A brief History:
It was just after the social ferment of the 1960s. A spiritual revolution was grabbing the lives of young people throughout North America, many of whom were Jewish. Out of this matrix of social unrest and spiritual seeking, Jews for Jesus was born as an organization in 1973. Founded by veteran missionary Moishe Rosen, the organization changed the way the Jewish community looked at the person of Jesus.
But Jews for Jesus began much earlier, as the plaque outside our headquarters building reads, “Established A.D. 32—give or take a year.” The movement of Jews to faith in Jesus began in the first century. And there was a substantial movement of Jews to faith in Jesus in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, both in Europe and in North America.
But this late twentieth century movement was different. Jewish followers of Jesus proclaimed both their faith in Jesus and their Jewishness in a new, vibrant way. Homemade pamphlets called “broadsides” were being handed out on street corners and campuses. A new music genre—Jewish gospel—was developed and the Liberated Wailing Wall was putting out albums of original music. By the mid-1970s, Jews for Jesus had opened several branches in the United States. That’s when we also began our first secular media outreach with a full-page evangelistic ad in the New York Times in 1976 followed by ads in newspapers and on billboards in major cities across the US, Jews for Jesus started publishing ISSUES (a publication that invites Jewish people to consider Jesus) and conducted exploratory witnessing expeditions to Israel and Northern Ireland.
Then came the 1980s. The Rubik’s Cube swept popular culture and Ferris Bueller was having his famous day off. For Jews for Jesus, it meant the establishment of international branches in cities such as Toronto and Johannesburg. In the eighties we also instituted a Masters in Jewish Missions program in conjunction with Fuller Theological Seminary. Like Jews everywhere, we placed a value on education, and we required any of our missionary staff without a higher degree to go through this program. The eighties were also a watershed decade for another reason: the United States Supreme Court ruled in our favor when we challenged an ordinance that banned us from distributing religious literature at Los Angeles International Airport.
In November 1989 the first overseas branch of Jews for Jesus was opened in Johannesburg South Africa, and shortly after that in 1990 a Messianic Congregation was founded - "Beit Yeshua" (House of Jesus), by Andrew and Laura Barron.
On the eve of the 1990s, the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union split apart, ending decades of Communist rule in Eastern Europe. That allowed us to start branches in the former Soviet Union, which, within the space of seven years, became fully indigenized, headed and staffed by Russian and Ukrainian Jewish believers in Jesus. Additional international branches were established, including branches in London, Paris, Sydney and Tel Aviv. We began a website on the fledgling World Wide Web in 1995. In May of 1996, Moishe Rosen stepped down as executive director, believing that a new and younger generation needed to lead the way. David Brickner (a fifth-generation Jewish believer in Jesus) was appointed executive director, having served in various leadership positions throughout his first seventeen years with Jews for Jesus.
As the new millennium began (remember the panic over Y2K?) our Israel branch received amutah, or official status. We opened a branch in Essen, Germany, and completed an outreach (called “Behold Your God,” after Isaiah 40:9) to all 55 cities worldwide that had 25,000 or more Jewish people. Other branches opened in Miami, Phoenix and Montreal. We established a video department in addition to our web department. Both of these later expanded into a full digital media department (including a social media outreach team) complemented by our Information Technology team.
One of our social media projects—That Jew Died For You—went viral on YouTube.
Today, our largest branch by personnel is in Tel Aviv, where we have opened the Moishe Rosen Center, now serving as a vibrant community and outreach center in the trendy Florentine neighborhood. And since many Israelis have moved to Berlin, Germany, in search of better opportunities, we opened a branch there as well.
Jews for Jesus remains committed to reaching out with the good news of the Messiah to our people worldwide, with a staff and corps of volunteers spanning multiple generations including Boomers and Millennials.
Our new mission statement is "We relentlessly pursue God's plan of salvation for our Jewish people." - may you join us in the endeavour of making Messiah Yeshua known to our Jewish people worldwide!
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