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The Climate Is Ripe

National Jewish Fellowship leaders see a new openness to the teachings of Yeshua.

Many Christians are timid about witnessing to Jews and miss opportunities. The National Jewish Fellowship (NJF), one of the AG's language/ethnic fellowships, is striving to fix the problem.

"We want to be a resource to the Assemblies of God to better understand Jewish evangelism," says NJF President Michael Calise. Calise and his wife Carol, NJF secretary, co-pastor Beth Emanuel Messianic Synagogue, an AG congregation in Holbrook, Long Island, a suburb of New York City.

Established in 2008, the NJF networks with the greater Messianic Jewish community and Christians worldwide. It supports and encourages Jewish believers who are committed to Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah and empowerment of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). Currently, there are a dozen Messianic AG congregations in eight states.

Understanding Jewish attitudes is essential to reaching the estimated 6.8 million American Jews. A Pew Research Center survey of U.S. Jews in 2013 reported that 62 percent believed being Jewish as mainly a matter of ancestry and culture, while just 15 percent thought it mainly a matter of religion.

More than half marry non-Jews. Even among Jews by religion, two-thirds say it isn't necessary to believe in God to be Jewish.

While many Jews still link Christianity with the Holocaust, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Crusades, they respond well to a loving spirit of engagement.

"Jewish people are not used to getting loved by Gentiles," Michael Calise says. "Simply sharing your testimony is always a good approach. No one can argue with a changed life."

Just thanking Jewish people for Jesus is another open door, the Calises suggest.

Raised by a Jewish mother and Gentile father, Michael Calise came to faith in Jesus in his early 20s. After hearing the good news and responding, he reports that God placed a heavy burden in his heart for reaching Jewish brothers and sisters. He sold his auto parts business to attend Christ for the Nations Institute. Following graduation, in 1991 he joined Beth Emanuel's staff, where he met Carol.

Beth Emanuel, a ministry of 120 members, reaches Jews through festivals, street fairs, and phone and direct mail invitations to services. All newcomers are followed up. Celebrations such as Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah are strategic occasions for curious walk-ins and inviting Jewish guests.

Myles Brounstein drove by Beth Emanuel for several years before curiosity compelled him to visit in 2006 with his wife during high holy days.

"We immediately felt love as soon as we walked in," Brounstein says. "I saw the Torah on the altar, heard the beautiful music, and it felt like home. They talked about the Messiah and the blood that I was never taught." 

Brounstein says the Holy Spirit revealed the truth to him as he attended more services. He came to faith and tells other Jews now about his experience.

"I never understood about being Jewish until I received Yeshua into my heart," he says.

Other Messianic congregations are fruitful as well. Messianic Jew Cliff Maynard, senior rabbi of Rock of Israel Congregation in Hickory, North Carolina, says Jewish people are more receptive to the gospel than ever before. He cites the turmoil in the Middle East and biblical prophecies being fulfilled there.

Baruch HaShem, planted by Manuel Rodriguez Jr. in Del Rio, Texas on the Mexican border, has an unusual ministry to Latinos. His family and others in the area can trace their roots far back to Sephardic Jews escaping to Mexico from persecution during the Spanish Inquisition. From a Jewish background, God saved him radically 15 years ago.

"My love for Israel overwhelmed me and I got involved with Jewish ministries," Rodriguez says. "God confirmed our calling by sending us a Jewish woman raised in an Orthodox home to be the first member of Baruch HaShem Assembly."

Through Beth Emanuel and NJF, the Calises and their ministry colleagues trust in God for an outpouring of his Holy Spirit among His chosen people. They want to inform and encourage gentile believers to join them.

"The climate is ripe," Carol Calise says. "God always rewards earnest seekers."


Peter K. Johnson

Peter K. Johnson is a freelance writer living in Saranac Lake, New York. More than 500 of his articles and short stories have appeared in Christian and mainstream magazines and newspapers, including the Pentecostal Evangel,Charisma, the Saturday Evening Post, Guideposts, and Decision. He also serves as a consultant and contributing editor to a scientific journal.