Jews for Jesus in Israel works day and night to get the good news of the Messiah to their people. Founded originally in the USA, it was only natural that the organization found its way to the land of the Jews – Israel.
But this hasn’t come with its own set of challenges. The unique nonprofit can be a true inspiration in what it means to overcome all hurdles.
Jews for Jesus does away with the lie that believing in Jesus is a conversion away from Judaism. Becoming a follower of Jesus, they explain, is the opposite of losing one’s Jewish identity – it is in fact the most Jewish thing one could do!
Recognizing the Jewish Messiah
Jews for Jesus came to exist around the peak years of the Jesus Movement, in 1973. Young Americans were coming to faith by the thousands. Among them, many of Jewish background.
Hungry for truth, they were asking all the right questions. Was Jesus Jewish? Did He fulfill the prophesies? Was He observant? Did He follow the Torah? Not every pastor or leader knew how to address these vital issues.
But there was a group of believers who knew exactly where these men and women were coming from. They shared their background and upbringing. Literally, they were Jews who were for Jesus.
Jews for Jesus in Israel
If you turn on the news right now, odds are you’ll hear about Israel. You’ll see video clips of tension and terrorism. What won’t make the highlight reel is the spiritual awakening and the restoration of promise that is already underway.
Jews for Jesus in Israel is already seeing fruit of their comparatively recent launch in the land. Some of today’s Jews for Jesus interns and younger staff have found Messiah through the local outreaches of the organization.
How are they able to reach young Israelis? They accomplish it through weekly outreaches, one-on-one conversations, and simple acts of love that point to Jesus. Setting up cultural events, and meetings for Israeli soldiers are just some examples of how creative their work has become over the years.
The Israeli office has put special emphasis on four areas of work:
- General outreach and discipleship
- Work in the streets – and we mean literally, reaching out to the drug addicts and victims of human trafficking in Tel Aviv
- Reaching out to the Russian-speaking community, especially the elderly who are in need of support
- Investing in the next generation, which includes caring for young adults before and after their military service
A Heart for Tel Aviv and beyond
When I visited the Israeli offices of Jews for Jesus a couple years ago, I was impressed with the view of the Tel Aviv skyline from their windows. But it seemed like I was one of the few people there to admire it. It was a weekday, and yet the Israeli headquarters was empty that morning.
“Our staff doesn’t exactly have typical desk jobs,” Eli Birnbaum, the Israel director for Jews for Jesus explained. “This week some of is preparing events, others are in the city meeting people, and some are traveling. That’s really what our work is all about.”
That is true, over the years that I’ve known the ministry, I’ve noticed how successful they are in, simply, connecting with people. Whether it’s a social media outreach or a hiking trip in Peru, Jews for Jesus make themselves accessible.
This year a group of 22 Israeli believers trekked the Peruvian mountains with hopes to come across fellow Jewish people and tell them about the Messiah. Sounds too optimistic or random? Numbers prove otherwise.
Jews for Jesus Travel the World
Every year on these trips staff and volunteers of Jews for Jesus come across about a thousand Israelis who choose to travel before or after their mandatory army service.
“We count them to make sure that we are truthful about these numbers,” Chaim Birnbaum answered the question in my mind before I asked it. He was part of the most recent trip and explained what such work looks like.
“These hundreds of people are not just strangers we bump into on the street. They are the ones we sit down with, have meaningful conversations with,” Chaim continued. “Israelis travel to find peace, a spiritual experience…”
Chaim oversees the work of Jews for Jesus among children and young adults. That includes backpackers, high school graduates and newly discharged soldiers. This year, thanks to our global support, FIRM helped sponsor several participants on this trip to Peru.
Overcoming the First Obstacles
Chaim shared with us one example of when God gave the team an opportunity to share the good news during a hike. It was on a three-day trip to Machu Picchu. But what this story shows us is that often, the first obstacles to overcome appear in ourselves.
That morning, one person on the team was feeling insecure. At first, he didn’t want to talk to anyone and was focused on the journey. Nevertheless, He asked God to use him as a vessel. And God already had a plan. In the van to the first location, the team member got seated next to a former Orthodox Jew.
It took only a few minutes for the two to start talking about faith.
This new acquaintance, let’s name him Jacob, left his orthodox faith. Jacob shared with the Jews for Jesus volunteer why he decided to leave his community. But he didn’t shy away from talking about faith.
Sowing the Seed
In the most uncommon of places, on the way to an ancient Inca citadel in the Andes, two Jewish men discussed prophesies about their Messiah. Jacob was in shock to read Isaiah 53, partly because he couldn’t believe that this chapter was not taught in his synagogue.
With the help from Jews for Jesus, he was learning more about the Messiah and could recognize prophesies about Him so clearly. Unsurprisingly, Jacob wanted to read something out of the New Testament. He wanted to piece to puzzles together, so he read the entire letter to Romans.
It was a good thing that the trip to Machu Picchu was a long one, because these young men had a lot to talk about. Jacob had many questions in relation to what Paul was talking about in the book of Romans.
Would you believe that a doubting orthodox man would learn more about his Messiah in Peru than he ever did in his religious community?
Faithfully Waiting for the Fruit
In a year, Jews for Jesus workers make over 25,000 phone calls (possibly even more since 2020) and meet thousands Jewish people in person globally. Jews for Jesus can confirm that in Israel alone 73 people dedicated their lives to Jesus in 2020. And this year, as of early November, already 55 decided to follow their Jewish Messiah.
David Brickner speaks for the whole organization when he says, “The seed we sow will land in all kinds of soil. It will be thrown in the midst of tares, but if we are faithful to sow the seed, we can trust God to bring the increase” (Jews for Jesus Newsletter, 2018).
It’s true, and fitting, that making disciples and fulfilling the Great Commission by Jews for Jesus is not an average desk job. They are all about living out their faith right where the people are. And they are actively reaching their neighbor with the good news of the Jewish Messiah.
This article originally appeared on FIRM, November 23, 2021, and reposted with permission.