The next generation of Jews for Jesus!

And thanks to you for praying for God’s provision. We’ve got a great bunch of young people who are preparing for missionary service with us and we hope you will keep them in prayer.

Most of our trainees are in New York City … Maybe you’ve seen the commercial ad that shows people turning up their noses at salsa that’s made in Manhattan, but we can assure you, it’s a great place for training missionaries! This year’s class includes:

Iain and Rebekah Smith

Iain was born and raised in England. He grew up in a Christian home and learned about the Bible from a young age, but never thought of these lessons as more than stories. Iain began attending a small group from church at age fourteen, and while he came to understand the gospel better, he was not convinced that it was true.  He had stopped attending church for a while when he agreed to go to a Christian conference in 2003. He was challenged by a story he heard there and responded by surrendering his life to Jesus.

Iain has a BS in physics from Bristol University. While studying there, he met his wife-to-be, Rebekah Harvey, a Jewish believer in Jesus. Through Rebekah, Iain developed an interest in Jewish people, and since then his concern to share the gospel with them has become very personal and deeply seated. In fact, Iain participated in our Light to the Nations campaign in Germany June 2010 (as did Rebekah). In his spare time, Iain enjoys basketball and photography.

Rebekah was raised in a Messianic Jewish home, both her parents being Jewish believers in Jesus. She has been a believer since age three—also the year that her parents joined the staff of Jews for Jesus. Rebekah participated in our Halutzim program at age sixteen, boldly sharing her faith on the streets of New York City. However, in her later teens she struggled with her faith. During the last term of her first year at university, she heard a sermon about Peter getting out of the boat to walk on water with Jesus—and realized that God was calling her to live for Him with her whole heart. That summer she had an internship at our San Francisco headquarters, which reinforced her choice to leave behind whatever might be hindering her walk with God.

Rebekah has a BA in theology and religious studies from Bristol University. She enjoys reading, writing and making clothing (she was a costume designer at university).

Jeremy Saadoun

Jeremy is from a Tunisian Jewish background (both his parents are Jewish). While he grew up knowing the importance of his heritage and traditions, he knew nothing about God—nor did he feel that he needed to. Then he met his wife-to-be, Ibtassame, an Arab Christian. When Ibtissame told Jeremy about Jesus, he was touched by her story, her love for the Jewish people, and the courage it had taken for her to convert to Christianity from Islam. He accepted her invitation to a Messianic Jewish congregation and that is where he came to faith in Jesus. He has been a believer since October 2004. Before coming on staff with us, he was a businessman who particularly enjoyed opportunities to compete in achieving company goals.

The Saadouns have been involved with our Paris branch, where Joshua Turnil had regular discipleship ministry with Jeremy as a new Jewish believer. In addition to helping with our Paris branch, Jeremy participated on one of our Behold Your God Israel campaigns

Jeremy enjoys playing guitar and singing. He and Ibtissame have two daughters, Shirel and Lilia.

Elliot Marks

Elliot was born and raised in London. He grew up with a strong Jewish identity and began to think toward making aliyah (moving to Israel) as a young adult. While on a kibbutz there one summer, he met Aliza—a Jewish believer in Jesus and daughter of former staff members Loren and Martha Jacobs. Through her, Elli heard the gospel and met various staff members of Jews for Jesus. Aliza asked Elliot to read the book A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken, and in January 2009, while reading this book, he became a believer. Months later, he and Aliza married. They have a daughter, Lilly.

As soon as he became a believer, Elli wanted to share his faith with others, and within a month of coming to faith he prayed with his brother to receive the Lord. Elliot participated on one of our Behold Your God Israel campaigns, and has been on two of our New York City summer witnessing campaigns. In fact, this year he was one of the four people who each led campaign for a week under the mentorship of David Brickner.

Elli has a BA in philosophy from Manchester Metropolitan University and has also completed three semesters at Moody Theological Seminary in Michigan. Before moving to the United States to court Aliza, he was a social worker at a Jewish school, caring for children with a wide range of mental and physical disabilities. He’s also worked as a youth counselor and youth leader for a Jewish camp in Israel.  What’s more … Elliot plays the drums!

Chantale Onona

Born and raised in Switzerland, Chantale has been a believer since 2007. Her father is a Sephardic Jew from Morocco, who lives in Israel. He and Chantale’s mother (a Swiss Christian) divorced when Chantale was only a year old. Though she began going to church at an early age, it was years before she came to understand the gospel in a personal way, and when she did, she gladly received Jesus.

A friend introduced Chantale to Joshua Turnil, leader of our Paris branch. Joshua not only understood the delicate situation she found herself in with regard to her father (who said he would have nothing to do with her should she continue talking about Jesus), but also understood her desire to bridge the gap between Jewish people and the gospel.

When Joshua invited Chantale to spend ten days doing missionary work in Paris, she took the opportunity. Then, with Stephen Pacht opening a work in Switzerland (see October newsletter), Chantale was able to involve herself with Jewish evangelism closer to home. She speaks German fluently and participated on our Light of the World campaigns in Berlin and Frankfurt last summer. Prior to coming on staff with us, Chantale was a student. She enjoys singing and leading worship.

Sarah Ascher

Born in St. Louis and raised in a Messianic home, Sarah grew up hearing about Jesus.  At eighteen, she had a faith crisis and realized she had to decide for herself whether she believed what her parents had taught her. She read about Buddhism, Hinduism and Mormonism, and even read parts of the Koran. She visited a Hindu temple and talked to friends about their beliefs. She also watched several people she had grown up with go through similar crises. Most of them simply rejected the faith of their parents as blindly as they had once accepted it. Sarah’s quest lasted for nine months and she was persuaded that Jesus was truly her Messiah and Savior.

Sarah has studied herbology and is certified in that field. Prior to joining our staff she was a house monitor at a shelter for pregnant women and their children.  She has already served on five of our witnessing campaigns in New York City, as well as a Behold Your God Israel campaign in Tel Aviv. Sarah loves street evangelism and caring for children.


As our outreach overseas continues to grow, we are recruiting more and more staff who do not speak English as their first language. This year’s trainers are Karol Joseph (who directs our Brooklyn work) and Joshua Turnil* (who has temporarily relocated with his family to New York). Joshua’s involvement is a real blessing, especially for the Saadouns and Chantale, who will be able to receive training in French.

Meanwhile, we also have two new staff training in Israel!

Avigail Avnery

Avigail’s father is Israeli and her mother is Finnish (converted to Judaism). She was born in Israel; however, her parents divorced when she was young. Avigail has lived most of her life in Finland, though she has made regular trips to Israel to visit family.

Avigail became a believer in 2004, after reaching a point in life where her need for God became very clear to her. Through reading story books, she saw how Jesus changes lives; she called a prayer line she’d found through an ad and prayed to receive the Lord over the phone.  Soon Avigail was sharing her faith with others and a few years ago, she felt God was calling her specifically to reach her Jewish people. She left Finland (where she was a registered nurse) and moved to Israel, where she has served with us as an intern.  Avigail participated on two BYG Israel campaigns and also a NYC witnessing campaign before joining our staff. Her Hebrew language skills are stronger than her English, so she is training in Israel.

Avigail enjoys athletics, especially swimming, skiing and cycling. While in school, she also enjoyed acting.

Yulia Mitnitsky

Born and raised in Moscow, Yulia always knew she was Jewish, though her parents did not believe in God and did not encourage her to explore her Jewish identity. Still, she grew up believing in God and lived by a certain set of principles and standards that set her apart as a teenager.  When she was fifteen years old, Yulia’s parents sent her to an English camp in Slovakia, with Russian teenagers and American teachers, to practice speaking English. This camp was arranged by an international Christian youth organization (Student Venture), so her parents felt she would be in a wholesome environment. At that camp she learned about Jesus and, in August 2003, received Him as her Savior.

Yulia has the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in financial management from a Russian academy of economics, yet she lost her desire to be a businesswoman, preferring to minister to children through camps and Bible clubs. Prior to joining our ministry she served as a counselor in Christian camps in Bulgaria and Poland. Yulia has also been on two New York City witnessing campaigns; in fact, she met her husband, Vlad, through our ministry. Since he has already been through training and is part of our Tel Aviv branch, she is training in Israel.