lord.

THE ALTAR (מִזְבֵּחַ)—mizbeiach

One of the major roles of the priests was to offer sacrifices to God on the altar (Exodus 27:1–8) in the Tabernacle (and eventually the Temple). One cannot underestimate the importance of the required sacrifices for atonement. We read in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.”

Yeshua was the lamb of God who offered Himself as a sacrifice, and His death atoned for the sins of Israel and the entire world (John 1:29). We are grateful for God’s sacrifice of His Son for our salvation. As followers of the Messiah, we also offer ourselves in sacrificial service, which is our spiritual duty (Romans 12:1–2).

THE LAVER (כִּיּוֹר)—kiyor

The priests were commanded to cleanse themselves in the laver, or basin, before offering sacrifices (Exodus 30:17–20). This law teaches us a key lesson, as there must be purity before we are able to worship. The laver teaches us the importance of purity and cleansing in our spiritual lives. In fact, the cleansing that Israel and the world needs is not produced by bathing in water, but rather we are washed and purified through the blood of Jesus. The laver points to the perfect cleansing we experience by faith through His sacrifice for our sins.

I believe the Lord had the death of the Messiah Jesus in mind when the prophet wrote, “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity” (Zechariah 13:1).

This end-time cleansing will take place when the Jewish people turn to Him who was pierced (Zechariah 12:10). For those of us who already know the Lord, we understand God forgives and cleanses us each day as we confess our sins and re-experience the full power of His atoning blood (1 John 1:9).

THE LAMPSTAND (מְנוֹרָה)—menorah

God instructed Israel to make a lampstand with six branches (Exodus 25:31–40). Light is an integral theme in the Bible and a key element of our walk with God. His light guides us. His word is a lamp to our feet and a light that keeps us from stumbling (Psalm 119:105). The Lord chose Israel to be a light to the nations, yet His Son Yeshua, Himself an Israelite, shines this light more brightly than any individual or nation.

He is the light of the world, as John wrote, “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 Ner Tamid, the eternal light, in today’s synagogue is a reminder of the menorah that burned in the Temple. God told Israel to burn a lamp continually in the Tabernacle (Exodus 27:20–21). This eternal light points to God’s eternal, glorious, and holy character. God is unchanging in His attributes and nature. The ever-present light reminds us that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob exists from everlasting to everlasting and that His Son shares the same nature. Therefore, Micah wrote that the Messiah’s “goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Mic 5:2).

THE BREAD OF THE PRESENCE (לֶחֶם פָּנִים)—lechem panim

In the ancient Middle East and even today, a meal is the ultimate expression of intimacy and friendship between individuals. The bread of the Presence refers to a meal we can share with God that speaks of this potential depth of intimacy and friendship with the King of kings. Israel was to always have bread on a table in the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:23–30; Leviticus 24:5–6).

Yeshua has made a way for us to enter into and enjoy this relationship with the Lord. We are forgiven friends of the almighty and holy God of the universe through the sacrifice of Yeshua (John 15:15). In Him, we are free to fellowship with God like friends sharing a meal. We also joyfully await the marriage supper of the Lamb when the Messiah will dine with His bride (Revelation 19:9).

The laver and the altar prepare our hearts for the beauty of this eternal fellowship with the Lord and Creator of all things.

THE ALTAR OF INCENSE (מִזְבַּח הַקּטֹרֶת)—mizbach ha-ketoret

Prayers of intercession were another special responsibility of the priests. God instructed them to continually burn incense in the Tabernacle (Exodus 30:1–10) to symbolize their prayers wafting between earth and heaven.

Prayer is, of course, critical to our spiritual life. It is the line of communication between us and the Lord. We may pray liturgically or spontaneously—with or without a formula. Just as the priests were to burn incense constantly, we are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

THE DIVIDING VEIL (פָּרֹכֶת)—parochet

This veil was a curtain that divided the holy place and the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31–33). Once a year, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to offer the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) sacrifice (Leviticus 16).

The moment Yeshua died on Golgotha, the veil in the Temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:51) as a sign that all who believe now have access to the Holy of Holies through faith in the justifying work of Yeshua on the cross (Romans 5:1–2; Hebrews 10:19–20). One of the critical components of a healthy spiritual life is recognizing the access we have to God through the Messiah. Nothing can stand between us and God. We simply need to take advantage of this marvelous and privileged access to the presence of God, nurtured through prayer, reading Scripture, fellowship, meditation, and obedience for those cleansed by His atoning blood.

THE ARK (אָרוֹן)—aron

In Exodus 25:10–22, God told the Israelites how to build the ark. He commanded them to place several important items in the ark, including the two stone tablets on which God wrote the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 10:1–5), Aaron’s blooming rod (Numbers 17:1–11), and a pot of manna (Exodus 16:33–34). All these items testified to God’s faithfulness to the Jewish people. These reminders of God’s word, the miracle of His transforming power, and His provision were important, and they reminded the high priest of why his obligations to the rest of the nation were so critical.

Yeshua is represented by each of the three items within the ark. As to the manna, He said, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven” (John 6:51). Aaron’s rod was a definitive symbol of God’s power, representing how Jesus was God on earth; “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Finally, the word of God, represented by the stone tablets, finds its greatest fulfillment in the Messiah, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

THE MERCY SEAT (כַפֹּרֶת)—kaporet

The mercy seat is the piece of Tabernacle furniture that was most significant for the ancient Israelites. The mercy seat covered the ark in the Holy of Holies (Exodus 25:17–22). One might think of the mercy seat as atonement central. It was where the high priest sprinkled blood when he entered the Holy of Holies once a year to seek atonement for the whole nation of Israel (Leviticus 16:14–15).

Yeshua died once for all, for all humanity, and His one sacrifice suffices for all time (Hebrews 9:11–14). His blood fully cleanses all who believe. Yet, that is not the end of His work as our perfect High Priest, as Jesus continually intercedes for us in heaven. As the author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25). 

He is our everlasting High Priest!

In Conclusion

As you can see, the Tabernacle gives us much to consider as this mobile Temple reveals so many of the essential building blocks that shape our spiritual lives. The Tabernacle pointed to Jesus our Messiah who fulfills every intricate feature of the Tabernacle. The shadows match the substance. I hope this brief guide to the Tabernacle encourages you to more deeply appreciate the atonement Jesus made for us.

Thanks to Him and Him alone, we can draw near to the Lord each and every moment of our lives!

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Filed under Digital Media, evangelism, Israel, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, Uncategorized

Back to Normal—Hallelujah!

Shalom in His grace. We are living in exciting times. I never thought I would be thrilled about the ability to engage in the routine tasks of ministry, but after a couple of years of not being able to do this great work of reaching Jewish people in person—all I can say is I am ecstatic!

We are now in the midst of Foundations ’22, a campaign to support Your Mission to the Jewish People’s commitment to in-person ministry—proclaiming, discipling, and training others to reach the Jewish people for Jesus.

C. S. Lewis wrote, “Christians are Christ’s body, the organism through which He works. Every addition to that body enables Him to do more.”1

I cannot agree more with the great British writer, whose insights into Scripture are profound and helpful. The Lord chooses and uses people to accomplish His holy purposes. He left us on earth to be His arms, legs, and voice to a dark and broken world.

Next month, I will be preaching at Moody Bible Institute’s annual missions conference in Chicago. The school is honoring the one hundredth year of its Jewish Studies program. I will be preaching on the well-known text that we often call the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20).

I will do my best to forge a link between the Great Commission with what I like to call the Great Mandate in Romans 11, in which the apostle Paul invites the church to make Jewish people jealous with the gospel message (Rom 11:11).

I have spent my adult life trying to make sure that Jewish evangelism does not become the “Great Omission of the Great Commission.” I am persuaded that reaching Jewish people and reaching the world are like twin sisters, both essential parts of God’s plan for the future of humanity. Jewish evangelism is not one of the side jobs of the church. It should be, according to the Bible, one of our primary concerns as the church reaches every nation, tribe, and tongue for Jesus.

I believe Jewish evangelism is at the very core of world evangelization!

It is the starting point for the Great Commission.

A well-known Messianic Jewish theologian, Dr. Jacob Jocz, wrote in his book, The Spiritual History of Israel,

If the Church has no Gospel for the Jews, it has no Gospel for the world.2

I realize that most Christians do not intentionally withhold the gospel from the Jewish people, but many do not always include the Jewish people within their call to reach the world. Reaching Jewish people for Jesus should be an intentional strategy for all Christians and churches because of the role God gave to the children of Israel as part of His plan of redemption.

THE GREAT COMMISSION AND THE GREAT MANDATE

In Matthew 28:19–20 (the Great Commission), Jesus gave His disciples three main tasks to accomplish as they go out to reach the world: make disciples, baptize, and teach those disciples to obey His word.

The apostle Paul added a more specific mandate for Gentile believers. He wrote,

I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.
(Romans 11:11)

Paul wrote these inerrant words in light of what he penned a few sentences later in his letter to the Roman believers. For Paul, knowing the future instructed them as Paul was referring corporately to the Roman church. The salvation of Israel in the last days is the last human step leading to the second coming of Christ. He wrote in Romans 11,

Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! . . . For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
(Romans 11:12, 15)

The nations have a role to play inching us closer to the second coming of Messiah—through reaching the Jewish people and adding to the expansion of the remnant.

Jewish evangelism should be a priority of heart for the church because of the role the Jewish people have played throughout sacred history and will play in the future.

A SUMMER OF IN-PERSON MINISTRY

Summer Camp

We had a great summer of outreach. We enjoyed a renewed and full participation of kids who joined our Camp Kesher (Hebrew for connection—to the Lord and one another). We held two camps—one on the West Coast and another on the East. Our East Coast camp had a total of seventy-two campers, thirty-six staff, four counselors-in-training, and one nurse for a total of 113 people. The theme for the week was “Own It!” through which we encouraged the campers to take ownership of their faith in the face of opposition. On Friday evening, after our service, we baptized two young counselors who recently rededicated their lives to the Lord.

Shalom New York

I also praise God for the couple of dozen staff and volunteers who hit the streets of New York City during the first week of August and spoke to hundreds of Jews and Gentiles about the Lord. The streets were packed, despite the heat. The team had some great conversations! Let me share the experience of one of our full-time missionaries:

On the first day of our Shalom New York outreach, one of the teams met a Jewish lady from Omaha, Nebraska, at a street fair. She was drawn to our I Found Shalom book table, but was hesitant to get into a conversation about faith or religion. One of our team members was also from Omaha! When she found that out, she was in shock. The conversation continued, and they discovered they were from the same community. As they shared some memories, her heart got softer. She eventually appreciated the conversation we had about faith and allowed us to pray for her. We finished our conversation and exchanged contact information. She would like us to keep in touch with her. That is definitely a divine appointment from the Lord, who graciously sent this lady to our team on the first day to encourage us to trust and depend on Him during the rest of the Shalom New York week.

There were many other great stories. We cannot do this work without our well-trained and dedicated missionaries who love the Lord and the Jewish people. We believe every conversation is precious and orchestrated by the Lord! Your prayers and support keep our missionaries in the field.

Serving Suffering Ukrainians

I was overwhelmed by the response of our friends to the needs of Ukrainians suffering as a result of the Russian invasion. We are still able to meet the physical and social needs of Ukrainian Jews and Gentiles in Ukraine, Poland, Israel, Germany, and many other places. We have especially cared for the hundreds of scattered members of the Messianic Jewish community in Ukraine, whom we have served for decades.

I believe we have saved lives by providing funds for food, medicine, and housing. This aid enables Chosen People Ministries and the local pastors to advance the Great Commission among these millions of displaced Ukrainians. We continue to do all we can to help!

WHAT’S NEXT?

We need your prayers as we will have dozens of Messianic worship services in celebration of the three major fall Jewish festivals: the Jewish new year, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. All three point prophetically to Jesus. While we plan to offer hybrid services, all our congregations and branches are also planning in-person services.

A HISTORIC CONFERENCE

This month, we are sponsoring a conference in Germany for Messianic Jewish leaders and missionaries—mostly from around Europe but also from the United States and Canada. We hope to build greater unity and infrastructure to continue our ministries to Ukrainians. The conference will be held and organized by Beth Sar Shalom, our ministry partner in Germany. We expect a few hundred leaders, so please pray and give generously if you can. We need to cover the costs for most of the attendees.

Finally, I want to let you know that, in the midst of all the struggles of the last few years, Chosen People Ministries has taken on more than a half dozen new missionaries and have also found some of our more veteran missionaries struggling to raise support.

The missionaries are serving everywhere from Israel to New York City, London, and other places that are expensive and/or where it is difficult to raise missionary support.

Thank you for your prayers as well as your generous and sacrificial support.

1 C. S. Lewis, C.S. Lewis: Readings for Meditation and Reflection, ed. Walter Hooper (San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins, 1996), 18.

2 Jacob Jocz, Spiritual History of Israel (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1961), 160.

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Filed under Conference, evangelism, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, New York City

Win & Disciple a New Generation of Believers in Israel

I recently returned from Israel, and what I saw was immensely encouraging! It is incredible how much Israel’s Messianic community has grown and changed since my first trip to the land back in 1976!

There are many more Israeli believers now than there were five or even three decades ago. Since then, so much has changed amidst the growing body of believers in the Holy Land!

For so long, most of those who came to faith in Israel were older immigrants from the former Soviet Union. However, many of today’s Messianic leaders in Israel are younger and grew up within the Messianic Israeli community. Many of them are also the grandchildren of those Russian-speaking immigrants in the post-Perestroika era.

Many of these young Messianic leaders’ kids have followed a similar path to that of their parents and grandparents. They had godly parents, were raised attending solid Messianic congregations from childhood, served in the Israeli military, traveled the world, studied at universities, entered the workplace, and now serve in their local congregations. Many of these men and women have also married and are now raising children of their own.

Partnering with and equipping these dynamic young leaders is my passion and priority. As a result, we introduced Living Waters almost a decade ago—an annual three-day mentoring retreat in Israel for the whole family. This discipleship effort allows young Israeli believers to meet one another and develop friendships for the future, as this generation will lead the Messianic community in Israel during the twenty-first century. It is an incredible privilege for Your Mission to the Jewish People to invest in this next generation and beyond (as we also disciple their children)!

Living Waters has fostered alliances among these young leaders, their congregations, and their ministries, resulting in even greater efforts to reach Israelis for Jesus. These alliances allow for deeper fellowship and for the participants to learn more about each other’s skills and gifts. Through teaching, worship, prayer, and many great discussions, we are advancing the general Bible knowledge of these young adults and addressing practical training issues, including leadership, counseling, and biblical ethics.

We have excellent Bible teachers training the Living Waters community. There are also some professors, business people, and others who know what it is like to stand for Jesus amid a challenging and sometimes hostile environment. Over the years, Living Waters has helped create a sense of unity in the Messianic body in Israel and has also offered the participants meaningful fellowship with believers throughout this small country.

This past June, Zhava and I were delighted to speak at Living Waters 2022. It was an honor to encourage these young leaders, but their passion for serving the Lord wherever He places them also profoundly inspired us. Here is what some of the participants had to say about their time at the retreat last month:

“Thank you so much for your work and love! I think there was a lot of honesty at the conference, and that is something that was important for me to experience and hear from young believers.”

“It is encouraging to see so many young people living out their faith, especially in this country.”

“Living in Israel is so hard and often exhausting, especially as believers. Having a ministry that just feeds into and loves on you for an entire weekend is such a blessing and an encouragement. I also really love the opportunity to meet so many other believers at a similar stage of life from around the country that we otherwise would not easily get to meet or know (particularly for us, being from the North).”

“We both felt so refreshed, encouraged, and more determined to do God’s work here in Jerusalem.”

We are in the midst of a second-generation Messianic Jewish movement within Israel and doing all we can to invest in their discipleship training for the Lord. We believe that what they learn through the teaching, personal conversations, and one another will serve them well as leaders in the growing Israeli Messianic movement as they bring the good news of the Messiah to fellow Israelis.

We believe that, along with Living Waters, many of our other activities at our center in greater Tel Aviv, such as our monthly Sabbath dinners, our weekly Bible classes, and outreach concerts, all contribute to serving this growing younger group of believing families and to equipping them to tell their own generation about the Lord.

God is at work in Israel, the Middle East, and the world. The passion and energy of this generation of Israeli believers are powerful evidence of God’s faithfulness. Now is an exciting time to be involved in Jewish ministry, especially in Israel!

I look forward to seeing how God will work through today’s Israeli Messianic community. Those in our Living Waters program, I have no doubt, will play an influential role.

What can you do to help us win and disciple a new generation of younger Israelis?

Your prayers are essential as the enemy of our souls is also doing all he can to stop this movement. We often have anti-missionaries trying to disrupt our activities in the greater Tel Aviv area. However, we are hoping to see some future “apostle Pauls” among them as the Lord reverses the hostility of the ultra-Orthodox and others who come against the good news and opens their hearts to receive the gospel message. We have already seen some openness among those who oppose us.

Thank you so much for caring! I am so hopeful for the future! I am already looking toward what God will do among this now-growing third generation (post-1948) of kids. They will grow up loving the Lord, speaking perfect Hebrew, and following the path blazed by their parents, who also attended Israeli schools, served in the army, and walked faithfully with their Messiah.

Many blessings, and may the Lord prepare our hearts for the great coming day that the apostle wrote about in Romans 11:25–26, when “all Israel will be saved”—through Yeshua the Messiah, of course.

I feel like we are on our way!

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Filed under evangelism, Israel, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, Russian Israelis, Uncategorized

Building Chosen People Ministries for the Future

How can we possibly have hope in a world filled with despair, war, disease, and poverty?

As always, we find the answer in the Bible!

Paul wrote to his young disciple, Timothy, and told him how to find hope in a disappointing world.

“It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” (1 Tim 4:9–10, emphasis added).

We can have hope when we grab hold of the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

OUR HOPE IS ROOTED IN THE CHARACTER AND PROMISES OF GOD

Psalm 42 is one of my favorite psalms. In this song to the Lord, the psalmist is in painful despair, and this psalm captures his conversations with God as he journeys from darkness to light—from grief to praise. Finally, at the conclusion, the psalmist summarizes and sings,

“Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Ps 42:11).

Somehow, the psalmist escaped his despair and despondence and found hope in the Lord.

The psalmist wrote, “Hope in God.” In Hebrew, this phrase is הוֹחִילִי לֵאלֹהִים (hochili lelohim); the root word is yachal ( יחַָל ), which can be translated as “hope” or “to wait with expectation.”1 The word “countenance” literally means “face.” I believe hope transforms us from the inside out and is most visible in the face of someone who smiles when hopeful. You can see hope in the cheekbones of the hopeful!

The journey to hope is difficult for most of us and especially challenging in times of hardship. But finding hope is critical for the soul’s survival. Moreover, it is at the core of our witness to those who do not yet believe. So, where should we look for hope?

We find the most soul-satisfying sense of hope when we strip away all the standard props of dependence upon people, material things, and circumstances, and we recognize that the only hope we have is in God Himself.

OUR HOPE IS IN THE LIVING GOD

Our hope in God rests upon His character, His promises, and, to some degree, His people. But it is always in Him, through Him, and about Him.

We have a forever-hope because our God is eternal. He is the living God. Therefore, we can live today in light of the glorious future He promised us, guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. When we have this hope and allow it to fill our souls, then we need not despair as we—through the Messiah—are eternal heirs of His grace and will live with the living God for all eternity.

Paul wrote so poignantly and powerfully, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).

A BIT OF HISTORY

Before I share with you some of our hopes and dreams for the next twelve months, let me take a quick moment to look back. Zhava and I are celebrating our twenty-fifth year of leading Chosen People Ministries, and it might be a blessing to you to read how we came to where we are today. I often joke that Chosen People Ministries is now in its 128th year—but I am not the founder! The Lord has led Zhava and me to this place for this season of twenty-five years. Knowing this makes the future all the brighter and more hopeful for us.

Zhava and I began this phase of our relationship with Chosen People Ministries on May 1, 1997. However, our Chosen People Ministries story goes back quite a few years to when Zhava became a believer as a young teenager. At that time, Chosen People Ministries was called the American Board of Missions to the Jews (ABMJ), and she came to faith at Fairfax High School in a very Jewish area of Los Angeles.

She came to the Lord through the witness of some Gentile Christian young people at her high school. While this was happening, I came to faith as a nineteen-year-old Jewish hippie in San Francisco. I met the Northern California representative of Chosen People Ministries, who encouraged me to go to Bible college back in New Jersey, which I did because I wanted to witness to my parents, who were living there at the time.

Zhava and I met after I graduated from Bible college. At the time, I had begun my graduate studies at the Talbot School of Theology and had been working with Jews for Jesus, which used to be the San Francisco branch of the ABMJ but had broken away. Zhava and I met at an ABMJ young adult outreach held at Pat Boone’s pool house. The rest is history!

When I left Jews for Jesus, I knew I wanted to stay in New York City and continue in Jewish ministry, but I did not know if I would serve with another organization or start something myself. It took about a month after I left Jews for Jesus for Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum of Ariel Ministries to contact me and ask if I wanted to serve with that mission. We thought and prayed about it for a little while and decided to do it. So I worked with Ariel Ministries from January 1996 until April 1997, when the Lord gave me the joy and privilege of becoming president of Chosen People Ministries. After a few months, our Chosen People Ministries director of communications left, and Zhava took that position. She has been full-time with Chosen People Ministries ever since. She currently teaches Jewish studies and Hebrew at the Feinberg program and directs our department of information technology.

NOW FOR A SPOOKY BUT TRUE STORY!

A couple of months before Chosen People Ministries approached me, I was praying and asking God for His leading for our future. Somehow, I got the impression while praying that God was going to call me to lead Chosen People Ministries. So, I told Zhava that I believed God might have been leading us to be part of Chosen People Ministries—to become the president even! She, of course, asked me if anybody from Chosen People Ministries had talked to me about it, and I said no. She then said, “Wow . . . you think highly of yourself!” It was my fault for marrying an outspoken Jewish girl!

But I was pretty confident it was God’s voice, so I was not overly shocked when a Chosen People Ministries board member called and asked me to have dinner with her a couple of weeks later. At dinner, she asked me if I was interested in the position of president of Chosen People Ministries. Of course, in light of what God had spoken to my heart, how could I say no?

So, there we were, in Brooklyn, where Chosen People Ministries had started in 1894. Our little office on Ocean Parkway—the gateway to Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn—became our new Chosen People Ministries New York headquarters.

After some time in Brooklyn, we bought a building in Manhattan with some of our leftover reserve money that was quickly running out. Then, after we sold our headquarters building in Charlotte, North Carolina, we bought a facility in Florida. The Lord has blessed our ministry and expansion ever since!

THE CHOSEN PEOPLE MINISTRIES OF THE FUTURE

So, where are we going as a ministry in the days and years ahead?

I believe the future will probably be much like the past; Chosen People Ministries should not change too much! We will remain faithful to Scripture and Leopold Cohn’s vision to reach Jewish people for Jesus and help others do the same. Our priorities, as expressed in our mission statement, will continue:

Chosen People Ministries exists to pray for, evangelize, disciple, and serve Jewish people everywhere and to help fellow believers do the same.

We will continue what we are doing but also innovate as the Lord leads. We have the capable staff to lead us forward! Let me articulate some of our goals and direction for this fiscal year (July through June).

  • We will wrap the gospel message in appropriate, creative, and compelling ways for our distinct audiences—religious, culturally-committed-but-secular Jewish people, and the vast streams of faith marking the church in our generation.
  • Our ministry to the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) will grow and become more significant in the days ahead.
  • We will focus on the land of Israel and continue to make people and resources available for God to use in the Holy Land. This ministry also includes an intensive effort to reach Israelis wherever they live or travel and to build a global hosting network for traveling Israelis in the days ahead.
  • We are praying about buying a facility for our work in Tel Aviv.
  • We are committed to discipleship and training and will seek to find opportunities to invest in the lives of individuals and communities.
  • We hope to encourage Jewish believers in their walk and witness and to be faithful to their historical and covenantal identity as Jews.

May our hope be fueled by faith, ever ready to embrace the destiny God has prepared for each one of us and for our ministry.

1 William Lee Holladay and Ludwig Köhler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament: Based upon the Lexical Work of Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, 12. corr. impr. 1991, reprinted (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 133.

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Building the Future of Chosen People Ministries for a New Day

I hope and pray this letter finds you rejoicing in His grace and that you are experiencing a fruitful summer. We are getting ready for Shalom New York, our summer outreach program where dozens of staff and volunteers from all over the United States come and witness to Jewish people in the parks and on the streets and beaches of New York City, home of two million Jewish people.

This outreach is a significant step forward in restoring our in-person ministries. It is also part of Foundations ’22—our year-long effort focused on returning to doing what we have done best for more than one hundred years. Your Mission to the Jewish People was founded on the principles of personal evangelism and discipleship of Jewish people and training our brothers and sisters in the church to be more effective in reaching their Jewish family and friends for the Lord.

A QUICK UPDATE ON THE LORD’S WORK IN THE HOLY LAND

I just returned from my second trip to Israel in the last few months—making up for lost time! After spending three days with a group of young Israeli Messianic Jewish leaders and then with our Chosen People Ministries—Israel staff, their spouses, and kids at a staff retreat, I am still on overdrive. I wish you had been there with me to hear the firsthand reports of all the Lord is doing in Israel today. The Holy Spirit is moving powerfully among a new generation of Messianic Jewish believers.

Most of these young Israeli believers:

  • Grew up in a Messianic Jewish Israeli home
  • Served in the Israeli military for the mandatory years of service—three for men and two for women
  • Spent some months traveling the world after the army
  • Returned to Israel to go to school or get a job
  • Married, had kids, and now serve the Lord through a local congregation in Israel

While there are exceptions to this usual pattern, the younger generation of believers takes this typical path, including some of our staff. This season of life is a busy time for these wonderful young people, many who work, go to school, serve in their congregations and ministries, and are raising children. Offering them the opportunity to go on a three-day retreat is an excellent way to support them.

The army experience is often where Israeli believers come to grips with their personal relationship with the Lord. Military service presents a very challenging time for these young, believing soldiers. Thank God there are some army programs offered by various ministries in Israel today that help believers prepare for the challenges ahead and remain steadfast in the Lord throughout their army years.

SOME HISTORY OF THE MESSIANIC MOVEMENT IN ISRAEL

I still remember the days when there were very few Messianic Jewish believers in Israel and, therefore, no second or third generation of believers. Today, many next-generation Israeli believers were raised by believing parents, grew up in dynamic and growing Israeli congregations, and are finding the Lord in the Land. They are also active in sharing the good news with their friends, schoolmates, and fellow soldiers.

There is debate as to how many Israelis are Messianic Jews, but I can tell you that it is a whole lot more than my first trip to Israel back when I was still in seminary in 1976! Our best and most recent estimates say there are between 15,000 and 30,000 Messianic Jewish believers and between 200 and 300 Messianic congregations throughout Israel.

God has done an extraordinary work, but I also feel like we have just begun (Romans 11:25ff.).

LIVING WATERS MENTORING RETREAT

By the time you receive this letter, we will have completed a young adult retreat with about thirty-five mostly post-army young adult Israeli believers. We used to hold this event each year before the pandemic, and it is wonderful to be back in person. Most of the participants either work in a secular or ministry job, go to school, or continue to serve in the army. They are eager to experience spiritual renewal and improve their skills to serve the Lord in the Holy Land more effectively.

This year, we invited Pastor Greg Stone, a Jewish pastor serving at Gateway Church in Texas, to be our guest speaker. He taught these young Israelis how to use the Psalms in personal ministry among those they are discipling and serving.

THE POWER OF GOD REVEALED IN THE HOLY LAND

I want to thank you for your prayers for our growing Israel staff. We have relaunched all our in-person programs, including ministries to Holocaust survivors, personal evangelism, congregational meetings, outreach concerts, and Sabbath dinners. We gather dozens of young people, serve great Israeli food, and preach the Word. Of course, lots of non-believers attend all these events as well.

I am also thrilled to tell you about some of our staff’s new ministries in Israel.

Michael and his family moved to the Golan Heights and are starting house churches in this relatively remote part of Israel. Right now, they are getting to know their neighbors and making friends.

Moti and his wife are part of our Tel Aviv team, and Moti is now a well-known “gamer.” He has a following of thousands of younger Israelis who he reaches through their interest in video games. In addition, he has more than 50,000 Israelis who are part of his online TikTok audience.

Our teams are still very involved in reaching Ukrainian Jewish immigrants and even some new immigrants from Russia fleeing the war zones and moving to Israel. We are helping them adjust to Israel, learn Hebrew, find jobs, and get their kids in school. We express God’s love to them in practical ways, and they are always interested to know why we are willing to help.

I thank God for the dedicated and creative team we have in Israel and again ask you to pray for their ministries.

We are also reigniting our ministries around the globe to traveling Israelis. After the army, young Israelis travel to some pretty exotic spots, including New Zealand, China, Brazil, India, and more.

We send combined teams of Israelis and short-term mission workers from North America and Europe to reach these wandering young Israelis. They are more open to the gospel as they travel when they are free to make their own choices. The environment also causes them to be more open to new ideas and religious beliefs, including learning more about Jesus the Messiah.

LOOKING BACK TO LOOK FORWARD

Over the past 128 years, Chosen People Ministries has faced some major world events, including:

  • the mass immigration of Jewish people to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century
  • rising antisemitism in the United States during the pre-World War I period
  • World War I
  • the Spanish flu
  • the Great Depression
  • World War II
  • the Holocaust
  • the founding of the State of Israel and the wars related to it
  • the fall of the Soviet Union
  • massive Russian Jewish immigration to the West and Israel throughout the 1990s

More recently, we were challenged with the COVID-19 pandemic and the current war between Russia and Ukraine. Yet, all these world events affected the everyday work of our historic Mission to the Jewish People.

These influential events with global impact caused us to pause, reflect on our ministry, and consider new perspectives and ways of sharing the gospel. It has also challenged us to be flexible enough to adapt to the changes thrust upon us.

A TURNING POINT

I believe Chosen People Ministries is experiencing another historic turning point. The dark times of the pandemic seem to be passing, but the days ahead are not without new challenges.

We do not know the future, of course, but we know the One who not only knows the future but shapes the future with His wisdom, power, and love. We have our marching orders: to preach the gospel, baptize, and disciple those who respond to our proclamation of the good news. Our particular field of service is in reaching Jewish people, and we take Paul’s mandate in Romans 1:16 seriously—to bring the gospel to the Jewish people first. This passage guides us and undergirds all our ministry activities.

The Jewish community around the world is more open to the gospel today than in previous years. Jewish people are ready to discover the love and healing available through a relationship with God the Father through the Prince of Peace!

We are excited about the future and the new opportunities to share the Lord person to person and heart to heart with the Jewish people!

Thanks for joining us in the journey through your prayers and support!

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Reaching Secular Jewish People for the Messiah

Thank you for your prayers and support! Chosen People Ministries’ staff could not do this great work of reaching Jewish people for Jesus in these last days without your partnership. Allow me to bring you up to date on what God is doing through our committed staff members in answer to your prayers.

We continue to work among Ukrainian refugees in Poland, Germany, and Israel, as well as with those who remain in Ukraine by choice or necessity. Our hearts break to see the displacement, devastation, and destruction of cities, families, and lives.

Your Mission to the Jewish People is also continuing to implement our Foundations ’22 campaign. We are reaching out to Jewish people and focusing on personal evangelism, discipleship, and training those who come to faith to be lifelong, fruitful followers of the Lord.

MY PERSONAL JEWISH STORY

My family is from eastern Europe, which is why I identify with Ukrainian Jewish people today. We have Ukrainian Jewish roots. My grandparents left eastern Europe during the rapidly deteriorating dark days of pre-Holocaust Europe. Persecution of the Jewish people was on the rise, and many were fleeing to places like Israel, South America, and the United States, where they found peace, opportunity, and freedom.

My father’s parents were from Ukraine. My grandfather was loving and kind and wanted nothing more than to assimilate into American life. He was proud to be part of a nation that cherished freedom and believed all men and women were equal in the eyes of God and the state.

While he was not religious, he instilled a love for the Jewish people in his sons. They also had a concern for continuing those cultural and family-based values and traditions woven into the fabric of the Jewish soul.

My maternal grandparents came to the United States a few years after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia (1917–1923). My grandfather was the son of an upper-middle-class manufacturer who lived in Minsk, Belarus. My grandmother was from a similar Jewish social circle. Unlike my paternal grandparents, they were far more religious and practiced Orthodox Judaism. They ate kosher food, observed the Sabbath, attended synagogue as often as they could, practiced Jewish rituals daily, and spoke Yiddish1 at home.

They had hoped the rest of their family would follow and join them in the United States, but they did not. Eventually, they would all perish in concentration camps when Hitler destroyed the Jewish community in Minsk. Again, my grandparents tried to scrupulously keep the Torah as they understood it. But the culture of the new world and its philosophy of assimilation resulted in none of their children becoming observant Jews. I am sure this was heartbreaking for them, but all their children—including my mom—still proudly affirmed their Jewishness, celebrated the holidays, and participated in the Jewish community.

BEING RELIGIOUS IS ONLY ONE SLICE OF BEING JEWISH

For my family and so many others, Judaism is not always about God or theology. Being Jewish is more often about focusing on family values, tradition, and the need to provide Jewish education and continuity for our children.

The religious side of Jewish life for so many Jewish people today has become watered down. The Jewish community and its leaders know this, and so should you. So when a Jewish friend says, “You know so much more about my Bible [the Old Testament] than I do,” it should not surprise you. This sentiment will be common, and it might amaze your Jewish friend that you know more about the Hebrew Scriptures than they do! That is a positive testimony!

On the other hand, it should not surprise you if your Jewish friend feels somewhat threatened when you speak to them about Jesus. Even secular Jewish people will generally feel a need to defend Judaism when approached with the gospel. You might think, “If they are not religious, why are they responding so negatively?” It is partly because of the tragic history of interactions between Jews and Christians and because you might have inadvertently threatened their lack of religious knowledge about Judaism. When they think others view their faith as deficient, they often feel helpless to respond.

THE BELIEFS AND VALUES OF SECULAR JEWISH PEOPLE

One could describe secular Jews as “culturally Jewish.” Secular Jews often do not understand their religious heritage and the values and laws given to Moses at Mount Sinai. Though detached from its divine origins, our culture is deeply ingrained in our hearts and minds. For example, many Jewish people are very concerned about civil rights and fight for the rights of the marginalized. Is this because we were or are an oppressed people? Partly. But, it is also the message of the Old Testament that we are to care for the poor, widows, orphans, and those displaced within society. For this reason, Jewish people are also often generous philanthropists, concerned with education, and divinely wired for healing others.

You see, being Jewish is not as much a function of belief as it is a matter of community identity. A person could retain that identity as long as they do not cross certain lines. However, if you breach one of these unseen parameters, you could easily cross over and out of the Jewish community. Believing in Jesus is one of those lines, perhaps the boldest of the lines, and once you cross over, you cannot return unless you renounce those beliefs.

The Jewish people you meet and those to whom you witness will be resistant to the gospel far more because of their fear of community sanctions than because of a theological disagreement over the identity of the Messiah.

You can help Jewish believers in Jesus by providing friendship and support, as the Lord can use you to ease the pain of community rejection that is sure to follow their acceptance of the Messiah.

We are eager to help you reach your Jewish friends!

Recently, I presented “Messiah in the Passover” at a local Baptist church. A delightful Christian approached me to ask for help in witnessing to her Jewish friend. She wanted to know if giving her friend my book, Isaiah 53 Explained, would offend him. She really loves her friend, who is in his 90s, and prays for him each day. I suggested giving him the book, encouraging him to review it from a Jewish perspective, and then asking him to let her know what he thinks.

Our staff have dozens of conversations like this each month, and we want to help you share the good news with a Jewish friend. Equipping you is a significant part of our Foundations ‘22 annual campaign.

SUPPORTING FOUNDATIONS ’22

We are reaching many different types of Jewish people around the globe: Israelis, religious Jewish people, elderly Holocaust survivors, displaced Ukrainian Jewish people, and more!

Your generous support enables us to produce websites and printed materials, maintain facilities, employ staff across the globe, and allow our missionaries to focus on evangelism, discipleship, and training.

Thanks for caring!

In our Messiah,

Mitch

1A mixture of German, Hebrew, and Slavic languages. Yiddish was the primary language of the Jewish

people in Europe for centuries.

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Relief for Refugees from Ukraine

Shalom in His grace. I appreciate the opportunity each month to tell you about the good work God is doing through Your Mission to the Jewish People. With the post-COVID reopening of the United States and so many other countries where Chosen People Ministries serves, there is more happening in our efforts to reach Jewish people with the gospel than I can describe.

As you know, we have initiated a three-part campaign called Foundations ’22, in which we are “going back to the basics” of personal evangelism, discipleship, and deeper training for Jewish believers and our Christian friends reaching their Jewish friends and family. This campaign has progressed rapidly as the opportunities now abound. We had a tremendous month of Passover outreach. Our presentations of Messiah in the Passover online and in person in churches across the nation enabled hundreds of Jewish people to hear the gospel and be introduced to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Yet with all this excitement, I still cannot escape the heartbreak of what is happening to the people of Ukraine, including hundreds of thousands of Jewish people who live there, as the countries of the former Soviet Union still have large numbers of Jewish people within their borders. The Ukrainians have suffered the attempted destruction of their country, without mercy on the part of Putin and his minions.

The tragedy of war fills me with sadness, and I am sure you feel the same way. We are doing all we can to alleviate the suffering of Ukrainians. It is especially terrible to watch as a generation of younger male leaders die defending their homes. Women and children are doing their best to get out of the country and escape to Poland and other nearby countries or eventually to Israel. This tragedy especially impacts children, as so many lost one or both parents or had to flee, leaving their father behind.

Mariupol, a city on the eastern border, was reduced from 450,000 people to less than 100,000, and most of their schools, apartments, and shopping areas were reduced to rubble. For years, we served a couple of Messianic congregations in this once-beautiful city, but now the Jewish believers have scattered. Yet, by God’s grace, many have found one another using WhatsApp, Telegram, and other social media tools. Along with Messianic Jews from other parts of Ukraine, they have regathered in western Ukraine in a safer city and have rebuilt a small community of believers. Some of the funds you have so sacrificially given enables them to survive, and our team also uses funds we provide to help non-believers as part of their ongoing outreach.

RELIEF IN JESUS’ NAME

We are focusing our ministries of relief and care on nations bordering Ukraine like Poland, Hungary, Romania, as well as on other European countries that have welcomed refugees. Much of our efforts are within Poland and Germany where a combined few million Ukrainian refugees have fled. We are working through our Chosen People Ministries staff and volunteers in these countries to support ministries in campgrounds, congregational facilities, and the homes of Christians. We are helping the refugees find safe housing and meeting some of their basic needs. We even brought in teams of Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking believers from Israel to help the refugees.

We are also assisting Ukrainian Jews wanting to move to Israel by renting some apartments in the Holy Land to temporarily house these new immigrants. During the last twenty-five years, God has done a wonderful work among Russian-speaking Jewish people. About 60 percent of the believers in Israel today speak Russian or Ukrainian as their primary language. Our staff in Israel have benefited from this movement of the Holy Spirit, and we have an abundance of Russian-speaking staff who can minister to these refugees.

So many of those moving to Israel are coming without husbands, sons, and brothers, as the men could not get out of Ukraine, where they are fighting the Russian invaders. Many of the men do not want to leave, choosing rather to stay and fight.

In the past, Chosen People Ministries has served the community of single mothers in Israel. Throughout the New Testament, we see Jesus helping those on the margins of society, and the Scriptures strongly encourage believers to help widows and orphans specifically (James 1:27).

One of my favorite passages is in Matthew chapter 9, in which we see our beloved Messiah focusing on the physical and spiritual needs of those who did not receive a lot of help from the rest of society. Matthew wrote:

Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” (Matt 9:35–38, emphasis added)

We are trying, by God’s grace and in the power of the Holy Spirit, to follow the example of the Messiah Jesus and minister to those in need, especially those who others might not be able or willing to help.

REPORTS FROM THE FIELD

Since the beginning of the war, we have received daily updates from our staff on the ground in Europe and Israel. Most of the emails are from Boris Goldin, who is coordinating our Chosen People Ministries work in Ukraine, and Maxim Katz, who is based in Israel but is currently working extensively with our Chosen People Ministries team in Poland. Please pray for them!

We also thank God for our German partners, Beit Sar Shalom (House of the Prince of Peace) and their director, Vladimir Pikman, who along with his wife, Inna, became believers through the congregation we planted in Kiev during the early 1990s. The teams in Germany are working day and night to meet the needs of the hundreds of thousands of refugees entering Germany and have attracted dozens of displaced Ukrainian Jewish believers who are now attending their congregations across Germany.

The email below from Maxim to our Israel director, Michael Z., is one example of the needs described during the early days of the conflict that encouraged Your Mission to the Jewish People to take action!

Misha shalom,

In connection with the war in Ukraine, I would like to inform you of what we are doing. Miraculously, the Lord opened up possibilities that we could not even imagine. A few days ago, the Sochnut1 turned to Ostróda (the place where we hold camps2 in Poland) to request to accept Jews from Ukraine. Today they contacted us through them, and together, we are coordinating the arrival of a group of Jews to Ostróda. I contacted my friend from the transport company, and the bus went to the Polish border to pick up 15 families. These are Israelis and new immigrants. They will be able to fly to Israel only after March 10. Until that time, they will live in Ostróda.

We were also asked for help in finding a place for 200 children from the Beit Chabad orphanage in Odessa. They are now in Romania and are looking for a place for a week. They are ready to stay at a Christian place but have asked to use as little symbolism as possible and to help with kosher food. I spoke with Dorin and his brother in Romania who is ready to help. I gave his coordinates to Sochnut and they already spoke. I hope everything will work out.

Misha, I think if you let me fly to Poland . . . and serve on site, I think it will be a fruitful help and ministry.

Thanks,

Maxim

Your prayers and support are so important to us, and I pray the Lord will guide you to support these efforts to bring the love of the Messiah to those suffering the ravages of war. I am praying about the rebuilding of the Ukrainian Messianic community throughout the globe, and your gifts of support will help in these rebuilding efforts wherever they will take place…Ukraine, Israel, Poland, Germany, as the Lord leads and allows.

I will send further updates as the Lord enables.

Your brother in Messiah,

Mitch

P.S. I was able to see the crisis firsthand during a recent trip to Poland, and my heart is just broken. Again, your prayers and financial support enable us to do more to help both Jews and Gentiles suffering in what can only be described as a modern humanitarian disaster. Thank you for your love and partnership.

1 The Jewish Agency, which coordinates the aliyah of Jewish people around the globe

2 Camps for children from Israel and Holocaust survivors

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The Power of God through Plagues

I love Passover. It is my favorite Jewish holiday and by far the most delicious. The array of traditional Passover dishes is magnificent. I wish you could have tasted my grandmother’s chicken and matzah ball soup—not to mention her homemade gefilte (stuffed) fish. (By the way, do not ever ask a Jewish person what parts of the fish they used! That would be a big mistake.)

As a Messianic Jew, I have found Passover more meaningful now than I did before coming to know the Lord. As you know, the Lord’s Supper—one of our most cherished spiritual ceremonies—grew out of the Passover Seder. You can find all the intricate details by going to our website and reading further or buying one of our Passover books listed on the back of this newsletter. Each book includes a Messianic Passover Haggadah (Passover guide) with Jesus at the center of the service—and some wonderful recipes.

If you want to observe the Passover as fulfilled in Jesus, the Lamb of God, you can this year! Passover lasts an entire week. Though we usually celebrate the Seder on the first two nights, any night during that week will do. I know it would be a wonderful experience for you, your children, Sunday school class, or small group.

It will also further prepare your hearts for Good Friday and Resurrection Day, especially since the first night of Passover and Good Friday coincide this year!

Each year at this time, I try to address a Passover-related topic in detail. This year, it will not surprise you that I would like to help us better understand the role that plagues play in the plan of God, especially during Passover.

THE TEN PASSOVER PLAGUES

The recitation of the ten plagues is a central part of the Passover Seder and one of the most memorable moments during the Seder for Jewish children. Traditionally, we dip our little finger or a spoon into a glass of red wine and put the drop of liquid onto our plates while loudly reciting the name of each plague. We call out the plagues in English and Hebrew: blood (dam), frogs (ts’fardei’a), vermin (kinim), flies (arov), pestilence (dever), boils, (sh’chin), hail (barad), locusts (arbe), darkness (choshech), and death of the firstborn (makat bechorot).

The recitation of the plagues is not an isolated moment in the Seder. It is part of the overall recounting of the story of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from Egyptian bondage. There are two reasons why we drop the wine on our plates. One reason is that it more dramatically portrays the plagues as judgments falling upon the Egyptian slavemasters. The other is because Jewish tradition tells us to reduce our joy (symbolized by the sweet wine) by one drop for each plague that fell upon the Egyptians.

The lesson here is clear: even though the Egyptians enslaved us, we recognize they are fellow human beings and God’s creation. Therefore, our rabbis teach us we should not rejoice in their judgment but rather remember God’s love for all peoples and nations.

We will now look briefly at the three primary purposes for the plagues. First, God uses plagues to bring judgment upon the ungodly. Through the plagues, He also reveals His power and character. Lastly, they fulfill prophetic events.

JUDGMENT

The great German theologians and early twentieth-century biblical scholars Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch coined the term “penal miracles” in their well-read commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures. In other words, there were plagues, or miracles, that also served as judgments and punishments upon the disobedient.

Each plague brought judgment upon the Egyptians, who were otherwise unwilling to allow the Jewish people to leave Egypt and worship the one true God. This chastisement is an excellent reminder that God is loving but also righteous and holy and takes offense at human sin. At times, He brings about temporal judgment upon humanity. He did so with the flood, the plagues, and even the captivity of the Jewish people by pagan nations.

REVELATION

Jewish people understand that God brought the plagues upon the Egyptians as divine judgments designed to move both the Egyptians and Jewish people into action. Biblical plagues are purposeful. While they bring terrible consequences upon the disobedient and rebellious, God often mysteriously uses them for purposes beyond punishment.

Take note of Uzziah, Naaman, and even Miriam, Moses’ sister. God struck each of them with leprosy to accomplish His divine purposes. Like the healing of the blind man in John chapter nine, plagues fell upon individuals for the glory of God and the good of mankind. “Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:3).

God used the plagues to judge the Egyptians and reveal His power, holiness, and presence in human history. Still, God’s will and works are always for repentance and a turning away from sin to the one true God.

Exodus 7:1–7 shows Moses speaking of plagues as signs and wonders. Throughout the Scriptures, signs and wonders usually describe the miraculous, but in Exodus 7, the words are interchangeable with the word for judgment:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My hosts, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.” So Moses and Aaron did it; as the Lord commanded them, thus they did. Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh. (Exod 7:1–7, emphasis added)

FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY

God sometimes uses plagues to fulfill prophecy, as when He promised to deliver the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and return them to their land of promise. “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst” (Exodus 7:5, emphasis added).

Ezekiel 36:23 parallels Exodus 7:5 and refers to another day of deliverance and restoration for Israel and the Jewish people: “‘I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight’” (Ezek 36:23).

Both passages show that one of God’s great purposes in bringing the Jewish people out of captivity and back to the land of promise was for them to be a sign to the nations testifying that the God of Israel is true and all-powerful. In effect, the Jewish people’s deliverance through the ten plagues and their return to the land of Israel reveals the prophetic fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant found in Genesis 12:1–3. Moses predicted this result in chapter six of the book of Exodus:

Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the Lord.” (Exodus 6:6–8)

We must view the exodus, including the plagues, as one means by which God fulfilled His promises to Israel and, as we later see in the book of Revelation, His future judgment upon mankind.

WHERE DOES THE PANDEMIC FIT IN GOD’S PLAN?

It would be appropriate at this moment to compare COVID-19 to the plagues and try to understand where this pandemic might fit in with the purposes of God. I am not suggesting that God directly imposed COVID-19. There have been many terrible plagues throughout history that have devastated humanity. Although the coronavirus was exceptionally destructive, we have no reason to believe that the spread of this virus is the result of God’s direct judgment.

We must tether our understanding of the divine purpose of plagues, world wars, and the greatest tragedies of human history to Scripture. But, of course, the Bible does not speak about the coronavirus, the Black Plague, or the Spanish Flu. Therefore, the adage, “Where the Bible is silent, so am I,” is appropriate here. We must avoid conjecture and not speak for God before He has spoken to us.

On the other hand, we cannot deny that God used plagues as judgments and will do so again in the future. COVID-19 has awakened us to the possibility that plagues, along with other signs, will take place in the end times before the second coming of the Messiah. This view of plagues is also traditional Jewish teaching. Bible-believing Christians, Messianic Jews, and religious Jewish people would agree that “pestilence” or plagues are signs of the coming of the Messiah and will take place in the “last days.” The Messiah Himself declared this to be true during the Olivet Discourse (Luke 21:10–11): “Then He continued by saying to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.’”

Hopefully, one day, we will look back and see the good our heavenly Father accomplished through this global trial. We pray that somehow blessings will come for all through this time of pain and suffering (Romans 8:28). We also pray that we will remember in the light the lessons we learned in the darkness. Perhaps these lessons will even prepare us in some way for the future.

Let us pray the Lord will use the experiences and losses of the last few years to shape our character, reorder our priorities, and draw us closer to Him. May the pandemic remind us all that the Lord is coming soon and that we need to prepare. And what better way to get ready for His return than to continue doing what He told us to do by committing ourselves to evangelism, discipleship, and training a new generation of disciples until He returns! (Matthew 28:19–20).

Stay faithful, vigilant, and filled with His Spirit. The Lord is coming soon—Maranatha!

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Pray for Ukraine

I am writing with an urgent plea for prayer for the people of Ukraine, including many who are Jewish and who Chosen People Ministries currently serves.

Unfortunately, Russia and Ukraine have entered into a regrettable time of war. This conflict may have devastating effects on the people we love and to whom we minister as well as on their families, their friends, and their congregations.

Since the 1990s, 1.5 million Jewish people from the former Soviet Union have emigrated to Israel from their countries of origin. We have also seen an incredible movement of the Holy Spirit that has impacted the Jewish people and has opened ministry opportunities in Israel, Ukraine, and Russia.

Over the years, our staff team has provided leadership to a network of Messianic congregations in multiple cities in Ukraine. The first congregation in Kyiv, Beit El-Gibor, planted by Chosen People Ministries, celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year.

Through these congregations, we work with youth, children in orphanages, families, prisoners, substance-abuse victims, and elderly people, including Holocaust survivors. Presently, we also have more than two dozen Ukrainian- and Russian-born missionaries on our staff serving across the globe.

Many Chosen People Ministries staff members still have family in Ukraine. They also have many friends and ministry leaders there with whom they have worked over many years.

Our hearts break for those now in the midst of the tragedy of war, which we hope and pray will be short-lived.

In addition to praying for God’s wisdom upon Ukrainian leadership and for protection for all people—especially in targeted areas—please join us in praying specifically for the Lord’s safeguarding of the roughly 200,000 Jewish people in Ukraine and for the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is also Jewish and subject to the violence of war.

Please also continue to pray for peace in Ukraine, safety for those we have been serving, and that God’s hand of mercy will permeate the region.

We have just established a relief fund for Jewish victims of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

We will use a portion of the funds to help with food, housing, and transportation for those fleeing to the western part of Ukraine. We even hope to help some of these precious war-torn souls find their way to Israel. The needs abound, especially among the elderly, those who have young children, and others who cannot access their limited bank accounts.

We are especially heartbroken and burdened for those who are part of the small Messianic congregations we have been helping in eastern Ukraine. They need our prayers and support immediately!

If the conflict ends quickly, whatever we do not use from this fund will help our ministries among aging Holocaust survivors in Israel.

Thank you so much for your sacrifice, prayers, and generosity.

Most of all, please join us in praying for this tragic situation TODAY.

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