Members of Temple Beth El of Somerset were told the Jewish people have a God-given destiny, outlined in the Torah, to inhabit the land of Israel.
While that message may not be all that unusual in a synagogue, its messenger was.
Kenneth W. Rawson, pastor of the Bible Students Congregation of New Brunswick, spoke Nov. 13 at a congregation men’s club program.
Rawson has placed support for Israel at the center of his teachings, and regularly speaks at synagogues on the topic.
“Israel, by divine destiny, is to belong to the Jewish people,” said Rawson, who describes his followers as neither evangelical nor mainline Protestants, but rather as “protesting Protestants.” On his website, he is critical of evangelical Christian Zionists, many of whom, he said, have an agenda to target Jews for conversion. He has written nine books on “Christian apologetics,” or taking action to atone for centuries of Christian anti-Semitism.
“We are a small but militant group dedicated to protecting Israel,” said Rawson. “I have taken out ads in papers such as The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post deploring anti-Semitism.”
In his presentation, Rawson showed Appointment with Destiny, a pro-Israel movie he wrote and produced that attributes the achievements of Jews and Israel to biblical prophecy.
“During his Cairo speech, President Obama observed that the Jewish people deserve a Jewish state because they suffered so much in the Holocaust,” said Rawson. “What he didn’t say was the Jewish people deserve a Jewish state because it’s their biblical historical right.”
Event chair Marc Hilton said he saw the film at least 15 years ago and thought of it when planning the program.
Rawson said years of study by those who follow his ministry, which holds Bible study instead of traditional services, convinced him he should devote his life to supporting Israel and countering anti-Semitism.
Rawson said “the most significant” contribution the group has made among Christians has been promoting the “dual covenant” concept: Because God is still in covenant with the Jewish people, there is no need for missionaries to target them.
He talked about his own many trips to Israel, where he befriended many of the country’s leaders. He recalled a 1991 meeting with Yitzhak Rabin as glasnost was easing emigration restrictions in the former Soviet Union. The pastor predicted a million new olim would soon be arriving in Israel.
Rabin “just laughed and said he’d be happy with 300,000,” said Rawson. “Three months later when he was campaigning [for prime minister], I heard him say he wanted to turn Israel’s economy around so it could accept one million Russian Jews.”
Rawson said he believes the political turmoil roiling the Middle East and even the unprecedented upheavals of nature may be part of the divine plan.
“It’s there in the Book of Daniel,” he said. “We may be ushering in the messianic era. We just might be living near to that event.”
In light of that, Rawson urged the Jewish community to strengthen its ties to Zionism and Torah.
“Your destiny is there,” he said.