According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA), the September 21st Durban 3 protest in New York City against the United Nations drew a crowd of several hundred pro-Israel supporters, with many of the attendees being "evangelical Christians and messianic Jews”.
The report goes on to mention that, "some Jewish groups dropped out of Wednesday's rally due to the involvement of the Jerusalem Institute for Justice, an organization led by messianic Jews", with one messianic saying "she was disappointed that there was not more Jewish support for the event".
Indeed, the protest was supposed to be a mass rally involving dozens of major Jewish and Christian organizations, but things began to crumble as word got out that Calev Myers, the main organizer of the ISRAEL NOW Durban3NYC protest, is a "messianic Jew" and his organization, the Jerusalem Institute for Justice (JIJ), champions messianic Christian’s rights in Israel.
On September 13 the Jewish Week ran an article, "Durban Jewish-Evangelical Alliance Fraying As UN Session Opens", which highlighted the controversy over Myers' participation. The Jewish Week interviewed Ellen Horowitz, content and research director of Jewish Israel, and quoted her in that report.
Jewish Week columnist Stewart Ain corresponded with Horowitz after Rabbi Benzion Kravitz, founding director of Jews for Judaism International, who was also interviewed, suggested that Ain contact Jewish Israel for information regarding Calev Myers of the Jerusalem Instiitute for Justice (JIJ) and regarding Robert Stearns of Eagles' Wings Ministries. Both organizations were listed as sponsors of the September 21st Durban 3 protest. Stearns and Myers were featured together in numerous promotional video clips for the event.
[Jewish Israel notes that Ruth Guggenheim of Jews for Judaism has been working behind the scenes to raise awareness among Jewish Leaders regarding Myers' missionary agenda.]
A few days before the Durban 3 NYC protest, Jewish Week issued the following update to their September 13th article:
“UPDATE: Following The Jewish Week’s inquiry and publication of this report, officials at the Evangelical Christian group Eagles’ Wings, one of the co-sponsors of next week’s anti-“Durban III” rally at the United Nations, said Friday that Calev Myers will not be speaking at the protest, as originally planned. But his organization, the Jerusalem Institute for Justice, remains a major co-sponsor of the rally.”
However, Myers was present at the protest and can be seen in photos from the event. Any mention of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice is conspicuously absent from Fern Sidman's coverage of the event in the FrontPage article. Everything is reported as being under the sponsorship of Reverend Robert Stearns' organization, Eagles Wings.
The trouble with Calev…
Calev Myers, the main organizer of the Israel Now DurbanNYC protest, is a highly controversial evangelical attorney who defends "Judeo-Christian Minorities" and promotes a christ-centered agenda in Israel, in the name of "human rights, democracy and freedom” .
Myers’ organization, the Jerusalem Institute for Justice (JIJ) battles for messianic aliya and legislating changes in Israel's Law of Return to enable Christian immigration. Myers has facilitated in the establishment of a branch of a missionary university in Israel and frequently derides – in the strongest of language - the Orthodox Jewish community and rabbis in Israel. Myers partners with some of the most aggressive missionaries in Israel – all under the guise of "fighting for justice in Israel".
For a number of years Myers has served as one of the worship leaders of an evangelical messianic congregation in Jerusalem. Congregation Shemen Sasson was founded by Myers ' parents and their missionary efforts have apparently borne fruit as evidenced by their current website, which boasts of an" outreach center" and claims that in recent years the congregation "has experienced increasingly rapid growth and has been blessed to see many Israelis receive Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah."
In addition to Jewish Israel's numerous postings on Myers, last March we sent out a heads-up in both English and Hebrew to a wide list of recipients, as Myers continues to make inroads among Knesset members and other government leaders. Jewish Israel wrote at the time:
“Israelis should keep an eye on Myers and his political aspirations. The evangelical born and bred attorney is the Chief Counsel of the Jerusalem Institute for Justice (JIJ) and a partner in the prestigious Yehuda Raveh & Co. Law Offices. Myers has served as Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Knesset Social Welfare Lobby and is representing those trying to establish a Judeo-Christian political party in Israel. Myers also served as one of five judges who determined the winner of the World Likud’s "Likudnik Prize for 2010".”
That a number of Knesset figures visibly promote JIJ and Myers, and seem either unaware or ignorant of his affiliations, is indicative of a growing problem in the Jewish State.
A Dilemma for US Jewish leadership
Jewish leaders in Israel and abroad need to question whether it is productive or destructive to have a man such as Myers sponsor an endeavor intended to protect Israel and the Jewish people, while he simultaneously feigns Jewishness and relentlessly attempts to alter Judaism's very foundations and the very nature of the Jewish State.
Jewish Israel was pleased to see that many Diaspora Jewish leaders were alarmed by the prospect of a "messianic Jew", with a loaded "religious freedoms" agenda for Israel, leading the charge against Durban 3. It is high time that Jewish leaders in the Diaspora consider that cooperation with evangelical missionary elements comes with a high price tag to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel.
However, there are Jewish leaders who feel as Helen Freedman of Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI) does. She opted to attend the event and was featured in a pre-event promotional video with Myers.
Prior to the event Jewish Israel wrote to Mrs. Freedman about our concerns. We received the following reply:
“I understand your concerns. I did not know who Calev Myers was when I met him. I do know Robert Stearns and have never had a problem with him. I know that many Jewish organizations have taken issue with Calev’s involvement with Eagles Wings and have pulled out of the demonstration on Wednesday. AFSI is remaining a supporter because the issues are greater than the ones you are addressing. None of the major Jewish organizations have come forward to do ANYTHING regarding the horrific events at the UN this week. The Evangelical community has taken the lead. In light of the gravity of the UDI, and the depravity of the UN, we must speak out. I will address the messianic concerns at another time, and I am sorry that the situation with Myers has given the Jewish organizations an excuse to be absent from these important anti-UN events.”
In November 2009, Jewish Israel gave a presentation to AFSI in the presence of Helen Freedman, with Calev Myers and his activities being part of the discussion contents of the presentation. Additionally, Mrs. Freedman receives regular Jewish Israel updates. It would have been hoped that Mrs. Freedman would have developed "respect and suspect" intuition by now. Jewish leaders need to be fully aware and deal with the reality that some of Israel's "best friends", who are assumed to be defending the Jewish State, are actually destroying the very foundations of Judaism within Israel.
For those Jews who preferred not to partner with missionaries, there were a number of other pro-Israel events co-sponsored by Jewish and Gentile groups in protest against the current UN travesty. Religion and personal faith did not appear to be on the agenda of these events, but a global humanitarian morality was. A listing of the alternative events was given at the end of the Jewish Week article.
If we allow Christian missionaries to take the lead and speak for us, while Jewish leaders continue to neglect to draw the necessary red lines, then the Jewish community will have to bear the burden of knowing that many of their "best friends" are actually destroying the Jewish people while boasting to defend the Jewish State. The future will be the judge.
Denial by Myers
Calev Myers told the Jewish Week that "he considers himself Jewish". Myers went on to say that "...he is not an elder of an Evangelical church and does not even belong to any church." He insisted, “I am not a missionary and I don’t proselytize. I’m a lawyer who believes in civil rights and freedom of religion... I am not a religious person. ... "
Myers even penned a letter to Robert Stearns claiming, “I am actually against antagonistic proselytizing or missionary work.”
The truth about Myers
Unless Calev Myers has renounced his faith, the information he gave the Jewish Week is simply not true and amounts to absolute trickery.
"Our organization was founded by Calev Myers, who is a licensed attorney and a partner at Yehuda Raveh and Co. Law Offices, one of the most prestigious law firms in Israel. Calev also serves as a leader at Congregation Shemen Sasson, a thriving indigenous Judeo-Christian congregation in Jerusalem."
[Note: that the 2008 profile quoted from above continues in great length about the "illegal mistreatment" of "Judeo-Christian Minorities" in Israel and the "inferior state of the civil rights of Israeli Evangelical believers, Messianic Jews and families of mixed (Jewish-Christian marriages)…"]
“* 25 NEW ISRAELI BELIEVERS -- We had private briefings with leaders of the Israeli Messianic movement, including a fourth generationIsraeli believer. We worshipped on Shabbat at a thriving Messianic congregation in Jerusalem called “Shemen Sasson” (oil of gladness). Three years ago, they had 60 people coming to their service. Today, they have more than 250, and many are new believers in Yeshua. The Joshua Fund partnered with Shemen Sasson to do a food distribution project to bless 620 poor and needy families in Jerusalem over Passover. The congregation is also involved in anoutreach to young people who attend the New Age festivals that occur in Israel on the high holidays. Praise God, at least 25 Israeli Jewsprayed to receive Yeshua as their Messiah during Passover week. Please pray that God would continue to bless these new believers and help them to grow strong in their faith. Please pray that the Lord would bless Shemen Sasson and the more than 120 Messianic congregations now operating throughout Israel. Please also pray that that He would raise up more Hebrew speaking harvesters and disciplemakers – the fields are truly white for harvest but the laborers are too few.”
"In 2004 the Ministry of Interior, which at that time was governed by a very ultra Orthodox religious party, started a systematic program to revoke the citizenship of more high profile messianic Jewish leaders. In that process they came after my father and they said that, 'you're the descendant of a Jew, but when you immigrated to Israel you claimed to be a Jew on your forms when you had actually converted to another religion and therefore we want to revoke your citizenship'." [Note: video of this interview has recently been removed from YouTube]
Embarrassment for Israel’s government
JIJ put a slick video together featuring a number of Knesset members promoting the Durban event. Fortunately, some Jewish Diaspora community leaders sensed something rotten and, according to the Jewish Week, didn't bite the bait.
Activists such as Yisrael Medad appeared to point the finger of blame at Jewish Israel for not getting to MK Yuli Edelstein in time. However, Jewish Israel has been contacting Knesset members over the missionary situation over the last several years. Jewish Israel has and continues to persistently arrange meetings, give presentations and distribute bi-lingual reports and letters to members of the Israeli government, and political and rabbinic activists in Israel and Diaspora. While Jewish Israel was effective in delivering information on the MK Molla messianic money scandal, it seems that Calev Myers has many more friends in the Knesset than Jewish Israel does. In addition, Myers works through an extensive and confusing web of messianic organizations, which could easily trip-up even vigilant members of government.
If Anglo-Israeli activists are truly concerned about the increasing Christian spiritual encroachment in the Jewish state, then they will have to get past all of that evangelical money and support and communicate the following to Diaspora and Israeli leadership:
In the process of encouraging this passionate, very 'biblical" love for Israel among fundamentalist Christian, the flames get a bit out of hand once this Christian love gets planted in the holy land and becomes messianic fire.
Unlike in America, there is little distinction here in Israel between evangelicals and messianics, where in Myers insists they all become one big "Judeo-Christian minority". At present, the Israeli government is either unable or unwilling to establish any guidelines or limits to prevent this crossing of lines. And of course nobody is going to draft serious counter-missionary legislation in the midst to this torrid Israel-evangelical love affair.
How bad is the missionary intrusion into the Knesset? Just a small sampling of other Jewish Israel reports and documents on the subject:
Fundraising and sponsorship games?
Why was there so much confusion among Israeli government officials and Diaspora Jewish leadership over the planned Durban protest and its sponsorship, causing major American Jewish organizations to bail out so late in the game? Is it possible that JIJ was trying to mask their messianic identity – knowing full well that many Jewish organizations would abandon ship if the messianic nature of the sponsorship was exposed? Or was it simply a bureaucratic mix-up?
Whatever the case, Jewish as well as Gentile supporters of Israel, as well as the Israeli government, may have some questions regarding just who and what they were involved with, endorsing, and sponsoring.
Three out of the four organizations which were listed on the website Durban3NYC.com are run by evangelical Christians.
As of this writing, the little donate link under the sponsoring organizations should raise the eyebrows of concerned Jews, as it links to a generic JIJ donations form. Again, JIJ is at the forefront of defending the rights of "Judeo-Christian minorities" in Israel (read "messianic" or "evangelical").
"Between now and September, AFFI has been asked to raise $50,000 in donations for this project from the United States and around the world. The Israeli Government will send a personal letter of thanks for all donations of $1,000 or more. For donations of $10,000 or more, the Israeli Government will send a personal letter of thanks, along with a "Best Friend of Israel" Commemorative Certificate."
Calev Myers, founder of JIJ, is also the co-founder of AFFI, along with Eeki Elner (take note, Sderot). AFFI's mission is clearly Christian in nature. Their team and board of directors include some heavy-duty missionaries, such as Bruce Mumm of World Missions Today.
JIJ was not mentioned in the June fundraising email or the plea for funds which appeared in the July 2011 issue of the Messianic Jewish News:
"In an unprecedented move, the Government of Israel has called on a coalition of organizations to facilitate this special event. Spearheaded by Israel’s Minister For Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein, the coalition includes: The New York City Board of Rabbis; The Jewish Agency; The World Zionist Organization; Eagles Wings; the European Coalition for Israel; and The Alliance For The Future Of Israel/AFFI. Each of the coalition’s organizations have been asked to mobilize our partners to STAND UP in opposition to Durban III."
Nor was AFFI mentioned anywhere in the ISRAEL NOW Durban NYC 3 Protest website.
ISRAEL NOW is another organization under Calev Myers' umbrella. JIJ launched Israel Now as a Judeo-Christian pro-Israel PR initiative. However, the World Zionist Organization issued a poster which featured Israel Now and JIJ as separate sponsors, but the WZO poster makes no mention of Eagles Wings and the European Coalition for Israel.
PR spin gets tangled
The Durban 3 protest public relations mix-up between Christian, Jew, and the Israeli government may have been facilitated by Ronn Torrosian's renowned PR firm, 5WPR.
An event planning company, Hall and Brown Associates, reported that they were, "working with the Jerusalem Institute for Justice based in Israel and NY PR firm 5WPR one of New York’s top 5 Public Relations companies on an event at the UN in September this year."
5WPR has a client list representing everyone from evangelist Benny Hinn, to CUFI, to Aish HaTorah to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
Ronn Torrosian got his start in Israel, representing Israeli government officials. Torrosian also served as media director of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition of America. Many of the videos promoting the DurbanNYC Protest event can be viewed on 5WPR's speakers channel on YouTube.
Confusion at Arutz 7
Arutz 7 (A7) also gave Calev Myers and JIJ a hefty amount of publicity in recent news briefs and articles, here and here for example. Such promotion of a "messianic Jew" who partners with and is involved in defending missionary entities came a mere week after A7 featured Rav Eliezer Melamed's halachic pask which appeared to embrace evangelical Christians while ignoring or trivializing some of the actual presence and activities of missionaries in Israel.
Jewish Israel contacted the news editor of A7. We expressed our concerns over A7’s promotion of Myers and JIJ. There seems to be some confusion as to who is responsible for such coverage, but as a result of our correspondence, changes were made in the article, Thousands to Protest Durban 3 Conference at UN (including a headline to indicate that it is Christians who will be demonstrating). Additionally, the following was added toward the bottom of the A7 article:
“Although pro-Israel, JewishIsrael.com reminded Arutz Sheva that Myers' family also engages in missionary work as Messianic Jews. His family runs a Messianic meeting place Shemen Sasson in Jerusalem.”
The Ironic and Moronic
The fact that Robert Stearns of Eagles Wings made the announcement that Myers would not be a speaker at the Durban 3 event is beyond ironic and moronic, as Stearns himself is a missionary extraordinaire. According to the Jewish Week report, however, Stearns himself claims he has a “20-year track record of being glatt kosher on the issue of proselytizing”. Stearns further claimed, “My organization has an absolutely clear record on the issue of missionizing and proselytization: we as an organization do not engage in it in any way, shape or form.”
Jewish Israel has reported that Eagles Wings and Reverend Robert Stearns are engaged in missionary activity and that Stearns' has actively participated in missionary events targeting Jews. Stearns also endorses the efforts of MaozIsrael/IStandWithIsrael -the very anti-Orthodox and aggressively proselytizing missionary organization.
[Note: Pastor John Hagee has very recently removed his name and that of his wife from the MaozIsrael/IStandWithIsrael endorsement list. This occurred after Jewish Israel passed information on to many of Hagee’s Jewish supporters about MaozIsrael and Hagee’s connection to it. This is not the first time that Hagee's name had been removed from that same page, only to return again at a later time.]
After the brouhaha began over Myers' sponsorship of the DurbanNYC protest, the Jewish Week reported that:
"… the Jewish community’s concerns about Myers prompted Rev. Stearns to write to him asking if he proselytizes. In his reply Myers insisted that he is 'not a missionary.' 'I am actually against antagonistic proselytizing or missionary work…' "
For the reasons and facts already given, no one should feel reassured by Myers’ response.
Fundamentalist Christian leaders in America and those who have been "planted" in Israel as "messianic Jews" are champions of defending religious freedoms and democracy, because they need to ensure that nothing impedes their spreading of the gospel. That may be fine for America (depending on whom you ask), but Israel does not strive to be a “Judeo-Christian" nation.
Israeli and Jewish leaders need to grapple with the far reaching consequences when they woo evangelical political support and funding. These leaders need to ask themselves whether articulate Christian advocates, such as Myers, are great defenders or destroyers (in a spiritual sense) of the Jewish state.
If any lesson can be drawn from the Durban 3 protest muddle, it's that clear red lines need to drawn in our relationship with evangelical Christians and that there should be an established uniform and accountable framework with which to monitor the relationship on an ethical, political, spiritual, financial, and legislative level. This is something Jewish Israel has been consistently calling for from as far back as 2007.
Rejecting the evangelical-inspired Christian charade of "messianic Judaism" is something Jewish leaders from across the political and religious spectrums- both in Israel and the Diaspora – have consistently agreed upon, and that consensus should be reinforced and continue.
We hope this report will leave Jewish leaders both in Israel and in the Diaspora with the clarity, strength and foresight to make the right decisions for the Jewish community and for Jewish continuity.
Jewish Israel wishes Klal Yisrael a sweet, productive and peaceful year.