Many Russian-speaking Jews who fled the fighting in Ukraine now find themselves in another warzone. What makes the situation even more unique is they follow Yeshua – Jesus– as their messiah and are part of evangelical churches.
Members of local Russian-speaking evangelical churches in Israel are distributing free groceries and serving hundreds of hot meals daily to overwhelmed Israelis.
“These churches are ministering to hundreds of families in Israel living in fear right now,” said Eric Mock, senior vice president of operations for the Slavic Gospel Association. “One pastor and a church member moved all the women and children in their church to a safe area and then returned to the frontline to help those who had nowhere to go.”
People are hunkered down in their homes and bomb shelters “in fear and shock, in dire need of food and comfort,” said a local missionary pastor whose church is feeding up to 250 people every day. “We talk to many about the need to pray and trust God.”
Country in shock
One local pastor, who cannot be named for security reasons, said, “We know that everything is in the hands of God. The whole country is in shock. We need prayers and support more than ever before.”
For decades, the Slavic Gospel Association has supported local evangelical churches in Israel started by Russian-speaking immigrants from the former Soviet Union. These churches, located mostly in poor neighborhoods, run ministries to the homeless and addicts, as well as summer Bible camps for children.
“Amid all the terrible bloodshed and suffering, local churches in Israel have a message of hope for those who are overwhelmed, grief stricken and traumatized,” association President Michael Johnson said. “They’re showing their neighbors that God has not forgotten them, especially in this dark hour, and they’re sharing the gospel with them.”
Russian-speaking Israelis make up 15% of the population, or about 1.3 million people. Many fled Eastern Europe and Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and continue to arrive each week.
Jews, Jesus and immigration controversy
Israel’s right of return states that a person from Russia can immigrate to Israel if at least one grandparent as Jewish. For many, they may have been brought up in a Christian church because Judaism was virtually outlawed in Communist Russia.
Today, 71% of Russian immigrants do not practice Judaism according to the Times of Israel.
ReligionWatch.com reports these Russian-speaking immigrants are settling into their new life in Israel:
“The large number of Russian Christian immigrants in Israel are increasingly taking on an Israeli identity and embracing Hebrew language services, particularly Messianic Jews, writes Lisa Loden in East-West Church & Ministry Report (Summer).
The Law of Return allowed waves of immigrants into Israel from the former Soviet Union if they could prove some Jewish lineage, although as many as 250,000 Russians are considered “other” (because their mothers were not Jewish or had not converted to Orthodox Judaism), with up to half of that number counting themselves as Christian. There are approximately 70,000 to 100,000 Russian Orthodox believers in Israel, with many Jewish-Russians turning to the church after immigration. “Today, these Russian Orthodox Jewish Christians see their identity as being fully Israeli,” Loden writes.
Other Russians embraced churches such as Anglican, Greek Orthodox, and Catholic, although Messianic Jews have drawn the most, with about 15,000 adherents. Messianic congregations are gradually shifting from Russian-speaking to using Hebrew in their worship.”
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–Alan Goforthh | Metro Voice