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Monday, September 01, 2008

Jew for Jesus preached in Palin's church two weeks ago

Monday morning's JPost includes an analysis from Herb Keinon in which he claims that Sarah Palin's nomination to be Vice President will have little effect on the US Presidential votes of Israel's supporters one way or the other.
Some of the same qualities that make Palin so attractive to the Evangelicals and the blue collar workers - her anti-abortion stand, her National Rifle Association credentials, her members in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes - will make many Jews nervous. The question is whether it will make many of those who vote primarily on the Israel issue, a minority of Jewish votes but a significant population in a key state like Florida, nervous enough to take a fresh look at Obama.

Palin's detractors have already floated the little tidbit that she wore a Pat Buchanan button when he made a presidential campaign stop to Wasilla, Alaska, in 1999, where she was mayor, a tidbit that won't make Jews happy, but may seem less toxic than Obama's longtime affiliation and friendship with his own former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

While US Jews struggle to figure out who exactly Palin is, some may look to Israel for cues, but they will look in vain, because Jerusalem won't oblige; officials are smart enough to realize that it would be extremely counterproductive for Israel to even hint at a favorite in this close and riveting presidential race.

Besides, Jerusalem couldn't give any cues on Palin, because it has little clue itself about the candidate. If Palin was relatively unknown in the US before being plucked from obscurity and placed on the Republican ticket, in Israel she is completely unknown, her name failing to register not only with regular folks who have other things to worry about, but also even Foreign Ministry officials who pay attention to these matters.

But Palin's obscurity, her lack of any record on Israel, or even statements on Israel issues, has not changed the overall sentiment in Jerusalem toward the race, and a lack of public endorsement of a ticket doesn't mean a lack of preference. Privately, the prevalent feeling in Jerusalem's corridors of power is that in the Obama-McCain race, "more of the same," the epithet Obama is throwing at McCain, is not that bad.

When it comes to the Middle East, Jerusalem - or at least the current government - is not only unafraid of more of the same, but would actually embrace it from the next White House. The government likes what has come from the Bush administration over the last number of years and is in no hurry to see any change there.

Almost nothing of Palin is known in Jerusalem beyond what has been written in the press over the last few days. But at least in the initial blush following the stunning announcement, that unfamiliarity has not changed Jerusalem's overall comfort level with the man who has deemed that Palin is indeed of vice-presidential caliber.
Keinon is not exaggerating when he talks about how unknown Palin is in Israel. On Sunday, Israel Radio interviewed Danny Ayalon, until recently our ambassador to the US. Ayalon said he has never been to Alaska, never met Palin and barely heard of her until she was selected. Maybe Danny should read my blog.

But Daled Amos presents visual evidence that Palin is pro-Israel (Hat Tip: Soccer Dad). The evidence consists of a TV broadcast from her office in Anchorage in which an Israeli flag is seen next to her window and another is seen on her lapel. Significantly, the video was shot in February 2008 - long before her name had been mentioned as a possible candidate for the national ticket.

Free Republic points to Palin's church's web site. The church web site has several sermons online. I clicked on one - a Word document called The Jerusalem Dilemma. It turns out to come from a guest preacher - one David Brickner who is a member of Jews for Jesus. Here's part of it.
Israelis don’t even know how to say Jesus’ name in Hebrew, which is Yeshua, but they call Him ‘Yeshu.’ And Yeshu...it’s a name that...it’s not really a name. It’s a name that was given to Jesus by medieval rabbis who wanted to actually pronounce a malediction, a curse, on Him. And so ‘Yeshu’ is actually an acrostic for “Yimach Sh'mo V'zichro,” from the Psalms, a malediction that says “May his name and memory be blotted out.” And so there is a great deal of controversy about this person. And yet, in the midst of this, there is no greater openness in any Jewish community than that which is going on in the land of Israel. I call this the Jerusalem Dilemma.

You know, the first time I ever went to Israel—my parents actually live there now; they live in Jerusalem—but the first time I went I was part of “The Liberated Wailing Wall,” my wife and I. Now, I know that’s a strange name for a group, but we sing Jewish gospel music. It’s kind of a cross between Israeli folk and “Fiddler on the Roof.” It’s great stuff, and we went there to minister. And we were out on the streets in Tel Aviv, and in Haifa, and in Jerusalem. And one particular occasion I was standing at the top of the Hamashbir...in front of the Hamashbir on Ben Yehuda Street, which is...Hamashbir is kind of like the Sears & Roebuck of Israel. And Ben Yehuda Street is a pedestrian walkway. And we were singing, and a crowd of Israelis had gathered.

Now, most Israelis are secular. And they were drawn by the music, and we had t-shirts on that said “Yehudim L'man Yeshua” (Jews for Jesus), so they knew who we were; but that was ok. They were enjoying the music; some were clapping. There were some that were even dancing off to the side. I thought to myself, “Boy, this is great! We’re preachin’ the gospel right here on the streets of Jerusalem.”

Then I noticed, right out of the corner of my eye, five yeshiva buchers. Now, that’s the ultra-orthodox young seminary students. Maybe you’ve seen the pictures, you know, with the black hats and the black coats, and the side curls, you know. And they were walking towards us with a look of grim determination on their faces, and I knew we were in trouble. And sure enough, these guys got up right in front of us, and they started screaming and yelling. And then one of them reached out to grab my wife Patty...now Patty’s playing the violin, so this guy’s gonna grab the bow of the violin to wrench it out of her hand. And I’m thinkin’, “That’s it. We’re gonna get martyred right here on the streets of Jerusalem.” And then up walked this Israeli—I mean, he was a big guy. He was about six-four, 260 pounds, completely bald; he looked like Jesse Ventura, you know. And he gets up in their faces and he says to them, “You touch them, and I’ll touch you.” These guys backed off, and we were able to continue ministry that day. And I thought to myself, “Praise God!” The Bible says the Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, to deliver them from harm. I just never knew he looked like Jesse Ventura.

But that illustrates this issue of the Jerusalem Dilemma. Here is this city that represents a people, that represents a move of God; the name itself—Ir Shalom—means ‘City of Peace.’ And yet, what irony that there has been no peace, and there is no peace in the city of peace. In fact, over 132 separate wars have been fought over the city of Jerusalem, more than any other territory or city in human history. This is a city that’s divided, and representing as it does the hope of humanity in the promises of scripture, it is at the forefront of the conflict that rages in our world today. How do we understand the Jerusalem Dilemma? How does it help us to understand what’s going on in the world and, yes, even in our own lives?
Am I thrilled about this? No. Is this worse than Jeremiah Wright? In its own way, it's not better. Jews don't proselytize and don't want to be proselytized by others. But Brickner is a guest preacher and not the regular preacher. Do I expect Sarah Palin to start proselytizing Jews for Jesus? No. Do I expect Barack Hussein Obama to be influenced by his Muslim upbringing and his Jew-hating Israel-hating preacher? Yes. So are we better off with Obama? Sorry Bob Wexler, but no.

What does Palin have to do to convince Israelis and Jews to vote for herself and McCain? Let's start with disowning that sermon by Brickner, which took place just two weeks ago. Let's continue with hearing more specifics about where she stands on Israel and other issues that are important to Jews. We're listening.

UPDATE 10:22 AM

The name David Brickner rang a bell, and I wanted to go back and update you as to who he is. David Brickner is the Executive Director of Jews for Jesus in Jerusalem. I'm not going to get into a theological discussion on this blog, but one cannot hold core Christian beliefs and still be Jewish.

Palin could not have pressed a hotter button with the Jewish community.

18 Comments:

At 9:42 AM, Blogger Orde said...

That's actually a former church I believe, but anyway, I checked it out and it's 100% pro-Israel, I (a Christian Zionist of the same background) can tell by the verses given in that church's Statement of Faith, plus its affiliations.

As for hosting a guest appearance by Jews for Jesus, let me make this clear: we Christian Zionists support Israel because (in addition to historical, legal, moral reasons) we take the irrevocable Bible land promises to physical, national Israel LITERALLY. We do not support Israel for any reasons having to do with evangelism of Jews, PERIOD. We are Zionists, we evangelize, but there is no linkage.

HOWEVER, and this is key, the same theology and system of Bible interpretation (literal not allegorical/spiritualizing approach) that teaches us to love and support Israel because our Creator loves, chooses, and keeps Israel, also tells us to evangelize! Note: evangelize, not convert! Our "great commission" is to simply share the gospel, i.e. "evangelize" and leave it at that. No badgering, just simple speech, a message shared that can be rejected.

Our sharing the gospel through missions is unrelated to our Christian Zionism efforts. The Jewish community, though well-intentioned, has by decrying the type of Christians that believe in evangelism (the very essence of Christian living) has instead opted for the type of Christian who does not take the Bible literally or seriously, the type who instead adhere to a lukewarm or social gospel, not the Christian gospel, the type who support for Obama...and the inclusive ecumenical movement that just so happens to be uniting to pressure the sharing of Jerusalem.

No, you really should not want Palin to disavow Jews for Jesus, believe me.

Palin's as pro-Israel as they come, if the Jewish community keeps on like this, discrediting her Zionism like they did the Zionist Huckabee, it will once again, as usual, be hurting itself. They have the worst time recognizing who their true friends are, it's about time they start to figure this out.

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger Don P said...

Carl, I hope you're not holding your breath. Jews for Jesus is exactly what the name says, a group of Jews who have embraced Christian belief. They are Jews and supporters of Israel, they do not bear any ill-will toward other Jews who do not share their beliefs. You will never find a member of this group standing in front of an Israeli bulldozer, or protesting against Israeli "apartheid". Suggesting that in listening to a pro-Israeli Jew Mrs. Palin has done something wrong is the definition of cognitive dissonance.

 
At 10:12 AM, Blogger Akiva said...

don - sometimes it's a question of which is worse, being hated or being loved to death (or at least loved to complete assimilation, a spiritual if not physical death).

Carl - Unfortunately, the vast majority of Jews auto-vote Democratic, and this even includes within the American charedi communities. New Square pledged 100% vote to Hillary in the last election (and delivered). In the frum communities, all of the senior Jews vote Democratic. Even while many enclaves think Republican, they still vote Democratic.

So as much as there is a strong Jewish Republican minority, it's a surprisingly small minority (maybe 30%). Just like the African American community, the American Jewish community is owned by the Democrats. The question isn't will they hold it, it's will they get 80% or 70%.

 
At 10:12 AM, Blogger Naftali2 said...

I think Sarah herself can become a one person "Don't Mess with Sarah' group.

But what convinces me that she is a great candidate, actually there are many things, but what stands out is her coherent energy policy. If the US begins to really let the energy underneath Alaska flow, allowing the US to become an energy producer, two groups will be doing some serious scrambling. Those two groups, OPEC and the US State Department.

This, I think, is more significant than what went on one weekend in a consciously non-denominational church, which she may or may not still belong to.

Nevertheless, since Gd tends to work in great paradoxes, this only tells me which way to vote, not which way to pray. Fortunately, there are commandments for the latter.

 
At 10:34 AM, Blogger Freedom Fighter said...

Shalom Carl,

Congrats again on your simcha.



To be perfectly honest, I don't have a particular problem with Jews For Jesus,especially preaching in a Christian church, where they have every righ tto be a guest of Palin's congregation. I don't find it offensive or a red flag in the least. I don't agree with all their theology, but IMO they are attempting to reconcile the messianic traditions of both Judaisim and Christianity found in Isaiah.



They target mainly empty secular Jews who believe nothing but secular Leftism and `tikkun olam', and frankly Jews for Jesus have done a lot less damage to the Jewish people and Israel than that particular group of halachic Jews.



Spiritually, let's face it....the Jews who would be receptive to Jews for Jesus are up for grabs, whether by JFJ, Chabad, Hari Krisna or Scientology. we'd both love it if it was Chabad, but in many cases it ain't going to be, and given the choice, I'd almost rather have someone like say, Medea Benjamin, Al Franken or Barbra Streisand embrace JFJ rather than the secular, destructive Leftism they embrace.



They'd be a lot less trouble.



One more thing. I hang with a great many evangelicals, and even have a few JFJ friends. Once they realize I'm a committed Jew, NOT ONE OF THEM HAS EVER TRIED TO CONVERT ME.



To a true Christian, to do so would be totally against their theology.



B'Shalom,

Robert@Joshuapundit.

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Orde,

For the Jewish community, Jews for Jesus are a different issue than evangelical Christians. We see them as trying to convert us. As I added to the post a few minutes ago, it is impossible for a Jew to hold core Christian beliefs (like the virgin birth and the second coming) and still be a Jew. I don't want to get into a theological discussion as to why, but the beliefs are inconsistent. But if you're interested in learning why, this might be a place to start.

I don't question the pro-Israel bona fides of evangelical Christians. They are among our most sincere friends.

Don P,

If you read my post, you will see that I am not suggesting voting for Obama because Palin's church had Brickner preach there.

But there's very little she could have done (unless she can show that she had nothing to do with it) that would have pressed a hotter button with the Jewish community. Bob Wexler will have a field day with this.

Akiva,

I don't believe that 70% of the Jews are going to vote for Obama. At least I didn't until this morning. Only 45% voted for Carter. McGovern's percentage was in the 50's. Put Eric Cantor on the ticket and McCain might even win the Jewish vote. But if Palin is portrayed as a supporter of Jews for Jesus, you can watch all those secular Jews run away. And many religious ones too. I regard Obama as a greater danger, but that's because I live in Israel and I'm knowledgeable enough about Judaism not to be a target for proselytizing.

Naftali,

I agree. But I fear how the 'organized Jewish community' is going to play this. It's not like she's been listening to sermons from Brickner every Sunday for 20 years. But this is the sort of thing that's likely to get the ADL and AJC types all riled up.

 
At 12:14 PM, Blogger Avodah said...

Palin is not associated with one church exclusively. She goes to different ones and doesn't identify with any particular sect. The fact that this church had a J4J speaker is not very significant in my opinion. The Jewish community in Alaska thinks she is great from what I've read.

 
At 12:35 PM, Blogger Akiva said...

Carl,

Since '82 we've consistently had US State Departments going after Israel. Republicans and Democrats.

What do you think of the argument that the Democrats are a better choice specifically because they are less effective in creating and implementing a functional foreign policy? (As opposed to a fanciful one which usually doesn't go anywhere practically?)

The Republicans start to make something happen, even while the president speaks great.

 
At 12:42 PM, Blogger Naftali2 said...

Hey Carl,

I think this is our first conversation.

Anyway, this brings us to the second thing I like about her--which is that she speaks through forceful action. You've posted about Biden and Iran, words which he will deny later today, although he might very well have said that and believe it. In other words, where so many politicians have little congruence between words and actions, Sarah is not like that. So we'll hear what she thinks--which will be close to McCain's promise to be Hamas' worst enemy.

Now, for the issue of the mainstream Jewish community--there are several things happening that make me believe that Jews will not be as supportive of Democrats in this election and in future elections--for the same reason that some women will figure out the Dems are incredibly sexist, and Jews are getting more than a whiff of antisemitism from folks in the party. I am not talking about flocking to the Republicans, just a few percentage points here and there--it adds up.

This isn't the Democratic party I grew up with. And if I could figure out that things have changed...you know I'm not all that bright...

 
At 12:43 PM, Blogger Naftali2 said...

Hey Carl,

I think this is our first conversation.

Anyway, this brings us to the second thing I like about her--which is that she speaks through forceful action. You've posted about Biden and Iran, words which he will deny later today, although he might very well have said that and believe it. In other words, where so many politicians have little congruence between words and actions, Sarah is not like that. So we'll hear what she thinks--which will be close to McCain's promise to be Hamas' worst enemy.

Now, for the issue of the mainstream Jewish community--there are several things happening that make me believe that Jews will not be as supportive of Democrats in this election and in future elections--for the same reason that some women will figure out the Dems are incredibly sexist, and Jews are getting more than a whiff of antisemitism from folks in the party. I am not talking about flocking to the Republicans, just a few percentage points here and there--it adds up.

This isn't the Democratic party I grew up with. And if I could figure out that things have changed...you know I'm not all that bright...

 
At 4:06 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - I agree with you on the theological issues. Secular Jews are the one's most easily susceptible to flimflammery because they take everything at face value. Religious Jews do not. Those with a Jewish education are unlikely to be converted to Christianity. Those ignorant of it will accept just about anything that comes along and the most prevalent danger to Jews today in the West isn't Christian missionaries. Its from Islam and secondarily people who believe in nothing.

 
At 6:20 PM, Blogger Orde said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 6:22 PM, Blogger Orde said...

Carl, I totally respect your Update not to get into a theological discussion. As my record of commenting on your great blog shows, I have not tried and will not try to evangelize, much less share the gospel. That said, I am a financial supporter of Jews for Jesus myself (as well as Arab World Ministry and missions to other people groups, it's not just a Jewish thing), so I know who Jews for Jesus and David Brickner are. My son-of-2-Orthodox-Jews pastor of my evangelical independent non-denominational church self-identifies as an evangelical Jewish Christian, though I do not think he is a member of Jews for Jesus (a group that is the epitome of what it means to be evangelical--i.e., they "evangelize"). I agree to disagree with your opinion and do know that J4J is a hot button issue.

Though Palin has attended various churches (as have and do I, for fellowship), she has self-identified with independent Bible churches, the strongest, most consistent supporters of Israel.

 
At 10:47 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Orde,

I have no doubt that she's a supporter of Israel. And today's news is not going to change my vote. I'm still voting for McCain - Palin.

 
At 12:35 AM, Blogger Lydia McGrew said...

"But there's very little she could have done (unless she can show that she had nothing to do with it) that would have pressed a hotter button with the Jewish community."

Well, maybe this is just a prediction, and maybe Carl isn't saying that the Jewish community he's referring to is _rational_ to treat this as the "hottest button issue." But seriously, _should_ it be the hottest button issue? I can't understand that. I mean, surely her taking some lefty position on the division of Jerusalem, for example (which of course she won't do) should be a _hotter_ button issue than just her having been affiliated with a church who had a Jews for Jesus speaker. If that's really the hottest button issue the American Jewish community can imagine, then they don't have much imagination, or they have very strange and misguided priorities.

 
At 8:17 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Lydia,

To most Jews, becoming a Jew for Jesus is converting out of the faith. And what's worse is, they claim to still be in the the faith and try to convert us from within. It's being betrayed by your own. And they know just enough scripture to make a credible case. Except to those who know how to answer them.

 
At 9:21 AM, Blogger Shy Guy said...

Carl in Jerusalem said...

I don't question the pro-Israel bona fides of evangelical Christians. They are among our most sincere friends


-----------------------

Yeh. They're our friends Le'Sheim Shamayim.

 
At 9:59 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - Jews for Jesus are offensive to Jews not because they are missionaries but because they pretend to be something they're not. Honest conversions are one thing. Fraudulent conversions just diminish the respect people have for Christianity. There will be different religions in the world until the Messiah comes but until then religions need to be true to themselves. That's especially so for Israel's evangelical friends.

 

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