Janet Chismar | Senior Editor, News & Culture | Friday, August 24, 2001
He wrote about an early encounter with members of the Jewish community: "I showed them from the Scriptures that to believe in Yeshua was Jewish faith, real Jewish faith." This became Leopold Cohn's life calling. It also became a guiding principle for Chosen People Ministries, which he founded in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1894.
Almost 100 years later, Rabbi Scott Sekulow also came to accept Yeshua as the promised Messiah. Raised in a Reform Jewish home, Sekulow was involved at his synagogue and the community center summer camp as a counselor. "I was always looking for God, but I didn't know where to find Him," he explains.
One day Scott's brother Jay asked him a simple question: "What will it take for you to believe that Jesus is the Messiah?" Jay, who is currently chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, had accepted Christ during the 1970s.
In 1 Corinthians 1:22 it says that the Jewish people "require a sign" to believe. So Scott asked for one. It didn't happen overnight, but two years later, Sekulow got his sign.
On Yom Kippur in 1993, Scott and his wife were attending a Messianic Jewish service in Atlanta. "And I thought, 'You don't need this; you are Jewish, you're already saved.' Then a still small voice said, 'I've showed you My signs, now believe in Me.' With that my hand went up and the scales came off," says Sekulow of his decision moment.
Sekulow went back to school, overcoming a learning disability and dyslexia to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a degree in biblical education in 1994. He gives all the credit to the Lord since he knew that he could not do this on his own.
After graduation, Sekulow entered full-time ministry and has since spoken at hundreds of churches throughout the United States about the revival happening among the Jewish people. He founded Israel's Harvest Ministries at the beginning of 2001 to reach out to unsaved Jews and Gentiles all over the world.
This past spring, Sekulow paired up with evangelist Jerry Davis of "Good News in Bad News Places" to visit Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Eilat, Ashkelon and the West Bank with a five-member team. The group worked closely with other ministries based in Israel.
"The ongoing and unpredictable violence created a climate of fear in Israel - but at the same time, this climate of fear opened the door for unbelievable evangelism opportunities for our team," says Sekulow.
"It is when people are afraid and uncertain that the gospel most needs to be heard," Sekulow continues. "When does a friend need to go? Not when everything is good but during the bad times. That's really why we went there. And we got a phenomenal response."
Davis and his team of professional musicians conducted public ministry called "Street Concerts for Peace" - performing a mixture of their own material, popular praise and worship songs, and sometimes even putting Christian lyrics to popular rock songs.
At the same time, Sekulow and the witness team talked with curious spectators and presented them with a tract called "An Open Apology to Jews from Christians." The tract explained that most Christians do not blame the Jews for the death of Christ and that the message of Jesus centers on love - not hate.
"We know that many accepted the Gospel of Yeshua during our visit. Messianic groups inside Israel are now working to follow-up on the seeds that were planted during our trip," Sekulow adds. "Israel is the hardest place ever to minister, and to have the opportunity to be on the street and actually sharing the gospel, was an experience I'll never forget."
Jews for Jesus is another organization, perhaps the most widely known, that "makes the Messiah-ship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to Jewish people worldwide." It is the largest evangelistic outreach to Jewish people in the world today.
Moishe Rosen founded Jews for Jesus in September of 1973. Rosen, a veteran missionary to the Jewish people, was the executive director of the mission for 23 years. He still works with Jews for Jesus and serves on the board of directors.
Rosen says, "Throughout the ages, there have always been some Jews who have believed in Jesus. Most people know 'Jews for Jesus' were a reality in apostolic times and that the Christian era began with converted Jews preaching the gospel to Gentiles. But, in a sense, they were not converted Jews - they were converted sinners who happened to be Jewish. They never renounced their heritage nor the faith of their ancestors. They remained very Jewish."
In 1954, about a year after Rosen and his wife Ceil became believers in Jesus, he felt God's call to minister to the Jewish people.
In founding Jews for Jesus, Rosen decided to stop avoiding conflict. "Most of the workers in Jewish evangelism were well-meaning Gentile Christians who, above all, sought the goodwill of the Jewish community and tried to avoid friction at all costs. Yet as soon as the missionaries' efforts began to be effective, the Jewish leaders reacted with a show of displeasure and accused them of insensitive or offensive methods."
Usually the real problem was "the offense of the cross, not insensitive methods," says Rosen. "There was no way - however tactful, loving and sensitive - to tell Jewish people that they needed Jesus without risking the displeasure of the Jewish community leaders.
"Having committed myself to the idea that disapproval and rejection were a normal part of Jewish evangelism," Rosen adds, "I taught my helpers that we all must bear the cross and risk rejection. Once we oriented ourselves to handle rejection, we began to win many Jews to the Lord."