Tag Archives: israel

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

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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Filed under Brooklyn, evangelism, Holocaust Survivors, Israel, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, New York City, Uncategorized

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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Sharing Messiah in the Promised Land

One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 26:3–4, which I will quote the way I memorized it from the King James Version. Although I usually use the New American Standard Bible, this verse just sounds so much better in the King James! “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”

The great hope we have in the Lord is sometimes made cloudy by the fog of war, pandemics, and every form of human crisis. His powerful presence is revealed to us even in the midst of the whirlwind (Job 38:1), and as we learn from Paul, “hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5)!

Yet, our world today is facing great danger on so many fronts! The Russian onslaught in Ukraine has made this painfully obvious. The horrors of an unjust war remind us that there is no end to human suffering and that innocent men, women, and children will experience hardship and even death because of the evil of others.

Our hearts and prayers go out to those suffering such overwhelming loss.

Thankfully, one day, this sinful world will give way to a new creation filled with the glorious presence of the Lord. There will be no more suffering, no more death, and God will wipe every tear away from our crying eyes. The apostle Paul wrote so poignantly about our future hope:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 
(Romans 8:18–21)

This sure hope is why we can have peace in the midst of tribulation. Jesus Himself said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Peace is always possible through the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Messiah. He overcame the evil of this world through His atoning death and resurrection, and He enables us to live without fear in the power of the Holy Spirit!

Bringing His Peace to Others

We cannot keep this peace and confidence in God’s promise of a glorious future to ourselves. He calls us to help others experience His shalom now and forever. Your Mission to the Jewish People is assisting others to experience His peace by helping Jewish Ukrainian refugees, especially those moving to Israel.

The common term for this process of moving to Israel is aliyah, which in Hebrew means “to go up,” as Jerusalem is in the Judean hills and one always travels up to Jerusalem. As we read in Isaiah 2:3, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.”

The Israeli government offers full citizenship to those who can demonstrate they have at least one Jewish grandparent. Israel also provides many benefits to those making this move—from tax breaks to initial funding for food, housing, and Hebrew lessons! However, in a usual year, the number of Jewish people making aliyah is around 25,000 people.1 Some are expecting there to be between 50,000 and 100,000 Ukrainian Jewish people making aliyah over the next year due to the war and their need to resettle someplace other than Ukraine.

Many Ukrainian Jewish refugees have relatives in Israel. About 1.4 million Russian-speaking Jewish people moved to Israel after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. This large movement of Russian-speaking Jewish people took place over twenty years. Most of those who came to Israel from parts of the former Soviet Union, including Russia, Ukraine, and other now-independent nations as younger men and women, have served in the Israeli army, attended Israeli school, speak fluent Hebrew, and play a vibrant part in Israeli society. The Russian-speaking influence in Israel today is extensive!

Project Promised Land

Allow me a moment to explain how we plan to help this new wave of Ukrainian Jewish people now moving to Israel.

We plan to provide housing, basic language skills, job counseling, friendship, and whatever else is needed to help them resettle in Israel as the Israeli government will not be able to absorb so many people quickly.

We are calling this effort Project Promised Land!

This new effort is the suggestion of our Israel director, Michael Zinn, a Jewish man from Ukraine who made aliyah about thirty years ago. He and his wife Natalie found the Lord after they moved to Israel. Michael told me a little bit about his story, and I would like to share this with you!

Before his bar mitzvah, (a ceremony celebrating a young man’s official passage to manhood at age thirteen), Michael’s father told him he could believe in anything—except Jesus. Michael started reading the New Testament anyway. In his thirties, he moved to Israel with his wife. While studying Hebrew, they met an American couple who were extraordinarily loving toward them. After Michael poured out his heart to this couple, the man said, “I cannot help you. There is only one who can help you. His name is Yeshua.” After some time and ongoing conversations, both Michael and Natalie placed their trust in the Messiah Jesus.

The Plan for Project Promised Land

We have already done a lot to help Jews and non-Jews within Ukraine, particularly on the western border in Poland but also in Germany and other parts of Europe. That was phase one of our efforts to help many survive the ravages of war, and these ministries are ongoing! Our next step is to focus on two or three families per month by placing them in apartments in Jerusalem and the greater Tel Aviv area. We will give these precious new immigrants places to live and the personal help they need but cannot readily receive from the Israeli government, which is overwhelmed by the massive wave of new immigrants making aliyah.

We are providing low-cost housing, food, companionship, vocational counseling, childcare, and so much more so they can stand on their own two feet in their new country. Israel is not just any country; these Ukrainian Jews have returned to the land God promised them thousands of years ago. We hope that they will meet the God who promised to love and care for His chosen people.

The annual budget for this project is $75,000. Already, even some of our staff are contributing to Project Promised Land. We also received a grant from a faithful supporter who went to be with the Lord and provided funds to help Jewish people make aliyah.

If we raise more than the requested amount, then we might be able to open more housing for the new immigrants as need arises and funds are available. We have the staff who speak Russian, Ukrainian, and Hebrew.

How Long, O Lord?

The psalmist asked this question in Psalm 13:

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? (Ps 13:1–2)

How long will it take for Ukraine to get back to normal? How long will it take to rebuild the country? Who knows whether the war will be over by the time you read this entry? How long will we need to continue to supply relief for those struggling in Ukraine, Poland, Germany, and other parts of the globe where the refugees move? How long will we need to provide help and housing through Project Promised Land? We simply do not know the answers to these questions. But we do know that His love never runs out. As long as we can show love and care to those suffering, we will do our best to continue the project.

We have signed a year’s lease for our apartment rentals, so we expect this need to continue for at least twelve months. However, the time may come when Project Promised Land is no longer needed to serve Ukrainian Jews making aliyah. In that case, we might find others making aliyah from other countries who need this level of personal help when they arrive in Israel.

We pray that those we help will look past us and see the risen Messiah of Israel as the One who is wrapping His loving arms around their families and providing for their needs.

That is my hope and prayer.

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Esther: The Right Place at the Right Time

Your Mission to the Jewish People will soon celebrate the Jewish festival of Purim. This holiday is one of the most joyous on the Jewish calendar. I am sure you know the story, but please allow me to summarize these critical events in Jewish and biblical history and share a few thoughts and lessons we can learn from them.

INTRODUCTION

During this festival, Jewish communities read the entire background of Purim in the book of Esther. The story describes the Jewish people’s deliverance from certain destruction at the hand of Haman, a leader in the Medo-Persian Empire during the reign of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes). Ahasuerus ruled from 486 to 465 bc.

In the story, lots (or purim in Hebrew) were cast in the presence of Haman to help select the date for him to carry out his plan to destroy the Jewish people. Hence the name of the holiday, Purim, comes from the Hebrew word for “lots.”

It is important to recognize the tale’s heroes and how God used them to deliver the Jewish people from Haman’s wicked plan. By God’s providence, Ahasuerus chose Esther to be his new queen through a national beauty contest. She replaced Queen Vashti, who had refused the king’s command to appear at a banquet celebration. The other hero is Mordechai, Esther’s cousin (Esther 2:7), who raised her and played a critical role.

But the true hero of the story is God Himself, who sovereignly arranged all the events to work toward the good of the Jewish people. The name of God never appears in the book of Esther, but His presence and providence are evident throughout the book.

He is not silent! We hear His voice through the actions of Esther and Mordechai!

JEWISH PURIM TRADITIONS

Jewish people celebrate the deliverance from Haman’s evil plot by reading the book of Esther, shaking groggers (noise-makers), and yelling out “boo!” every time the reader mentions the name of Haman and “yay!” when we hear the names Esther and Mordechai. During Purim, we also eat hamantaschen, cookies shaped to resemble Haman’s hat or ears. Children celebrate by dressing up in fun, colorful, and creative costumes and by putting on plays that re-tell the story of Esther (yay!) and her triumph over wicked Haman (boo!).

In Israel, people flood the streets in costume to celebrate, and some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men drink alcoholic beverages until they cannot tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman.

THE MAJOR THEMES OF PURIM

During this time, we center on God’s power to orchestrate the events of life while remaining behind the scenes! Purim shows us how the hidden hand of God guides, empowers, protects, and accomplishes His divine purposes on earth.

The festival of Purim focuses on God’s covenantal faithfulness. It celebrates the deliverance of God’s chosen people and shows the Lord’s faithfulness to the covenant He made with Abraham in Genesis 12:1–3:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “. . . I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen 12:1–3)

The promises of this magnificent covenant play out through the story of Purim—the destruction of Israel’s enemies, the exaltation of the nation’s heroes, and the blessing upon those who bless Israel, like King Ahasuerus.

THE RIGHT PERSON IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME

One of the great lessons of Purim and the book of Esther is that God puts His children in the right place at the right time to do His will. The first puzzle piece is that the king chose Esther as queen and put her in the right place at the right time.

The God of Esther is still putting His people in the right place at the right time today! Revisiting the book of Esther during Purim greatly encourages us to accept the places where God puts us as well as the people He puts in our lives!

Mordechai also saved the king’s life by being in the right place at the right time to hear the plot of the two assassins who had lost their jobs in the palace (Esther 2:21–23). Of course, Esther was in the right place at the right time to receive the information from Mordechai to save the king’s life. Ahasuerus was also the right “pagan” king for the right moment—another king might not have ultimately listened to his wife!

The story reaches its zenith with Mordechai telling Esther, “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). As a result, Esther took the challenge and approached the king even though she could have died for visiting uninvited!

The Lord went before Esther, and she received a favorable outcome to her request to save the Jewish people. So, the Lord switched the lots. Haman was hanged on the very gallows that he prepared for Mordechai, and the king permitted the Jews to fight back and destroy their enemies. So, Mordechai became the king’s most valuable advisor instead of Haman.

Purim is a reminder that God’s all-powerful and invisible hands hold and guide us during difficult times. The Lord is always good and has a purpose for our lives, just as He did for the Jewish people. Indeed, He often allows us to experience suffering so that we may become more and more like His Son.

HEROES FOR THE MESSIAH

Esther was a heroine and was willing to die for her people. Yeshua also loved His people and was ready to perish for them. The history of the Jewish people, the church, and Chosen People Ministries is filled with stories of brave and godly women who served the Lord faithfully, who faced dire and challenging circumstances, and even risked their lives to bring the gospel to the Jewish people.

Allow me to introduce you to one of these godly ladies, a founder and early pioneer without whom Chosen People Ministries would not exist today. Her name was Augusta Sussdorff.

Born in 1867 to German immigrants, Augusta Sussdorff was one of the Mission’s earliest workers. Rabbi Leopold Cohn spoke at her youth group at Hope Baptist Church and invited people to come and sing at the Mission. Augusta and a friend volunteered. Their presence drew more Jewish women and girls to the ministry. Previously, the Mission’s audience was primarily male. Rabbi Cohn was passionate about women studying Scripture and encouraged Augusta to join the Mission full time, which she did around 1912.

She conducted many programs at the Brooklyn headquarters, including mothers’ meetings, sewing school, and Bible classes. Augusta also made home visits, greeted people at the medical clinic, brought clothing to the poor, helped English-speaking immigrants find jobs, and served on the board of Chosen People Ministries when this was quite unusual within Christian work.

She served with the Mission for more than fifty years and continued volunteering long after her retirement.

Ms. Sussdorff was incredibly dedicated to faithfully serving the Jewish people so that they would experience the love of Jesus and hear the message of salvation. To honor Augusta Sussdorff, we are creating a scholarship in her name for women in the United States, Israel, and around the globe who are serving with Chosen People Ministries but have trouble raising their missionary support.

This scholarship is part of our Foundations ’22 campaign, as encouraging godly women to serve the Lord with Chosen People Ministries is a part of who we are. We are praying that more and more women will join the ranks of Chosen People Ministries as missionaries, students at our Feinberg program, volunteers in our VIP program, and so much more.

What better way to re-affirm our back-to-basics approach to 2022—refocusing on evangelism, discipleship, and training—than to help future Augusta Sussdorffs give their all for the salvation of Israel!

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We are going back to basics!

One of our generous and faithful supporters recently asked, “Mitch, what are your priorities for 2022?” What a great question!

The answer is simple. We plan to re-affirm our basic priorities in 2022—focusing on evangelism, discipleship, and training.

I am excited by the ministry possibilities in 2022!

COVID-19 has separated us from individuals, and the best way to move Chosen People Ministries forward in 2022 is to focus on sharing the gospel with Jewish people in person—one on one.

We will continue our online ministries, congregational work, and conferences, but we will prioritize our efforts to meet Jewish people face to face and speak to them about the Lord.

I find the words of Paul encouraging at this time, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

Paul, who knew hardship up close and personal, wrote these comforting words, which most of us have “worn out” during the pandemic!

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The Lord has accomplished so much through our staff during hard times, which He often uses to transform our character and build our faith. We are ready for whatever the Lord calls us to do in 2022!

FOUNDATIONS ’22—BACK TO BASICS

By God’s grace, we hope to recapture what has worked so well for Your Mission to the Jewish People for more than a century.

So, we are launching a new campaign—Foundations ’22.

To understand why, please allow me to share some background on the history of Chosen People Ministries.

Our founder, Leopold Cohn, came to the Lord on the Lower East Side of Manhattan through the preaching of a Polish Presbyterian missionary to the Jewish people in New York City. This missionary led Rabbi Cohn to the Lord, personally discipled him, and sent him to a seminary in Scotland for training.

Now, more than 127 years later, Your Mission to the Jewish People serves in nineteen countries and two dozen cities across America—and we continue to grow! Throughout the years, our missionaries have led thousands of Jewish people to the Lord, discipled and trained them, and witnessed the joy of seeing those we have mentored lead and disciple others!

Chosen People Ministries has planted dozens of Messianic congregations, conducted major conferences on Jewish evangelism and prophecy, held Jewish holiday services that proclaimed Jesus to thousands, and preached the Word of God in more than 100,000 churches throughout our history! We had more people attend our online events during the past two years than ever before! We thank God that more than 40,000 people attended our event commemorating the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 last fall!

We are also in the process of initiating some new projects for 2022:

  • A Hebrew website and social media campaign for young, secular Israelis
  • An animated gospel tract for social media based on my book Isaiah 53 Explained
  • An extensive hosting network for Israeli travelers visiting the United States to complement all we are doing in New Zealand, parts of Asia, and Israel

But, as you can see, these new projects are all designed to further our time-tested strategy—to witness, disciple, and train believers for a lifetime of service! I will share more about these in the months ahead.

WIN-DISCIPLE-TRAIN

I am the seventh president of a ministry that has endured two world wars, the Holocaust, the Great Depression, massive immigration of Jewish people to the US from Eastern Europe, the Spanish flu . . .and now COVID-19! Yet, by God’s inescapable and magnificent grace, we are still here—focused on the same goal—bringing the Messiah to His own people!

A “win-disciple-train” strategy is the core of the Great Commission.

Focusing on the basics is the best way to counter the fog and disruptions this pandemic has brought upon us! After all, the gospel is still the same, Jesus is the same, and our mission, according to Matthew 28:19–20 and Romans 1:16, also remains the same.

I became a believer and was personally discipled by a Chosen People Ministries missionary serving in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time. My wife had a similar experience. She came to the Lord through other teenagers at her predominantly Jewish high school in Los Angeles. Again, a Chosen People Ministries missionary trained these young people to share the gospel with Jewish high school students! That missionary also discipled my wife and hired her for her first ministry job—with Chosen People Ministries.

Eventually, Chosen People Ministries paid my way through Bible college and helped me again when I began seminary at the Talbot School of Theology (part of Biola University). Chosen People Ministries now partners with Talbot to offer a master of divinity in Messianic Jewish Studies at our Brooklyn-based Charles L. Feinberg Center. This degree trains Jewish and Gentile believers called to serve the chosen people.

My wife and I are the fruit of Chosen People Ministries’ missionary outreach. After coming to faith, we were discipled and further trained for ministry by this wonderful and historic Mission to the Jewish People that I have now had the joy of leading for just a few months shy of twenty-five years!

PRIORITIZING PERSONAL MINISTRY

We will emphasize in-person evangelism of Jewish people, discipleship through personal care, prayer, and Bible study. We will also offer further training so that these new Jewish disciples can grow, mature, and become Jewish evangelists themselves.

We are already in the process of developing an online, video-based Messianic lay Bible institute to further our training goals. These courses will be available to you too!

Our evangelistic goals include reaching some of the most difficult-to-reach Jewish people in the world. Some of these precious Jewish people are the most gospel-resistant among the gospel-resistant! So please pray, give, and when you are able, join us in reaching these Jewish people through short-term missions and various training opportunities!

REACHING YOUNG, SECULAR ISRAELIS

Today, as Israel opens up, we are beginning to see excitement grow among younger Israelis who want to meet together again in person. So we are doubling our efforts to reach young, secular Israelis—especially those who travel worldwide after the army.

Robin, one of our leaders in Israel and a Jewish believer who came to faith through Chosen People Ministries workers, writes the following:

Reaching Israelis outside Israel is a short-term ministry initially but becomes a long-term opportunity. The Israelis who hear about Jesus in New Zealand, India, South America, and Hong Kong return to Israel after some months. Our Israeli staff and volunteers follow up one to one and through New Zealand and India reunion events.

Through the follow-up, relationships are deepened and built, and they hear more about Yeshua, meet other Israelis who believe in Yeshua, and have a contact for any questions they have; praise God! Two young women we met in India on outreach trips came to faith a year ago through this type of follow-up, and we are studying through the Gospels now. We are also developing a new website to be a further step in both outreach and follow-up. We will continue to find new creative ways to disciple and train young Israeli believers.

These ministries are valuable for evangelism, ongoing discipleship, and training! Robin adds,

Our outreach to Israelis outside Israel serves two great purposes: We bring the gospel to Israelis, and we mentor and disciple young adult Israeli followers of Jesus by sending young Israeli believers to volunteer in our backpacker/youth hostels in New Zealand, India, and elsewhere. There, our local staff and team leaders invest in their training through personal Bible studies and walking alongside them in the ministry. Then, on returning to Israel, many say they grew in their faith and understanding of the Word of God and feel more confident in sharing Jesus with their peers.

Thank you for your prayers and your generous support.

May you have a fruitful 2022 for the Lord!

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Serving in the Land of Yeshua’s Birth

I am writing to you at a time when Israel is again battling against the new coronavirus variants, shutting down Ben Gurion Airport to visitors and restricting various everyday activities for all Israelis.

The pandemic hit Holocaust survivors in Israel harder than most as they are physically vulnerable and already some of the most emotionally traumatized people on the planet.

We all know the pandemic made life difficult for everybody, in every country, every community, and household. But imagine what it would be like if you were an eighty-six-year-old Holocaust survivor living in a cramped apartment for a year and a half without a computer or knowing how to use modern technology.

Israel went into lockdown because of the rapid spread of COVID-19, which resulted in the closing of the state-funded social clubs for Holocaust survivors in an effort to protect them from the spread of the disease. This created an opportunity for our staff at Chosen People Ministries—Israel to show His love by serving the survivors. Our staff received special permission from the government to visit these precious souls in their homes and provide them with food and other supplies. But almost more importantly, these visits provided personal connection, prayer, and comfort as our staff was able to share the good news of the Messiah with those who were open.

Our team sprang into action, and we taught dozens of Holocaust survivors how to use computers and even Zoom for virtual meetings. From Bible studies to live online concerts with worship music and teachings from Scripture, we provided a steady stream of hope and personal contact through Zoom events designed for those unable to leave their apartments. We must also remember that, during some of this time, the survivors lived in terror as missiles from Gaza were regularly flying overhead, and some of the rockets that were not stopped by the Iron Dome hit the ground near their apartments, which are very close to the border.

Maxim Katz, who leads our ministry to Holocaust survivors in Israel, described to me the ways in which hardship opened doors for ministry among hundreds of elderly Holocaust survivors and their families.

I am sorry to say that many Holocaust survivors whom Maxim and his team served, approximately seventy in total, passed away during the last year. To make matters worse, Maxim recalls that none of our staff were able to attend the funerals as only a few close family members were permitted to attend. This brought us to tears.

ANSWERS TO PRAYER

What encouraged us the most during this season were the hundreds of phone calls we received from Holocaust survivors and their curious, unbelieving family members asking for prayer. We spent hours upon hours talking with and praying for people over the phone.

One sweet ninety-year-old lady called Maxim and asked for prayer for her grandchildren, who are now in the army. The next day, Maxim received a phone call from an officer in the military who was this lady’s grandson. “My grandmother said you prayed for me,” he remarked. “Who are you, and why are you praying with and helping my grandmother?” he added. Maxim shared openly that he was a Jewish believer in Jesus and told him about our ongoing work among Holocaust survivors. Maxim’s testimony touched the man, and days later, he received a message from this officer saying he—an unbeliever—wanted to support the ministry financially! Not only that, but he continues to call Maxim to this day, asking questions about faith and sharing about his own spiritual journey.

Another precious lady in her late eighties called and asked us to pray for healing from cancer. Maxim and the team prayed for her and offered practical help as well because she had no family in Israel. She accepted Jesus as a result of our prayers and practical support. It was a beautiful picture of Jesus’ words: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

CHANGE AND ENCOURAGEMENT

Recently, an eighty-six-year-old man asked Maxim, “How did you come to the faith? How did God find you? Because you weren’t born a Christian. So, what happened?” After two hours of Maxim and even some other survivors sharing their testimonies, the man came to faith in Jesus!

Pray for these precious Holocaust survivors. We try to help them spiritually and practically, but we are also fighting the clock as many, especially during the pandemic, have passed away. Please pray that God will continue to open the hearts of the survivors and that He will send additional laborers to serve on our team who can especially help with home visits. It requires a lot of time to make these personal visits as the survivors are often so lonely.

The harvest is plentiful in Israel among Holocaust survivors! But the time is short. Matthew wrote, “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 9:37–38).

So, please pray for new laborers and think about sharing financially in this urgent ministry so that we can take on some new workers for this effort…again, the time is short.

You can help us in this wonderful ministry through your prayers and support of new workers!

MAXIM’S TESTIMONY

Maxim was born in Siberia, Russia, in 1976 to a traditional Jewish family. Due to a problem at birth, he could not walk until he was nine years old, which made his childhood very difficult, especially making friends with other children. When he reached adulthood, he became very attracted to the world.

After some time, Maxim decided to move to Israel under the Law of Return, which allows Jewish people to immigrate to the Holy Land. He settled in the resort city of Eilat in the south of Israel with other immigrants from Siberia. But instead of finding a new life, he quickly became attracted to alcohol and chose the wrong kind of friends who were also heading down a path to nowhere!

But the Lord had His holy hand on Maxim and began drawing him to the Savior. He met some godly believers in Eilat and began to understand that there was a God who loved him. Going nowhere on his own, he prayed and asked for God’s help. Still, life became more difficult, and he ended up on the streets. Then, one day, Maxim called out to God for help as he knew that Jesus alone was the answer to ALL of his problems.

Eventually, God called Maxim to serve Him full-time, and he has been serving with Chosen People Ministries since 2002, teaching Bible studies, assisting the director of the work in Israel, and sharing the good news of Messiah with all who are willing to hear.

The Lord also brought Maxim a beautiful wife, Slavna, and together they minister for the Messiah in Israel among Holocaust survivors and among children as Maxim also leads our very fruitful camp programs.

THE ISRAEL PROJECT

Your Mission to the Jewish People has more than twenty staff members in the Holy Land serving the Messiah among His chosen people. Our Centers in Jerusalem and in the greater Tel Aviv area are again up and running, and Maxim and our other staff members are busy reaching Jewish people in Israel: Holocaust survivors, young adults, children, soldiers, and many others!

During this season of the year, when we think deeply about His miraculous birth and generosity toward us (Romans 5:8), please join me in prayer for the work of Chosen People Ministries in Israel.

Merry Christmas, and may He be glorified in all things!

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

The Story of Hanukkah

Happy Thanksgiving on behalf of the entire Chosen People Ministries global family! I hope you will be able to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving meal with your loved ones! If you lost a friend or family member during the last year or two, I also pray the Lord will fill your heart with heavenly comfort and peace.

I am very thankful to God for you and the ways you have stood with Your Mission to the Jewish People this year. Your prayers and support mean so much to us!

We have so much to be grateful for in spite of the circumstances, as our staff continues to reach Jewish people with the gospel both in person and online.

Our outreach has even increased this past year as so many Jewish people are looking heavenward for answers.

Our work among elderly Holocaust survivors in Israel has increased as the need has been overwhelming. Chosen People Ministries—Israel has provided love and company for the lonely, food for the hungry, and of course, the good news of Jesus to these precious Jewish souls. Many young Israelis also attend our online ministry events when we cannot meet in person. We need your prayers as we resume in-person outreaches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and throughout this country of almost seven million Jewish people.

In New York City, we recently commemorated the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 by honoring our heroes and reminding Americans of our unbreakable bond with Israel in combating terrorism. More than 40,000 people joined us for the event online and in person.

We thank God for all He has done in our 127th year of faithful ministry, and we are looking forward to the greater things He will do through you and our global staff in our 128th year (John 14:12). We are focusing on reaching Israelis in Israel and wherever they travel after the army with the gospel, expanding our outreach through videos, podcasts, and social media, and preparing our next generation for leadership in Jewish ministry through our Brooklyn-based and now online Charles L. Feinberg seminary program!

We have so much to be grateful for in Jesus, our Messiah. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

The Story of Hanukkah

I also wish you an early Happy Hanukkah, which is one of my favorite holidays. Growing up in a Jewish home in New York City, I loved each day of this eight-day festival because my parents gave us presents every night as we lit the beautiful Hanukkah candles.

We also eat wonderful foods like potato pancakes (called latkes) smothered in applesauce or sour cream. In Israel, delicious jelly donuts are also a Hanukkah staple. OK… so it is not the healthiest of Jewish holidays! We make our Hanukkah foods with lots of oil as both oil and light illustrate two of the great themes of the holiday.

Let me explain.

The story of Hanukkah takes place during the biblical “silent years”—the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. In 168 BC, the Jewish people rebelled against the Syrian-Greek General, Antiochus the Fourth, whom the Jewish people called “Antiochus the Madman.” This evil Seleucid king took the name “Epiphanes,” which means “God manifest,” as he believed he was the manifestation of one of the Greek gods. Antiochus wanted the Jewish people to worship him rather than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which was at the heart of the reason for Israel’s resistance.

A priestly family called the Maccabees led the rebellion. They lived in a town called Modi’in, which is just a few miles

from Jerusalem. As the story goes, the representative of Antiochus entered the village and demanded that the Jewish people in Modi’in bow down and worship a statue of Antiochus, upon pain of death. In doing so, they would affirm belief in the gods of the Greeks, loyalty to the madman, and rejection of the God of the Hebrews.

This godly family waged guerrilla warfare against the mighty Greek-Syrian army and managed to defeat Antiochus. This victory was a miracle as once again, Israel beat the odds and defeated a much larger and more powerful enemy. Jewish people traditionally view this as God’s blessing upon the Maccabees for their faithfulness to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

After their victory, they traveled to the Holy City of Jerusalem to rededicate the Temple. The victorious band of priestly guerrillas was horrified as they entered the Temple.

They discovered that Antiochus had sacrificed a pig on the altar, signaling the Syrian Greeks’ contempt for the Jewish people. The Maccabees tore down the stones of the altar as it was deemed beyond cleansing. According to Jewish tradition found in the books of Maccabees (1 Macc 4:36–59; 2 Macc 10:1–8), the Maccabees set the defiled altar stones aside until “a prophet” comes, who would tell them what to do with the stones (1 Macc 4:45–46).

Then, according to tradition, they discovered the eternal light in the Temple had only enough oil to last for one day. So they immediately began to make fresh olive oil to keep the eternal light from being extinguished. According to tradition, even though it usually takes eight days to complete and cure the oil, the one day’s worth of oil miraculously lasted for eight!

We do not know whether the story is true or not. However, I was raised in a very traditional Jewish home and taught to believe it was true! Either way, the victory of Hanukkah is one of the great stories of both Jewish heroism and God’s loyalty to His chosen people. For these reasons and more, the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah.

The festival is far more than an opportunity to enjoy the

beauty of family gatherings, Hanukkah parties, or even giving presents. The holiday is more than a wonderful time of playing games with our families, like spinning little tops called dreidels and singing some of the most moving songs within our Jewish tradition.

Jesus & Hanukkah

My wife and children love the holiday as it beautifully connects to our Messiah Jesus in so many ways. After all, Yeshua, Jesus, is the Jewish Messiah. He is the Light of the world (John 8:12), so there is nothing like the lights of the Hanukkah candles to remind us that Jesus the Messiah is the true light that illuminates mankind.

But there is more! Hanukkah is recorded as observed by the Jewish people in the New Testament—not in the Old! John wrote that Jesus celebrated the Feast of Dedication, a title that commemorates the rededication of the Temple after the desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes.

In John 10:22–30, we read:

At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give

eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

In the midst of this moment of intense and heated debate with the Jewish leaders of the day, Jesus makes one of the most remarkable declarations about His person found in the entire Bible.

He is not only the light of the world, but He is God in the flesh!

This message of His incarnation, light, and the deliverance He offers humanity through His death and resurrection is the message we hope to bring to every Jewish soul.

So please pray for Your Mission to the Jewish People—that the Lord will fill us with His Spirit, enabling us to continue our ministry to the Jewish people in Israel, the United States, and throughout the world.

The Future of the Middle East

I am also grateful for the Abraham Accords and other movements bringing peace and hope to a new and changing Middle East! But even more, I look forward to the reshaping of the Middle East when Jesus returns to reign as King!

We are grateful for your faithful partnership. Have a Jesus-centered and joyful Thanksgiving and a Happy Hanukkah!

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Filed under evangelism, Holidays & Festivals, Israel, Jewish Holidays, Jews and Christians, Messianic Jewish, Middle East, New York City, Thanksgiving