It hardly seems possible that we’ve come to the last (but not least) of our BYG cities—those with 25,000 or more Jewish people. We started with the first BYG campaign in San Francisco in 2001 and now we are wrapping up in a BYG” way in New York.
Why Is This New York Campaign Different?
As David Brickner mentioned on page one, we’ve gathered our missionary staff from around the world in New York this month for not one but nine witnessing campaigns. You can see each campaign and its leaders listed on your prayer card, but we wanted to give you a bigger vision of the places and people we are reaching this month.
The Big Apple
There is no place quite like Manhattan, the city that never sleeps. It is the center of New York. There is an energy and excitement here, a pace that says, “Hurry, there is so much to see and do!” There are so many bright lights in Times Square it seems like even at night the sun is shining. The financial district is teeming with people who consider themselves sophisticated and self-reliant. In Manhattan we will engage people from every borough, every language and from just about every country in the world. It is a city packed with distractions, pride, wealth and poverty…and our goal is to focus people’s attention on Jesus.
Manhattan has been the heart of our annual Summer Witnessing Campaigns since 1974, and it is also the home of our New York branch and training center. Some 300,000 Jewish people reside here, but many more work or vacation in Manhattan. By God’s grace we hope once again to challenge our Jewish people in Manhattan to consider the claims of Jesus. We will accomplish this through four sorties (tract-passing expeditions) a day, by calling Jewish households at night, by renting booths at many of the street fairs that occur in Manhattan during the summer, and by giving many outdoor concerts that will lift up the name of Jesus.
The Dark Island
The often-overlooked area of greater New York is Staten Island.
More than 50,000 Jewish people live in this growing community. According to its residents, Staten Island is one of the most un-churched places in the United States and is rarely the site of any evangelistic outreaches. We are attempting to bring the gospel message to a section of New York that has prided itself as being separate, apart and closed off to the gospel. Yet the Light of the World can penetrate this Island—He doesn’t need a bridge or a ferryboat to get through.
The Staten Island campaign will be coupled with the much better known borough of…
Brooklyn is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of New York City and probably of the U.S. The neighborhoods include Muslims from the Middle East, Jamaicans, Haitians, Russians, Italians and more. The Jewish population of 516,000 is also incredibly diverse with Orthodox, Hasidim, traditional, secular, Russian, Ukrainian, Israeli and even Syrian communities.
Brooklyn is a place of extremes. In Brooklyn Heights live some of the wealthiest people in the city, and in Brownsville some of the poorest. The most pious ultra-Orthodox Jews live there, as well as Muslim extremists. There are renowned Mafia leaders in Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, and the meanest crews of gangs in Bedford Stuyvesant.
In the midst of all of these extremes of rich and poor, prejudice and hate, is the love of Yeshua that stands in bold contrast and breaks through all barriers.
Please pray for our Brooklyn BYG, that we can be an effective witness to the many different people we encounter. Pray that our cooperation with the variety of Christians we are partnering with will bless us and them.
The Brooklyn and Staten Island campaigns will combine intense broadside distribution, extensive door-to-door and phoning, and special events. We will be there to greet people with a smile and a gospel tract as they go for evening strolls in local parks and promenades.
At the end of the summer we will be opening a new branch in Brooklyn, with hopes of building ongoing relationships with many people we meet this month.
Queens boasts of having the largest multi-cultural community in the world. Over 130 languages are spoken in this borough of over two million people, making it the tenth most populous county in the U.S. As you stroll through the neighborhoods of Queens you can easily pass five restaurants, side by side, serving five different ethnic foods—from Russian to Japanese to Hungarian to Spanish to Caribbean.
In the midst of all the diversity is a Jewish community of close to 200,000 residents. We will be on the streets and subways handing out broadsides, lifting up Jesus. We will hold a free concert in the heart of one of the large Jewish communities. We are also planning presentations to reach the Russian communities, as well as video presentations of “Forbidden Peace” that will be directed to Arabs and Israelis.
Please pray for this outreach, that Jewish people will be provoked to curiosity and that hearts would be turned to Jesus.
The Bronx & Westchester
There are 45,000 Jewish residents in the Bronx to engage, and right next door is Westchester County, where the Jewish community of 192,000 is among the most affluent in New York.
On the banks of the Hudson River in the northern section of Westchester is Sleepy Hollow, just north of Tarrytown. Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown are both lined with antique stores and are filled with visitors every weekend. They are great places for weekend sorties. In 1928 on the shoreline of Westchester’s border on the Long Island Sound, in the town of Rye, an amusement park was built. It is called Playland and it stands there to this day. Thousands of people from the Westchester area come to play there each summer. On Saturday nights many Jewish people come to the boardwalk to listen to music and dance. We will be handing out tracts there regularly.
Also in Westchester, at the center of a picturesque village—which shall remain nameless—just across the road from the train station, sits a humble little diner. Victor, the proprietor, is a Christian and he unabashedly displays a rack full of gospel pamphlets near the door, some of which are addressed directly to the Jewish people. Many Jewish people reside in this area, and some frequent Victor’s diner. Recently, one sweet little Jewish lady became very upset when she saw those Jewish gospel tracts. She proceeded to empty every last tract into a plastic bag. Then she announced, “If you put up any more of those, I’ll have you picketed!” It cost Victor quite a bit to stock all those tracts. His response to an employee: “Get more tracts and put them up right away.”
We thank God for Christians who are standing with us in the Bronx and in Westchester. We’ll be handing out broadsides at Yankee Stadium, engaging business professionals at the commuter train stops, and going door-to-door to see who wants to talk about Jesus. We have also planned special events including a showing of the Christcentered work of Jewish artist Marc Chagall.
Many of the 311,000 Jews living on this 118-mile stretch of land will meet our campaigners either at the local railroad stations where we distribute broadsides or on the many jam-packed beaches.
Long Islanders are beachgoers, shoppers, attendees at Nassau Coliseum events, fans of their minor league baseball team the Long Island Ducks, and also commuters—commuters primarily to Manhattan where so many of them work. There are pockets of ultra-Orthodox, and also modern Orthodox and Conservative Jews, but the majority are secular and the further east you go, the more dispersed they are. Reaching them will be a challenge!
We’re setting up kiosks in the shopping malls and holding special events, including film showings, a tennis tournament, and music concerts on the beach. We don’t want to forget the Hamptons—home to so many of the rich and famous! We will send a team out each weekend to raise a banner so that they too can know real life, found only in Messiah—now that’s the real lifestyle of the truly rich—in Him!
Northern New Jersey & Rockland County
There are 300,000 Jews in these two areas across the Hudson River from New York City. The team will distribute broadsides, make phone calls, set up kiosks in shopping malls, and hold evangelistic music concerts on the Jersey Shore.
Pray for a special emphasis we will have in New Jersey to reach intermarried Jews through home meetings. Also pray for the commuters who receive broadsides on both sides of the Hudson.
The largest concentration of Russianspeaking Jews outside of the former Soviet Union can be found in Brooklyn, with a smaller concentration in Queens. The entire Russian-speaking staff of Jews for Jesus will combine to have the largest outreach to Diaspora Russianspeaking Jews ever. They will distribute broadsides in these areas, do door-to-door visits and place evangelistic ads in Russian newspapers in the area.
Many Jewish people left Russia and Ukraine seeking a better life in any number of countries, and especially Israel and the U.S. Most Jews in Russia and Ukraine have not been indoctrinated as to any particular religion, and therefore do not have the predisposition to reject the gospel, as do those raised here in the United States. However, even as we reach out to these people, there are Orthodox Jewish groups warning them to stay away from us.
Pray for this spiritually receptive community, especially for our missionaries from the former Soviet Union, as they reconnect with their unsaved brothers and sisters.
Outreach to Israelis
Since the recent incapacitation of Ariel Sharon, the political state of affairs in Israel has been unstable. Israelis everywhere have been losing hope in the well-being of Israel and its future leadership. Many leave Israel disappointed with the approach to spirituality they find in rabbinic Judaism.
As one of the most Jewish cities in the world, New York is home to an ever-increasing number of Israelis—approximately 200,000. While most Christians associate Israeli Jews with Orthodox Jewish values, the vast majority of these Israelis are secular and seeking “the good life.” On the other hand, the majority do not have a rigid view of Jesus, Judaism or spirituality.
Israelis are far more open to explore the gospel than many other Jewish people today.
This summer turns an exciting new page in Jews for Jesus history. For the first time we will have an Israeli, Hebrew-speaking team of Jews for Jesus campaigning exclusively among the Israelis living in New York. Our team of Hebrew-speaking campaigners will distribute Hebrew broadsides and New Testaments in modern Hebrew, hold music concerts, take surveys, use a special Israeli web site, place Hebrew-language evangelistic billboards, and do home visits.
Won’t you pray that God would direct our efforts toward hungry hearts and open ears as we share the love of another Israeli, Yeshua, with Israelis throughout New York this month?
Ultra-Orthodox Jews comprise the most unreached segment of our people. Worldwide we know of only a few handfuls of secret ultra-orthodox believers and a few more public exultra- Orthodox believers in Jesus. While many Jewish people have been through phases of ultra-Orthodoxy and then come to faith in Jesus, very few Jewish people who were born and raised ultra-Orthodox have had the opportunity to hear the gospel message in any shape or form.
Please pray that God will enable hundreds and even thousands of ultra- Orthodox Jewish people to really hear and understand the gospel message this month as a result of our outreach.
There are some 300,000 ultra-Orthodox Jewish people throughout the greater New York area. Their communities are extremely close-knit. Most born and raised in these communities never venture outside. A large proportion, particularly women, do not speak English, even though they were born in the U.S. Girls are not educated to a high level, and boys only spend an hour or two on subjects such as English and math. The majority of time is devoted to Hebrew and religious studies. Not only do all friends, relatives and most work relationships occur within the community, but the community also conducts its own “policing” and “regulation.” Rejection or expulsion from the community is terrifying, as an ultra-Orthodox person is unequipped for life “outside.” Even a hint of interest in Jesus would bring extreme pressure from the community and dishonor to the entire family, affecting siblings, marriage chances and much more.
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night…” (John 3:1-2a)
Please pray that there will be many Nicodemuses, who are willing to risk finding out more about Jesus. Please also pray that we will be alert to God’s leading in creating enough safe avenues for inquirers to further explore the gospel message. Please pray also for the protection of those who do inquire.
For all the campaigns in New York this summer: Please pray that God will fight this spiritual battle for us and proclaim His lordship in the lives of the people we seek to reach. Please pray also for all those on the campaign, on the front lines and behind the scenes. Pray for physical safety and health. Pray for God to send His angels ahead of us and to guide us and keep us close to Him. Most of all please pray that we would be godly enough for God’s love, power, truth and grace to be seen through our story and witness.