Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Finding Jewish People - Part 1

Finding Jewish People is a short series about where we might be already crossing paths with Jewish people and where might rub elbows with them. Many times we think Jewish people only live in New York, Hollywood, and Israel but the live in all parts of the world and throughout all of America.

From time to time I hear that people say they don’t know any Jewish people or there are none in their area, and for these reasons they don’t need to understand or participate in Jewish Evangelism. Sadly I have found that this is not true. Most of these people are like I was. They could not recognize a Jewish person if they had too. If their life depended on it even. I was so ignorant that I did not even know what the stereotypes are. Unless I was to see someone with payots (also called pe'ots, peyots, payos, peyos), a wide brimmed black hat, maybe a kippah (more commonly know as a yakama), and a long beard. I don’t think I could have ever recognized a Jewish person. Not even if they sat next to me on the bus or were at the next table in a restaurant.

The first time I met a Jewish person (that I know of) it was not what I would have expected. He was young, clean cut. He a modern, Southside fade hair cut. His kind a hip, urban looking young man. He was Hispanic and that was a shock. I would have never known that he was a practitioner of Judaism except he was incarcerated and he asked me about how to write a chaplain to make sure that his meals would be kosher. He was a convert from Catholicism. He was nothing like the T.V. type of Jewish people. He was seemingly normal. He told jokes. We talked about how you could make a tamale that was Kosher. Pork which is popular was a complete no-no. I thought of him as a Hasidic Hispanic, although he did not Hasidic. He had a Spanish surname. He was not a Cohen or anything ending in a “berg” or “stein”. He did not fit the mold. The first Jewish person I met did not look the part, yet here was faithful and Torah observant from what I could tell. 

I met the second Jewish person of my life in the same place. Behind bars. This man was not Hispanic but a large, lumbering, white skinned Jewish man. He was Messianic Jew. His family was Jewish. More importantly mother was Jewish. Towering at a height well over six feet he was huge. He had broad shoulders and a big belly, big hands and big feet. A mammoth of a man with a deep voice this man did not seem the typical picture. He read, spoke and wrote fluent Hebrew. He had a Bible in which both Testaments were in Hebrew. Something I had never seen before. He was greatly disturbed that the prison unit he was at had written his name and id number on it. That was a great tragedy to him. And huge injustice. I could not understand at the time as I had no clue about a yad (a pointer for the Torah). He was upset not because it was personal property but God’s words. And those are important.

The first two Jewish people I met were indistinguishable from people I met would bump into at a Costco or a Wal-Mart. They were pretty normal. I would have had no clue that would have kept Shabbat or that they would prefer lochs and bagels to bacon and eggs. They were a great deal like my neighbors and my family members. They were real and human, just like me. 

There is a great chance that you have met a Jewish person. Or maybe you have a family member that married one. A Jewish man, woman, or child may actually live in your neighborhood, pass you in the grocery store or pump gas across from you at the gas station. Jewish people are part of the American community and the fabric of the world. That begs the question, “What can you and I do to reach them for Messiah Jesus?” First, begin to pray. Pray that God would open their hearts and our eyes. That Yahweh would divinely coordinate an opportunity for you to speak to a Jewish person about Christ and that they would be receptive o God speaking through you and the work of His Spirit. Second, equip yourself with some resources from Tzedakah Ministries. They are solid, biblically grounded, cross centered, easy to use resources that can help you share with someone and will give you are greater confidence to do so. Tzedakah Ministries is a huge help to people like you and me and is full of great helps, information and resources. I can’t recommend them enough. They are like no other ministry that ministers to and evangelizes Jewish people. And finally, be open to learning new things. Loving Jewish people for Christ will open up a new world to you that is rich and beautiful even though it was seemingly hidden to you before. Opening up your heart and life to them will be a blessing in itself, but the greater fruit will be seeming them come alive as they trust and follow Christ.