The articles which follow first appeared in the Jews for Jesus online newsletter of September 2006 as part of a group of articles on their Behold Your God campaign in New York City in the summer of 2006. They are presented here that we might pray with understanding and  compassion for our Jewish brothers and sisters that the Lord, in his good time and way,
will draw His chosen among them to their Messiah that they might know
the blessings of His salvation.
Amen selah!

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Hassidic Jews: Who are They?

by Seth Richards

September 1, 2006

"This is an archived article. It originally appeared on September 1,
2006. Some information may be outdated." - Jews for Jesus

Spelled Hassidic, Hasidic, Chassidic or Chasidic, over 300,000 such Jews reside in the New York metropolitan region. Though commonly referred to as ultra- Orthodox, Hassidic Jews (or “pious ones”) most prefer to be described as “fervently observant.” (The term ultra-Orthodox also applies to the Misnagdim literally, “opponents,” who at one time had serious disputes with the Hassidim.) Hassidim (“im”denotes plural) live in closed, tight-knit communities where Yiddish is the mother tongue. Men wear distinctive black garb including hat, long coat, pants, and shoes. White shirts and tzitzis (fringes) are worn beneath the coat. They have peyos (side locks) and beards.
Hassidic women wear modestlength skirts or dresses with sleeves no shorter than the elbow. In the strictest communities, men do not touch or even speak to women outside of their family.

The largest population of Hassidic Jews in the United States is in Brooklyn, with multiple sects in their own neighborhoods, including Satmar Hassidim in Williamsburg, Bobover Hassidim in Boro Park and Lubavitch Hassidim in Crown Heights. The sects hold differing opinions on a variety of subjects, from the view of the state of Israel to the proper attitude towards secular people. Satmar Hassidism, the most traditional, maintains that no contact with the
secular should be made. Lubavitch Hassidism, on the other hand, reaches out to secular Jews in order to bring them into the fold.

In the 18th century, Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer or Ba’al Shem Tov, founded Hassidism in Eastern Europe during a time of persecution. Rabbi Eliezer felt that Judaism had become too academic and he stressed the necessity of joy, prayer, and dancing in worship. These are still at the core of Hassidic beliefs. Even seemingly neutral activities such as sleeping or eating are seen as potentially pious. Hassidim believe that to achieve holiness one must literally adhere to the law. All foreign philosophies or ideologies are believed to
“abuse the sanctity of the mind” and are sinful.

Hassidim also believe that modern day tzaddikim (truly righteous men) are certain special rabbis who have complete authority in their community. Hassidim are to obey their particular rabbi (rebbe) implicitly. Breslov Hassidism explains, “If a person is not bound to a true Tzaddik, all his devotions are nothing but twisting and turning and pretending to be something he isn’t, as if an ape were pretending to be a man. Service of God is nothing without the true
Tzaddik (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #111).” For a startling understanding of the power ascribed to the Tzaddikim by this group of Hassidim, go to: Tzaddik

As you can imagine, the Hassidic communities have been largely unreached by the gospel. Belief in Jesus would not be tolerated . . . and to leave or be expelled from the community is unthinkable to many. No doubt others have witnessed to Hassidim, but as far as we know, our special outreach to this community was unique in both its scope and methodology.

Reprinted with permission from the Jews for Jesus Newsletter.
Copyright September 2006. All Rights Reserved.
Original article.


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Reaching the Ultra-Orthodox

by Anne Elfbaum

September 1, 2006

"This is an archived article. It originally appeared on September 1,
2006. Some information may be outdated." - Jews for Jesus

I will meet to talk more about this, but I want to meet with a woman.” Normally our missionaries would conclude that a man who said this was not interested in the gospel. But this was the ultra-Orthodox aspect of BYG New York and our missionaries were on new ground.

“Why a woman?” the Jews for Jesus missionary countered.

“All my life men have told me what to do, what to believe and what to think. I’m tired of it. And I have never had a meaningful conversation with a woman. I want to know what it is like.”

While this answer may not have indicated a deeply felt spiritual hunger, it was frank and deserved consideration.

“If we arranged for you to meet with a woman, she would still be accompanied by one of the men.”

“That’s fine,” the Hassid nodded. “As long as I can hear what she has to say.”

They are called “rebels,” the ones like this man who are not satisfied with the life ordered for them by the ultra- Orthodox community. They are willing to consider new ideas but they are wary. To consider Jesus as the Jewish Messiah is forbidden, and most see no reason to consider anything that contradicts the rabbis’ teachings. Even the rebels who question the rabbis’ authority know that they would lose family, friends and livelihood if they allowed themselves to believe the gospel. Therefore, arranging a visit with a Hassid is complicated. One person told our missionary, “Go to such and such a subway stop. Wait on the far end of the platform. When the train comes, get into the third to last car. Don’t look at me as I get into the same car. Get off at such and such a stop. Follow me to a place where we can talk.” It sounds unreal. But it’s not.

Hassidim are viewed by the outside world as somewhat of an oddity because of their garb and their customs. To many Christians they appear exotically holy. But we found that there are those who don the garb, not because of deeply-felt spiritual convictions, but because it is required. Ultra-Orthodox does not mean ultra-holy. It means absolute loyalty to tradition and absolute allegiance to the rebbe. To those of us who have seen the nervousness of the rebels who dare to speak to us, it means being in a cult where some are
struggling to think for themselves.

When we decided to make outreach to this community one of the sub- campaigns under BYG New York, we had no idea how to go about it. By God’s sovereign grace we were approached by friends who wanted our help to distribute a Yiddish version of a film about Jesus—and we sent the film to 80,000 Hassidic homes.

We called people’s homes to ask their thoughts about the DVD. We also received calls from many who took the initiative to respond. Stephen Katz, who has been a spokesperson for the team says, “Some callers just wanted to chastise or correct us, but others were willing to discuss the issues. Many had destroyed the DVD in compliance with the rabbis’ edict, but a significant remnant (he smiles) watched it before destroying it. Some are waiting to watch
it when the controversy dies down. People are still sending in their contact information.”

Most of the actual campaign work was a matter of walking through parts of the communities, sometimes for four hours at a time, engaging in one-on-one conversations.

Stephen Katz was surprised by the number of substantial conversations they actually had with Hassidim— more than 100. At the time of this writing they’d had 18 visits with individuals and expected to have at least two more by the end of the week. “We prayed that God would reach people in the community but we didn’t know what to expect. We found that there are truly devout Hassidim, but there are also Hassidim who are agnostic or even atheists, and
have, unknown to the community, ceased any number of Jewish religious practices. They maintain the outer appearance because they don’t know any other way of life.

“Pray for our continuing efforts, and pray that God will make a way for those who want to leave the community to do so, so that they can learn about the Messiah Jesus freely.”Anne Elfbaum

Reprinted with permission from the Jews for Jesus Newsletter.
Copyright September 2006. All Rights Reserved.
Original article.