Our San Francisco Branch
A bit of background…
The ministry of Jews for Jesus began in the San Francisco Bay Area back in the early ’70s, when Moishe Rosen and a bunch of young volunteers hit the streets to tell people about Jesus. They used Moishe’s new style of gospel tracts called broadsides, and most of the early volunteers began writing their own. These broadsides—which were actually invitations to interact with the gospel—had plenty of humor and whimsical illustrations. Moishe also encouraged the team to do drama and music on the streets, and he led a number of demonstrations where they would carry colorful placards and chant slogans like love not lust” in front of some of the strip clubs.
Soon, in addition to street ministry, Jews for Jesus began conducting Bible studies and personal visits with Jewish people. Then we added branches in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.
In January 1979 the San Francisco branch of Jews for Jesus was born. By then we had our headquarters office to handle the administrative side of things, and the branch (first located in the Richmond District) became the center for direct evangelism to the Jewish people. Avi Brickner and Jhan Moskowitz were the first official branch missionaries. Our entire ministry went through a training period in 1979, so all our branches temporarily closed for the better part of a year. During that time the San Francisco branch again became part of the administrative headquarters.
In December of 1981, the branch reopened under the leadership of Efraim Goldstein and an office was leased on Ocean Avenue. Later, under the leadership of Lori Baron, the branch moved to the “hippie” district of Haight-Ashbury. In June 1992, under the leadership of Stephen Katz, we moved to Berkeley where we remained until 1998, when we finally moved back to the Richmond District of San Francisco. So, in a sense, we have returned to our roots.
There are currently about 210,000 Jewish people in the San Francisco Bay Area. People here think of themselves as very open-minded. Yet this is a place where many people are very vocal about their disbelief in God and dislike for Christianity. San Francisco is a very beautiful city, but it is also a place where people come to express their anti-biblical sentiments and behavior with impunity.
Jews for Jesus traditionally has a presence at many of San Francisco’s public events. The biggest is the Bay to Breakers race in May. This minimarathon attracts about 80,000 runners. Some come to race, others just to have fun and dress in crazy costumes! We Jews for Jesus stand about 100 feet beyond the finish line and hand out our tracts to the runners as they finish—usually around 15,000 tracts. Lately, in addition to our broadsides we have offered free foot massages. People love it, and it gives us a chance to serve people in a way we believe Yeshua (Jesus) taught.
Another unique event is the Chinese New Year Parade. Lots of Jewish people attend this event, and we usually hand out about 10,000 broadsides. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas we hand out anywhere from 50,000-100,000 broadsides like “Shop Till You Drop” to holiday shoppers. We also take advantage of sports events and art shows to raise the banner of Jesus. Plus, there are several college campuses in the Bay Area where we do evangelism, including UC Berkeley, San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco and San Jose State University.
Most of us look forward to our one-on-one visits to study the Bible more than we do our tract-passing expeditions, but we do feel it is important to have a visible presence, especially in a city like ours. We want people to see the name of Jesus lifted up in public.
The Richmond District, where our office is located, is the heart of the Russian Jewish population in the Bay Area. Our desire is to see a thriving Russian work take place over the next few years.
Our current leadership is a two-person team, David Rothstein and Robyn Wilk. The rest of the San Francisco team inlcudes Hannah Neufeld, our missionary; Viktor Moiseyenko, our outreach worker to the Russianspeaking community and Shari Doell, our administrative worker.
Meet Our Team
I was born and raised in Houston, Texas, in a Conservative Jewish home. I was raised by my mother, who was quite religious. I attended Hebrew school and Sabbath school until I graduated high school. Then I left home and moved to San Francisco to live with my older sister.
That is where I first saw Jews for Jesus—on the streets of San Francisco. Frequently, while I was shopping, I’d see them and take one of their broadsides (tracts). I always read the entire pamphlet and thought about the message. But I never imagined the gospel could be for me. God finally got my attention as I looked at my life, my broken marriages and the responsibility of single parenting. A friend started telling me about messianic prophecies and, after nine months, I finally came to faith in the One I thought I could never believe in—Jesus.
Within weeks I was back in touch with Jews for Jesus. In January of 1993 I started volunteering with the branch (then in Berkeley). That May I came on staff as the branch administrator. I currently spend half my time as administrator in the San Francisco branch, and half my time working at our headquarters. I am thankful for the part Jews for Jesus had in my coming to faith, and I am glad to do the behind the scenes work necessary to keep our missionaries out there meeting people like me.
I was born a long time ago, too far from America, in the coldest part of the world, Siberia. Everyone in our family believed God existed, but for my father and brother He seemed distant. My mother and grandmother were truly godly persons. Every morning they prayed and I often accompanied them just to please them.
Later I realized that God had saved my father from hopeless circumstances during the war. I understood God’s kindness and His great power. I began to pray to Him with all my heart. As a child I had heard about Jesus and had seen the icon of Mary with the child Jesus—but I didn’t really understand the gospel.
After high school, I majored in mechanical engineering at Siberia’s University at Novokuznezk. I also worked in the coal mine to support my parents and myself. There I met a real Christian who had spent three years in jail for bringing the gospel to people. He began to pray for me, and God revealed Himself to me. I received Jesus, and I could never deny Him.
I moved to the Ukrainian University, got two degrees and worked. Many of my writings were published overseas and I was invited to come to the United States with my family. I praise God for His faithfulness and mercy. I began working at Jews for Jesus headquarters in 1994 and have been stationed in the San Francisco branch since the beginning of 2000.
I was born in the Bronx (home of the Yankees) and raised in Queens (home of the Mets). My father, Emile, lost most of his family in the Holocaust. My mother’s family was more fortunate. They immigrated to the States long before Hitler came to power. I was raised in a Reform background and though my family was not very religious, we were staunch supporters of Israel.
After high school I went to Adrian College in Michigan. It turns out a small group of what we termed “Jesus Freaks” in Adrian were praying for an opportunity to witness to a Jewish person. God answered their prayers by importing one…me! They opened the Scriptures to me and it all made sense. On January 4, 1971, at 5:55 A.M. on a Monday morning (yes, I looked for a clock!) I received Jesus as my Jewish Messiah and Savior. I eventually graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a BA in psychology. I also have a BA in biblical studies from Calvary Chapel Bible College.
When I came across Jews for Jesus in South Florida, I was so excited to meet other Jewish believers. I began volunteering at our Fort Lauderdale branch. I was invited to apply for staff, and in l996 I was part of our month-long Summer Witnessing Campaigns in New York City and Toronto, Canada. Since coming onto full-time staff, I have served with the Toronto branch and currently serve the Lord with our San Francisco branch.
I was born in Rockville, Maryland. I had a secular Jewish upbringing yet I had my Bar Mitzvah at Gaithersburg Hebrew Congregation, the Conservative synagogue where my mother taught. I studied at UCLA, but decided to pursue a career in art and transferred to the Art Center College Continued on page 6 of Design. While there I won a national award in the Society of Illustrators Student Competition, and a scholarship. I graduated with a BFA in 1987 and went on to work in television animation for six months.
Somewhat disillusioned and depressed about life, I began to search for truth, briefly exploring such eclectic sources as psychotherapy, Ayn Rand and Dianetics. During that time I also began to read the Bible and Christian books, including Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I came to faith in 1989.
In 1992 I accepted an invitation to apply for the Liberated Wailing Wall, our mobile evangelistic music team. I sang and played guitar with the group for 18 months, then went to New York for a year of missionary training. I served with our Fort Lauderdale branch for four and a half years, and with our Washington, D.C. branch for a year and a half, before being coming to San Francisco where my wife Naomi (another Jew for Jesus) and I were married. I co-lead the San Francisco branch with Robyn Wilk.
I grew up in a Conservative Jewish home in New York and moved with my family to Kansas City, Kansas when I was 12. I eventually went to Wichita State University as a flute major. A Christian roommate told me about her faith in Jesus. I didn’t want to believe it, but there was something about the gospel I just could not dismiss. I began to pray and ask God to show me the truth—but I told Him frankly that I hoped the truth wouldn’t be Jesus! After some struggle, I finally came to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. That was in 1981.
I graduated from Wichita State University in 1985 with two bachelor’s degrees—one in music performance and one in music education—and went on to receive my master’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Soon after that, I served with The Liberated Wailing Wall from 1988- 1992. In 1993 I went through a year of missionary training in New York City and then went on in 1994 to serve as part of the San Francisco branch, which David Rothstein and I co-lead. I also enjoy leading the San Francisco Jews for Jesus Singers.
Prayer requests for the San Francisco branch:
- that we would function as a community under the headship of Messiah, that we would uphold each other and fulfill our responsibilities as unto the Lord.
- that we would be diligent to cultivate our devotional lives, individually and as a team.
- that, together and individually, our passion for the lost would increase, and that our work would flow from that passion.
- that God will give us courage to handle the difficult and uncomfortable tasks to which He sometimes calls us.
The following update to this article appeared in the September 2002 Newsletter:
In June we highlighted our San Francisco branch, including a thumbnail history. We mentioned that the branch returned from Berkeley to San Francisco in 1998—but oops—forgot to include how that auspicious move was under the leadership of long-time missionary David Mishkin.