The earliest documentation of a Jewish presence in France concerns a man who was banished in the year 6 C.E. From the beginning, French Jewry has waxed and waned in a cycle of being welcomed, expelled and welcomed once again. At one point during the Middle Ages the Avignon Popes extended protection to the Jewish people. At another point, Jewish religious books were publicly burned in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. Fourteenth century France was one of the first countries to expel the Jewish population. During the Second World War, the Vichy government deported one fourth of the 300,000 Jews of France, sending them to their deaths at Auschwitz. Today the Jewish population in France has grown to 700,000 thanks to a large influx from North Africa in the late 50s and early 60s. Presently, some 350,000 Jewish people live in and around Paris, and 100,000 live in Marseille. Five French cities qualify for Behold Your God campaigns (meaning they have 25,000 or more Jewish people). We’ve already conducted our Toulouse campaign, the Paris campaign going on right now, (see p. 3) and we also have plans for future outreaches in Marseille, Nice and Lyons.
Stephen and Deborah Pacht set up the French work in 1992, having come from England to join our staff in 1991. Before they left from training in the U.S., they wowed us all by taking our standard Jews for Jesus denim jackets up a notch. They purchased their own leather jackets and had them beautifully machine embroidered with Juifs pour Jesus” (French for “Jews for Jesus”).
The Pachts have had a burden for Paris since we met them, although the city is hardly considered fertile ground for the gospel. Yet, they have patiently sown seed for a little over a decade, and bit by bit there has been fruit here and there. Juifs pour Jesus has become a familiar name in Paris. The Juifs pour Jesus sign above the office, the Juifs pour Jesus web site address displayed on the van, the broadside tracts we distribute and our French web site—all have helped to let the people of Paris know that you can be Jewish and believe in Jesus. For example,
- Bernard telephoned us after receiving a tract and five years later, he finally prayed to receive the Lord.
- Jean found our name in the Yellow Pages and visited the office secretly (so that his wife wouldn’t find out). He, too, has come to faith in Jesus and has been helping out in the office once a week.
- Yves had been searching for God for some years when a Christian friend noticed the Juifs pour Jesus sign on our office and encouraged Yves to contact us. He did so and after some time, he also prayed to receive the Lord.
- Another Jean left a note on the windshield of our Juifs pour Jesus van windscreen years ago. We lost touch with him for a couple of years, but now we are back in contact and Jean seems very close to receiving his Messiah.
- Sabrina received a tract from us in 1999. After corresponding by email and then visiting our office she came to Christ-and you can read about her as our new outreach worker!
Meet our Paris staff
Stephen and Deborah Pacht
Stephen grew up in a secular Jewish home in England, the son of Austrian-born Holocaust survivors. He first heard the gospel from a student at Bristol University. After much debate and struggle, Stephen received the Lord in 1977. He graduated in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and accountancy. After seven years as an accountant, he became a missionary with the Church’s Ministry Among the Jews. (He also graduated from All Nations Christian College with a diploma in missionary studies.) He ministered with them for a year and a half before joining the Jews for Jesus staff in February, 1991. Stephen and Deborah began pioneering our London branch later that year, before the move to Paris in 1992.
Deborah was raised in a more traditional Jewish home, attending Hebrew school until she was 13 years old. Eventually, she declared humanitarianism as her religion. She graduated from Middlesex University with a bachelor’s degree in drama and qualifications to teach. She came to faith in 1985, having heard the gospel from an unlikely source—her sister! She and Stephen married in 1990. Deborah brings a flair for music and drama to the Pachts’ ministry, though most of her time is spent raising their children: Samuel, Hannah, Gabrielle and Jessica. Pray for the Pachts as they balance their many ministry and family responsibilities.
Joshua and Delphine Turnil
Joshua is a native New Yorker who fits in easily among many cultures. His mother is a Jewish believer originally from Colombia, and his father is of Guatemalan descent. Joshua came to saving faith when he was eight years old. He first served with Jews for Jesus as a member of The Liberated Wailing Wall (our mobile evangelistic music team) in September, 1993. He rejoined our staff in 1999 after graduating from State University of New York Stonybrook with a bachelor’s degree in French literature. Josh interned with Jews for Jesus in our Paris branch, where he met Delphine, who joined our staff in 2001. They both trained in New York, returned to France in 2002 and were married that year. It was quite a year for Josh as he also co-led the Toulouse BYG campaign. Joshua speaks Hebrew, Spanish and French as well as “New York English” and he has opportunities to use each language to minister the gospel.
Delphine was born and raised in France. She attended Catholic school, in keeping with her mother’s background; however, her father is Jewish. She came to faith in Christ at age 19. Delphine graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris with a masters degree in English/American literature and history. She taught high school English in France, and also taught French as a second language before joining the Jews for Jesus staff in New York. The Turnils’ first baby, Ilan Daniel Turnil, was born on June 4, 2003. Even though motherhood takes the majority of Delphine’s time and attention, she still keeps in contact with and occasionally visits those Jewish people she met while in the field full-time. Please pray for the Turnils to find good balance in ministry as God blesses them with children. Pray also for Delphine’s unsaved family and for Joshua as he leads this month’s Behold Your God campaign in Paris.
Sabrina Babin is Franc-Israeli. Like many French Jews, she has dual citizenship with Israel. Sabrina’s mother is Jewish and the sole survivor of her family—all the rest were lost to Auschwitz. Sabrina grew up attending Jewish vacation youth camps in France and Israel. Her strong Jewish identity grew even greater as she lived for several years in Israel. Nonetheless, Sabrina struggled with depression and began visiting psychotherapists, which did not prove helpful. One day she was handed a Juifs pour Jesus tract and was shocked to learn that some Jews believe in Jesus. She visited our office and began studying the Bible with Stephen Pacht and Joshua Turnil. Soon after, she came to know her Messiah, who as she puts it, “delivered me from all my fears.”
As a result, she became very excited about telling people about her faith and participated in a Paris evangelistic outreach as well as the Toulouse Behold Your God campaign. While in Toulouse, she felt God’s call to join us. Sabrina has been working with us since April and has also participated in this summer’s New York witnessing campaign. She is married to Gil, a committed Christian, who also came to faith through Jews for Jesus. Gil has volunteered much of his time and energy with us and we are grateful for his help, as well as having Sabrina on staff. Please pray for Sabrina as she undergoes training and becomes more involved in the mission here in Paris.
For many years our office in Paris has struggled to hire qualified office administrators who are also committed Christians. (Of the city’s 700,000 people less than 1% are professing Christians.) Our branch is active not only in Paris, but actually ministers in three countries: France, Switzerland and Belgium, so administrative work has really weighed us down. God has answered our prayers though, and this year we have hired two administrators: Christine Sabatier (secretary) and Antoine Fritz (office manager). Christine worked for many years for the French Protestant Federation. Antoine is a seminary graduate and is experienced in ministry, though not Jewish evangelism. Christine and Antoine are both enthusiastic and highly motivated, but are new to Jewish missions and Jewish people. Please pray for them to learn quickly as they step into their indispensable roles.
Look for some Bits from the Paris branch (along with other branches) on page 8.