The University of California at Berkeley is often considered the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement that began in the 1960s. Students on campuses across the country soon followed suit working for various causes. Some spoke out for peace, others championed animal rights, and still others wanted to change the political system.
Some students were getting excited about the most radical message of all: that Jesus Christ came to die for our sins and promised a revolutionary life change to all who would commit themselves to Him. Those young people, many of them Jewish, reached out to their peers with the good news, creating the Jesus Movement” which became the basis for a number of new ministries. One of these was Jews for Jesus.
Jews for Jesus always had an outreach to Berkeley’s student population, but our administrative office was first located in Marin County. Later, the Bay Area branch as well as the administrative offices moved to San Francisco and continued to carry on outreach on the various campuses from there.
Now we have opened a new branch office in Berkeley, only a few blocks from the University campus. The students of the 1990s seem less interested in changing the world than their 1960s counterparts. Yet the good news of Jesus never changes.
Our new Berkeley office includes a retail outlet, so we call it “The Store.” This is a first among the Jews for Jesus branches. We carry numerous Jewish and Jewish/Christian books and other related items. Now inquirers can come in, browse at their leisure and examine a number of books about Jesus and Jews who believe in Him. We hope this environment will engender many conversations and contacts and lead to real commitments of faith.
Berkeley needs much prayer. While this well-known campus town has a long history of interest in “free speech,” many get upset about those of us who use our people free speech to proclaim that there is only one God and only one way to Him, through the death and resurrection of Yeshua.
Nevertheless, we are finding encouragement. One day as branch leader Stephen Katz and I prepared to go out and distribute tracts in Berkeley, we prayed that we would meet a Jewish person who not only believed in Jesus but was also a Berkeley student.
The passersby on the street displayed their usual mixed responses. We encountered apathy, mockery and even an occasional insult, so it was a pleasant surprise when one student approached and said, “Hi, my name is Brian and I am a Jewish Christian.”
Brian said he was studying at the law school and wanted to be more in touch with us. He had little time to volunteer, but he did want to stand with us in prayer. Meeting Brian was certainly a quick answer to prayer and a welcome encouragement from the Lord.
In the midst of a plurality of ideas in Berkeley, pray that we will be able to promote the One who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
“The Store” and the Jewish Press
“The Store” has been receiving some “free publicity” from The Northern California Jewish Bulletin. A while back, in an attempt to warn the Jewish community against our new Berkeley facility and our gospel ads, the paper gave us a full page of “advertising,” replete with pictures of Moishe Rosen, branch leader Stephen Katz and me.
Half the teams in our “interfaith” bowling league are from B’nai Brith, and I had a feeling that many of the Jewish bowlers (men in their 60s, 70s and even 80s) had seen that article in The Jewish Bulletin. No sooner did I get to my lane when Ed, a Jewish octogenarian, greeted me with, “Hey, star! I saw your picture.” A few others also came over to say they had seen the picture and the article.
With a small crowd gathering around me, I said, “Hey, I know what you must be thinking about my work. But I only do it because Jesus is the Messiah who died for our sins. Really, that’s the only reason.”
Later that night I went over to Harold’s lane. (He’s one of the B’nai Brith players, and I had spoken with him the previous week.) Harold had agreed to read some literature, so I handed him our Don’t Ask pamphlet. When I got back to my lane I noticed that a number of the B’nai Brith team were playing with the pamphlet. They were passing it around like a hot potato, saying, “Here, you need to be converted.” “No, you need to be converted.”.”No, you need to be converted.” But after the pamphlet had made the rounds, Harold retrieved it and carefully put it in his pocket. We hope for further ministry opportunities at the bowling alley and for more “customers” at “The Store.”