Our Challenge in Combating Anti-Semitism

We’ve concluded Day 3 of a reunion and refresher for those who have attended the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem’s Christian Leadership Conference in Israel.  I was blessed to attend in late-2015, and have enjoyed reuniting with classmates and others who attended between 2010-2017.

Yesterday was a day of challenge for us!  There we sat, in a room full of staunch Israel supporters, yet I don’t believe any of us went to bed last night with the assurance that we have done all we can do to connect the church to Israel.  There is so much to be done, and each of us have our own God-given means of accomplishing His purpose.  Mine is to help others come to deeper realization of our role as Christians in understanding God’s purpose for us.

Daryl Hedding, Assistant Director of the US Branch of ICEJ, led off our sessions with “The Role of the Church in Combating Anti-Semitism,” where we were reminded that decisions made impact generations to come.  When the Holocaust occurred, people declared, “Never again,” yet support of Israel has shrunk consistently since then.  We are losing generations, as each one is making decisions that impact the next.

In Daryl’s work with young people, he illustrates steps he believes (and I agree) lead to that problem in many cases:  Rejection of God’s Word (Humanism) leads to things such as Darwinian evolution, which leads to “survival of the fittest,” then racism and, ultimately, rejection of God’s people (anti-Semitism and genocide).  Thus, it seems logical that, if one gets the beginning wrong (ie – teachings of Genesis), he will stray in the middle (ie – did God really give His Son to save the entire world?), and will likely miss God’s best in the end (ie – eternal life with Him).

The segway for the next session was Psalm 102, where we see and hear the distress of Israel (verses 1-11), before acknowledging the steadfastness of God and His compassion for His people (verses 12-17).  What follows is striking.  Verses 18-22 indicate that those things were written for a generation to come, and that the Lord will gaze upon the earth, set His people free, and bring about praise in Jerusalem.  The challenge: we ARE that generation.  Those living in this time have seen the Lord answer the distress call of the Jews and draw them out of the Holocaust.  He is establishing them in their own land, and will one day soon bring praise to Jerusalem!

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International Panel: Kenya, Malaysia, Scotland, England, Ghana

Yet anti-Semitism grows.  We heard from an international panel of what is going on in their countries.  A bright light is Ghana, where 70% are Christians and the country is very pro-Israel (thanks in part to Israeli aid in developing their military and other humanitarian efforts).  However, Malaysia is primarily Muslim and is totally closed to any sort of relationship to Israel.  In fact, as a whole, they hate Israel and will not allow their people to travel there.  England and Scotland are seeing record numbers of anti-Semitic actions (including violence) and attitudes. Not only have evangelical churches become almost extinct, but only about 5% of those remaining are supportive of Israel (according to the panelists).

Following the panel discussion, we ran head-on into a direct challenge issued by Dr Susanna Kokkonen.  Those of us in the west live in a “spoiled society” and we are tremendously complacent.  Many are content to attend church each week, but how many are active in doing the work of the kingdom?  One such work (though not the only work) is taking a stand for Israel.  However, as it was pointed out, there are Christians being persecuted around the world and, in large part, we do nothing!  We are watching Holocaust-type activity going on against “our own people,” but do not take a stand.  Thus, if we take no stand for “our own,” how likely are we to take a stand for Israel and the Jewish people?

Wow…do you feel “hit between the eyes?”  So did we…and “we” are a room full of people who absolutely love Israel!  Please understand, this is not a guilt trip.  God has called us all to something, and if you are doing that “something,” you are within His will.  But, let’s diligently seek His will!  Let’s petition the God of the universe to direct us.  Let’s see what He has in store for those of us who will make Him Lord, not just Savior!

If we are that generation spoken of in Psalm 102, then the Lord is about to act on behalf of His people!  Let’s be part of the action!

Blessings my friends!

Incredible Teaching, a Museum Tour, Meeting New Friends, and Celebrating Shabbat

Welcome back friends!  If you missed yesterday’s post, let me put things in context.  I have gathered with about 200 fellow graduates of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem’s Leadership Conference held in Jerusalem.  This reunion/refresher provides an opportunity to fellowship with classmates, and network with new people from other classes (between 2010-2017).

Yesterday’s sessions were amazing, but time and space do not allow me to give you all the details, so here are some highlights:

  • Shaya Ben Yahuda led us through “Leaders and Leadership in Times of Crisis,” using heroic leaders from the Holocaust as examples. For example, Dr Janusz Korczak lived in Poland and wanted to help re-build Zion (Israel).  However, he could not leave his family, including two orphanages full of children, to go to Israel.  So, one of the orphanages became a Jewish children’s orphanage in the Krakow ghetto.  He refused to leave “his” children when the Nazis came for them, so he went to the concentration camp with them, and later met his demise.  A survivor later stated that his years in the orphanage were the best years of his life.  Despite hardships in life, Dr Korczak showed real leadership by not abandoning his people.  Rather, he motivated them to live life to the fullest, in spite of the circumstances.
  • Stephanie Kaye, one of Yad Vashem’s most highly-esteemed educators, then shared about the art and artists of the Holocaust. It is well-documented that “life went on” in the ghettos and concentration camps that imprisoned Jews.  When taken from their homes, and limited on what they were allowed to take, Jews had the foresight to think about what things would be helpful in continuing to live life.  Many took art supplies, musical instruments, and even school supplies in order to make life as “ordinary” as possible in the most extraordinarily evil places humanly imaginable.  Life went on, and many clung to the hope that brought.  We were told that when a person is born and when they die is destiny…you have very little say in the matter.  However, how you live in between makes all the difference.  Many of those headed for gas chambers chose LIFE until their final breath.  These were real people, with real faces, who lived to the end.
  • Ephraim Kaye, Director of International Seminars, then shared the “back story” of bringing together an American Jewish fighter pilot with survivors from Auschwitz, following liberation. We then saw the newly-completed documentary about the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, in which that American Jewish fighter pilot was part of a ceremony in Poland where an Israeli F-15 fighter group “fly over” put the exclamation point on that victory.  It was a moving story.  (I’ll share the video link once I have it.)

Yesterday afternoon we were blessed to spend two hours on a “behind the scenes” tour of the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC.  Scheduled to open later this year, the museum is one of the most high-tech in the world.  Rather than describe the technology, I’ll let you see for yourself.  Visit Museum of the Bible for a look at the God-honoring museum that stands only blocks from the Capital building.

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Cary Summers Leading Tour of Museum of the Bible (to open later this year)

As noted previously, Museum of the Bible co-sponsors these Yad Vashem conferences, and Cary Summers (President of Museum of the Bible) has been with us all weekend.  (Word is that next year’s reunion will take place in the conference space at Museum of the Bible!)  Mr Summers has one of the most incredible resumes on the planet when it comes to designing Bible-based museums and entertainment venues.  If you are familiar with Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, you know of his design work!  In fact, if you are familiar with Silver Dollar City, Bass Pro Shop, or Nazareth Village (in Israel), you have seen his work.  Yesterday, Cary himself guided us through the Museum of the Bible!  I encourage you to find out more about the museum, and make plans to visit.  Believe it or not, admission to the museum will be a $15 “suggested donation!”  (ie – anyone who cannot afford admission gets in anyway)  How do you put a value on the Word of God!?!

On a personal, though very much related note, I finally connected with a young Jewish woman with whom I was introduce several months ago.  Talya lives here in Washington DC and was gracious enough to meet me for lunch yesterday.  It was a meeting of kindred hearts.  Our time was limited, but we shared our appreciation of Jewish-Christian relations and the need to develop them further.  It was a blessed time!  Talya is VP of Development & Strategic Partnerships for Haym Salomon Center, a journalistic organization putting Jewish causes at the forefront of the news (where “traditional” news outlets won’t).

Finally, it is Shabbat, you know!  We ended our evening last night with Shabbat dinner, including a conversation with Holocaust survivor, Luna Kaufman.  Nothing better than 200 or so Israel-loving believers sharing a most precious celebration with our Jewish friends from Israel!  Praise God for the opportunity!

Blessings to all…and Shabbat Shalom!

Reunited in Love of Israel

What a blessing to reunite with dozens of like-minded friends who love Israel! I’m in Washington DC, joining a couple hundred fellow graduates of the Christian Friends of Yad Vashem Leadership Conference.  Those Leadership Conferences, held at the Holocaust Museum and Research Center in Jerusalem, seek to bring together Christian leaders from around the world to study specifically about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

At last night’s reception, I counted at least 15 of my 27 classmates from 2015, and we had a great time catching up with one another.  Most of us are actively involved one way or another in sharing the truth about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.  We were greeted by Dr Susanna Kokkonen (Director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem) and welcomed by Shaya Ben Yahuda (Yad Vashem International Relations Director), both very dear friends of ours.  We were also welcomed by Cary Summers from Museum of the Bible, a supporting partner in the Conferences, as well as these Reunion/Refresher events.

During the evening, we were reminded that anti-Semitism is on the rise and, though painted with a different brush, is still the same picture the world ignored prior to the Holocaust.  After that, the world said, “Never again,” yet the BDS movement and Jewish hatred on college campuses (often sparked by radical Palestinian agendas) are rampant.  Friends, as Christians we cannot be silent.

As the evening progressed, we were treated to a special live production of “Portrait of Courage: A Call to Action,” performed by volunteers of Operation Exodus.  This was a depiction of what life was like in Jewish communities in Europe prior to the Holocaust, how covertly things changed, and the life-saving results of a few non-Jews who took action (sometimes at the risk of their own lives) to rescue Jews from the rampage of the Nazi killing machine.  It was quite moving and very well done, and certainly served as a call for us not to be silent in the current state of affairs.

Operation Exodus is dedicated to fulfilling a mission the prophet Isaiah described this way:

Thus says the Lord God,

“Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations
And set up My standard to the peoples;
And they will bring your sons in their bosom,
And your daughters will be carried on their shoulders.
~Isaiah 49:22

Indeed, God is calling the nations to bring His sons and daughters home.  Yes, we have a responsibility in that!  Given the current rise of anti-Semitism, there is a growing call for American Jews to return home.  Most seem very happy and content in America (just as they were in Europe), but I wonder…will the same sudden destruction, brought about by American anti-Semitism, overtake them like a storm, as the German version in the 1930’s did?  God forbid!

Those ignorant of past mistakes are bound to repeat them.  Let’s not be part of that crowd.

At the end of the program we saw a short video about a group of young men who individually made aliyah (return to the homeland).  More tomorrow, but I leave you with this:

Headed to DC for Christian Leaders Reunion/Refresher

Two years ago I spent just over a week at a Christian Leaders Seminar at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Research Center in Israel, studying under the world’s premier Holocaust experts.  It was an incredible experience, and I learned more about the Holocaust, its perpetrators, survivors and onlookers than I could learn in a lifetime otherwise.

Christian Friends of Yad Vashem now hosts those seminars multiple times each year, and I encourage anyone sincerely interested in learning, then sharing, the truth of the Holocaust with others to consider attending.  (Find out more here.)

This weekend, I’ll join a hundred or more American graduates for a reunion in Washington DC, where we’ll reconnect with some of our beloved instructors.  The Museum of the Bible co-sponsors the seminars and reunions, and is in the process of finishing their high-tech, world-class museum in DC.  We’ll get a “behind the scenes” tour of the soon-to-open museum while in DC.  We toured the construction site last year and found it to be absolutely incredible!

So, I’ll do my best to provide interesting updates, and perhaps a picture or two from the seminar and tour.  Meanwhile, here’s a feature video about Yad Vashem.  Enjoy!