Hanukkah on Thanksgiving!
Dear friend of the Jewish people,
Shalom from New York City! The chill in the air lets me know that the holiday season is around the corner. But this year we have a most unusual occurrence!
For the first time in history, we began the Jewish festival of Hanukkah on the same day as the American celebration of Thanksgiving. And the calendar mathematicians suggest that this will not happen again for another 79,811 years! So, allow me to take this unique opportunity to make a few small comparisons between these two great holidays.
The great Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Jewish Maccabean leaders over the Syrian Greeks. You may already know that their ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes - known in Jewish history as Antiochus the Madman - terrorized the Jewish people during the years 168-165 BC. He wanted the Jewish people to speak the Greek language, worship the Greek gods and give up their Jewish identity.
As you would imagine, the Jewish people did not accept this. The emissaries of Antiochus came to the town of Modi'in, which today is between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and demanded that the residents bow down to an idol in the center of the town. According to our tradition, the Maccabees - a family of Levitical priests - refused and instead killed the emissaries. Soon thereafter, they began waging guerrilla warfare against the Syrian Greeks for a three-year period.
Eventually, the Jewish rebels were victorious. But tradition tells us that when the Maccabees sought to cleanse the Temple, they discovered that there was only enough consecrated oil to sustain the eternal light in the Temple for one day. It would take at least eight days to crush more olives and cure more olive oil so the light could continue to burn. According to tradition, the oil that should have only lasted one night kept burning for eight nights.
Today, Jewish people light the Hanukkah menorah every night of the eight-day holiday, and the children receive little gifts. We also eat foods fried in oil, such as potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts, to commemorate how God preserved the Jewish people, conquered our enemies and allowed us to reach a new season of life.
There's a lot more I could say about Hanukkah, which is one of my favorite holidays and also has incredible theological importance.
You see, without Hanukkah - there would be no Christmas. If the Jewish people had forfeited their Jewish identity, then how could a Jewish virgin in the first century give birth to a Jewish child who would be raised as a Jew to fulfill God's will for His life to be the atonement for our sins? I view the story of Hanukkah as another demonstration of God's unfolding plan of redemption, whereby He preserves the Jewish people so that His promises could be fulfilled.
I am very thankful for Hanukkah - I am grateful that my people survived and that Jesus the Jewish Messiah was born!
It will teach you the story of Hanukkah, provide some delicious Hanukkah recipes, and reveal the significance of the holiday for believers in Messiah.
The Wedding of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving
I have celebrated Thanksgiving with gusto my entire life. It is not bad for a non-Jewish holiday... all we need is some chopped liver to go with the turkey! The Pilgrims believed they were the chosen people, identified with Old Testament Israel, believed they had come to the "promised land," and the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in the fall because the Pilgrims believed they should honor the Feast of Tabernacles!
This year, both of these great holidays - Hanukkah and Thanksgiving - converged. As both an American and a Jew, I am filled with joy to live in a country where I can practice my faith as a Jewish follower of Jesus the Messiah. I travel quite a bit around the world and believe me - there is no place like home! I praise God that my grandparents made the sacrifice to come to America, and that I had the privilege of growing up in this great country where I was able to hear the Gospel freely and come to faith in Messiah.
Gratitude and Giving
I wish you could be sitting across the table from me, sipping a cup of tea or coffee and eating a piece of my wife's incredible banana bread (recipe is available upon request)! I would tell you about all the wonderful things that God is doing through Chosen People Ministries' staff around the globe - from Brooklyn, New York, to Israel, Los Angeles, Chicago, Australia and so many other places where there are large numbers of Jewish people.
I would tell you more about the hearts that have been transformed through the Isaiah 53 Campaign. I would tell you about the more than a dozen Jewish seekers who wandered into our The People, the Land and the Future of Israel conference (see videos.chosenpeople.com for the conference media!) in October at the historic Calvary Baptist Church in the middle of Manhattan, and heard the message of the Gospel. And how can I not mention our Charles L. Feinberg Messianic Jewish Center in the heart of Orthodox Brooklyn - now proclaiming the good news of Jesus right in the center of one of the most important religious Jewish communities on earth?
Dear friend, I could go on for pages telling you about how great our God is and how powerfully He is working through Your Mission to the Jewish People around the world.
We could never do this work without you. I am so grateful for your partnership, and I believe that God has called us to walk together in this great and even prophetic work to reach Jewish people with the good news before Jesus returns.
Wrapping up the Year for Jesus
We are now entering the season of the year when American evangelicals tend to give quite a bit of their annual donations to ministries like ours. My hope and prayer is that you will give generously, out of gratitude for all that the Lord has done in your life. I pray that this would be your heartfelt motivation to give a portion of what He has provided to the work of reaching Jewish people for Jesus Christ.
I still remember the letter I received from an elderly supporter of Chosen People Ministries, who wrote and said, "Brother Mitch, I would like to give, but I don’t know how much you need. Would you please be clearer in your letters?" So, my friend, let me follow this brother's advice and be specific, so that you could pray about what the Lord might lead you to give - out of gratitude for Jesus the Messiah and the role that the Jewish people have played and will yet play in the plan of God.
Isaiah 53 Campaign
We are finishing up the Isaiah 53 Campaign in Brooklyn and will begin our Israel Campaign next month. Our budget is $250,000 for this effort, and I hope that you will help. The first $40,000 that is given will be matched by a generous grant from a foundation - so please pray about supporting the Isaiah 53 Campaign.
Help Us Bring the Gospel to the Jewish People
We continue to do the everyday work of evangelism, special projects, administration and supporting God's work in Israel, Russia and other hard-to-reach places. In many of these areas, the staff cannot possibly raise support for themselves or their projects. It is your help that keeps the ministry thriving in these regions, where there are eight million or more Jewish people!
I hope that you find the details above helpful in considering how the Lord might guide you to give as we near the end of 2013. Please use this as a prayer guide as well.
May the Messiah continue to bless, empower, and fill you with His joy as we enter the new year! Wouldn't it be wonderful if Jesus returned in 2014? So please help us reach out to the Jewish people as He enables us.
Thank you for your faithfulness and generosity.
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DEDICATION CEREMONY AND NEW CONGREGATION IN BROOKLYN
On September 22, about 100 guests and staff attended the dedication of the Charles L. Feinberg Messianic Jewish Center in Brooklyn. Dr. John Feinberg, the son of Dr. Charles Feinberg, gave a brief but moving address about his father, who was a renowned Messianic believer and scholar, as well as the first Dean of the Talbot School of Theology. In other Brooklyn news, this month will be the official start of our English-speaking Messianic congregation in Brooklyn. Please pray that this community will grow together and provide a witness in one of the most important and populous Jewish communities in the world.
SHALOM BROOKLYN FINAL TALLY
During Shalom Brooklyn this past August, over 100 participants from across the globe joined Chosen People Ministries' staff in bringing the Gospel to the Jewish people of New York City. The team shared thousands of Gospel tracts, testimonies, and evangelistic books like Isaiah 53 Explained. Thanks to the Lord's presence and power, we made 368 contacts to be followed up with - and fifty Jewish and ten non-Jewish people prayed to receive Messiah!
SEEDS OF GOSPEL BEAR FRUIT FOR JEWISH WOMAN IN ILLINOIS
Igor and Vita Swiderski, who minister in the Chicago area, had a chance to visit with an older Jewish woman with whom they have enjoyed a warm friendship for a long time. Over the years, they have had many opportunities to share the Good News with her. Although the woman had listened politely, there was no visible result. This latest visit was different, however, as the woman told the Swiderskis in no uncertain terms, "I want to invite Yeshua (Jesus) into my heart." Igor writes, "We prayed with her to do exactly that!"
THE POWER OF ISAIAH 53
Penny Abrahamson, who ministers with her husband, Allen, in Portland, Oregon, led a Jewish woman to faith on the Brighton Beach boardwalk during Shalom Brooklyn. Penny approached the woman and began a conversation about Jesus' identity. She read her Isaiah 53, then asked the woman who she thought it was describing. The woman exclaimed, "It sounds like Jesus. This was prophecy!" She then prayed with Penny to put her trust in Messiah. She gave Penny her mailing address, so Penny could send her a Bible—and later called Penny, wanting to continue the spiritual conversation.
SPOTLIGHT ON NEW MESSIANIC CONGREGATIONS
Scott and Dana Nassau are now seeing the fruit of their patient labors in Messiah, with worship services starting in West Los Angeles. For two months, the Nassaus hosted small gatherings in their home. Encouraged by the turnout, they sought a new location, where they could grow and reach more people. They recently held their first worship service in the new space, located in the heart of Culver City, an area of West Los Angeles that serves as a center for both the film and television industries.
Rich Freeman, Chosen People Ministries' Vice-President of Church Ministries and Conferences, reports that we are preparing to launch our second South Florida Messianic congregation, Light of Israel Fellowship, in West Palm Beach. Rich writes, "Our vision for the congregation is to reach the very substantial Jewish community of Palm Beach County, primarily through small group home Bible studies that will be started from the congregation. We have now begun a regular weekly schedule of activities."
A NOTE OF THANKS
We are grateful for the service of David Schiller for his time on the Chosen People Ministries Board of Directors. All of our Board Members rotate off for a year after two consecutive four-year terms, but we would not want this event to take place before we gave a very public thank you to David for his dedicated and effective service for the past eight years.
...all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)
One of the most heartwarming aspects of my role as president of Your Mission to the Jewish People is that I get to hear the reports of our field workers about Jewish faith decisions for Messiah from all corners of the world. This includes Brooklyn - my own back yard - and, of course, Israel, where our growing work is bearing much fruit for the Kingdom.
However, there are those who strenuously oppose our efforts - and as our work grows, so does their opposition.
Can I have an honest talk with you about the opposition we face?
Frankly, I prefer not to discuss it, as I would never want you to think ill of my Jewish people. They are, after all, beloved by the same God who enfolds all who draw nigh to Him through Messiah's grace. But as our friend and prayer partner, I owe it to you to tell you about what we have been going through, so you can pray for us.
We endure considerable opposition, especially from the more religious sectors of the Jewish community. Newspaper articles that criticize our activities even go so far as to portray Chosen People Ministries as antisemitic. Zealous members of the Jewish community have yelled at us, threatened us and even held public protests as we distribute tracts and other literature.
We expect this, and we understand that those who are opposing us believe they are actually serving God. I want to tell you about the most recent attack. The website "Jewish Israel," sponsored by a variety of anti-missionary groups such as Jews for Judaism, recently produced a series of articles that attempted to cast our efforts in a negative light.
Let me share with you some of what they are saying, so you can remember to pray for these zealous Jewish people...and for us!
The following snippet is taken from a web-based article drawn from a two-part series on Chosen People Ministries. This section focuses on our Isaiah 53 Campaign and especially our upcoming efforts to reach Israelis with the message of the ancient prophet. They entitle their article,
Torturing the "Suffering Servant" with a Christian spin...
CPM's stepped-up activity and plans to launch an Isaiah 53 media blitz here in Israel should be cause for concern. While it's clear from the original Hebrew text of Isaiah 53 that the "suffering servant" refers to the Jewish people, Christian missionaries use the same passage as a proof-text to convert unlearned Jews.
Chosen People Ministries has literally painted the town(s) red across North America with their message of a suffering Jesus. Now with their book, materials and billboards translated into Hebrew and Russian, they are coming to Israel.
It is interesting to then read the author's assessment of Chosen People Ministries' activities! Of course, some of the statements are true and can be gleaned from public documents, but their perspective skews their comments about infiltration. Yet notice the "alarm" in the following passage:
Chosen People Ministries is one of the most aggressive, predatory groups around. With an annual budget of 12 million dollars, they have the capacity to do great damage in Israel. The Isaiah 53 Campaign, which targeted Jewish communities across the United States in 2011-2012, was unprecedented in the scope of their outreach. They sent hundreds-of-thousands of their Isaiah 53 evangelizing books to homes with children and young adults, hoping to influence their beliefs. We know of their personnel and leaders infiltrating numerous Jewish organizations and groups with the goal of gaining access to the community and seeking legitimacy as an "authentic arm" of Judaism. We must do whatever is possible to raise the alarm about their increased activities in Israel.
As their president, Mitch Glaser, proclaims,"The Lord has given us the privilege of becoming His hands, His feet and His voice in Israel in a way that we never thought possible...we now have an enormous opportunity to bring the message of the Gospel - in both Word and deed - to needy Israelis."
In response to my statement, the author writes,
It is time we all took these groups very seriously and understand that their goal is the ultimate spiritual destruction of the Jewish people and our 3,000-year-old faith.
In conclusion, the article states,
Proselytizing in the Jewish state is highly provocative and it should not be deemed a "religious freedom." It is nothing less than a betrayal of Judaism to adopt definitions of democracy and freedom which enable Christianity or other foreign belief systems to be spread without restraint to the Jewish people in the state of Israel. And it is certainly not "church persecution" if the Israeli government, media outlets and municipal authorities choose to protect our children, uphold the integrity of the Jewish state and respect the sensitivities of the Jewish people by simply saying "no" to Chosen People Ministries.
As you can see, we will be facing considerable opposition to our efforts in the future - especially in Israel - if this group is taken seriously. However, Israel is still a free and democratic country that believes in and practices free speech. I believe our right to speak will be upheld, especially since those speaking are Israeli Messianic believers, who love the Lord with all their hearts, and most of whom were born in Israel!
I believe we are going to face more and more opposition coming to us over the web, on Facebook, websites and in other digital formats. Of course, we will respond to the opposition with love, prayer and understanding.
The most amazing part of this recent attack against Your Mission to the Jewish People is that they continue to let their readership know about our Isaiah53.com website - thus reaching people who would never have heard about it otherwise!
Opposition often amplifies the proclamation of the Gospel.
A Godly Response
Sometimes the opposition will be fierce, but I know that the Lord loves the anti-missionaries. Therefore, we will try to follow two principles.
1. We are called to proclaim the Gospel, not to provoke opposition.
I try to present the message of Jesus in the most winsome, irenic and clear way, so that Jewish people can meet their loving Savior. I want them to know the Messiah who loves them and died and rose for their atonement. I believe that if they really get to know Him, they will become followers of Jesus, as I did, and no longer be opponents of the Gospel.
2. We will not retaliate against those who oppose us.
The second principle I try to follow is that I will not answer anger with anger. The Apostle Peter showed how we should respond to those who attack us when we are innocent. He writes,
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;" who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously. (1 Peter 2:21-23)
Therefore, we will always try to follow the example of Yeshua our Messiah, who faced His opposition with both love and truth!
I hope that the words of the apostle will encourage your heart as well, as I realize that Chosen People Ministries is not the only one who receives undeserved opposition. You may be going through this very challenge yourself and seeking His strength to respond as Messiah would to those who treat you poorly.
So we do not retaliate; instead, we pray for strength to love when we are hated and respond with grace and kindness when we are mistreated - as Messiah teaches us to do with His words and His example.
Why the Opposition?
I want to try to help you understand why Jewish people oppose the proclamation of the Gospel and why Jewish believers of Jesus are often particularly reviled and viewed as traitors.
The fundamental issue is this - although it was not always the case, Judaism presently cannot accept the possibility that one can believe in Jesus and remain a Jew. There are a number of reasons for this. Some are theological issues, such as the deity of Christ and the Trinity, which Judaism views as heresy for other Jews to believe.
But opposition to Jesus is based even more upon the way Jewish people were treated by "Christians" throughout the centuries. This, above all, is the basis of the emotional distress so many Jewish people feel about Jesus and the Church. Allow me to illustrate.
When I told my mother and father that I had become a believer in Jesus, they eventually asked me to leave my home. After I also told my grandparents on my mom's side, they never spoke to me again, although they loved me dearly. In their minds, my decision placed me on the side of those who had persecuted and murdered Jewish people for centuries. This, more than anything having to do with the message of the Gospel or even with Jesus Himself, is what broke their hearts.
This is why we MUST have compassion towards our "opponents." Their hearts are bleeding, whether they know it or not. Paul, a Jew to the core who could understand the nature of persecution better than almost anyone, wrote,
Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:28-29)
What is our course? We should continue to proclaim the Gospel as truthfully, clearly and sensitively as possible, knowing that opposition is sometimes not avoidable.
We should also pray for God to open the hearts of the Jewish people who oppose our work - that they would recognize that Jesus is the promised Messiah, and that the Gospel is a message of love for humanity, and not hate.
We need your help in showing His love to the Jewish people.
First of all, I am hoping that you would be willing to share the Gospel with your Jewish friends, colleagues, and family. To help you with this, I'd like to send you a free copy of the little booklet I wrote entitled Presenting Messiah to your Jewish Friends. It is yours for the asking, and you do not need to send a donation to receive a copy. I want you to have this as a gift.
I am also hoping you will consider becoming a regular supporter of Chosen People Ministries. This is easy to do, because we have created the Watchmen for Jerusalem program that allows you to make a recurring gift by simply clicking here and selecting "recurring gift" when prompted.
Finally, I am praying that you might be able to help us with our Isaiah 53 Campaign in Israel! I am sure I do not need to explain why, after reading the above article on the anti-missionary website. Based upon our projected costs for advertising, production of the books, follow-up and creation and monitoring of the website, it will cost us about $10.00 to place a copy of the Isaiah 53 Explained book into the hands of an Israeli.
By God's grace, your gift can be doubled today!
A generous Foundation has told us that if we receive $40,000 in donations towards this campaign, they will award us an additional $40,000 grant! This means that a gift of $100 will become $200, and a gift of $500 will become $1,000!
Our goal, of course, is to have as many as possible of the six-million-plus Israelis receive a copy of the book! How many will respond? We believe the number will easily be in the thousands... so please pray, give as you are able, and let's trust the Lord together that He will work powerfully through this outreach - even in the hearts of those who might oppose us.
Maybe the next Apostle Paul is among them!
Your brother in the Messiah,
 Posted by "Jewish Israel" on May 28, 2013 at 7:30pm
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,