With some 224,000 Jewish people living in the greater metropolitan area, Boston has the sixth largest Jewish population of any U.S. city—and we are delighted to announce the re-opening of our branch there! While we’ve had forays and fellowship meetings in Boston over the years, we haven’t had a regular presence there since 1995.
Garrett and Nici Smith arrived in Boston on August 11, just about the time Mitch Forman began gearing up our Behold Your God Boston campaign (which began August 19 and will continue through September 14).
Mitch will return to the work in New York following the campaign but Garrett (who will lead the Boston branch) and Nici will be joined very soon by Jonathan and Cindy Bernd, who are coming from our London branch. And in January, Oded and Bimini Cohen will arrive fresh from missionary training in New York. What a team!
Garrett says, If New York is America’s cultural center, and Washington, D.C. is the government center, then Boston is America’s academic center. Boston was the birthplace of higher education in this country back in 1636, when the Puritans opened Harvard University. Harvard’s goal was to train up Christians to be effective servants of God.
“Boston has remained the academic leader in this country, being the home not only to Harvard, but also to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston College, Boston University, the University of Massachusetts and Brandeis University, among others. (Ed: Brandeis was first established as a university that Jewish people could attend without discrimination back in the days when our people were often excluded.)
“The goal of higher education has changed dramatically from those early beginnings. For many, education has become an end in itself—which is why some refer to it as ‘the idolatry of intellectualism.’ One of the great challenges/opportunities for anyone hoping to reach Boston with the good news will be breaking through into the academic arena. I need prayer and wisdom in large supply!
“I’m grateful that the opening of the branch is being jump-started by the BYG campaign. As you read this, our staff and volunteers are handing out tracts on the campuses, in the T (subway), at Harvard Square, Fenway Park and everywhere in between. Nici and I are spending time on the streets as well, but our primary focus is following up with the many Jewish people who respond. We hope to be able to continue ministering to them in the months ahead.
“I am also amazed at God’s timing concerning a Jewish believer whom I became friends with on our 1994 New York Summer Witnessing Campaign. Mike has also moved to Boston, where he is helping to begin a Messianic congregation. We are excited about working together—and I really see God’s hand in it. It’s great to start out with this kind of partnership.
“Boston has a strong Jewish community and we expect to encounter organized opposition, particularly through the media. Yet we have found in the past that ‘every knock is a boost,’ and that God can turn any situation to serve His purposes. We would ask that you pray that the churches in the area will not succumb to ‘political correctness’ when pressured to stand against us. Boston is a tough area for churches that want to maintain their evangelical convictions.
“We need God’s people to stand with us. Our prayer is that God will raise up faithful believers and churches to stand with us, not only to invite us to speak in their churches and to help us with finances, but to pray for us and to invite us to help them witness to their Jewish friends. I hope you will join us in praying for this, and other requests outlined below.”
- for God’s blessing on the remainder of the Boston BYG campaign
- for Jonathan and Cindy to be able to wrap up all the details involved in a trans-Atlantic move
- for the Smiths, Bernds and Cohens all to adjust well to living in a new city, and for God to provide suitable housing and office space
- for the Jewish seekers and new Jewish believers we’ve met during the campaign to be willing to meet for Bible study/discipleship
- for God to forge a wonderful two-way partnership between us and Sar Shalom Messianic Congregation
- for breakthroughs in campus evangelism
- for Bible-believing churches in the area to stand with us
Meet Our Boston Staff
Branch leader Garrett Smith headed up our Washington, D.C. branch of Jews for Jesus before coming to Boston. He was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. After two years of working at his “dream job” with a prominent San Francisco finance company, a shift in priorities led Garrett on a spiritual quest—first to China (where he studied Buddhism) and then to Israel. While in Israel, he began to read the Bible for the first time. Within two months, he was convinced of the truth of the Scriptures and the Messiahship of Jesus. As a new Jewish believer, Garrett volunteered for the Jews for Jesus New York Summer Witnessing Campaigns in 1994 and 1995. Then after a year of training at the New York office, Garrett returned to the San Francisco Bay Area. He was stationed as a missionary at the San Francisco branch before moving to D.C. and has led several of the New York Summer Witnessing Campaigns over the past years. Garrett is married to Nici, a Jewish believer in Jesus from Namibia.
Nici Smith grew up a member of the only Jewish family in Swakopmund, Namibia (South West Africa). She was exposed to Christianity at a very early age and challenged her mother as to why Jews could not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. In search for a good Jewish answer to the “Jesus” question, Nici’s mother came to faith in Him as Messiah and Lord just four months before her daughter in 1990. To their surprise they discovered that Nici’s grandfather had been a secret believer since 1949! It wasn’t long before Nici’s grandmother came to faith, too! Nici was a Jews for Jesus scholarship student at Rosebank Bible College, where she prepared for ministry. She is a seasoned missionary and helps keep Garrett organized.
Jonathan Bernd comes to us most recently from London where he led our UK work and helped pioneer our work in Germany. He was born in Birmingham, England. His father is a Holocaust survivor from Germany and his mother comes from England. Unlike most Jewish believers in Jesus, Jonathan’s parents came to faith before he was born. Despite hearing the gospel from an early age, Jonathan went his own way, considering himself an atheist for several years. At the age of 18, he went to Israel where for the first time he sensed without a doubt that God must exist. Still struggling to prove his parents wrong about Jesus, he studied the Bible and became convinced that Jesus really was the Jewish Messiah and Saviour. Jonathan graduated from university in 1992 with a degree in languages with politics before joining the staff of Jews for Jesus. He led The Liberated Wailing Wall before moving to London, where he met his wife Cindy. Cindy, a singer and Jewish believer from Los Angeles, was touring Europe with The Liberated Wailing Wall at the time. Jonathan and Cindy sing together on our Jewish gospel CD, “You Are My God.” The two have also trained our mobile evangelistic music group, Messiah’s Shofar, based in Kiev.
Oded Cohen was born and reared in a kibbutz in Israel. After serving four years in the Israeli military, he spent a year working with children at the kibbutz. Oded came to America in 1987, where he met and married his wife, Bimini. After she came to faith in Jesus, she called Jews for Jesus in San Francisco “to the rescue.” Garrett Smith had a large part in helping Oded come to faith in Yeshua. Oded and Bimini volunteered with the San Francisco branch from time to time, and had a growing hunger to help other Jewish people recognize their Messiah. They served on our New York Summer Witnessing Campaign in 2000 and on our first Behold Your God campaign in San Francisco in 2001. They are currently in New York City, where they are finishing a year of training for full-time missionary service with Jews for Jesus.
Bimini Cohen was born and reared in San Francisco and is of Chinese descent. She graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in health, and continues to have an interest in this area. A few years after marrying Oded Cohen in 1992, she was considering converting to Judaism. At that time, God put Christians in her life to witness to her and she soon trusted in Jesus as her Savior. The two are especially pleased to be able to serve alongside Garrett because of the role he had in helping Oded receive Jesus.
Oded and Bimini Cohen were also featured in our May 2002 newsletter. Check it out to see more of their story.