Category Archives: International Jewish Communities
Daniel Solomon’s early years were shaped by the forces of history. After Daniel’s birth in 1938 in Africa to a secular Jewish family, his family moved to Provence in the south of France before the Second World War. Trapped in Europe by the awful events of the war, the Solomons were later able to return to Africa. After the war, they returned to France, where Daniel grew up.
Longing For Connection
The cultural form of Jewishness in which Daniel had been raised was unsatisfying to him. In 1954, he went on a “Jewish awareness trip” to Israel. Also on the trip was a young woman named Sara who caught his interest. He discovered that she was from Roanne, France, and that the two of them had quite a bit in common.
The Jewish community in New York City is still as important as ever and continues to be the largest concentration of Jewish people in the world!
There are 1,412,000 Jewish people in the eight counties that compose New York and its environs. To this, however, one may add over 350,000 Jewish people in New Jersey and 50,000 in southern Connecticut, many of whom live in suburbs and bedroom communities that still look to New York City as their center.
One of the major changes in the fabric of Jewish life in New York City and the area immediately surrounding it is the dramatic rise in intermarriage. Recent statistics show that 22% of couples in New York are intermarried-a high percentage, although still well below the national average. This includes married couples who were wed at a time when intermarriage was relatively rare. From 1998-2002, however, that number rose to 36%. This represents over a four-fold increase in the past thirty years.
Last month, the Jewish people celebrated the High Holy Days, which include the autumn harvest festival, Sukkot (Feast of Booths). This month, we want to give thanks for another kind of harvest – a harvest of Jewish souls that the Lord has reaped through the prayers of His people and through the evangelistic work of Chosen People Ministries’ staff members around the world.
Join us as we take a brief tour across the globe to visit the various corners of the Lord’s vineyard where the Gospel is bearing fruit among the Jewish communities that we seek to serve.
There are approximately between 13 and 14 million Jewish people in the world today. However, this figure is an educated guess. One reason for this lack of precision is that there is disagreement as to what constitutes Jewish identity.
Prof. Sergio Della Pergola, head of the Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University, identifies four basic groupings within this population:
• “Traditional” Jews who consistently perform Jewish traditional ritual practices: Two million.
• “Ethnic” Jews who, while not necessarily religious, forge their bonds through Jewish religious and social institutions: Six million.
The Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan, Josef Stalin’s solution to his “Jewish Problem,” was established in 1934. After the Russian Revolution, the Jewish people-many of whom had harbored high hopes for the rise of Communism-found themselves mired in the same crushing poverty and persecution as before.
Stalin decided to kill three birds with one stone: make the Jews into cheerful and hardy agricultural workers, populate a buffer zone that would keep China and Japan in check, and score a diplomatic coup by giving the Jewish people their first homeland in almost 2,000 years. The region of Birobidzhan was the solution-an area in Far East Russia about twice the size of New Jersey. At its height in the late 1930s, the population of the region was 109,000.
The Jewish people of Mexico share much of the same history as their brethren in South America. After the conquest of the Aztecs in 1521, a number of Jewish Conversos who had been forced to adopt Christianity-at least outwardly-immigrated to New Spain or Mexico, as it was later named. Today Mexico has a Jewish population of over 40,000. They are mostly a mixture of Sephardic (Spanish) and Ashkenazic (European) Jews whose forebears were immigrants who arrived between the late 19th century and the eve of World War II. The overwhelming majority of them live in Mexico City, where Elias and Rosa Habif have begun their ministry.
The Jewish people have a long history in the lands of the former Soviet Union, perhaps even to the end of the Babylonian Captivity (539 BC) and certainly to the period before Jesus. From the 12th century onward, the Russian Jewish community has played an important role in Jewish history.
It has been a troubled history, however, punctuated by periods of relative tolerance followed by horrific persecution. Literally hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed in the pogroms that took place from the 1880s to the early 1900s.
Today, the Jews of Latin America reside mainly in Argentina (250,000) and Brazil (130,000). Where did they come from, and when did they arrive? The answers to these questions are to be found on another continent altogether: Europe. At the end of the fifteenth century, the Inquisition was in full force in Spain and Portugal. Rather than submit to forcible conversion, some Jewish people chose to suffer torture and death. Others agreed to renounce their Jewish identity.
Those who converted were called Marranos or Conversos. Some, though publicly “converted,” still risked capture and death by continuing secretly to practice Judaism. Others who had agreed to give up Judaism seem to have genuinely put it aside to live – outwardly at least – as Christians.
A TREE OF LIFE GROWS IN BROOKLYN
One important lesson that may be drawn from the history of world missions is that it is impossible to predict just how God will work. The Apostle Paul’s Macedonian vision of one man pleading for help eventually brought the Gospel to Europe. In other instances, the will of God is made known through the collective wisdom that He imparts to His chosen servants – “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” (Acts 15:28).
In some instances, prayer brings guidance. In others, the work of God seems to spring up without any preparation at all. In these cases, it is the task of God’s people to seek the proper response to the marvelous thing that the Spirit of God seems to be birthing in their midst.