The New Jews For Jesus

On February 22nd Jeremy Gimpel an educator, radio host, and Deputy Director of the World Mizrachi Movement was the featured speaker at an event in Nashville sponsored by HaYovel, a ministry founded by Tommy Waller.   Hayovel brings hundreds of messianic and fundamentalist Christian volunteers to work with farmers, especially vintners, in Judea and Samaria. Since 2009 JewishIsrael has been monitoring the Waller family's extensive network of missionary collaborationsand associations. JewishIsrael has been alerting the Jewish community via online reports as well as through private and public presentations. We have also provided information to rabbinic leaders who have formulated a "Document of Principles" regarding the acceptance of monetary and manpower assistance from Christian organizations or individuals. Joshua and Caleb Waller as well as Luke Hilton, all from HaYovel, hosted the evening in Nashville, which put the spotlight on Jeremy Gimpel and his personal story, visions and interpretation on prophecy. At the conclusion of the event, Don Finto, a notorious Nashville-based missionary known for his aggressive and public campaigns to bring the Jews to jesus, took the stage at the behest of Calev Waller. "Papa Don come on up here and bless us. I want to honor you for being here with us tonight and thank you for leading the beacon of Israel here in this town. And this is an honor. Let's rise and honor Papa Don here this evening. So stand with us as we bless." After being welcomed on stage by Gimpel and the HaYovel team, Finto expresses his gratitude at seeing "what's happening among Christians, believers in jesus, coming together, united together for ‘your’ purposes". Finto lays his hand upon Gimpel's shoulder and blesses him and Hayovel.  This is followed by Finto's prayer in the name of jesus, as well as Finto’s Hebrew version of the priestly blessing. The Jewish community was widely exposed to Don Finto's agenda when he made an appearance in 2011 at a mass rally in a Texas stadium with messianic associates, and openly prayed for the conversion of the Jewish people. The "Response" prayer rally, the brainchild of then Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry, made international headlines and was a source of national debate in addition to causing concern in America's Jewish community. Despite Finto's open conversionary agenda and support for messianics in Israel, he penned a book back in 2001"Your People Shall Be My People", which remains an acclaimed classic among Christian Zionists. Professor Stephen Spector writes in his book, "Evangelicals and Israel", that "Even organizations that officially avoid proselytizing seem to sympathize with Finto's beliefs." Messianic leader Daniel Juster, who works closely with Don Finto and a missionary team in Israel, endorses the book and is quoted by Finto: "I have become convinced that Rabbinic Judaism is a more severe departure from biblical faith than I had ever realized in my early days of Jewish recovery...The atmosphere of New Testament carried on the spirit of the Hebrew Scriptures pervasively and profoundly.  The essence of Rabbinism is a severe departure, replacing revelation with human reason...We who are Jewish are biblical New Covenant Jews, not Rabbinic Jews!" Finto's more recent views on rabbis, Judaism, and what goes on in the synagogues continue to be disingenuous and condescending. That Jeremy Gimpel has recently been promoted on the speaking circuit as Orthodox "Rabbi Gimpel" should make his appearance on stage with Don Finto all the more discomforting.   As far back as 1997 Don Finto was making waves andheadlines with his sermons and promotion of the Christian mandate to convert the Jewish people. At that time, Reform-Progressive Rabbi Stephen Fuchs held the line for the Jewish people and was able to deliver a firm response that would put many of today's younger Orthodox rabbis and Torah observant activists to complete shame. A good number of Jeremy Gimpel'sresponses delivered to an audience two weeks ago at Fellowship Bible Chapel  appear to be noncommittal, fawning and ambiguous at best. And, in the opinion ofJewishIsrael, Gimpel's "open-ended" approach to Jewish-Christian theological relations could actually encourage those looking forward to a missionary harvest. JewishIsrael expressed concern about a possible association between Don Finto and Tommy Waller of Hayovel in its November 2013 report Evangelists, Politics and Shomron PR – The Pew of It All. At that time, blogger “Geula Girl” picked up the ball and a few days later posted an in-depth look at those connections on her website,  "Esav Exposed". It would have been hard for Jeremy Gimpel not to have known about Don Finto.  Had he not been informed of Finto's appearance at the conclusion of his presentation he could have chosen a dignified, appropriate and halachic response by leaving the stage during the Christian prayer session. Certainly Jeremy Gimpel now knows that his Hayovel sponsors endorse, honor and are close with "Papa Don" Finto. One wonders how Gimpel feels after being used by Hayovel to legitimize and empower the likes of Don Finto. In addition, Gimpel's personal family photos (including wife and children) and stories from his family history are being used to publicize and raise funds for an organization which has consistently shown itself to be missionary in nature.   A New Strategy: Embrace the Missionary For years Jewish leaders and activists have consistently and persistently denied that they were working with missionaries, and insisted that Christian Zionists were not interested in bringing Jews to faith in Jesus. However now that this is obviously no longer true, Jewish activists are scrambling to keep these unholy alliances intact. The new strategy is to deem the missionary infiltration into Israel as benign and benevolent. Rather than take an honest accounting of a tragic mistake, the questions now being asked and explored by Ari Abramowitz, Jeremy Gimpel and others are, "should we be afraid of missionaries?" and "should Christian missionaries be banned or embraced?" And the dangerously naïve and ironic answer being given is that the Jewish people are strong enough and well educated enough in their faith to withstand any missionary threat from people who truly love us. Unfortunately JewishIsrael needs to remind those Jewish leaders who sit in yeshiva halls and radio broadcasting booths, as well as those held captive by loving Christian donors and congregations, to remember that there are reportedly hundreds of thousands of Jews worldwide who have converted to Christianity since the establishment of the State of Israel. They have been the target of countless numbers of active Evangelical missionaries whose inspiration and urgent need to bring Jews to jesus has been inspired by the rebirth of the Jewish state and by what they see as the end-times role for the Jews according to Christian scripture. Christian Aliyah is another solution being pondered by those Jews who have for years been fanning the flames of evangelical fervor. Perhaps more than the missionaries, the Jewish people should be afraid of some of their own personalities and leaders who are apparently incapable of recognizing a spiritual foe and holding the line when their faith and people come under a centuries-old threat. It is especially poignant when one considers that in this past week’s special Torah reading for Parshat Zachor, we Jews are commanded to remember those who attacked the frail and vulnerable among us. JewishIsrael contributed to this post.