The Quintessential Sizzle of Karen Meissner

Abraham Lincoln said, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in those years.” If he could have met Karen Meissner somewhere, somehow, it is possible that she would have been his favorite writer, producer, editor and over-protective Jewish mother. She would have proofread all his speeches until they reached “sizzle factor” status, bringing out her red pen, circling all his errors to make his piece would shine. Had Lincoln actually met her, he may have been as impressed with her as so many others were during her short, but astonishing life. Although Karen wasn’t born until 1951, long after Mr. Lincoln had passed, for this generation, her grammatical skill from as early as the sixth grade earned her a reputation in a multitude of career fields that stretched over three decades.
There is a constant bombardment for a person’s attention in New York City. Art, cuisine, fashion and activism, New York is also home to nearly 100,000 charitable organizations. A person walking along the street is accosted by billboards and other signage about what to buy, how to vote, what to watch, and who to be. Not to mention phone, tablet and computer screens.

Forty-three years ago, life was simpler. Jews for Jesus was a fledgling band of Vietnam War protesters— young, unafraid and convinced Jesus was their Jewish Messiah—and they spread the message through humorous, hand-drawn gospel tracts. Over the years, millions were given out in busy subway stations and street corners around the city. Jewish people came to believe in the Messiah. We were ubiquitous, bold and persistent.

As years passed, heads bowed to phone screens and ears were plugged with headphones. There was a perceptible decline in effectiveness as we revisited those same subway stations. After years of striking a nerve within the Jewish community, it was clear we were being avoided by the majority of Jewish New Yorkers. Over the years, anti-missionary groups made the rounds in synagogues and Jewish community centers. They spread the idea Jews for Jesus were imposters, a cult. We desperately wanted to re-engage our people but how do you change perceptions when you can’t even maintain eye contact?
We needed to understand these perceptions and find a new approach. After I began leading the New York branch of Jews for Jesus in 2011, I took a class on strategic communications for nonprofit management. One day after class, I got into a conversation with the professor about Jews for Jesus, and she said our brand had the most negative associations in the Jewish community. When I asked her why she said, “Aaron, I grew up in New York in a non-religious Jewish family, and I would say, ‘Jesus doesn’t bother me. But why do you always have to be in my way when I’m trying to get somewhere?’”

The gospel is naturally offensive, especially to Jewish people. But we want to avoid more obstacles on the way to truth. The message of Jesus aside, we were violating the cardinal sin of New York: to hinder the commute during the busiest times of the day.

So we began praying and asking ourselves a series of questions around our audience, message, tone and methods. We didn’t want to sacrifice high visibility or commitment to boldly sharing the truth, but we recognized what worked yesterday

may not work today. The gospel is sacred, not methodology. We started experimenting with new ways to bless New Yorkers and engage with them meaningfully, not only to create positive impressions but to cause  people to stop and ask why we were out there.

We began giving little things away. For Rosh Hashanah, we gave out apple-flavored honey sticks and a card with a holiday message including our contact information. During the warm summer months, we labeled water bottles with a way

to get in touch and handed them to parched passersby. Sunscreen, sunglasses, glow sticks—whatever the item we distributed, we used it for further engagement.

But perhaps the most influential giveaway has been our cold brew coffee. We began labeling cups with contact information, a short message, and a ‘Brews for Jesus’ logo, which plays off of our already identifiable name and causes quite a few smirks. We set up our cold brew coffee and iced tea stations in busier areas and on college campuses, this time not to get in the way, but to aid in the commute. Both the branding and the fact it’s us catches people so off guard many turn to social media to post photos of the encounter (see right). Students have called out, “You’re a lifesaver!” as they grab a cup of coffee on their way to class. One woman took a cup and passed it to her Jewish father, who is now in a retirement home, thinking he might find it interesting. She asked if somebody might be willing to visit her father to talk a little bit more about Jesus. Stewart, one of our local staff, visited him and over time, led him to faith in Jesus. Since then, a number of other friends have also asked to meet with Stewart.

It began with a cup of coffee.

But we wanted to offer people more than coffee; we wanted to give them hope. We started making boards in New York City and abroad that read “Post a Prayer” to help people through personal struggles and in moments of crisis. Jewish people from Israel and around the world have been attracted and posted a prayer. Often, we are able to pray for them on the street corner.

To engage in deeper conversations, we began setting up boards emblazoned with intriguing questions. We handed out sticky notes and markers, inviting passersby to post responses on the board. One of our boards reads, “What are you for?” and challenges people to define themselves in a positive way, rather than by what they are against. Regardless of the question, the format frequently leads to deeper conversations about faith and enables us to discuss just who Jesus is.

As we try to bring change to our city, we realize that we ourselves must be open to changing our methods and experimenting with new ways to reach Jewish people at all levels of spiritual interest. We know it’s ultimately God’s work to save people, but we strive to be effective vessels through which He can work, “in order that we may win some,” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Ministering to Souls In Seoul

Quickly becoming one of the most globally impacting Messianic Jewish ministries, Ahavat Ammi founded and led by Rabbi Tzahi Shapira does not seem to be slowing down. In the past few years Rabbi Shapira has shared the Word and Messianic Jewish vision in numerous countries around the globe from France to Columbia and now to South Korea, and more to come.

Unsung Heroes Larry and Bess Herzakow

The land of Israel is as diverse a landscape as its residents. This diversity also means a variety of needs, including shortages of food and clothing and a hunger for truth. This is where good Samaritans Larry and Bess Herzakow come into action.

This couple founded Beit Rachamim, House of Compassion, in 2014 and use this ministry to serve the needy in Israel. Beit Rachamim provides opportunities to people in the United States who love the land and people of Israel to serve some of the people and experience the Land of the Bible firsthand.

The Herzakows made Aliyah in 1996, working and serving many of the ministries in and around Jerusalem. The couple moved back to Denver, Colorado in 2012 where God started to place the vision of Beit Rachamim in them as they were attending Calvary Chapel Aurora, where they had begun a Jewish outreach and prayer ministry, led several Passover Seders and even put on a Purim play.

The Art of Being David and Martha Stern

David and Martha Stern are pillars of the Messianic Jewish movement. Through his books, David Stern has made an incalculable impact on the development of Messianic Judaism. Longtime friend and publisher Rabbi Barry Rubin says, “David Stern has made a greater single contribution to Messianic Judaism than anybody I can think of. His writings, theology books and Bible commentary books have been translated into many languages and distributed into many countries around the world. Through Stern’s work, Christians around the world are being introduced to Messianic Judaism, Israel and the Jewish people.” Martha Frankel, was born in 1947 to atheist Jewish parents. Since her parents didn’t believe in God, Martha sometimes went with friends to synagogue seeking to find God and her place with the Jewish people. She loved to read a children’s Tanakh that her family had. But she felt lonely living in a mostly non-Jewish world with no Jewish support system. After dabbling in the hippie and occult lifestyle, God showed Martha He was real and that Yeshua was the Messiah of Israel. Martha found that believing in Yeshua made being Jewish more significant to her. As a young girl, she had a desire to live in Israel. Now, knowing the God and Messiah of Israel, that desire was even stronger. Martha joined the staff of Jews for Jesus, and while attending the Messiah ’75 conference, she met David. A year later, they were married.

Bless Israel Network Changing the Landscape

Believers look forward to the prophetic day when all Israel will be saved, and Shaul’s “one new man” is a reality for every Jew and Gentile. Messianics living in Israel, as members of the Biblical remnant, are the key in bringing about this revival and calling forth the spotless, blameless Bride to help usher in the Messianic Age. According to Dan and D’vorah Calic, there are already as many as 175 Jewish believing congregations in Israel, prompting them to ask themselves, “Why doesn’t the Messianic Body have a spokesperson, and why aren’t Christians connecting en masse with Jewish believers to help build the Kingdom in Israel?” To fill this need, together with Ron Arnow in 2014, they founded the Bless Israel Network, a first-of-its-kind television network where everything is hosted, written and scripted in Israel. Dan explains, “We're changing the landscape with a breakthrough program called Revelation to the Nations, offering the first dedicated platform and global voice for the Israeli Messianic community. The program is designed to establish personal connections between the Body of Messiah in the Nations to the Body of Messiah in Israel and facilitate reciprocal blessing.” As it is said in Bereshit (Genesis) 12:3, “My desire is to bless those who bless you . . . ”

Amateur Archaeology Finds

Outside of academic archaeology, many historical finds are credited to ordinary citizens and explorers who happen upon pieces of the past. Several such incidents have been taking place in Israel in the past few years—both with virtuous intend and otherwise. Laurie Rimon, a member of Kibbutz Kefar Blum, made one such discovery while hiking in eastern Galilee. While visiting an archaeological site in the region, Rimon happened upon a remarkable discovery laying in the grass. During an expedition with a group of veteran hikers, Rimon discovered a golden coin in the grass near the archaeological site (above).

This gold coin clearly represented a significant find, so the leader of Rimon’s hike immediately contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority, which dispatched a representative within a couple of hours. Rimon handed over the find with some measure of reluctance, as might anyone who handles the material evidence of history.

Engineering Fashion

From being a little girl who dreamed of working in the fashion industry to an employee at a successful clothing company, Amy Liantonio truly achieved her dream, but she didn’t exactly travel a straight path to get there.

“I’ve been interested in fashion and sewing for as long as I can remember, but it took a while for me to basically fall into my career,” Liantonio says. “My mom taught me to sew as a kid, and I dabbled in making clothes for my dolls and myself. I dreamed of being a fashion or costume designer but couldn’t figure out how to make it work.”

Liantonio, a New Jersey native (“The land of Bon Jovi, big hair and no left turns on major roads—only the strong survive!”) now lives in Philadelphia, where she is a technical designer at URBNinc, the parent company of popular clothing outlets including Urban Outfitters, Free People and Anthropologie. She has worked there for three years; but entering the fashion industry wasn’t so simple.

Ask the Rabbi

Tattoos have been a part of many cultures for millennia. Within religious Jewish communities they are forbidden, both in relation to Torah and tradition and because of the pain of the Shoah (Holocaust). In more modern years tattoos have lost their taboo nature among the majority of the world’s Jewry.

However, as tattoos have gained even more popularity in general in the last several decades, there has also grown an interesting fad with them as well. Countless body art exists that has been created on human flesh in various language, especially popular is Asian language characters. But, the tattoos that never fail to amaze are the ever growing Hebrew words. Oddly enough, a great number of these skin decorations become fails, mishaps, misspellings with meanings far beyond what the wearer intended. These have become known as “Hebrew tattoo fails,” and there are even websites wholly dedicated to the ever-increasing mishaps. So, for this issue’s Ask the Rabbi, we were looking for stories of the most intriguing Hebrew tattoo fails ever seen…

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MT logo 01 revThe Messianic Times has become the leading international Messianic Jewish newspaper since its inception in 1990. Started as a quarterly publication, it is now published six times per year by Times of The Messiah Ministries. It includes news from the worldwide Messianic community, Israeli current events and analysis, opinion pieces, book and music and film reviews, informative articles and a directory of Messianic Jewish congregations.