Clearing up misinformation about Christianity among America’s estimated 7.6 million Jewish population is a crucial calling for Messianic ministries. Within this backdrop, 1.2 million, or 16%, of Jewish adults claim no religion.
Many Jews don’t know that Yeshua, Jesus’ original Hebrew name, is actually Jewish, according to U.S. missionary Robert Specter, who serves with Intercultural Ministries. “They also believe you are no longer Jewish if you believe in Jesus,” he says.
Specter says his father, Hyman, a former Orthodox Jew, experienced a supernatural revelation of Jesus the Messiah at age 20. Hyman eventually served as an Assemblies of God world missionary in Haiti and West Africa for more than 20 years before founding Rock of Israel (ROI) ministries in 1971.
Robert Specter came to faith as a missionary kid living with his parents in West Africa. Robert, 65, now serves as president of Rock of Israel Ministries and lives in Fairfield, Ohio.
ROI completed an 18-day outreach in September at the Canadian National Exposition in Toronto, an event which drew more than one million visitors.
The ministry normally conducts up to nine similar-sized outreaches annually at U.S. state fairs. ROI rents a booth displaying and selling Judaica products made in Israel such as seder plates, Shabbat candles, Star of David jewelry, menorahs, and wood or metal mezuzah (doorpost) cases containing a small parchment inscribed with Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21.
Specter and ROI teams, including volunteers from local Messianic congregations, engage hundreds of curious Jewish visitors. A prominent banner proclaiming Jesus Made Me Kosher ignites interesting conversations.
In a caring way, team members approach visitors with challenging questions: Do you believe in God, if so ask Him whether Yeshua is the Messiah? Have you ever heard of Messianic Jews? Have you read Isaiah, the first of the latter prophets in the Hebrew Bible, particularly chapter 53?”
Most conversations end with the vendor offering a book of Jewish testimonies, a Jesus Made Me Kosher bookmark, invitations to local Messianic congregations, or information about ROI.
ROI exhibits also provoke opposition. Ultra-orthodox Jewish groups have lashed out in anger against Messianic Jews, seeing them as traitors and not real Jews. Rabbis have videotaped conversations with ROI triggering arguments. Jews for Judaism targets groups like ROI to stop evangelism activities.
“Nevertheless, our state fair presence is a seed-planting ministry,” Specter emphasizes. “And we try to follow up those showing a serious interest in the gospel message.”
Additional ministry programs include urban street outreaches, Messiah in the Passover interactive seder meals, online evangelism, Messianic presentations in churches, and exhibits at AG and denominational meetings and conventions.
However, regular church-attending evangelical Christians often are reluctant to share the good news with Jews, according to veteran U.S. missionary William “Bill” Bjoraker, founder of Operation Ezekiel in Pasadena, California in 1998.
“Many Christians believe Jews have a built-in resistance to the gospel and fearing rejection, they sidestep witnessing,” says the 70-year-old Bjoraker, who also is with Intercultural Ministries. “Others even believe Jews don’t need the gospel because they have their own path to God.”
Some Christians avoid digging into the Old Testament and therefore are intimidated about explaining biblical prophecies about Christ, Bjoraker says.
Both Bjoraker and Specter are members of the National Jewish Fellowship (NJF) of the Assemblies of God. NJF is a Messianic Jewish outreach and one of the two dozen ethnic/language fellowship groups in the AG.
The NJF represents 70 AG credential holders and 13 Messianic congregations. Specter serves as NJF treasurer and Bjoraker teaches courses aimed at helping Christians share their faith with Jewish friends. Typical NJF online classes cover Messianic storytelling, contemporary Jewish thought, significance of Jewish holidays, Messianic prophecy, traditional Jewish life, and antisemitism.
Bjoraker is writing and developing seven books under the banner Engaging the Jewish World, which will be adopted for online NJF classes. He has finished the first book, “The Biblical Era,” which covers 2000 to 300 B.C. The remaining six books will focus on the Hellenistic, Rabbinic, Islamic, European, and modern eras, and finally return to Zion. Bible publisher Zondervan has engaged him to write the commentary for the book of Esther in the new Messianic Study Bible scheduled for release in 2025.
Persecution and violent acts against U.S. Jews are a growing threat that Christians need to be concerned about, Bjoraker says.
In 2021, antisemitic behavior increased 34% and attacks against synagogues and Jewish community centers hit an all-time high, rising by 61%. New versions of antisemitism are surfacing. Falsely claiming Israel an apartheid state, the BDS movement (boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning) is aimed at hurting Israeli and Jewish business interests globally, according to Bjoraker.
Replacement theology, dating back to the first century, has gained new credibility. It espouses that Jews are no longer God’s chosen people and the Church has totally replaced Israel in God’s plans. In addition, the theory claims prophecies in Scripture on the blessings and restoration of the Promised Land are no longer valid.
“We are very much aware of and monitoring recent antisemitic actions and we try to inform our AG churches and encourage them to support the Jewish community against these attacks,” says NJF secretary Carol Calise. “Christians supporting Jews on this issue open new doors for sharing the good news of Yeshua.”
Carol is co-leader of Beth Emanuel Messianic Synagogue with her husband, Michael, in Holbrook, New York. Michael is NJF president.