The Jewish Agency for Israel, a world-renowned organization responsible for helping millions of Jews immigrate to Israel, says it is cutting ties with a Christian ministry over allegations of missionary evangelical activity.
For years, the Jewish Agency has partnered with Return Ministries, a Canadian organization dedicated to assisting Jews make “Aliyah” (immigrate to Israel) and building bridges between Christian Zionists and the State of Israel.
Every Christian volunteer in Galilee is vetted and told to not share the gospel with Jewish participants, as part of their contract with the agency.
Return Ministries runs the Aliyah Return Center, which operates at The Jewish Agency’s Bikat Kinarot educational facility south of the Sea of Galilee. There, the agency helps new immigrants (olim), lone soldiers, and Israelis in need through a variety of programs.
The Aliyah Return Center partners with the agency by renovating and developing the campus and often brings Christian pilgrims and volunteers to the site.
The Jewish Agency said in a statement that their partnership is now over because, while it has found no evidence of any direct missionary activity the videos posted online by the Aliyah Return Center create a perception that is in direct opposition to the mission and values of The Jewish Agency for Israel and has unfairly entangled the organization’s work and reputation.
The Jewish Agency for Israel will not allow any proselytizing attempts, under any circumstances, in any form, of the Jewish people or any people in our care,” the agency’s Director-General and CEO Amira Ahronoviz said in the statement.
The agency claimed the Aliyah Return Center “erroneously took credit in their media posts for involvement in areas such as Aliyah, specifically with proselytizing lone soldiers and new olim, resulting in the immediate termination of the partnership agreement in its current form.
Return Ministries maintains that it is not a missionary organization, prohibits its volunteers from proselytizing, and has never implied or insinuated that evangelism takes place at the Aliyah Return Center.
The controversy erupted last month when the Israeli anti-missionary group, Beyneynu, sent a letter to the Jewish Agency accusing the Aliyah Return Center of having a hidden agenda to secretly convert Jews to Christianity – specifically through worship programs at the group’s prayer center at the Bikat Kinarot campus.
Both the Jewish Agency and Return Ministries strongly rebuked Beyneynu’s accusations as false and denied allegations of any missionary activity.
Haaretz reports that the agency responded with a legal memo to the anti-missionary group calling its letter “a misleading document, slander and damage to the reputation of the Jewish Agency.
However, the anti-missionary group repeated calls for the Jewish Agency to terminate its contract with Return Ministries and circulated doctored videos attempting to show that evangelism was indeed happening.
The Jewish Agency insisted the anti-missionary group’s videos “are heavily edited, using old and irrelevant footage and containing many false statements.
Chaim Malespin, a Messianic Jew who serves as director of the Aliyah Return Center, told CBN News Return Ministries never breached its contract with the Jewish Agency by proselytizing and claimed the anti-missionary group is lying.
He said every Christian volunteer is vetted and told to not share the gospel with Jewish participants, as part of their contract with the agency.
People who come, come not to proselytize, but to show unconditional love through their actions, said Malespin. That’s proven through our pristine and untarnished track record.
Both the Jewish Agency and Return Ministries agree no missionary work occurred, but the agency explained in its letter, it chose to terminate their partnership because it believes Return Ministries “created the perception” that they did evangelize.
Malespin argues that terminating their agreement over appearances based on false allegations is a “dangerous precedent.”
Shannon Nuszen, a former evangelical who converted to Orthodox Judaism, founded Beyneynu. She insists that even if evangelism is not happening at the Aliyah Return Center, Jewish organizations should never partner with Jews like Malespin Jews who believe in Jesus.
The Christian Perspective / ABC Flash Point Religious News 2021.