Karol Joseph is nothing if not adamant. “When Behold Your God started, I remember telling David Brickner that all of our missionaries should move to New York City because every single borough needed its own branch. There are two million Jewish people in NYC— that is two fifths of the country’s Jewish population.”
While Brickner was not ready to send all our missionaries to open more branches throughout New York, he did agree that Karol should begin a new branch of Jews for Jesus in Brooklyn. Joseph, who has headed up our training program in Manhattan for the last eight years, will remain in Manhattan through December and commute to Brooklyn a couple of times a week. In January, she will pass her training responsibilities to Robyn Wilk and move to Brooklyn.
“There are 500,000 Jews in Brooklyn. It’s the seat of the Orthodox community and the Jerusalem of the diaspora.” Nice phrasing. I asked if that was a description she’d come up with or if she was quoting someone. “I have no idea,” she laughed.
But she is serious about the need to establish a Jews for Jesus presence in Brooklyn. “For years I’ve been saying you can’t really reach people in Brooklyn from Manhattan. The boroughs are fairly close in terms of geography, yet they are worlds apart. Most people are not going to build their (faith) community in Manhattan when they live in Brooklyn.” For those familiar with the Bay Area, it would be like trying to reach Oakland from San Francisco. Karol has quite a few contacts to follow up from the Brooklyn campaign and looks forward to developing relationships there.
She was enthusiastic about starting the new branch before the BYG grand finale, but the campaign has dramatically increased her desire to get started.
Reports of a couple of encounters during campaign will help you understand why:
“I was driving in Brooklyn when the cell phone rang and I found myself talking to a 24-year-old Orthodox man, “Shlomo” (not his real name), who had seen some of our campaigners in the subway. He said his first reaction was a desire to beat them up . . . his second reaction was to want to spit on them. But his third reaction, which he acted on, was to call and find out what we are all about! We talked for about 15 minutes, by the end of which Shlomo was asking good questions. He wanted to meet with someone as he had many more questions.
“The following day the cell phone rang again; this time it was a 44-year-old Hassidic man who had received a broadside and was interested in knowing more. ‘M’ said that he had been seeking to know ‘Ha Shem’ all his life and wasn’t finding what he was looking for from the rabbis. He had seen the Yiddish DVD about Jesus and it made sense to him. I asked him to read Isaiah 53 in his Yiddish Bible as we were speaking, and he could see that it was Jesus. It was very difficult for him to trust me with his phone number, but finally he did. Then he prayed with me to receive Jesus!
“I never had a burden to reach the Hassidic Jews of Brooklyn before the campaign—probably because I never dreamed it was possible. And there are plenty of mainstream Jewish people to reach here, people to whom I already know how to relate. But now I have a vision and a desire to continue reaching the ultra- Orthodox as well. Going out with the Hassidic outreach team helped me to see the importance and the possibility of ministry to them.”
Reaching the Russian-speaking Jewish community will be an important aspect of the Brooklyn branch as well. A couple of our Russian-speaking missionaries from Odessa have remained in New York for an extended period to help establish a good Bible study. They are also helping our Russian-speaking staff in New York follow up contacts which came in from the overlapping Brooklyn and the Russian-speaking campaigns.
Karol’s final thoughts about reaching Brooklyn: “We need to have a campaign in Brooklyn every year, maybe not as long or as big as Manhattan—but there is plenty to do.”