Referenced Messianic Jewish Review Blog

The official blog of the Referenced Messianic Jewish Review. The Referenced Messianic Jewish Review studies the history, composition and theology of the Messianic Jewish movement.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Chernoff Family

There are few multi-generational families within the Messianic movement, as the movement primarily gained strength in the 1960 and 70's. One of the few exceptions to this is the Chernoff family.

Martin Chernoff was the scion of the Chernoff family. Though born Jewish, he converted to Christianity and became a Pentecostal preacher. He worked for the American Association for Jewish Evangelism. In the 1950's he received money from a Baptist organization to create a Messianic congregation in Cincinatti, Beth Messiah, which is still in existence today. One of Martin Chernoff's most lasting changes was pushing the name change of the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America to the more Jewish-sounding Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA). Martin invested most of his lifetime in attempts to convert Jews to Christianity.

Martin's wife, Yohanna, is not Jewish. Since she is not Jewish, their two children, David and Joel, are by Jewish law not Jewish. This, of course, does not stop David and Joel from declaring themselves to be Jewish. Both of them have had stints in charge of the MJAA and Joel Chernoff is the President of the International Messianic Jewish Alliance. David Chernoff has his own congregation, Beth Yeshua, in Philadelphia. David calls himself a "rabbi" and refers to his upbringing as that of a "rk" or "rabbi's kid." This is a fantastical claim since he is not Jewish and neither he, his brother or his father have ever had a real rabbinical degree. In fact, Beth Yeshua started as a break-off from another Messianic congregation, Avodat Yisrael. Avodat Yisrael is a church plant of the Presbyterian church and was initially called the First Hebrew Christian Church of Philadelphia.

Taken as a whole, the Chernoff family have been Christian missionaries to the Jewish people for a number of generations. They willing to call themselves rabbis and in the case of the children, call themselves Jews, despite lacking rabbinical or Jewish credentials.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Targetting the Elderly

Unfortunately, it is rather common for Messianic missionaries to target elderly for conversion. Often, they will visit the older people in nursing homes, knowing that they are lonely and make easy targets. The Jerusalem Post recently wrote an article on two Messianics who targetting an elderly woman with dementia. By definition, a person with dementia has experienced a significant decline in cognitive functioning. To target an elderly person with dementia is the equivalent of targetting a young child or a person with a developmental disability. Here is a link to the article from Penina Taylor of Shomrei Emet's blog. Penina is quoted in the article:

In case you should think that this is a "blip on the radar" behavior, there is plenty of evidence of this practice. Ellen Kamentsky, a former member of Jews for Jesus, has written about how Jews for Jesus specifically would target elderly at nursing homes. I recently found an article from the Prince of Peace Church by Igor Bagirov, a Southern Baptist Convention Messianic missionary. He talked about getting a letter from a Jewish nursing home which banned him from going there. So, he sent a friend to go evangelize for him at the nursing home. It truly disgusted me to read about the behavior and how he was so proud to tell the church about his behavior.

Targetting the elderly is an old technique of Messianic missionaries and shows just how low many member of the movement will stoop to convert Jews.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Investing in Conversion

On a previous note, I tallied some of the monies spent by Messianic organizations to convert Jews. As an additional note, the Luthern Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS) has had a missionary group for a few decades to convert the Jewish people. They have even created a few Messianic congregations. The name of the group is Apple of His Eye Mission Society.

So, how serious is the LCMS at converting the Jewish people. Well, the Apple of His Eye annual budget is about $500,000. This is not a small sum! And when you realize they are not even as big of a player in the Messianic movement as other Christian denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God movement, it is astounding how much money Christians will invest to convert Jews!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Whole Lot of Money

I find it baffling that so much money is spent on converting the Jewish people. For a group that numbers about 13 million people world-wide, the money is just rolling in to people who want to convert Jews. I also find it baffling that people in the Messianic movement express so much doubt that converting Jews is a big money issue.

Let's give the expenditures of a few large Messianic organizations to put this in perspective. All numbers are coming from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). The ECFA is a Christian entity through which various Christian groups (including Messianics) submit their financial information so their financial status is more transparent.

For each of these Messianic organizations, total yearly expenditures for 2007 are given:

Messianic Vision: $6,020,804
Jewish Voice Ministries International: $7,584,179
Jews for Jesus: $17,349,114
Chosen People Ministries: $8,637,940
Ariel Ministries: $1,431,021
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry: $8,758,107
Maoz Israel Ministries: $2,633,743

In total, those seven organizations spent more than $52.4 million dollars in the business of converting Jews to Christianity. That is about $4 for every single Jewish man, woman and child in the entire world-by just seven Messianic organizations! And who said that missionary work to the Jews was not big money?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I Want My Hebrew Name To Be.....

One of the issues that always baffles me about the Messianic movement is that so many of their Christian members decide to take on Hebrew names. I am talking about people who have never, ever been Jewish who out of the blue have a Hebrew name. On a practical basis, there is no reason to do this. After all, why would a Christian need a Hebrew name? But, in the world of evanglization, a Hebrew name makes a Christian appear more like a Jew and helps them even get mistaken for a real Jew.

For example, there is Shira Sorko-Ram. Shira and her husband R.B. run Maoz Israel Ministries, a $2.5 million Messianic outreach of the Texas-based Christ For The Nations Institute, whose goal is to convert the Jews of Israel. Shira is the daughter of Gordon and Freda Lindsay, Christian ministers who founded Christ For The Nations. As you may have guessed by their names, Gordon and Freda Lindsay were not Jewish. In fact, there are about as Jewish as a ham sandwich on Yom Kippur.

So how did a daughter of internationally-known Christian ministers get the name Shira? The answer is that she gave the name to herself. Shira's real name is Carole. She was born Carole Lindsay, a Christian child of Gordon and Freda. She has never been Jewish in any way, shape or form.

This situation reminds me of when I first took Spanish in seventh grade. My teacher asked us each to pick a Spanish name for ourselves that we were to go by in class. This is a common practice in many schools. Years later, various people who had similar Spanish class experiences have said things to me such as, "You know, my name from Spanish class was Pedro." Really? So your name is Pedro? Of course not.

In Judaism, you get your Hebrew name from your parents as a child or you pick a name when you convert to Judaism. Carole's name, Shira, is exactly as legitimate as one of your non-Hispanic Spanish classmates named Bill calling himself Pedro.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Messianics and the N Word

As someone who has been involved in countermissionary activity for many years, I have heard many bizarre comments. Everything from claims that the Rabbis changed the Bible to denying affiliation in a Christian demonination, despite being in the demonination's official church directory. However, I recently received a comment that is head and shoulders above any comment I could have imagined.

Steve Gilberston is the Pastor of a Colorado Messianic congregation called Yeshua Light of the World, which was formerly known as Kehilat Sha'arit Yisrael. Pastor Gilbertson holds a Master's in Divinity from the Denver Seminary, which is an evangelical Christian seminary. For eight years he was the pastor of a Baptist chuch. His wife is a trained Christian missionary. Clearly, he is a practicing Christian. In fact, this congregation was formerly run by another Baptist minister by the name of Rick Trimble.

In an e-mail to me (an exchage which started with his missionary wife e-mailing me), Pastor Gilberston said:

calling me a Christian is like calling me a "nigger"

I was absolutely taken aback by the comment. I never used any racial insults to him or his wife. Racial insults are not part of my vocabulary. In fact, this is the first communication I had with him since previously I had only heard from his wife. That a leader of a congregation, no matter what it's affiliation, could use such abhorent language is horrific.

Obviously, he is factually wrong in his claims. He really is a practicing Christian. Baptist churches only hire in Christians. The Denver Seminary is a Christian seminary. The entire movement of "Messianic Judaism" is a Christian creation to evangelize Jews. But to use such inappropriate language was a shock to me, even beyond the normal absurdity and lies that I am used to receiving from members of the Messianic movement.

What Is the Jewish Part?

I find it interesting to look at the personal testimonies and backgrounds of many people in the Messianic movement. Let's take Dan Sered, the head of Jews for Jesus in Israel, as an example.

According to him, he was born in a secular Israeli family who moved to New York when he was 15. It was in college that he met his future wife, Dinah, who had been raised Christian her entire life. Dinah missionized him and he decided to convert. He went to church and studied with Christians. In an article from the Jerusalem Post, it stated that he was baptized at a New York Protestant church. He is currently a pastor at All Nation Baptist Church in Israel. He is the leader of Jews for Jesus which was founded by Martin "Moishe" Rosen, an ordained Baptist minister. So, aside from birth there is nothing Jewish about him. Since college, everything about him has been Christian, particularly from the Baptist denomination. What is the Jewish part of the belief system of Dan Sered of Jews for Jesus? At this point, nothing.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Video Evidence Is In

Eddie Beckford is a man of some controversy. As a bit of background, Beckford has never been Jewish. He moved to Israel some years ago and ran a Messianic group in Arad trying to convert Jews. Beckford was arrested and convicted of attacking a Chasidic Jew. The Christian community, such as the Baptist Press, claims that the arrest was wrong and that Beckford is just a poor, innocent soul. However, take a look at the video of the attack and it is clear that Beckford has quite the violent streak.

Meet Jim Pratt (Hebrew Not Spoken Here)

Meet Jim Pratt.
Jim Pratt calls himself a rabbi.
Jim Pratt leads a congregation called Beth Yeshua Hamashiach in Houston.
Beth Yeshua Hamashiach is an official church of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Jim Pratt has no rabbinical ordination.
Jim Pratt cannot speak Hebrew.

However, that does not stop Jim from pretending to speak Hebrew. The following is a video of Jim Pratt pretending to speak an "ancient dialect" of Hebrew. For those of us who speak Hebrew, the video is pure comedy:

"Better to remain silent and thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt." (Abraham Licoln)

Friday, July 03, 2009

Caught In the Act!

How far would a Christian missionary go to convert someone? Pretend to be Jewish? Well, that has already been done and these Christian missionaries call themselves "Messianic Jews." But here is another question. Aside from lying about personal information, would a Christian missionary lie about conducting illegal behavior to the police? The answer here is also "Yes!" Congregation Beth Yeshua, a Southern Baptist Convention church, tried lying to not one but two different police departments. In the end, they were caught in their lies thanks to Ira Bleiweiss and Bridge Houston ( Read more about it below in an article from the Jewish Herald Voice in Houston: