Affirming his desire to “tear down the wall” between Christians and Jews, a self-described “messianic Jewish rabbi” from Wayne announced plans for an ambitious evangelical rally in Jerusalem in September.
Jonathan Cahn said he would join with the evangelical Christian group Promise Keepers for an event in the Valley of Hinnom titled “Jesus Reigns Israel.”
Organizers said the rally would send the message that “Jesus reigns,” that Christians must help the poor, and that Christians must obey the word of God by standing with the people of Israel.
“Two thousand years ago there was a wall erected between the church and Israel, between the Jewish people and Christians,” said Cahn at a Feb. 28 news conference at the Jerusalem Center/Beth Israel Worship Center in Wayne.
“For many years the church has in many ways been cut off from its roots. The Jewish people have been persecuted for 2,000 years, often in the name of Jesus — so much so that when Jewish people hear anything about Jesus a wall goes up,” he said.
Israel and the Jewish community have long welcomed evangelical activism on Israel’s behalf, generally overlooking theological and political differences in light of their mutual support for Israel.
But the presence of a “messianic Jewish” congregation, regarded with particular distaste across the Jewish mainstream, could strain that good will.
Cahn was joined at the news conference by Raleigh Washington, CEO and president of Promise Keepers, who pledged that “we are not going to go to Israel to proselytize Jews.”
“We are going to Israel to have a global event to say we are people who believe that Jesus is the messiah and invite everyone who will come to celebrate that reality,” said Washington.
“We have had multiple meetings and interactions with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism,” said Cahn. “They are assisting us with this event.”
Reached by telephone, Jeremy Geller, director of media outreach at the Israeli Consulate in New York, did not state any objections to the event.
“Many organizations — Christians, messianic Jews, and others — come to Israel each year for rallies and get-togethers,” he told NJJN. “We have freedom of religion and all groups are welcome.”
Promise Keepers, founded as a Christian men’s movement in the 1990s, has widened its message in recent years to include “messianic Jewish” speakers — those who meld Jewish rituals with belief in Jesus as their savior.
Cahn, who told NJ Jewish News he was raised as a Reform Jew in Nanuet, NY, said he came to accept Jesus as the messiah at the age of 19 after he emerged unscathed when his car collided with an oncoming train.
He said the late Sam Stern, once an Orthodox rabbi in Poland who became a messianic Jew in Brooklyn, performed his ordination.
Rally organizers invited some 1,000 pastors and several thousand laypeople “from America and around the world to join with those in Israel so that this occasion will be one which will resound across the world,” said Washington.
“Israel has been very isolated in the world, and Israel is more and more realizing that its greatest friends are evangelical Bible-believing Christians who support it no matter what,” Washington added.