Letter to the Mishpochah
Greetings in Yeshua! I hope you all had a joyous holiday. What a terrific season to rejoice in our messianic Jewish heritage! What other time of year do we witness a more magnificent display of the melding of our Jewish identity with our faith in Yeshua than at Passover/Easter time? And all that good food! What a shame that Passover only comes once a year!
I hope you’ve been enjoying ISSUES. Remember our editor, Susan Perlman in your prayers. If you can, drop her a card of encouragement. To read ISSUES you might think it’s a full-time job in itself, but Susan manages to keep the quality of the publication up while juggling armloads of other responsibilities.
I started this letter by calling you mishpochah” and I have a number of “mishpochah matters” to talk over with you. Some such family-matters are a source of nachas, of pleasure; other things, I wish I didn’t have to mention. But then that’s the way it is with family news, so relax already, and let me tell you what’s been happening.
On the Edge of Faith
Judging from these last few months, there seems to be a surge in the number of Jewish people coming to believe in Jesus. I spoke to Moishe Rosen a few days ago and he feels there are many—perhaps thousands—of Jewish people who are “on the edge of faith.” The reason they haven’t made a profession is a fear of social repercussions from family and friends. As you read this I think you’ll begin to see what I mean.
A few months ago Elliot Bernstein, producer of the CBS television program “60 Minutes” called, requesting our help to do a story on the Jews for Jesus ministry. Now, if you’ve ever watched “60 Minutes” you know they are quite capable of doing a “hatchet job.” If we had told them we were not interested in being interviewed, they would have gone ahead with the program anyway, and would have depicted us with information supplied only by our opposition. therefore we agreed to meet with the producer, Mr. Bernstein, who flew out to San Francisco the following week.
Mr. Bernstein met Moishe with a whole battery of questions. The questions he asked were obviously designed to serve as shovels for “digging up dirt.” It wasn’t “what do you believe and why,” but “what about your finances,” “who is on your staff,” and “tell us about your board of directors.” So, we showed him our books. We showed him our staff list. We gave him the names and address of our board members, told him their occupations and more. We gave him the grand tour of our facilities and, in general, Moishe was very candid and open with Mr. Bernstein. To make a long story short, he couldn’t find anything that was unkosher enough to make a segment of “60 Minutes” interesting to the public. So, as of now, we won’t be on “60 Minutes.”
Moishe asked Mr. Bernstein why “60 Minutes” had wanted to do the show in the first place. He replied quite honestly that he had been given information by Jewish community leaders who felt that Jews for Jesus ought to be exposed. Then Mr. Bernstein added an unsolicited comment. He said these rabbis wanted “60 Minutes” to expose Jews for Jesus because they are afraid of us and similar Jewish Christian ministries.
Mr. Bernstein told Moishe that some of the Jewish community leaders believe a significant number of Jewish people are ON THE EDGE OF FAITH IN YESHUA, and they believe such people would cross the line and become followers of Jesus if it weren’t for the rejection and hardship they anticipate will come. Bernstein felt the rabbis wanted to prevent such a “crossing” by branding us as unacceptable to the Jewish community: thus maintaining the kind of peer pressure which prevents a significant number of Jewish people from stepping off the edge of faith into full-fledged belief in Jesus.
The above story served to confirm something Moishe had known intuitively: in recent days, many Jewish community leaders have intensified their opposition to our efforts. One of our missionaries in New York City attended an all-day anti-missionary conference sponsored by “The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York City Task Force on Cults and Missionaries.” Included in the written material distributed to conferees was a memo from the leader of the JCRC Task Force, Dr. Lawrence Colton. The memo was addressed to rabbis from Long Island, and called upon them to try to prevent. Jews for Jesus and other Jewish mission agencies from renting catering hall in their community. Now, Jews for Jesus and a number of the messianic groups use these catering halls for annual Passover banquets. Does it surprise you that the JCRC Task Force would conspire to stop us from our legal rights to rent Jewish catering halls? It shouldn’t.
Jewish community leaders are not necessarily constrained by principle when it comes to opposing our efforts. For example, I’ve been helping Moishe write a paper on ethics. We are attempting to answer accusations by certain Jewish leaders who say we don’t have the right to use Jewish symbols and celebrate Jewish holidays
I called Rabbi James Rudin, the Director of the Department of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee. Since Dr. Rudin has made some rather strong public allegations which we would like to answer, I asked him to delineate the charges against us. Dr. Rudin refused to do so.
Although he was kind enough to return my phone call, he wouldn’t address the issues. And yet, Rabbi Rudin is a key figure in the current Jewish/Evangelical Dialogue movement. He freely addresses issues concerning us as he speaks to evangelical Christians…as long as they are not Jewish. He is quite willing to tell our Christian brothers and sisters what is wrong with Jewish believers and where we are unethical, but he won’t speak directly to us. By speaking behind our backs he is trying to cause a rift between Jewish and Gentile believers in the church.
One of the dangers of the Jewish/Evangelical Dialogue movement is that Jewish leaders consistently refuse to have Jewish Christians represented at these meetings. Unfortunately, many of our Gentile Christian brethren don’t realize that this is a breach of ethics. It enables Jewish leaders like Rabbi Rudin to speak against Jewish believers without us being there to answer the charges. His refusal to clarify these charges, even in private, indicates that Rabbi Rudin’s only interest in “dialogue” is to make statements which he hopes will thwart our efforts. Accusations are not made to us, they are made about us. A true dialogue would be between the accusers and the accused, but such a confrontation would undoubtedly call the integrity of the accusations into question. So be alert. If an evangelical pastor in your community seems to be involved in this type of dialogue, you might go to him and express your concern.
Love Is Not Blind…So Keep Your Eyes Open!
Along with the efforts at defamation which I just described, there has also been a rise in the number of professional anti-missionaries who are now offering their services to the Jewish community. I told you some of these family matters are things I’d rather not have to mention, but I think it’s important. Jewish Christian brothers and sisters, you need to beware of “family counselors” who wish to speak with you. Recently, a Jewish Christian man in North Carolina was asked by his parents to speak with a “counselor” from Baltimore. He called to ask me to pray for his meeting with this counselor, Monty Berger. It so happens that Monty Berger is an Orthodox Jew who is a professional anti-missionary. He was one of the key people who organized a demonstration of over 300 Orthodox Jews against a concert sponsored by Rosh Pinah, a messianic congregation in Baltimore, last March.
Yeshua told us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. We love our people, but love is not blind. The Scriptures clearly tell us to “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). The Torah also makes it clear that it is wrong to “bear false witness.” It is important that Jewish believers band together to present a unified front in dealing the opposition from the Jewish community—especially when that opposition is deceptive. Each one of us should refuse to meet with any “counselor” if we discover that the counselor is, in fact, an anti-missionary. If the person is traveling from another state to meet with you, you should wonder what type of counsel he/she can offer that cannot be found in your own community. You should be able to verify by whom this counselor is employed, or with whom he/she is affiliated . And never meet with a counselor when you don’t know their name beforehand. It is also a good idea to meet in an office and not in a home or hotel.
If you have been approached by someone in your family to meet with such a person and you suspect they may be an anti-missionary, please write me. I am familiar with many of these people. Not every anti-missionary is abusive, but in order to do their job, they are wily and manipulative. And there have been instances where Jewish believers were held against their will and emotionally and psychologically brutalized by trained professionals in an attempt to have them renounce their faith in Jesus. As a child of God, you need not panic or be overly suspicious, but it is important that we not make ourselves vulnerable to these types of situations.
Paul reminds us in Romans chapter 12: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We must pray for those who oppose us and stand firm by presenting a positive story. Above all, we must never let our opposers keep us from proclaiming the gospel. After all, telling about the Messiah is the greatest good you can do for anyone, Jew or Gentile.
Looking Forward to Summer?
We are! The fact that so many Jewish people are on the “edge of faith” has inspired us to increase our witness. We would not be facing this much opposition if the gospel were not having an effect on so many Jewish hearts. This summer might well mark a milestone in Jewish evangelism. I’m talking about our annual Summer Witnessing Campaign, and I’d like to remind you of the opportunity to participate. The dates are June 17 through the entire month of July. Campaign begins with two weeks of intensive training at Moody Bible Institute (worth three Moody credit units). Afterwards, teams will be sent primarily to New York City where Moody will offer three additional credit units for the month of campaign.
Now, what type of person should want to go on a witnessing campaign? Probably those of you who are between the ages of 18-35 years old. Campaign is rigorous, and if you are over 35, you probably couldn’t handle the rigors. And if you are under 18, your parents probably won’t let you go! But if you are over 18, or over 35 and in very good physical condition, campaign might be just the opportunity you are looking for to serve the Lord!
Last year we distributed almost 1.5 million broadsides (gospel tracts) and collected the names of over 500 Jewish people who wanted to receive ISSUES and find out more about Jesus. Even more exciting, 92 people received the Lord right out on the streets! Beyond statistics, campaigners had hundreds of conversations with Jewish people who were curious about Jesus. In addition to the great opportunities for evangelism, campaign is also a superb time for fellowship. You’ll form life-long friendships on a witnessing campaign! There is something about being in battle together (and witnessing in New York City is a spiritual battle) that forms a camaraderie that stretches way beyond the summer’s heat.
Right now we are looking for 12 more campaigners. Perhaps you are saying to yourself that you are definitely not the campaigner type. Do you know of any Jewish or Gentile believers who would value this adventure in evangelism? If you do, then please tell them about campaign and send their names and addresses so I can mail them information. Maybe you are interested, but you are not in the position to take 6 weeks off from work. I have two suggestions.
First of all, ask your employer for the time off. You never know till you ask! I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that many campaigners who feared time off would be a problem were able to swing it once they gathered the courage to ask.
Secondly, if you are not able to come for the full six weeks, you may still be able to attend the two-week training course at Moody Bible Institute which is called Jewish Evangelism Techniques (JET). For more information you can write directly to Moody Bible Institute, 820 North La Salle Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60610.
Some of you are concerned about the financial sacrifice. This year we’ve made arrangements so that any campaigner who raises support above the amount we are asking will receive the overage back as a living allowance.
I can promise that our Summer Witnessing Campaign will be a faith-stretching experience that will push you to the height of your spiritual, emotional and physical endurance. But you’ll find strength you never knew you had! And your walk with God will take on an added dimension as you learn to rely on Him in new ways. I can also promise you that you will eat well! The campaigners will stay in a comfortable air-conditioned hotel just ten blocks from our New York headquarters. So why shouldn’t you be comfortable when you’re working a 14-hour day!?
God forbid! Many Jewish believers are aware of the unnecessary competition that sometimes exists between messianic groups. I thank God that the movement is growing, and we don’t want to see that growth stunted by ungodly rivalries. One of the reasons for this problem is the importance of every Jewish believer to messianic groups, including Jews for Jesus. Did you know that you help us to do some of our best and most fruitful witnessing? When you introduce us to family and friends, you give us some of the best opportunities possible to touch Jewish hearts with the love of Jesus. And then there is the support many of you provide by attending messianic functions. There is nothing like a room filled with Jewish believers to testify to unbelieving visitors that the gospel is to be taken seriously.
Perhaps you sometimes feel pulled and tugged between different Jewish ministries. There is no easy solution except to remember that we are the Lord’s, first and foremost, and that our primary loyalty is to Him. If we choose to be part of a ministry, we must uphold that work in a way that doesn’t cause us to gainsay or badmouth another group. For example, if you were a regular part of a Jews for Jesus branch, and had bad things to say about another ministry, it would hurt Jews for Jesus, as well as hurting you and the other ministry. It is our intention to try and encourage other ministries that love Yeshua and want to reach our people…without standing in judgment of strategies or methods that may differ from ours.
If you were not family, I wouldn’t feel free to say these things. Maybe you are not in a place where this brotherly advice applies, but if not now, it might be something you’ll need to recall in the future. Mishpochah, it is possible to be loyal to one group without becoming negative towards another. In order to love your own children, ft is not helpful to despise the children of another. Each of us should follow the Lord’s leading and attend the functions that He directs us to; we need not justify why we are not going elsewhere.
If we are primarily loyal to Yeshua then we will not speak against other Jewish ministries. This only causes disharmony and ungodly competition where it ought not exist. You can help put a stop to disunity by seriously heeding the words of the apostle who said, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;” (Romans 12: 10). Let us try to have respect for one another’s ministries. If we can do this, it will bring about harmony and remove the ungodly barriers that sometimes divide us (Psalm 133:1).
Thank you for taking the time to read our Mishpochah Message. Greetings from Moishe and the whole Jews for Jesus family.