Two thousand years of history have shown the Jewish people that Christians are their worst enemies, a Messianic rabbi pointed out.
"Jews were told you must convert or be killed. If we ignore the history, we'll never really understand why it's so difficult to reach the Jewish people with the Gospel," Jeff Friedman emphasized.
Friedman himself grew up hating Christians. While attending an Orthodox Jewish synagogue regularly in Brooklyn, N.Y., he said he had some brief encounters with Christians and found them offensive, according to Pentecostal Evangel, a publication of the Assemblies of God.
It wasn't until he was in his late 20s that he began to understand Yeshua, or Jesus. And it was at the most unlikely of places – his hair salon.
After moving to Miami as part of his job as a government pharmacist, Friedman went to get a haircut one day in 1980 where he met Mitzi, his hairstylist. She was a Jewish woman who attended an Assemblies of God church.
"She saw an emptiness in me, and understood that," Friedman recalled. "I didn't understand it, so I tried to fill up the empty places with everything that the world had; all that did was leave me more hungry."
Mitzi was able to tap into that, he explained to The Christian Post. She challenged me to read from the Scriptures – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Psalms – and she showed me the Messiah. For the first time in my life, I was challenged with this question, 'Who is this Messiah?'"
A week later, Friedman came to faith in Yeshua after accepting an invitation to a Christmas party at the church.
"When I started to read the prophecies of God, it was inescapable. I discovered in the older covenant scriptures that this man that the gentiles call Jesus must be the Messiah," Friedman said.
Now a founder of Jacob's Hope, an outreach ministry for the Assemblies of God, and a licensed AG minister and Messianic rabbi, Friedman aims to bring this same hope to Jewish people around the world by providing humanitarian and medical aid, and sharing the Good News of the Messiah.
Friedman noted that although many people are supporting Jewish ministries that provide humanitarian aid – the Gospel is not shared, so people aren't being evangelized. Jacob's Hope is working to change this.
Jacob's Hope currently serves in Belarus, Germany, Ukraine, Ethiopia, and Israel, providing humanitarian aid, food, and medical care; training and equipping local pastors and Messianic rabbis to minister more effectively to their communities; distributing Bibles, books, and equipment; building worship and job training centers; and lastly sharing the Gospel of the Jewish Messiah Yeshua to the Jewish people.
"Gentile Christians live in poverty all over the world, but at least they have faith – something to cling on to. But most Jewish people scattered all over the world have nothing and no one. They are spiritually and physically in poverty," Friedman said.
Hundreds of Jews enter the centers of Jacob's Hope every month, and a percentage of those people ask questions about why the missionaries are here and why they're doing what they're doing. The volunteers and workers have a simple response.
We're here because of the Messiah, he declared.
Friedman also explained, "We tell them and have a sign that says that all the material they receive comes from Christians from America who love the people of Israel, the Jewish people."
Over ninety percent of Jews have not heard a culturally relevant presentation of the Gospel. The hopeful Friedman, joining a growing number of modern Messianic Jews today, is seeking to help the Jewish people understand that the terrible things done to them "in the name of Jesus" were not done by true believers and the Messiah who loved them.
"It's important that we put the Gospel back into its original Jewish context. This Jewish man Jesus, the greatest Jew who ever lived, who kept the law of Moses perfectly, who said 'I come to seek and save the lost sheep of Israel;' he loved the Jewish people."
He shared his personal convictions from Romans 10 – "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved."
Friedman works alongside his wife, Vixie, as well as three other AG missionary couples including Chris and Shawna, Jeff and Tammy, and Michael and Judith.
The enthusiastic rabbi soon plans to take 20 health care professionals with him into Ethiopia for eight days in order to minister to thousands of lost Jews with hope for salvation.