JFJ in the News (We are at times in the news.)

Did Jews For Jesus Get Something Right About Jewish Millennials?

I know, I didn’t think I’d be writing that headline today either. But a Jews for Jesus study may have actually made an interesting insight about Jewish millennials.

What am I talking about? Jews for Jesus recently commissioned a study surveying 599 Jews born from 1984 to 1999, using a legit, often religion-focused polling firm called the Barna Group. Some of the results were weird, others surprisingly revealing.

As JTA reporter (and past New Voices editor) Ben Sales summarized the study, “The survey creates a contradictory portrait of Jewish millennials: These young adults describe themselves as religious, and practice Jewish ritual, but are unaffiliated. They value tradition and family, but don’t plan on marrying only Jews. They are proud to be Jewish, but don’t feel that contradicts with practicing other religions.”

(And apparently one-fifth of our generation thinks Jesus was God in human form? Um, I ain’t touching that. Disclaimer: Messianic Jews were evidently included in the population surveyed.)

But the description of Jewish millennial religiosity hit me like a cartoon lightning bolt. It struck me as true.

Because I know that Jewish millennial. He hung the prayer asher yatzar on the bathroom door of his Berkeley co-op. She was dating a Buddhist and went to a niggun singing circle every month. He put on tefillin every day, even though he couldn’t find a synagogue. She went to the mikvah when she came out as queer. He worked at a Conservative synagogue, sometimes prayed with a Renewal minyan, led traditional egalitarian services, and identified with no sect. She went clubbing on Friday nights but insisted on turning off her phone and computer.

And every time I met one of these Jews, I was surprised — over and over again. Because that’s not how our community broadly defines Jewish religiosity. Religious means subscribing to a denomination. It means synagogue membership. It means a commitment to having Jewish babies. These millennials were immersed in Jewish ritual, and yet I had no name for their flavor of Jewish, nor did they. But maybe this bizarro Jews for Jesus study, lo and behold, hit on something true that the Jewish institutional world missed.

Our generation is actually really Jewishly engaged, and the way our community defines religious participation, you’d never know it. The American Jewish community is so fermisht over the boxes millennials don’t check that it failed to notice the boxes aren’t working as a metric.

This particular study focused heavily on theology — with a pretty darn clear ulterior motive. But that approach found that 80 percent of Jewish millennials self-identify as “religious Jews” and almost half think being Jewish is “very important,” a higher percentage than the previous generation.

Whether or not the results are skewed, I think this report picked up on the fact that “unaffiliated” and “non-religious” aren’t the same thing to Jewish millennials.

And the degree to which we take meaning from Jewish ritual can’t be quantified by which institutions we belong to anymore. Because we might never go to your JCC cocktail hour or your synagogue or your campus organization but that doesn’t mean we’re not privately leading deeply Jewish lives.

So, if the community wants to engage Jewish millennials, it has to start by looking at the ways in which we’re already engaged. It has to see the vast potential in our more ad hoc, sometimes unaffiliated, forms of religious expression and take heart.

Because we’re not the lost generation of bubbes’ nightmares, ready to break thousands of years of Jewish continuity. We’re just over labels and bagels, and that doesn’t mean we’re not into spirituality and ritual. (Who am I kidding, we still love bagels. We’re not monsters.)

The point is, our Judaism looks different. And it’s increasingly hard to survey as millennials stray from traditional Jewish institutions and movements. But this weird-ass study is actually an important reminder that it’s ok. Those institutional ties aren’t the only way to assess Jewish observance. And using a different set of measurements, the Jewish community just might find that the kids are alright.

Sara Weissman is the editor in chief of New Voices Magazine.

Evangelical mission in Sydney’s east

Evangelical mission in Sydney’s eastThe man who runs the Australian branch of Jews For Jesus wants people who come into his bookshop to ‘‘think for themselves’’.
At age 19, Bob Mendelsohn say he experienced a crisis of faith. Forced to break a commandment – shutting off a light on the Sabbath – Mendelsohn, says he became disillusioned with himself, and ultimately, with his religion. ‘‘Being Jewish had been a calling,’’ he says. ‘‘For me, it was a crisis of identity. I was a boat set adrift. Something was missing.’’ Mendelsohn’s says his ‘‘salvation’’ came when he met a pair of Christians who admitted they didn’t have all the answers. ‘‘They won me over with their humility,’’ he says. ‘‘I wasn’t sold straight away, but I started thinking.’’

How Bob Dylan Became a Jews for Jesus Icon

Bob Dylan

When Bob Dylan became the first musician to win the Nobel Prize in Literature this month, Jewish fans celebrated. Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman, was seen as a true American poet, a Jew to be proud of. An opinion piece on this news site praised Dylan as the “most revolutionary artist of the past half-century” who also has a “Yiddish soul.” At the same time, Dylan was also lauded by others — people with Jewish backgrounds who believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah. “Bob Dylan, who is 75 and still touring, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature today,” Jews for Jesus wrote on their Facebook page. “Some of those poetic expressions have been about Jesus.”

Jewish believers in Jesus, as many identify, may attend synagouges, churches or Messianic Jewish congregations, where Jewish and Christian traditions are combined. Messianic Jewish organizations and ministries also include members who are not Jews but who identify as Messianics and practice some Jewish rituals.

In Dylan, who was raised in a Jewish home and in the 1970s became a born-again Christian, Messianic Jews or Jewish believers in Jesus see a piece of themselves.

Dylan was raised in a religious home and bar mitzvahed, but in 1978 began studying the New Testament with a Brooklyn-born Jew who believes in Jesus, and influential musician, named Al Kasha. Around this same time, Dylan joined the Vineyard Fellowship church in California, where there were many other Jewish members. He also went through a discipleship program at Calvary Chapel, also in California.

He recorded a trio of explicitly Christian albums, with lyrics about Jesus, redemption and Armageddon. During his born-again period, Dylan reportedly asked Jews for Jesus to distribute literature of some of his shows.

In 1980, Dylan won a Grammy for one of his Christian songs, “Gotta Serve Somebody.”
It was a shift that turned off some of his fans.
Dylan publicly dialed back his overtly Christian message (he also reportedly “returned” to Judaism under the guidance of Chabad rabbis), but Messianic Jews and Jewish believers still see Dylan as their own.
“Dylan is important for people who were born Jewish [and believe in Jesus],” said Shalom Goldman, a professor of religion at Middlebury. “They want to go back to that period when Jews affirmed Jesus.”
For them, Dylan’s embrace of Jesus is “proof that Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism.”
Goldman added: “We can expect more and more of this treatment of Dylan as a religious figure.”
Dylan has remained evasive about exactly how he affiliates. In 2009, Dylan called himself a “true believer” and as recently as 2014, Kasha said that Dylan was still a Christian. In a recent tour of Israel, Dylan played a number of songs from his Jesus-themed records.
“His testimony of faith is one of the most powerful in modern Jewish history,” reads a narrator in a mini-documentary by Maoz Israel, a Messianic Jewish ministry. “For the most famous Jewish singer-songwriter to record an album about [his faith in Jesus] is something that has and continues to changes people’s lives.”
“Saved” was the second album of Dylan’s “Christian trilogy,” following his conversion to born-again Christianity.

“Saved” was the second album of Dylan’s “Christian trilogy,” following his conversion to born-again Christianity.

In the days after Dylan’s Nobel win, Messianic Jews and other Jewish believers held up Dylan as an icon. The balance he has had to strike — as someone who identifies as Jewish and an Israel-supporter, while also praising Jesus — is one they know well. Many American Jews look askance at Messianic proselytization and according to Pew Research polling, relatively few American Jews believe one can continue to “be Jewish” while calling Jesus the Messiah.
“As I read the story of Dylan’s spiritual life, I began to appreciate him more and more,” wrote Toby Janicki, who belongs to the Messianic Jewish ministry First Fruits of Zion, in an October 19 re-post of a blog.
“I saw a man who struggled with his identity much as we do today—stuck in between Christianity and Judaism. As with Dylan, many misinterpret the actions of those in Messianic Judaism as either too Jewish or too Christian.”
Dylan, Janicki goes on, “is without a doubt a man who continues to express faith in Jesus while holding on to his Jewish heritage.”
 Email Sam Kestenbaum at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum

«Евреи за Иисуса» громко напомнили о себе в центре Одессы

Jews for Jesus in Odessa, Ukraine.

Jews for Jesus in Odessa, Ukraine.

Подзабытое с конца 90-х религиозное течение «Евреи за Иисуса», громко напомнило о себе в центре Одессы.

Как сообщает корреспондент «Мегафона», 22 августа адепты течения организовали на Дерибасовской шумное мероприятие с конкурсами, плясками, раздачей баночек с газировкой и тд. Вероятно таким образом «Евреи за Иисуса», которые ранее ограничивались раздачей листовок у вокзала, решили сменить целевую аудиторию, направив свои взоры на молодежь.

По данным «Википедии», Евреи за Иисуса (англ. Jews for Jesus) — христианская миссия, сотрудниками которой являются евреи-христиане, чья деятельность направлена, в первую очередь, на евреев. Официальный девиз организации: «Мы существуем для того, чтобы сделать мессианство Иисуса неизбежным понятием для нашего еврейского народа во всем мире».

Организация была основана в 1973 году в Сан-Франциско Мойше (Мартином) Розеном (1932—2010) (англ. Moishe Rosen) — евреем-христианином и рукоположённым баптистским служителем. Первоначальное название организации — «Хинени» (ивр. ‏הנני‎‏‎‎). «Евреи за Иисуса» придерживаются веры основных течений христианства, а именно — что Иисус из Назарета пришёл как Мессия, о котором говорили пророки Танаха (Ветхого Завета); что Он — Сын Божий и второе лицо Троицы.

«Евреи за Иисуса» громко напомнили о себе в центре Одессы (ФОТО)

Activists warn of missionary invasion in Petah Tikva

Organization, apparently an Israeli branch of ‘Jews for Jesus,’ targeting Jews in new leafleting campaign.

Jews for Jesus pamphlet. Yad L'Achim.

Jews for Jesus pamphlet. Yad L’Achim.

Thousands of missionary leaflets were recently distributed to mailboxes across Petah Tikva, the Yad L’Achim anti-missionary organization noted Tuesday – and it warned residents to be vigilant against the attempts to lure them to Christianity.

“Missionaries expend a lot of energy to convert Jews specifically to the Christian religion, and consider this a special achievement,” says Rabbi Shmuel Lifshitz, a leader of the organization.

“The missionary system in the country based mainly on major Christian sects such as Messianic Jewry, Jews for Jesus, and others.” 

The organization reminded that the motive behind the missionary activity is a religious ideological motive.

“The missionaries consider introducing as many new people to their faith their mission in life,” Lifshitz noted, adding that they believe that the more Jews convert, the closer Jesus’s Second Coming is to fulfillment. “An activity carried out of ideological fervor and for a good cause, so to speak, is that more dangerous.” 

Yad L’Achim made it clear that they consider saving the Jewish people from Christianity their ultimate goal and that is the main reason that they battle missionary organizations and their members. 

“In the case in Petah Tikva, this is a matter of a fundamentalist missionary cult – Messianic Jews – who do all they can to convert Jews to Christianity under the guise of Jewish concepts.” 

“Unfortunately, even 68 years after the establishment of Israel, there are those who act to sabotage the law prohibiting the distribution of material from missionary sects and therefore missionary activities are problematic but not illegal,” he added. 

Rav Lifshtiz reminded the public to contact Yad L’Achim about any missionary sightings.


Jews for Jesus Slandered in the Jerusalem Post Online

Jews for Jesus missionaries are wrongly being charged with links to Arab terrorists according to a Jerusalem Post online report.  Father Gabriel Naddof of Nazareth alleges that, by association, Jews for Jesus is in collusion with those who are anti-Zionist.  He cites conversations with two Jews for Jesus staff members, both of whom have served as soldiers in the IDF and currently serve in the Israeli reserves.

Dan Sered, Israel director, was on an international platform with a staff member of one of these so-called terrorist sympathizers several years ago (in which they both spoke about reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians).  Says Sered, “Does that make me suspect?  This kind of inference is very dangerous and can lead to terrible misunderstandings.  I wish the Jerusalem Post had called me before printing this.”

David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus, responded by saying: “These are flat out lies. No representatives of Jews for Jesus were ever interviewed for this so called news story.  It is simply not true and I ought to know.”

 The Jerusalem Post did not seek any comments from Jews for Jesus before publishing this article.

Israeli Media Takes a Positive Look at Messianic Jews.

London shop

Jews for Jesus began work last month on a large double-fronted shop premises in the heart of north-west London’s Jewish community, Hendon Central. The premises were formerly occupied by a betting shop. (Read more: The Times of Israel)

The Light Times

From the Pew Study.

34 percent of American Jews surveyed sat that being a Jew for Jesus is compatible with being Jewish

“The comedian took to the social networking site to wish her followers a merry Christmas…” (The Australian Jewish News, Friday, January 10, 2014)

Sarah Silverman

Messianic Challenge by David Holzel (Washington Jewish Week, September 25, 2013). Are Jews who worship Jesus a threat or just a symptom of American Judaism’s shortcomings?

Another Acceptance Milestone for Messianic Jews by Melissa Steffan (Christianity Today). Messianic Jews—those who believe in Jesus—only comprise a small portion of the international Jewish community. But that hasn’t stopped them from making their first official appearance at the 16th World Congress of Jewish Studies.

Love at the JFJ Store

Julia Fisher, author of Israel’s New Disciples: Why Are So Many Jews Turning to Jesus?, has written a great article about Avi Snyder and our work in Europe. Fisher also talked with Dan Sered about our work in Israel in this article.

The Music and Ministry of Jeremiah and Hannah Zaretsky, young Jews for Jesus in New York City. (They toured in Australia in 2009) Interview on Blow The ShoFar Radio.

Here’s something from 28 September 2012 Australian Jewish News. We’re everywhere! Jews for who?

London Olympics: From the Guardian newspaper. A brief report of goings-on during the Marathon, and there is Jews for Jesus: Marathon wrap up

This is from “Living Life” (April 2012): Reflections from Passion Week QT, Exodus 13-19, 1 Peter 1-2 Living Life.
Living Life PDF

David Brickner and John Piper had a lively conversation in front of the world in Christianity Today in June 2012. Read all four letters Brickner/Piper here

This from the Dutch magazine (July/August 2011): Mendelsohn testimony

‘The One foretold’ – this from Australian Presbyterian March 2011

Australian Presbyterian - the one Foretold

Australian Presbyterian in text version here (text version) or in actual copy of the magazine (March 2011).
Caroline Glick
Caroline Glick wrote on 1 April 2011  this in the Jerusalem Post which was picked up by TownHall.com, followed by a reply from Matt Sieger of Jews for Jesus here

Bob was on radio in Brisbane on UCB, in Queensland here .For more radio interviews see, the tab here: Radio

Court orders approval of Messianic Jew and a bakery. This is from 12 Feb 2009 from Jerusalem Post Jesus for Jews

Moishe Video
Alive Magazine published Bob’s story/Forum with interviews with Jewish believers worldwide Alive

Boy hurt in blast; cult involvement suspected by Raanan Ben-Zur Yediot Aharonot from March 20, 2008 here