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:

Brief Report from Christian Leadership Refresher

Jam packed days!  Those are the words that describe Christian Leadership Seminars led by Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Research Center!  If you missed yesterday’s post, I am in Washington DC, where I have joined with over 100 other graduates of Leadership Seminars that were held over the past 6 years in Jerusalem.  What a time we are having!

I can’t begin to give you adequate details of what we have seen, heard and felt.  What I can tell you is that we all have a heart on fire for Christian-Jewish relationships, and we grow to love one another and the Jewish people more and more every time we gather like this.  It is absolutely phenomenal how the Lord has called each of us to slightly different things, yet all with the intent of understanding our Jewish roots more deeply.

So, to summarize…

Susan Michael (Director, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem-US Branch) opened Friday morning with a devotional time, focusing on God’s covenant with Israel being an everlasting one.  Then we moved right into a teaching time where we were reminded that to understand Jewish-Christian relations today, we must understand the past.  The good news is that Jewish-Christian relations have come a very long way in a very short time.  Hallelujah!  The bad new is that there is a long way to go, particularly given the rampant growth in churches of Replacement Theology.  That false theology goes something like this: the Jews rejected God, so God rejected the Jews and now the church is the new Israel.  All the covenants are transferred to the church (or are already somehow fulfilled).

Think about it.  If that is true, then:

  • God doesn’t know what He’s doing and had to come up with “Plan B.”  Wrong!  Check out Ephesians 1:4-6!  His plan has been in place since before the foundation of the world!
  • God is unfaithful and doesn’t keep His covenants.  Wrong again!  See Psalm 89:34 and Jeremiah 33:20-21.  (What hope, then, does John 3:16 bring us then, if God is unfaithful to His promises!?!)
  • If the Abrahamic Covenant now applies to the church, what about the promise of land that God gave to Abraham and his descendents in that covenant?  Is that the church’s land now?
  • If people fail God, He will reject them.  Once again…wrong!  Hebrews 6:11-20, Romans 11:29, Psalm 89:30-37

That was followed by the incomparable teachings of Stephanie and Efraim Kaye (Directors of the Yad Vashem International School for Holocaust Studies).  A supreme story-teller, Stephanie walked us through “Goodness Leaves us Grasping,” detailing stories of goodness in those who risked their lives to save the Jews during the Holocaust. Efraim blessed us by sharing what Yad Vashem is doing to preserve survivor testimonies, now that Holocaust survivors are reaching their 90’s and will soon leave a void of first-hand testimony.

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Rendering of Museum of the Bible once it is complete.

In the afternoon we donned hard hats and safety glasses to tour the soon-to-open Museum of the Bible.  All we could say was “WOW!”  This 430,000 square foot museum is larger than the aerospace museum only a block away.  (To put it in perspective, the aerospace museum was built to house spacecraft such as the space shuttle and space exploration vehicles.)  Not only is the place going to be huge, it will also be the most technologically advanced museum in the world.  It would take pages to describe it, so I won’t even try.  But, you MUST see this $500 million museum once it opens in November 2017.

BTW, the folks at Museum of the Bible fully understand that without Judaism, there is no Bible!  Thus, they have signed an agreement to work closely with Yad Vashem, not only to present the Jewish roots of our Bible, but also in research and educational programs.  (They are one of the major sponsors of these Christian Leadership Seminars.)  You will undoubtedly hear more and more about the Museum of the Bible!  It is beyond incredible, and will be a monument in Washington DC…only 3 blocks from the Capitol building…to the veracity of God’s Word!  Pray for those dear folks as they complete the project!

2016 CFYV - Shaya Ben Yehuda

Shaya Ben Yehuda teaching from the Torah

It is Shabbat (Friday sundown – Saturday sundown), thus Shaya Ben Yehuda (Managing Director of the International Relations Division of Yad Vashem) led us in a festive Shabbat Seder to kick off the Sabbath.  What an wonderful time of celebration with our Jewish friends.

I only scratched the surface…and we’ve got the rest of the weekend to go!  There is no way I can pack it all in writing, but much of it will end up in a Bible study I am currently writing.  My heart longs to spread the truth about our Jewish roots as Christians.  We must understand it if we are to understand today’s events, and if we are to be faithful to God’s Word.  Stay tuned as I invite you into my experiences in the next couple days!

Reunion of Israel Friends

Greetings from Washington DC!  Though it is not quite the “Shalom from Jerusalem” I offered in November 2015, it is a reunion with the same friends (and more) from the Christian Leadership Seminar I attended at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Research Center.  You can check out my reports from that seminar beginning November 28 2015.

The current gathering is a multi-purpose gathering, sponsored by the same groups who sponsored the seminar in Jerusalem (Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and Museum of the Bible).  We’re hosted at the expense of Museum of the Bible and are very blessed by their generosity and commitment to building bridges between Jews and Christian, and we are mindful that to whom much is given, much is required.

Thursday night was a very special evening.  Graduates of the Christian Leadership Seminars have been invited to take part in the first ever refresher/reunion.  About 8-10 graduating classes are represented and it is such a pleasure to be back in the company of the “family” that I grew to love when I shared that time in Jerusalem with about 29 others.  (Our class is well-represented with well over 20 attending this event!)

The night also celebrated the 10th  anniversary of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem and the accomplishments made in those 10 years.  We also heard from Cary Summers, President of Museum of the Bible (MOB), as he shared his heart and the heart of MOB.  It was moving to hear how they are reaching out to Israel and the Jewish people in absolutely astounding ways through museums (they hope to put one on every continent), research, education (they are launching a very unique Bible study curriculum in Israel), tours (including young people, pastors and “influencers”) to Israel.  They are seeing the Lord do abundantly miraculous things as they bless Israel.  (Hmmmm….I think the Bible says something about blessing Israel.  Check it out for yourself: Genesis 12:3).  We also heard from a holocaust survivor in her 90’s beseeching Christians and Jews to reconcile differences and make the world a better place.

Most importantly, however, we were all witnesses to the signing of a very important agreement between Yad Vashem and Museum of the Bible.  Shaya Ben Yehuda (Managing Director of the International Relations Division of Yad Vashem…and a very good friend of Christians!) and Cary Summers signed official documents of their partnership in building the relationship between Christians and Jews, and Summers was given a key to Yad Vashem.  Why is this document so important?  It is a signed covenant between Christian and Jewish organizations to do what God calls us all to do in these last days!  They are certainly not the only organizations involved in such efforts, but their commitment to one another is now in covenant as they move forward.

BTW, check out this “fly through” of the Museum of the Bible (to open here in DC in 2017), which we were awed by last night:

We will tour the facility later today (Friday), and have already been given a glimpse of some of the million dollar artifacts that will be housed in the museum (including very significant Torah portions).  Once it opens, it is expected to draw 3 million people per year, making it one of the 10 largest museums in America (3rd largest in DC).  Imagine…3 million people being exposed to the Word of God in a setting that will be undeniably powerful.  The museum will also emphasize the part that Judaism plays.

Without the Bible there would be no Christianity, and without Judaism there would be no Bible!
~Shaya Ben Yehuda

I am reminded of what critical times we live in.  As I reflected yesterday, we serve a great God who is always on the throne, thus we don’t have to live in fear of the chaos overtaking our world.  But are we always about our Father’s business?  God’s Word is the foundation upon which we live, and the connection to Israel is undeniable.

I plan to post updates over the next few days.  However, seminar days are long and jam-packed, so keep checking…I’ll eventually provide summaries!

Blessings friends!