Did you see the prayer bookmark included with this month’s newsletter? We’re going to try this format to see if it works for you, our prayer partners. We hope these markers will keep you praying for each of our evangelistic campaigns in the years ahead. Since we can’t fit much on a bookmark, we thought we’d use the BYG Pic to tell you some of the history of our Behold Your God cities, as well as their present-day religious environments. This month we have a tale of two very different cities: St. Petersburg and Milwaukee.
Jews first settled in St. Petersburg during Russia’s Industrial Revolution (late 1700s/early 1800s) as a stream of Jewish railway builders, financiers and contractors made it their headquarters. The Jews of St. Petersburg not only built up the industry, they also greatly contributed to the city’s cultural life. Two Jewish brother/composers, Nicholas and Anton Rubinstein, founded Russia’s first conservatories of music. They also organized the Russian Musical Society in St. Petersburg, now called the Imperial. Famous Jewish artist Mark Chagall studied in St. Petersburg, while other Jewish citizens like Gregori Verblovsky (1837-1900) played an important role in the city’s politics.
Today, 100,000 Jewish people live in St. Petersburg. The majority of the population is secular. However, the Russian Union of Jewish Religious Communities seeks to convert Jews to their brand of Orthodoxy, and in certain locations, the Chabad (a very outspoken sect of the Orthodox community) is also active. More recently, Russia has seen Reform and Conservative Judaism make inroads. The main synagogue in the city is called the Jewish Community of St. Petersburg.
There is also a thriving population of Jewish believers in Jesus in St. Petersburg. We are thankful that many of them are partnering with us for this month’s outreach. Pray for these local believers, that God would bless them and keep them strong.
June is the month of white nights” in St. Petersburg. The night sky remains dimly aglow from the bending light of the sun even after it dips below the horizon. Pray that indeed this city will be “kept aglow” by the Son of God—Jesus the Messiah, the Light of the World!
The first Jewish immigrants arrived in Milwaukee in 1844. German Jews developed highly successful mercantile establishments there and became the city’s leading businessmen. Milwaukee’s Jewish population also had a cultural impact. For example, Jacob and Emma Mahler organized the Milwaukee Musical Society in 1850. By the late 19th century, a significant number of European Jews had made their way to this city.
Today, 28,000 Jews still reside there, including 800 Jewish students who are enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Several well-known Jewish people have called this city home, including Golda Meir, Harry Houdini and Tom Miller (creator of the beloved television show “Happy Days”). The Jewish people of Milwaukee are mainly affiliated with the Reform (liberal) branch of Judaism (39%), while the second largest group consider themselves secular (34%). The rest are Conservative (24%) and Orthodox (2.5%), with a handful (1.3%) affiliating with the Reconstructionists, the most liberal of all the branches. Pray that our presence in Milwaukee will make a difference to the Jewish community there, and that many will look to Jesus, the Messiah.
P.S. This will be our first outreach in Milwaukee, but we have been to St. Petersburg before and are seeking God concerning establishing a regular work there.