Micha Cohen is a general missionary with Jews for Jesus in Chicago, but he spent the first and fourth weeks of July on the BYG campaign in Manhattan. During the second two weeks he remained in the city and led Halutzim, a Jews for Jesus program for Jewish teens who believe in Y’shua (Jesus). The program helps young Jewish believers explore their identity, both as Jews and as believers in Jesus. They do this in the context of the Jewish cultural sites Manhattan offers, discussions and prayer times amongst themselves . . . and sorties with the regular New York campaigners. Halutzim is “all that and more.” This was Micha’s second year leading the program, and he kept busy, as did his able assistants, Rebekah Wertheim and Nathan Jacobs.
Some of us older folk in Jews for Jesus recall Micha as a beautiful baby boy.* We watched him grow into an adorable toddler, a somewhat awkward (who isn’t?) teen . . . and now he is a godly (and handsome) young man, married to a wonderful Jewish believer named Leah, with two beautiful baby girls of their own: Selah Joy (19 months) and Tikvah Abigail (four months).
Having grown up as an “MK” (missionary kid) I know that following in one’s parents’ ministry footsteps is hardly a given. So I asked Micha to tell our readers about his choice.
Question: First of all, tell us about your childhood involvement with Jews for Jesus.
Micha: As far back as I can remember I’ve always been involved in Jews for Jesus children’s programs. While my parents were earning their masters degrees at Fuller Seminary, Jews for Jesus had a summer program, “Messiah’s Moshav” for us kids. We learned together and played together and had our own little community. So between the ages of 8-12 I spent my summers with the other Jews for Jesus kids, who became my best friends.
As my dad had different assignments with Jews for Jesus, we moved here and there. The friends I’d made at Moshav remained my friends; a constant when it seemed like everything else was changing.
I also participated in the first Camp Gilgal on the West Coast, when it was all boys and we jokingly called it “Camp No-gal.” Then I was a camper at the East Coast camps . . . and a junior counselor in junior and teen camps.
Question: And as you got older?
Micha: The next option was to do Halutzim when I was 17. Josh Sofaer led the program. That was the summer that I got addicted to evangelism. Through Halutzim I became incredibly excited about witnessing campaigns.
Question: But growing up as an MK you already knew something about these campaigns, right?
Micha: Yes, I knew that was part of my parents’ world and I’d passed out a few broadsides here and there with my dad . . . but experiencing it with other people my age was very different. It wasn’t just his work, it was something that people my age wanted to do.
Plus, I was totally blown away by the full-time campaigners investing so much energy in telling others about Jesus. I kind of knew that I’d come back to do a whole campaign eventually. It might not be for everyone, but that summer I saw campaign as the ultimate way of serving God—truly an “all-out effort.”
Question: Do you remember your first sortie on Halutzim?
Micha: Well, I am not the most outgoing person. So during my first few sorties (tract-passing expeditions) I didn’t want to talk to anybody. One time I was standing at South Street Seaport, as usual, not engaging anybody in conversation. Suddenly an African- American lady walked straight up to me with her Jewish husband by the hand. She told me, “He wants to pray to receive the Lord, but he needs to do it right now.”
So I led him in a prayer.
Question: Wow! When did you know that you wanted to work with Jews for Jesus?
Micha: I rededicated my life to God when I was 16 and ever since then I’d wanted to go on staff with Jews for Jesus. I heard about the Jews for Jesus approved student program at Moody, and I heard they had good Bible teaching and a Jewish studies program that would help me toward missions. I didn’t apply to any other school. I was accepted at Moody and to the Jews for Jesus approved student program. I graduated and came on staff.
Question: What was your vision for leading Halutzim?
Micha: I’ve had so many people invest in my life over and over through all these Jews for Jesus programs and events. I can’t imagine my kids growing up without that, so I definitely want to invest in other people’s kids, too.
I see these kids and I want them to be excited about being Jewish believers and excited about serving God. I’m not an outgoing person but I have seen that God uses me anyway, and I know that He can use anyone else who is willing. I want these kids to get excited and see that they can do it, no matter who they are and no matter what gifts they have.
To me, the greatest encouragement about seeing Micha Cohen and his contemporaries in ministry with young people is this: he is not simply the next generation for our movement. He is already taking the lead to raise up the generation that will follow him.
* Micha’s parents, Steve and Jan Cohen, are part of Jews for Jesus past and present, having served many years on our staff during which time Steve led a number of our branches. Following their years with Jews for Jesus, Steve Cohen founded Apple of His Eye ministry, which has partnered with Jews for Jesus on numerous witnessing campaigns.