Five believing organizations that minister to the poor in Israel
Vision for Israel distribution of vouchers in Jerusalem before the fall holidays 2017 (Photo: Facebook/VFI)
As Kehila News recently reported, Israel’s National Health Institute recently announced that some 1.8 million Israelis live in poverty.
Many believers are aware of this situation and are actively seeking to help alleviate these dire conditions. KNI has highlighted five believing ministries that help the poor and vulnerable in Israel. Importantly, these ministries also provide opportunities for believers from anywhere to join the work as volunteers, pray and donate financially.
VFI is an Israeli ministry founded by Messianic believers Barry and Batya Segal in 1994. Born of the Segal’s vision to “help build and restore the Land,” VFI provides humanitarian aid to poor and needy Israelis – both Jewish and Arab.
With its distribution center just outside Jerusalem as a base, VFI cares for the needs of Holocaust survivors, new immigrants, the elderly, children from domestic abuse situations, victims of terror attacks and their families, orphanages and foster homes. It also provides medical and emergency supplies, ambulances and medical motorcycles to the country.
“At Vision for Israel we believe in the natural and spiritual restoration of Israel,” Ariel Segal, VFI’s director of Marketing and IT, told KNI. “James 2:17 says, ‘So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.’”
To learn more about the ministry, see their website.
Founded by Jewish believer Brian Slater, ABS is based in Netanya in central Israel. Through its soup kitchen and clothing distribution center the ministry helps many while also giving food bags to some 400 Jewish people each month. ABS additionally provides medical, optical and dental assistance to the poor.
A special ABS project is the “Adopt a Holocaust Survivor” program through which believers all over the world can financially support, pray for and personally connect with Israeli survivors. This is a rather urgent project as the survivors are old and many have passed away. The ABS website explains that the main goal of this program is to: “fulfill the Hebrew scripture of Isaiah 40, that says: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God!”
The ABS ministry was recently awarded a Certificate of Good Standing for 2017 and 2018 by the Israeli Government. This is all the more encouraging as ABS is open about its commitment to Yeshua the Messiah.
Led by Andre Gaziarowski and based in Caesarea in Israel, the Helping Hand Coalition is a network of international humanitarian organizations that seek to address the needs of Israeli people.
HHC provides food, clothing and financial grants to the poor, as well as such things as eye glasses for the elderly.
Among its special projects, HHC has provided continuous humanitarian aid to nearly 80,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel. In addition to meeting their basic needs, HHC hosts social events to honor the survivors.
HHC has another specific focus: to help alleviate the suffering of Israeli victims of terror attacks and war. To this end also, as explained on its website, the coalition works to “harness the power of the internet and global news media in order to bring modern Israel to the world, and fight worldwide Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism.”
HHC has a well-developed volunteer program. For information click here.
This well-known ministry is based in Beit Shemesh near Jerusalem and is headed by CEO Jim Schutz. Taking its name from the biblical Joseph who organized stores of food for times of famine, the ministry has provided $100 million in humanitarian aid to the needy in Israel – Jew and Arab, religious and secular – since 2000.
The Joseph Project is staffed by locals in the land but also partners with many nations such as Holland and Germany, Australia, the US and China, to bring in tons of aid and demonstrate God’s love to vulnerable people here.
“The Joseph Project imports aid into Israel from charities worldwide,” the website explains. “Clothing, blankets, medical supplies, furniture, linen and bedding, diapers and family items, tools, shoes, and other supplies are imported and stored in our modern 22 thousand square foot warehouse.”
“Our heart is to help people in real need in Israel, across all sectors of the population,” Schutz told KNI. “Our vision is to make a national impact on the poverty situation in Israel through developing a professional, efficient, responsive and authentic humanitarian aid organization in partnership with like-minded local and international organizations and individuals.”
The Joseph Project has received many testimonies of thanks for helping people from diverse backgrounds with different needs. Not least among these testimonials is one from ENOSH, the Israeli Mental Health Association.
“I would like to thank you for your generous support for our hostels, including blankets, pillows and bedding sets. Your support will help us further improve the quality of life of mentally ill patients by allowing them to experience an independent life and to gain new and important life skills within the supportive housing frameworks,” wrote Ariel Shraibman, spokesman for ENOSH.
Headed by Dudley and Raven Goff, this California-based ministry ships dried foods around the world to feed the hungry. Since 2010 the organization has also sent some 28 shipping containers of healthy dried soup mixes to Israel.
“It may surprise you to know that one third of Israeli children live below the poverty line,” a recent post on the IFO Facebook page explains. “The soup mix we distribute can go a long way to ensuring a nutritious meal at the end of the day!”
Among other IFO projects, a particularly personal touch the ministry provides is the distribution of colorful and warm handmade quilted blankets to needy Israeli Holocaust survivors. The beautiful quilts are lovingly made by groups of ladies who volunteer their time and talent for this purpose. Information about this is available on Facebook.
Notably, IFO especially encourages recovery groups such as Celebrate Recovery, AA/NA, Christian Motorcycle Ministries, and congregational youth ministries, to join in the work and learn the blessing of helping those in need.
As those who serve God with these ministries continue their work, perhaps many others from the nations and from Israel will join them.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Many other Messianic ministries serve the poor in Israel. Click here to visit the KNI Directory of Messianic ministries in Israel to find other such organizations.
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“We’re Still Jews” Anti-discrimination Campaign
The average Jewish person thinks that it is impossible to be Jewish and believe in Jesus, causing a vast misunderstanding in the Jewish mindset about Jewish believers in Yeshua (JBYs).
This misunderstanding is founded on almost 2,000 years of discrimination, persecution, inquisitions, pogroms and more against the Jewish people in the name of Jesus — a huge wound in the Jewish soul. Because of this distorted mindset, Jews believe they would have to stop being Jewish if they were to believe in Yeshua. It also causes persecution and discrimination here in Israel and systematic attempts to prevent JBYs from making aliyah (immigrating to Israel).
Of course, we know that a Jewish person CAN believe in Yeshua and STILL be Jewish. JBYs are more—not less—connected to their Jewishness; they are more Zionistic and their love for the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob is much greater than before they believed.
How can we correct this almost 2,000-year-old false mindset?
- One way is to publish articles and stories in the Israeli — primarily Hebrew — media about JBY’s living in the land who believe in ONE God; who consider themselves fully Jewish, live a Jewish (but generally not Orthodox) lifestyle (celebrating the Feasts, honoring Shabbat, studying Tanach, etc.). They and their children serve honorably in the IDF and are often elevated to officer status; they work and contribute to the economy and many JBYs are doing exemplary service such as providing humanitarian aid. In short, these stories can present the fact that JBYs are valid and valuable members of Israeli society.
- Together, with this positive picture, the articles will show how these very same “valid and valuable” members of Israeli society are being discriminated against and even persecuted for their faith, sometimes violently. In addition, their fellow JBYs from the United States and other countries are being systematically excluded from making aliyah. This is wrong and unjust.
A group of activists here in the land have launched a campaign to correct this false mindset. We believe this is God’s will and God’s timing. We call it the “We’re Still Jews” campaign–We believe in Yeshua and we are STILL Jews. The Steering Committee includes Calev Myers, Mati Shoshani, Youval Yanay, Ann Carroll, Eric and Terri Morey and others.
We have hired a secular Israeli public relations firm to move the campaign forward. In late November 2017, this firm supplied articles to the Israeli press which appeared on the front page of Ha’aretz (leading Hebrew newspaper) as well as Ha’aretz English; Jerusalem Post (2 major articles and a supportive lead editorial all of which resulted in at least a dozen printed letters to the editor on the subject of “Messianic Jews”); Newsweek; Yahoo and publications in Sweden and Germany. This was our first mini-campaign. More campaigns are being planned.
We are looking for other suitable candidates–as described in points 1. and 2. above–to interview for the campaign. We prefer candidates who are native Hebrew speakers or immigrants that speak excellent Hebrew.
Please pray for this campaign. It is a HUGE undertaking. In the natural, it could take decades to change the mindset of a whole nation about a very sensitive subject. We believe, with God’s help, it will take much less time.
If you know of JBYs who would be good candidates for articles in the Israeli media, or if you would like to donate to the cause, please contact Eric Morey, email@example.com.
I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron. – Isaiah 45:2
Note: This article was updated on January 23, 2018.
Eric and his wife, Terri, are congregational leaders at Kehilat Poriya, in Poriya Illit, near Tiberias.
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Ethiopian congregation reaches out to its community
Pastor Kokeb Gedamu and his wife Menalu, leaders of Amud HaEsh congregation
The freshly renovated ministry center of the Amud HaEsh, an Ethiopian Jewish congregation in downtown Jerusalem, has a simple and practical, warm and welcoming feel to it.
A member of the King of Kings family of ministries, Amud HaEsh (Pillar of Fire) provides a central base for outreach with the Good News of Yeshua to Ethiopian Jews in Israel. The recent renovations to the sanctuary and surrounding rooms provide for a central and attractive space that lends itself well to reverent worship of the Lord and to discipleship.
With a strong desire to reach broken families and marginalized youth in Israel’s Ethiopian community, the congregation was in the middle of a week of prayer and fasting for revival at the time of KNI’s interview with senior pastor Kokeb Gedamu.
“So many Israeli Ethiopian Jews (also known as Beta Israel) live in spiritual darkness, poverty and confusion,” Gedamu told KNI. “Ethiopians are the second largest people group in Israeli prisons. This is a huge percentage, especially when you consider there are only 150,000 Ethiopian Jews in a country of 8 million people.”
Gedamu said that young Ethiopian Jews who continually face racism and rejection frequently turn to crime and drugs in a state of hopelessness. Many of their parents and elders came to Israel from rural Ethiopia during the largest immigration waves of 1984 and 1991. The older generation still identifies with their African culture and still speaks Amharic. The younger generation suffers an identity crisis as they were born in Israel, speak Hebrew and identify as Israeli Jews. They are often unable to relate to their elders.
Many of the younger generation feel misunderstood on all sides, and unable to fit in at home or in the community at large.
“At Amud HaEsh we focus on helping the young to come out of the darkness and to accept Yeshua. We also try to heal the divisions in Ethiopian Jewish families,” Gedamu explained. “Families often break apart because there is no unity.”
Highly experienced in pastoral ministry to Ethiopians in countries as diverse as Sudan, Egypt and America, Ethiopia-born Gedamu first immigrated to Israel with his family 23 years ago.
Serving in leadership with six Messianic congregations in Israel at that time, Gedamu recalls that “20 years ago there was much more hostility, much more persecution against the believers than there is now.”
Gedamu moved his family to Canada for a time in order to further his education. There he received his ordination as a minister. In due course, however, it was time to return home to Israel and serve the Ethiopian Jewish community here.
Upon returning home Gedamu found a remaining reluctance among his people to accept the Lord.
“They are Ethiopians who identify strongly as Jews. They think they are denying their Jewishness if they accept Yeshua,” he said. “We try to convince them from the Tanach. We hold seminars, Bible studies and conferences for them.”
One of the many needs the congregation has is for its own vehicle in order to be able to bring people to meetings on Shabbat. At the same time, however, an important aspect of ministry is visiting families and single mothers in their homes.
“We also have our own Gospel tracts which we hand out,” Gedamu added.
Gedamu is encouraged that there is more openness to the Gospel in Israel than there was 20 years ago.
“We still get disturbed from time to time by Yad L’Achim (an ultra-Orthodox anti-missionary group), but we find the Jewish people more willing to hear about Yeshua now.”
Amud HaEsh has been at its location in central Jerusalem for two years. With assistance from King of Kings and foreign supporters of its own, the congregation was able to spend some $25,000 on renovations, including a small classroom for computer and language studies for children after school.
An important need of the congregation is for tutors to come in and teach children and youth after school at the center.
“We want to be a bridge between the older and younger generations,” Dr. Muluken, a medical doctor and senior member of the congregation, told KNI. “Many of the older generation, like my father, are happy just to have food to eat, but the younger generation needs better education and more opportunities.”
“As Ethiopians are the second largest population group in prison, there is a need for us to go deeply with our young people. We need to disciple and educate them and prepare them for life as adults,” Muluken said.
Amud HaEsh has a big vision for their people. Hoping to expand much further, the congregation already has sister congregations in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Beersheba.
“Even though there is still persecution in the land, but we will continue to spread the Gospel,” Gedamu affirmed.
Click here to support this work: http://www.amudhaesh.org/how-can-you-help/.
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Contrary to reports, Nazareth Christmas festivities continue
Nazareth hosts the country's largest Christmas festivities. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ מוחמד מוסא שהואן
Christmas Festivities are set to continue in Nazareth, despite media reports that the city’s Arab Muslim mayor had canceled all celebrations in protest at U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Famous for being the place where Yeshua grew up, Nazareth holds the biggest Christmas celebrations in Israel. Although the city is now predominantly Muslim, Nazareth retains a significant Christian Arab community in addition to a multitude of Christian visitors each year.
“Our identity and faith aren’t up for debate,” Nazareth Mayor Ali Salam announced at a press conference on Thursday last week. “The decision [by Trump about Jerusalem] has taken away the joy of the holiday, and we will thus cancel the festivities this year.”
The announcement resulted in headlines stating that “Christmas is canceled” in Jesus’ hometown. Among the media outlets carrying such headlines were the Times of Israel and Fox News.
However, as Reuters reported, it appears that the city council had never intended to cancel all the celebrations, only some of them.
“We have decided to cancel the traditional Christmas singing and dancing because we are in a time of dispute, because of what Trump has said about Jerusalem,” Nazareth city spokesman, Salem Sharara, clarified, according to Reuters.
At the same time, the annual Christmas market stalls and the traditional Christmas church services would be open as normal, Reuters reported.
Although Nazareth’s mayor is said to have described Trump’s declaration as a “wretched” decision which “stabbed” Palestinians, the Jerusalem Post stated that it had been “erroneously” reported that the Christmas market had been canceled in protest.
In regards to the reported cancelations, the Nazareth Municipality issued a statement.
“The cancellation only applies to artistic performances on stages,” the statement read. “Outdoor stalls will remain, the lighting of the Christmas tree will take place on Sunday as scheduled, programs in the Old City will proceed and a parade will be held on December 23.”
“The Christmas season in Nazareth is the season of good and blessing and we are completely vigilant that commercial interests won’t be damaged,” the municipality statement added.
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Kehila Spotlight: Meet David and Martha Stern
David and Martha Stern
“When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it is a homecoming.” – Elie Wiesel
David and Martha Stern came home to Israel in 1979, in David’s words, as “part of the great ingathering promised by God for which Jews have prayed three times daily for 2,000 years.”
Even before they arrived, David had begun working on what he humbly refers to as his “Messianic Jewish writing projects.” The fruits of those projects, listed below, are now recognized as landmark works of Messianic Jewish faith and testify to the Sterns’ insight, courage and profound service to the worldwide Messianic Jewish community. David’s descriptions follow the titles within quotes:
- Messianic Jewish Manifesto, a systematic view of the “history, ideology, theology and program of Messianic Judaism.”
- Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message for Christians, “an abridgment [of the Manifesto] for Christians who have not seriously considered the Jewishness of their faith.”
- The Jewish New Testament, an original translation into English of the New Testament “in a way that expresses its Jewishness.”
- The Jewish New Testament Commentary, “which deals, verse-by-verse, with the Jewish issues raised in the New Testament.”
- Complete Jewish Bible, “which combines in a single volume the Jewish New Testament with [Stern’s] modernized version of an existing Jewish translation of the Tanakh.”
- Messianic Judaism: A Modern Movement With An Ancient Past
- How Jewish Is Christianity? (with others)
Of these, perhaps the most impactful and important is the Complete Jewish Bible.
“My first purpose,” Stern writes in the Bible’s introduction, “is to restore the unified Jewishness of the Bible, and, particularly, to show that the books of the New Covenant are Jewish through and through.”
By any reasonable measure, Stern has eloquently accomplished that purpose – it is impossible to measure his unique translation’s impact on the understanding and growth of Messianic Judaism. According to an article by Sarah Posner in The Atlantic, there were an estimated 350,000 Messianic Jewish believers worldwide in 2012, including “a tiny minority in Israel,” between 10 to 20,000, but that number continues to increase, “according to both its proponents and critics.”
Stern remains one of Messianic Judaism’s foremost representatives and spokesmen. From his article, “Coming to Messianic Jewish Faith” in Ben Hoekendijk’s book, Twelve Jews Discover Messiah, published in 1998, he addressed one of the major obstacles to understanding Messianic Judaism.
“The conventional wisdom in the Jewish community is that normal Jews do not come to faith in Yeshua the Messiah of Israel and that Jews who do were either forced or enticed, or are disturbed, deprived or depraved,” he wrote. “My story is proof to the contrary. Take my word for it or find people who can prove it because they knew me back when: I was intelligent, talented, successful, upright, happy and loved both before and after He found me and I came to Him.”
“David has spent his life with the Word of God,” Stern’s wife, Martha, relates in her testimony. Despite the seriousness of their work, its many challenges and recent health trials, they have maintained delightful outlooks and upbeat humor throughout.
“Three days after we met, David asked me to marry him,” Martha recalled. “Well, actually, his first words were, ‘I’m considering you to be my wife, what do you think about it?’ and I answered something like, ‘I was considering it too, but I’ll have to get to know you better.’”
Even before that conversation, Martha had imposed two important conditions on their continuing relationship, conditions that, in hindsight, may have changed countless lives.
“I shared with David that, since childhood, it had been my dream, more than a dream, my plan, to live in Israel. After he said yes to Israel and cleared the first hurdle, I asked if he wanted to have children.”
Again, David agreed. Without her knowing it, he arranged for Martha to get time off from her job in San Rafael, California to visit him in Los Angeles, almost 400 miles away.
“I was impressed,” Martha admitted.
They became engaged not long afterward and, “Within a year,” David wrote, “Martha Frankel…ended my 40 years of bachelorhood.”
The Stern’s now enjoy their two children and eight grandchildren who live nearby in the land. As David continued to pursue his many “writing projects” and Martha became an accomplished artist, they have become recognized as “pillars of the Messianic Jewish movement, having made an incalculable impact on the development of Messianic Judaism.”
David is a fourth-generation native of Los Angeles. In 1853, his great-grandfather, Elias Lavanthal, came by covered wagon to what was then a village of about 2,000 people.
“They must have been among the town’s first 20 Jews,” said Stern. “I praise God for my Jewish identity and upbringing. We…celebrated Passover and Chanukkah at home. [My mother] and I read the Torah aloud together when I was eight. I attended our synagogue’s Sunday school for ten years and was considered so promising that Rabbi Max Dubin wanted me to become a rabbi too.”
Stern’s educational background includes a Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, a graduate course at the University of Judaism (now the American Jewish University), and a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University. He taught the first course in Judaism and Christianity at Fuller Theological Seminary and worked as a professor at UCLA. What he describes as his spiritual odyssey began at age 15 when he discovered that he had been unhappy with his life without knowing it.
“I tried to construct a meaningful life,” Stern wrote about that period. “Since I didn’t know what life meant, this wasn’t easy!”
As time passed, though Stern had “glamorous hobbies—mountain-climbing, water-skiing and surfing.” (In 1963 he coauthored the Surfing Guide to Southern California, reprinted in 1998 and still considered a classic by surfers.) “Family, friends and strangers saw my life as one of excitement and purpose. But my nagging inner question, ‘What does life mean?’ drew a blank.”
Consequently, Stern looked into “about two dozen religions, some Eastern, some Western, some—who knows?” It never occurred to him to investigate either Judaism or Christianity. But one night, Stern stayed in a motel where the owners had placed a magazine of Christian testimonies on the nightstand.
“I read how Jesus had brought peace, order and meaning to the lives of the men who wrote them and tears welled up in my eyes. But tears prove nothing—I cry over stories in Reader’s Digest too. Still, I now see that this was God’s first move in the events leading to my salvation.”
Later, while continuing to examine Christianity, Stern discovered Romans 10:9:
“If you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
“To this day I can’t explain how, but I realized I had come to believe that Jesus is Lord—he alone and not all of us—and that God raised him from the dead—him alone and not all of us. So I confessed aloud to God and according to that verse I was, at that moment, saved.”
Stern is a Jew who came to know Jesus, Yeshua the Messiah, as a complete Jew, not a convert to Christianity, who then had the courage, energy and tenacity to follow the prophet Micah’s exhortation:
“Arise, plead your case before the mountains and let the hills hear your voice.” Micah 6:1
David Stern has pleaded his case eloquently and the world is better for it.
“Through saving me and giving me this work,” Stern wrote, “God has given meaning and purpose to my life. He has also given me a wonderful wife and children and a place to live in the land of Israel, the home of the Jewish people.”
Cliff Keller lives in Jerusalem, Israel with his wife, Marcia after making Aliyah in the spring of 2011 from the United States. His most recent novel is a work of historical biblical fiction entitled The Lion or The Lamb: Samson Ruth and Salvation. Cliff also blogs at Standing by the Gate and has a writing website, goodStories.