It was only one year ago when Hurricane Sandy stormed through the East Coast of the United States, leaving terrible destruction in its wake. The homes and hopes of families were destroyed, tens of thousands were out of work, personal property - from family pictures to cherished memorabilia - were swept away in the floods, and many were left homeless and helpless for weeks.
In the midst of this tragedy, God's people were faithful and generous, as many followers of Yeshua the Messiah gathered clothing, food, electrical generators and so much more – distributing them to needy families in many areas. Chosen People Ministries focused on the thousands of Russian Jewish homes lining the shores of Staten Island, New York City, where there was tremendous loss and suffering because of the hurricane. We cleaned homes; distributed food, blankets, electrical generators, heaters, small refrigerators and stoves; and wept with those who wept… prayed with those who did not know how to pray… and stood alongside the victims of this terrible event that still traumatizes many of the families who suffered the most.
In the midst of what was a very difficult season, we saw God's faithfulness and care for individuals and families, which was nothing short of amazing. Believers from all over the country came to the eastern seaboard, and many focused on some of the poor residents of Staten Island – mostly Russian Jewish people, who suffered tremendously – and showed God's love in the most tangible ways.
Our ministry developed many personal relationships with folks who needed help, and those relationships continue until this day. Very few of us on the Chosen People Ministries staff were experienced in disaster relief, but we knew that God wanted us to love those who were hurting. We spent weeks and even months serving the hurting, and it was really wonderful to see how that love was received by many Jewish people in particular… who knew that the One motivating our love and actions was the Messiah Jesus – the Savior of the world.
We actually distributed tens of thousands of dollars to those who needed to rebuild their homes and lives, from paying contractors to rebuild their homes and having funds to survive!
I want to thank those who helped support the hurricane victims during this very difficult and dark time – because of you, the Light of the Messiah was able to shine brightly through us and others who served the suffering of Staten Island and many other communities during this time.
As we look towards November and the celebration of Thanksgiving – which of course falls on the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah – I remember setting up tables outside with Hanukkah menorahs, gifts for children, hot chocolate and some Hanukkah foods in devastated neighborhoods of Staten Island. It was during those dark and gloomy nights that the lit candles on these tables reminded me of Messiah's presence among us in ways that I personally will never forget. This passage from the writings of the prophet Isaiah became very dear to me:
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior... (Isaiah 43:1-3)
Please remember to keep praying for some of the victims who have yet to rebuild their homes and be restored in their finances, jobs and family lives.
Perhaps one of the lessons that we learned from this tragic event was that God wants us to be willing, and though we may not always be able or have the resources to do all we want – we can always do something, and that something might make a huge difference in someone's life. I learned this lesson as a result of Hurricane Sandy, and I'm grateful to God for all that He did through so many to show His presence in the midst of the storm.
Your brother in the Messiah,
Shalom from the "other Holy Land" - Brooklyn! These are exciting days for Your Mission to the Jewish People! We recently finished dedicating the new Brooklyn Messianic Center, and it was a wonderful celebration. We are now in the process of moving in and kicking off some of the dynamic new ministries based at the Center.
The Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies (our joint program between Chosen People Ministries and Biola University's Talbot School of Theology) is gradually moving into the Center as well; please pray that these transitions will go smoothly. It is not easy to move and stack 12,000 books!
Shalom Brooklyn: A Summer Outreach in New York City
Shalom Brooklyn was a huge success! Remember that there are almost one million Jewish people living in Brooklyn - which is only one of five boroughs of New York City.
We also ministered in Queens and Manhattan, and when you add up the Jewish communities in all five boroughs, there are more than two million Jewish residents of New York City - and this does not include the hundreds of thousands of Jewish people that commute into the City to work every day.
New York City, and Brooklyn in particular, is home to the largest concentration of God's chosen people in North America. This is why our headquarters is in New York City, and it is also our reason for establishing the Charles L. Feinberg Messianic Jewish Center in the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn.
Faith Decisions and Seeds Planted
More than a hundred volunteers and staff members participated in the two-week summer outreach program, and prayed with fifty Jewish people, as well as many non-Jewish people, to receive Jesus as their Savior!
Many of the Jewish people who received Messiah are recent immigrants from Russia. This is what we experienced in the early 1990s and I thought that this movement of Russian Jews to Jesus in Brooklyn was over - but I have been wonderfully proven wrong! I am so glad we have two Russian Messianic congregations led by Chosen People Ministries staff where these new believers can go and grow!
We met many non-Russian Jewish people who were open to the Lord as well. We even had some great conversations with religious Jewish people about Jesus... a number of whom are willing to receive and read the Isaiah 53 Explained book!
Here are some wonderful testimonies from two of our volunteers:
God continued to use Shalom Brooklyn, even on my train ride home. I was wearing the Isaiah 53 t-shirt, and a Jewish man sat down next to me. We talked for an hour and a half and as I shared about Yeshua, his eyes gently filled up with tears. He lives in my area, so I am mailing him a copy of Isaiah 53 Explained, and I will keep in touch!
- Nancy Poultney
We met a Jewish man named Daniel,* who was very nice and willing to talk to us. He made it clear that he would always be Jewish. I explained that he would indeed, and that everything about my faith was Jewish. The great thing was that we encouraged him to check out the literature table (a long way from where we were talking) and he did! He walked all the way down the boardwalk and got some more materials.
- Jason Murray
During the last couple of months, our staff members in Brooklyn and around the New York area have been faithfully and personally following up with the hundreds of seekers we met.
So please keep praying, as a number of the Jewish people we met during Shalom Brooklyn are on the verge of giving their hearts to the Lord!
Strategy for Reaching a New Generation
One of the reasons I love "old-fashioned" street evangelism campaigns is that they motivate us to create new materials and strategies that raise the quality of our evangelistic tools. We created a number of new Gospel tracts, which were used on the streets, at book tables, at health fairs, and in the parks where we ministered this summer.
Some believers might think that handing out Gospel tracts, conducting open-air preaching, or even just sitting at book tables on campuses is old-fashioned and fanatical. Well, if this is true, then I am definitely a fanatic - and so is the rest of the Chosen People Ministries family!
Of course, we are also using all the latest media tools on the web, which I believe is the new "Mars Hill" of modern society. But there are still lots of people walking the streets of great urban centers like New York City. This is why handing out tracts, sitting at book tables, and doing various types of open-air outreach is still effective.
Street evangelism is an old strategy that can be used effectively for a new generation if we allow the Lord to use our creativity for His glory.
You can download one of our brand new Gospel tracts, which focuses on the new Freedom Tower that was just completed in Manhattan. This great symbol of our freedom in the United States helps us explain the spiritual freedom we have in Yeshua the Messiah. Please read it, and if you want printed copies, you can call us to order some.
This tract will be relevant all over the country, especially as the festivities dedicating the Freedom Tower continue throughout the year.
A New Congregation to Disciple New Jewish Believers
A fruitful season of evangelism creates its own set of fresh challenges. We are convinced that new believers must become part of a local community of believers in order to grow. This is why our Brooklyn Messianic Congregation Project is so critical! And this is why I'm hoping that you will help us, as we are starting this month.
We have established a budget of $200,000 for The Brooklyn Messianic Congregation Fund, for the first year of planting a new Messianic congregation. This amount includes the cost of the pastor, musicians, advertising, building expenses and more.
As with all church plants - Messianic or otherwise - we believe that once people start attending the congregation and growing in their faith, the congregation will eventually be able to sustain itself.
But this is not going to be the case for at least eighteen months - and perhaps longer, as Brooklyn is a very expensive place to minister.
Would you consider a generous founding donation to the Brooklyn Messianic Congregation Fund?
Now that we have a beautiful building in the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn, we want to maximize our use of it for God's glory. We are praying for our congregational planter, Rev. Rich Flashman, whom we introduced in a previous letter. Rich is a Jewish believer and has been a pastor affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church for more than twenty-five years. I have tremendous confidence in the Lord and in Rich as both a congregational planter and a mentor of younger leaders.
We also have musicians - evangelists, graduates of our seminary program - who will be working alongside Rich. I believe we are poised to make great strides in planting this congregation, but we do need some very generous founding grants to get started.
Would you pray about joining us in the adventure of planting a Messianic congregation in the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn?
Whether you can give $100, $1,000, or $5,000 - I know that the Lord will multiply your sacrificial giving. We want to help the two Russian Messianic congregations as well - they will take a little longer to get established because many of the congregants are poor and elderly.
Thanks so much for caring and standing with us in the great work of reaching His chosen people!
P.S. For your gift of $100 or more I would like to send you a copy of our new Messianic Jewish Art Calendar with beautiful pictures of the "true Holy Land" - Israel! We deeply appreciate your support and prayers.
Tour the New Brooklyn Center:
1st Floor – Sanctuary, warming kitchen and multipurpose room
This street-level first floor will be the heart of our ministry presence in the neighborhood. We know that many Jewish people will have their curiosity sparked by our signs on the exterior of the building, which will include Messianic Scriptures written in Hebrew and English. We want to make sure our building is inviting and provides an excellent first impression for those the Lord leads to enter.
For this reason, our first floor is designed to be completely ministry focused. Not only will it accommodate a 170-person Messianic congregation, but it will allow us to have a soup kitchen ministry, a Gospel café outreach for young people, and a reading area for those curious about our faith.
A dynamic ministry opportunity exists in our new neighborhood, as a community of over 750,000 Jewish people reside in the areas surrounding the Feinberg Center.
Ministries planned through the Feinberg Center include:
- ESL Classes
- Addiction Care
- Bible Studies
- Messianic Congregations
- Café Outreach
- Feeding the Poor
- Elderly Care
We hope you are as excited as we are about these ministry opportunities the Lord is providing!
2nd Floor – Classroom, study area, and offices
The second floor of our Brooklyn Center will serve as the new home of our seminary program, the Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies. Through our unique partnership with the Talbot School of Theology, we offer a fully-accredited Master of Divinity degree in Messianic Jewish Studies. We began offering classes in 2007 and currently have 26 students and 11 graduates - and we continue to grow!
The Lord has been so faithful in developing this program. For the past four years we have housed the seminary in our Manhattan headquarters, but we have now outgrown that space. Included on the second floor will be classrooms, offices, and study and meeting areas. The Feinberg library, which has over 12,000 volumes, will reside in the basement.
The Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies program includes courses in:
- Biblical leadership
- Rabbinic Literature
- Hebrew / Greek
- Pastoral Care
- Jewish History
- Rabbinic Theology
- Biblical Preaching
- Theology of Siddur
Training the next generation of leaders for Messianic Jewish ministry is the goal of this program.
Though primarily used for the seminary, the second floor will also be available for ministry purposes when classes are not in session.
"Talbot School of Theology is thrilled to partner with Chosen People Ministries to equip a new generation of Christian leaders for the Messianic movement. There is no better place to do this than Brooklyn. Our heart is to provide solid biblical and theological training along with the skills for ministering in a contextually sensitive way."
– Dr. Clint Arnold, Dean / Professor of New Testament
Talbot School of Theology - Biola University
3rd Floor – Student, missionary and guest housing
The third floor of the new Brooklyn Center will serve as student living space. The floor plan neatly separates the women’s and men’s living quarters, and has a guest room for visiting ministry workers and professors. We will also use these rooms to house summer interns and other staff while school is not in session.
Chosen People Ministries, established in 1894, exists to evangelize, disciple, serve and pray for the Jewish people, and to help fellow Christians do the same. Our ministry began in Brooklyn, New York through the efforts of Rabbi Leopold Cohn, a Hungarian-Jewish immigrant whose life was radically transformed when he discovered that Jesus is the Messiah. Over the last 119 years, our ministry has expanded into the cities all over the world with the highest Jewish populations. Currently, we minister in seventeen countries, with over 200 staff members consisting of administrators and support-raising missionaries.
One of the ways that we are fulfilling our mission is by raising up and training new leaders in Jewish ministry through our seminary program - The Charles L. Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies. Several years ago, we recognized that there is a great need in Jewish missions for more seminary-trained leadership. Through a partnership with the Talbot School of Theology of Biola University in La Mirada, California, we received our accreditation through the New York Board of Regents and the Association of Theological Schools, and began classes in summer 2007. We currently have twenty-six students enrolled and have graduated eleven thus far.
The Feinberg Center degree program is 98 credits, and awards a Master of Divinity in Messianic Jewish Studies from the Talbot School of Theology. Our program is still the only one of its kind in the world; we offer a unique course of study that prepares leaders to enter Jewish ministry as missionaries, Messianic pastors, Messianic leaders, and educators. We also offer reduced tuition rates and housing subsidies for our students, with the goal that they have the opportunity to graduate debt-free and go directly into full-time Jewish missions.
A New Opportunity
From the beginning, we knew that if this program were to be successful, we would eventually have the challenge of finding a larger and more suitable space to house the seminary. For the past five years, we have been able to host the classes in the international headquarters building of Chosen People Ministries in Manhattan, and rent office space for the library only a few blocks away. Yet a few years ago, as we saw the Lord continue to bless and grow the seminary, we began to search for a new facility to house the program, and the Lord miraculously provided an incredible opportunity in the heart of the Jewish community in the borough of Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is home to more than 750,000 Jewish people, which means this one borough of New York City contains the highest concentration of Jewish people in the entire United States. We came across a building that had functioned as a Jewish funeral home. A rare, three-lot-wide, 14,000 square foot facility with three floors and a basement, a sanctuary on the first floor, located in the heart of a more "religious" Jewish neighborhood, seemed too good to be true.
We were offered a generous two-part matching gift by a Chosen People Ministries donor who had a burden for training a new generation of leaders for the field of Jewish evangelism. As only God could provide, we were able to negotiate the purchase price of the building to the exact amounts of the matching grants!
We prayerfully initiated a capital campaign in the late spring of 2010, and by God’s grace were able to raise the needed funds, closing on the building without debt in June 2010.
The opportunities this facility gives us for expanding our ministries are numerous. The location alone, situated on the borders of Orthodox Jewish, secular Jewish and Israeli communities, and an even larger neighborhood of Russian Jewish immigrants, will provide opportunities for evangelism and Christian benevolence that are unprecedented, as there is no other Jewish ministry in the area. It is clear the Lord wants us right in the middle of this key location.
After an extensive renovation, which is almost complete, the building will allow the following functionality:
- 1st Floor – Chapel/Sanctuary for 170 people, greeting lounge, multipurpose ministry room, warming kitchen
- 2nd Floor – Three Classrooms, study areas with computers, professor and missionary offices
- 3rd Floor – Living space for eleven single students, and a studio apartment for a professor or guest
- Basement – Feinberg Center Library, with more than 12,000 volumes
In addition to housing the seminary, the facility will also give us increased ministry space. We plan to not only house the Feinberg Center in the building, but also our current Brooklyn Messianic Center, which is currently operating out of a rental space a few miles away. The ministries supported by the current Brooklyn Center include a Russian-speaking Messianic congregation, benevolence ministries, ESL classes, and addiction care and recovery programs.
We will expand our ministry in the new facility by launching a brand new English-speaking Messianic congregation. We will also take advantage of the warming kitchen and multipurpose room to begin offering a "soup kitchen" style ministry to the needy in the community during the week, and a "Gospel café"-style outreach for the youth in the evenings. Our missionaries and Feinberg students will also hold various outreach events throughout the school year in fulfillment of their field education requirements for the seminary.
We are amazed at how the Lord has provided, and we know He has called us to expand our work in this important Jewish neighborhood. We are confident that the Lord will help us finish what He started, turning over a new page in our outreach efforts in the middle of Jewish Brooklyn.
KLAUDIA Z. - STAFF MEMBER
Klaudia Z. has been an integral part of our Brooklyn ministries for years. Coming from the Former Soviet Union, she knows exactly the needs and issues of these residents of Brooklyn. Many have come to know the Lord through her ministry. She writes,
"There are two Russian congregations that were started in Brooklyn. We will now be meeting in the Brooklyn Center, which is a huge blessing, since most landlords don’t like us because we are Messianic believers. Recently, we baptized twelve people and already, four more people are asking for such a public covenant with our Messiah Yeshua! With our move to the Brooklyn Center, we will be even more visible for people to stop in, ask questions and come to be a part of the congregation. Praise the Lord for this new facility!"
ROBERT W. - FEINBERG GRADUATE
"I recently had the opportunity to give a tour of the new Feinberg Center to a church group of about ten Christians who were visiting the area. While we prayed together in front of the building, a Jewish woman approached us and asked who we were and what we were doing. It turns out that she owns a store just a few doors down from our center. I explained to her that we were a group of believers in Jesus who love the Jewish people and Israel, and I told her that we were praying for the new center which would house our ministry and school. She was a bit skeptical at first (hey, it's Brooklyn!), but she relaxed a bit after chatting with us and seeing that we weren't crazy. Before we parted ways, a gentleman from the church asked her if we could pray for her business. This took her by surprise, but she gratefully agreed. She walked us to her business and after we prayed she was very appreciative. It was a unique opportunity and what stood out to her the most was the devotion of the prayer offered and how genuine our group's love was."