“This is apparently a much bigger problem than what we’re aware of. One of the things we want to do is not only clarify this case, but also raise the consciousness of people in Israel.”
By Atara Beck, World Israel News
The Orthodox Jewish community of the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem is reeling from the news that a rabbi in their midst – a friend to many of them – has been outed as a Christian missionary.
There were rumors and suspicions about him for some time, but it all came to a head when his eldest daughter, 13, who attends a haredi school, told a friend last week that Jesus still loves her, a person involved in the case told World Israel News. The friend told her parents, who in turn approached the school authorities who are now dealing with the situation.
The missionary, a graduate of Eastern University, a Christian college in Philadelphia, is fluent in Hebrew and a Talmud scholar and scribe. No one would immediately suspect that the Torah-learned man with a beard and sidelocks, dressed in ultra-Orthodox garb, was a Christian missionary. His late wife, who passed away in February after fighting cancer, dressed according to strict Jewish law, including a full head covering, and the five children all attend religious schools.
Sources say there is no indication whatsoever that the couple is Jewish, although they claimed to be. They provided no documentation.
In 2014, the man was already found to be missionizing. Confronted by an organization that works to stop missionary activity as well as the yeshiva where he had been studying, he confessed to being a missionary, claimed that he was Jewish, and said in a statement that he would drop all missionary contacts and activities, choosing to live according to Orthodox Judaism. He said he was doing teshuva – repentance. They took his word for it and never followed up.
Friends and neighbors say that since then, he has been living a very private life. Members of local synagogues say that he never attends prayer services.
His late wife, however, began taking a leadership role in Orthodox Jewish women’s Facebook groups, establishing many friendships. She, too, was a covert missionary, it was discovered.
When the story broke in recent days about the family’s missionary activity, there was shock in the community.
Not only did the “rabbi” claim to be Jewish, but he also posed as a Kohen – a member of the priestly tribe. The line of Kohanim is passed through the father, but it was discovered that his father was buried in a Christian cemetery.
On American TV’s Morningstar Ministries in 2011, the fake rabbi was seen praying to Jesus in full rabbinic garb.
Rabbi Ron-Ami Meyers, who currently lives in Beit Shemesh, was the rabbi of Ezra Bessaroth, an Orthodox congregation in Seattle, Washington, before making Aliyah in 2018. At one point, messianic missionaries tried to infiltrate his synagogue, he told World Israel News.
“I think it’s safe to say that he’s been a recluse in his neighborhood in French Hill for some time now,” Rabbi Meyers said about the missionary “rabbi.” “My understanding is that when he came out with his admissions in 2014, there was no monitoring of where he would go next… It’s been unsupervised.”
“He confessed to some people in an organization concerned with missionary work and he confessed to another group that teaches Judaism online,” Rabbi Meyers said. “They were involved with him, and he’d given the impression that he was interested in Orthodox Judaism.
“I don’t know him personally, but I did have experience with several people for whom he conducted the [Jewish] marriage ceremony. Those people he married were active in missionizing.
“He currently works for an organization that identifies with messianism in the Jerusalem area,” Meyers said. He’s a martial arts expert.
In fact, he appears to be employed by Atos Jiu Jitsu in Jerusalem. “If you go onto the gym Facebook page, you’ll see that he is in the group picture with everybody…he’s clearly one of the main teachers there.
“What I understand from people who are more expert than myself in this area is that those who leave one of these [missionary] groups or cults distance themselves very far from these people,” Meyers explained. “If you have distanced yourself from Messianic Judaism, it’s not the gym you want to work at.
“Another rabbi I spoke to – he doesn’t want to go on record at this point – saw a photo of him over the last year in Jerusalem with [name withheld], who is one of the guys who tried to infiltrate my synagogue and is living in Israel now. He’s a writer of Christian children’s book and dresses as an Orthodox Jew.
“Deception is what bothers us more than anything else,” Rabbi Meyers said. “Obviously, a person is free to be Christian, and Christians have a way of living peacefully in Israel, but the deception is unbelievable.”
Furthermore, this not an isolated case, and the community needs to be aware of the danger, Meyers added.
For example, “I do know of someone who recently moved to Ramat Beit Shemesh, where I live, and he knows the accused very well…has defended him…appears in a picture at one of the messianic weddings he performed. We have no proof that this young man is a missionary. He hasn’t been caught missionizing, but he’s of great concern to us…
“We’re not trying to, God forbid, accuse someone of something that is not accurate, but I think it warrants further inquiry.”
In fact, it was announced in the Ramat Beit Shemesh community that missionary material was left in the mailboxes in the haredi neighborhoods before Shabbat two weeks ago.
“This is apparently a much bigger problem than what we’re aware of. One of the things we want to do is not only clarify this case, but also raise the consciousness of people in Israel,” Rabbi Meyers said.
World Israel News contacted the Ministry of Interior, asking how this non-Jewish missionary couple and others like them managed to make Aliyah or get visas to live in Israel. Indeed, Jews who immigrate under the Law of Return must show proof of their Jewishness in order to be approved. To date, there has been no reply.
Indeed, in 2016, a Toronto couple – child Holocaust survivors and pillars of the Toronto Jewish community – were devastated when told they couldn’t make Aliyah because they didn’t have their original birth certificates. It was only after special intervention, assisted by the publicity, that they finally were approved.