If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there....
And, of course, the corollary...no road will get you there. The episode discussed here points to one of our legacy Jewish organizational partners which is, at least in the instance discussed here, in The Jerusalem Post, and in an article on ejewishphilanthropy, an organization that has lost its way but still might regain it. The Post report can be read here: https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/christian-org-with-jewish-agency-ties-rejects-missionizing-allegations-649418
If you are an American Board member of JAFI, how might you react to this headline: Messianic Evangelicals Partner with Jewish Agency Running Absorption Center for Olim and Lone Soldiers? I might want to get to the bottom of this mess. But, hey, that's just me. You??? Jewish Agency leaders? Any one else? The leadership of the Jewish Agency now appears to be both in denial and fully engaged with this balagan. There has been no better piece on this mess than in ejp's article today: https://ejewishphilanthropy.com/jewish-agency-accuses-evangelical-contractors-of-numerous-violations-but-denies-they-evangelized-new-immigrants/
Who would have thought that as 2020 finally comes to an end, we would have learned that the Jewish Agency for Israel appears to have partnered four-plus years ago with a messianic Christian entity dedicated to bringing Jews to Israel and converting them. But, so it was and so it is. Yes, take a careful look at the Jewish Agency's "partnership" with "Return Ministries" in the development, operation and populating of the Bikat Kinarot Village. Here is how "Return Ministries," a Canadian messianic Christian entity, described it: https://news.kehila.org/bikat-kinarot-center-working-together-for-israel-project/ The Jewish Agency's weak denials in the Post article of the Ministries' involvement rang as hollow as did the Ministries' denial of purpose; and in statements issued since, JAFI has tried to redefine Return Ministries roles and minimize them.
So begin with a written commitment in the Return Ministries project materials to refrain from engaging in efforts to convert those who stay at Bikat Kinarot. But, that appeared to be at best misleading and at worst a misrepresentation. Return Ministries asserts on its website:
"Clarity for our Jewish Friends
...not a proselytizing missionary institution
...not a messianic Jewish institution..."
One organization decided to take a closer look. A group of concerned Jews within the non-profit Outreach Judaism began asking the right questions:
"Outreach Judaism is an international organization that responds directly to the issues raised by missionaries and cults, by exploring Judaism in contradistinction to fundamentalist Christianity."
Outreach and Beyneynu, another organization fighting those entities which may be engaged in conversion activities, have led the fight and, in doing so, have engaged with some American Jewish leaders.
Here is the video that Outreach Judaism prepared: https://youtu.be/zkobV5gxJTc You must watch it; and, then, the question: who proposed that JAFI partner with a messianic fundamentalist Christian entity in a Project clearly focused on converting Jews to Christianity? Yes, how was this approved? Was JAFI lay leadership even aware of the "partnership?" And, now that they are, what are they doing about it? Outreach Judaism framed the question for us:
Why are Jewish Agency programs for vulnerable populations being run by Christian missionaries? (Jewish Agency counsel asserted, among other demands, in the letter cited below: "Return Ministries has no involvement in the Jewish Agency's programs and the Jewish Agency strongly opposes to [sic] any prohibited missionary activity..." In other words: "don't believe your lying eyes.")
With no real answers forthcoming as yet since these questions first arose, Beyneynu leaders asked again in a letter to JAFI and other leadership on December 6. And, how has the Jewish Agency responded to the Beyneynu letter? With its in-house counsel's letter threatening the Beyneynu authors with legal action for, among other things: violating Israeli law by failing to obtain the consent of the letter's recipients prior to their receiving it (under this theory, all correspondence in Israel could not be sent without acceptance by the addressee in advance); not having its facts correct (without explaining what the true facts are); a demand to cease and desist; and a threat of legal action against the organization and the authors.
Many were expecting a factual response at the least; one that would explain how and why the Jewish Agency embarked on this "partnership" in the first place and what it is doing to terminate it. Instead...none of the above and threats to those who exposed the "partnership" in the first place. As one of my friends described. it: "READY, FIRE, AIM."
And, over the past months, while all of these events were transpiring, some American Jewish leaders raised these questions quietly and directly with Jewish Agency lay and professional leaders who, to their credit, took these concerns far more seriously than the Agency's counsel's letter would have suggested. But, should not the Agency act to terminate this 10 year contract and the missionary entity's presence on the Bikat Kinarot campus.
There have been many positive changes in the Jewish Agency's leadership since the deal was made with Return Ministries. The current leadership appeares to be taking this matter seriously. And, so, JAFI needs to provide clear and unequivocal answers, not threats and unsubtantiated denials ...and its leaders need to do so and to act now.
I wish all of you a healthy and safe and far better 2021.