Just prior to the Pesach break, headlines in leading Israeli press outlets were reporting that a group of 1000 Russian-American Christians had initiated steps to make aliyah and convert to Orthodox Judaism.
The group, led by messianic Russian-Christian radio show host Baruch Abrahamovich (Abramovich), apparently enjoys the backing of Yisrael Beiteinu MK Lia Shemtov, and is receiving guidance from an Israeli rabbi. The group is reportedly seeking to purchase land and establish a commune-like settlement in Samaria.
Everything, from the perplexing headlines to the conflicting and missing details of the varying reports, indicates that something is very amiss with this venture and with the people behind it.
Arutz 7's sudden removal of Gil Ronen's original report of April 18th, which was replaced by an equally confounding interview by David Lev on April 27th, added to the intrigue (Hat Tip: Esser Agaroth).
Jewish Israel decided to investigate. The details we compiled are cause for alarm.
Mass conversion and an impossible leap of faith
Last month, the Israeli, Russian and Christian press, as well as messianic bloggers, ran headlines which raised many eyebrows:
Russian-American Christians seek new life in Samaria, Jerusalem Post
the New Christian Settlers, Ynet News
1,000 Evangelists Want to Convert, Make Aliyah to Samaria, Arutz 7 (this article was taken offline)
UPDATE: Christian Zionist settlers in Samaria?, Israel Today (messianic)
American Christians are willing to resettle in Israel, MirVam Christian Portal ( Google Russian translation)
About 1000 people have signed document with an application to adopt Judaism, to resettle in Israel and settle in Samaria, Russian Radio 7 (Google Russian translation)
The actual content of the articles left the reader even more confused and suspect as evidenced by the talkbacks posted under the Arutz 7 and Ynet accounts. Other blogs and articles describe the leader of the group of 1000 proported candidates for conversion as everything from "a Christian" to "a messianic Jew" to "a Russian converted Jew" to "an Ephramite" (a purported member of the lost tribes).
If the leader of this group and its members were indeed on the road to sincere conversion, the media should have appropriately identified them as non-Jews or gentiles. And headlines would have read, "pro-Israel gentile group" or "former Christians" seek conversion and aliyah.
It's obvious that people who are broadly and consistently identified as "Christian" are far from being prepared to take a leap of faith into Judaism. Conversion to Judaism and becoming a part of the Jewish people is not akin to the type of denominational hopping or switching of church affiliation which is common among adherents to Christianity. A change of souls is required.
Grafting Jewish traditions, rituals and selected readings from the Torah into a christ-centered faith system will simply not do. In addition to learning about what it means to be a Jew, these people first need to go through the long and grueling process of relinquishing a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. In addition, a renunciation of belief in Jesus, Yeshua, Yahshua, Yeshua HaМashiah, The Nazarene, the Galilean, Rabbi Jesus, or whatever they care to call him, would be a prerequisite before conversion to Judaism could even be considered.
The very concept of a mass conversion runs contrary to accepted Jewish tradition. Surely the process of conversion to another faith is a very intimate and individual journey. This excerpt from an article by Rabbi Berel Wein touches upon another aspect of this problem:
"Over the centuries, easy and mass conversion to Judaism has proven itself to be a detriment and not an asset. The rabbis of the Mishna criticized the Hasmonean kings for their mass conversion of the Idumean tribe into Judaism. Eventually those converts produced Antipater and Herod and contributed to the destruction of the Second Temple and the Second Commonwealth. The history of mass conversions and lowered standards for conversion does not make for pleasant reading in Jewish history."
Perhaps the ambiguity of the press reports covering this story is indicative of the opportunism, confusion and crossing of lines that is the inevitable result of Israel's interfaith dialoguing, wishful thinking and trolling for Christian dollars and support. Perhaps.
Will the real Baruch Abrahamovich please stand up?
The leader of this messianic Christian group aiming to settle in Israel is Russian-American Baruch Abrahamovich (Avrahamovich, Abramovich, Avramovich, Avraamovich). He is the director of Russian Christian Radio (Russian Radio 7) in Portland, Oregon, which networks with churches, pastors, missionaries and messianic entities.
In a letter announcing the opening of the Christian station, which was posted on the MirVam Christian news portal site in August 2010, Abrahamovich refers to the station as "a media tool for evangelism" and he expresses the desire "to unite the Radio 7 "elders, youth ministers, teachers of the Word of God, missionaries and preachers, who would like to serve our society regardless of religious affiliation. These ministers should set an example and the person of Christ's Church for our unbelieving listeners." (Google translation of the original Russian).
The station gives significant air time to the evangelical, messianic and Hebraic roots perspective and "supports" Israel in a messianic missionary sort of way. Just last month Russian Radio 7 reported that missionary leader Milton Alvarez had returned from Israel. You can read about Alvarez and his messianic contacts in Israel here. Also last month, messianic Hebraic roots leader Eddie Chumney was featured on Russian Radio 7 with Abrahamovich. Chumney, who at one time was collaborating with Worldwide Biblical Zionist (WBZ) leader Joel Bell, is determined to bring members of a significant grassroots jesus movement on aliyah, and is also connecting with certain Knesset members, rabbis and activists (more on this in the upcoming continuation of this report).
According to the Google translation of an article from the Russian Christian News media outlet MirVam, Abrahamovich is married to well-known evangelical journalist and editor Ludmila Kachkar. She is Executive Editor of the Russian language “The Protestant” and “Protestant America” newspapers. Her profile goes on to say that Kachkar:
"…has a background as Editor-in-Chief of Billy Graham's: 'The Decision Russia' magazine, and has seven years in this leading role at 'The Military Christian Herald' magazine, outreach of Military Union Campus Cruise for Christ of Denver, Colorado; out of Lyudmila’s two master’s degrees one of which is a MD in Theology from one of the leading Bible schools in the U.S.A."
So while the very naïve may be willing to give Mr. Abrahamovich and his declared desire to convert the benefit of the doubt, it's highly doubtful that his “better” half will be willing to relinquish her christian lord and savior.
Abrahamovich was front and center in the preview of Trinity Broadcasting Network's (TBN) television show, "Building a Difference". The episode featured the Missouri ministry of New Life USA, which has its roots in Russia. In the opening sequence, Abrahamovich leads the camera around a workshop where recovering drug addicts are busy designing furnishings and fixtures for churches.
The collective farming at New Life has apparently inspired Abrahamovich’s plans to build a similar kibbutz-like endeavor in Samaria. Jewish Israel has previously reported on TBN's targeting of Russian Jews via missionary television broadcast in Israel with the approval of Israel’s Ministry of Communications.
Abrahamovich is affiliated with the messianic house of praise, Beit Hallel of Vancouver, WA. In August 2010, Abrahamovich attended a "Tvila- Messianic Water Baptism" with the congregation. He was photographed extensively with the leader of the messianic group, Gene Galyuk:
The very messianic and christ-centered Baruch Abrahamovich can wrap himself in a tallit, blow the shofar and stamp himself "certified kosher" until kingdom come, but it's simply not going to make him and his messianic friends members of the Jewish tribe. Alternatively, he can sport an IDF uniform, wrap himself in an Israeli flag, and express a desire to purchase and work the land, but his belief in jesus will make becoming an accepted member of the Torah observant Jewish community in Israel an impossibility and a hypocrisy.
Inspite of Abrahamovich's Christian messianic agenda, he and his plans to settle throngs of jesus believers in Israel are receiving support and guidance from some surprising and some not-so surprising sources on the political and spiritual fronts. In the continuation of this report, we will get down to the "Hebraic Roots" of the matter.