Shock in Jerusalem community as ‘rabbi’ revealed as undercover Christian missionary
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood was in shock Sunday after a prominent member of the community was reportedly exposed as an undercover Christian missionary.
Beyneynu, a nonprofit that monitors missionary activity in Israel, said on Sunday it had “investigated the case of a secret missionary in French Hill for many years,” but acted to exposing it now “because of one of the missionary’s children proselytizing at school.”
Hebrew media said the man, who has not been publicly identified, posed as a rabbi and kohen (priest) and worked as a scribe and mohel, performing ritual circumcisions.
However, it was discovered that the family was in fact not Jewish, but from a Christian family from New Jersey to the United States, and allegedly forged documents to show that they were Jews in order to emigrate to Israel in under the law of return.
“We are confident that the Jewish leadership will act firmly against this threat and quickly put in place protective measures to protect the Jewish community,” Beyneynu said.
The ultra-Orthodox website Behadrei Haredim reported that when the man’s recently deceased wife fell ill with cancer several years ago, she told friends things that didn’t make sense to them. and triggered the investigation.
The wife allegedly falsely claimed to be the daughter of Holocaust survivors.
Investigators found that the relatives of the family in the United States were not Jewish and posted missionary material on social media, according to the newspaper. The man’s late father was buried in a non-Jewish cemetery. An obituary identified him as a member of the Mennonite Friendship Church.
Beyneynu said she “took great care to check every piece of evidence before exposing this case to the public,” but did not detail the evidence.
“Until now, we have been silent because we didn’t want the father to move to another neighborhood (to continue his work) and we wanted to work to get his citizenship revoked,” Yoni Kayman, a member of the community involved in the investigation, says Behadrei Haredim.
Kayman said the father also recently started trying to get rid of the evidence, removing material from social media, and stopped sending his daughters to the local religious school, so they decided to notify the community of its activities.
Channel 13 aired clips from 2011 of the Father speaking on American television, acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah.
Speaking to Channel 13, the man denied working as an undercover Christian missionary.
“It’s a lie, I was born a Jew,” he said. However, he admitted to having worked as a missionary seven or eight years ago, but said he had “repented”.
Community members expressed shock, noting how involved the family was and the fact that after the wife passed away, the community set up a fund for the family and helped support them.
“The family looked completely ultra-Orthodox, he had a long beard and hat, the boys had side curls, the girls went to Beis Yaakov schools,” Kayman told the 13.
“For five years, we’ve been supporting them, paying for their groceries, school buses, everything, and they cheated on us,” he said.
Israel enjoys vigorous support from evangelical Christian movements in the United States, but keeps a lid on missionary work in the Holy Land.
While Israeli law expressly prohibits the giving of money or gifts to encourage conversions to another religion, missionary activities, in general, are closely watched by authorities and are offensive to many Israelis.
Also prohibited by law are “missionary or proselytizing activities directed against minors without the permission of their parents”.