From a Jewish Week report: On the 1900 block of Coney Island Avenue, a major business thoroughfare in the heart of Brooklyn’s heavily Orthodox Flatbush neighborhood, you could easily buy some kosher sushi or a few Gemaros.
Soon, the neighborhood’s residents will also have the opportunity to study the New Testament there and attend Jewish-style worship services that recognizes Yoshke, r”l.
Nearly two years after Chosen People Ministries, a prominent “Messianic Jewish” organization that presents Christianity as a fulfillment of Torah prophecies, opened a small educational center seven blocks away on East 18th Street, Chosen People is about to convert the site of a defunct Jewish funeral home into a Messianic seminary.
The future site of the Brooklyn Messianic Center and the Charles Feinberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies (affiliated with the Talbot School of Theology, a Protestant institution in La Mirada, Calif.) will represent the largest presence of such a Hebrew-Christian group in an Orthodox neighborhood in the United States.
While the smaller center proselytized mostly to elderly Russians with little Jewish knowledge, the new center is expected to target Jews with the most intensive Jewish background. A particular target, experts say, will be at-risk Orthodox teens.
The converted building at 1978 Coney Island Avenue, which this week bore no signs of its future identity, will be a new, higher-profile front in so-called Messianic Judaism’s effort to establish itself as an accepted part of mainstream Judaism, anti-missionary experts say.
Chosen Ministries’ new beachhead in the heart of Orthodox Brooklyn sends “a powerful message,” said Rabbi Craig Miller, co-director of the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Spiritual Deception Project, which combats cults and missionary groups.
And counter-missionaries like Rabbi Miller and others are warning that area residents are not taking the new outreach seriously enough. “A lot of people [in the Orthodox community] aren’t aware of what this really means,” the rabbi said.
Moshe Verschleisser, another anti-missionary activist, agreed.
“One of their goals is to give the impression that they’re a legitimate Jewish movement,” said Verschleisser, who works with the Jews for Judaism organization. “I think we should be very much concerned. This is a big deal.”
Chosen People Ministries was the sponsor of this summer’s Isaiah53 campaign here, which – in billboards, subway ads and a Facebook page – promoted its interpretation of selected biblical verses.
“So far,” the Chosen People website boasts, “this campaign has resulted in more contacts with Jewish seekers than we have had in decades!”
Initiatives like Isaiah53 and the Messianic Center in Flatbush are putting Chosen People Ministries, which was established in 1894 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn and was formerly called the American Board of Missions to the Jews, at the forefront of Hebrew Christian organizations.
Read more at The Jewish Week.