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April 2013

What Evangelicals Can Learn from the Holocaust


Yesterday, April 8th, was Holocaust Memorial Day here in Israel, which commemorates the murder of approximately six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis and their sympathizers.  It has been nearly 70 years since the end of World War II and the Nazi’s programmatic destruction of European Jewry, yet the shock and horror of the Holocaust still stains the world’s conscience and how we think about evil.  Whether dealing with the extermination of the Armenian people during World War I, the slaughter of Rwanda’s Tutsis in 1994, or the more recent massacres in Sudan’s Darfur region, genocide has become a greatly debated and politically sensitive topic in the 21st century. 

The history of civilizations has recorded other genocides or crimes against humanity, but up until the mid-20th century, what was unique about the Holocaust of the Jewish people?  While Nazi Germany, like all oppressive regimes, sought to eradicate its perceived “enemies”—political dissidents, socialists, communists, homosexuals, gypsies, and clergymen among others, the Nazis specifically propagated a policy to seek out, find, and exterminate all Jewish people within their reach.  They called this systematic state-sponsored industrialized mass slaughter of the Jews the “Final Solution.”  Not only were all the bureaucratic departments of the German government united in this murderous endeavor, but many German societal institutions—businesses, clubs, schools, universities, legal firms, trades, and churches—were either active or complicit in the crime as well.

Roots of Anti-Semitism

This historic hate of the Jewish people is often called anti-Semitism.  From where did these seeds of ancient prejudice come which were ultimately harvested in the Holocaust?  In Raul Hilberg’s monumental tome, The Destruction of the European Jews, he traces the roots of the Holocaust back to the ascendency of the Roman Church in the 4th century AD.  When Christianity became the state religion under Constantine, it became politically empowered to pursue conversion of unbelievers.  Yet, the Church had little success in converting the Jewish people, and so, consequently, they became seen as "disobedient." 

While the Papacy did not initially allow forced conversions to Christianity, the lack of success in converting many of the Jewish people over the following centuries sparked Church prohibitions against them and their practices.  An assortment of Church laws were directed against Jews at different points in history, and these anti-Jewish measures were also later used by the Nazi authorities with the beginning of their rule in the 1930’s.[1] 

Post-Christian Europe’s Expulsion of the Jews

Exclusion and eventually expulsion of the Jews came to dominate later European political practice.  Hilberg writes,

…long after the separation of church and state, long after the state had ceased to carry out church policy, expulsion and exclusion remained the goal of anti-Jewish activity…The anti-Semites of the nineteenth century, who divorced themselves from religious aims, espoused the emigration of the Jews…the post-ecclesiastic enemies of Jewry also took the idea that the Jews could not be changed, that they could not be converted, that they could not be assimilated, that they were a finished product, inflexible in their ways, set in their notions, fixed in their beliefs.[2]

The Nazis, too, implemented this practice, almost culminating in the shipping of the Jews to the distant African island of Madagascar.  When the Madagascar plan fell through at the end of 1941, the Nazi rulers concocted a “Final Solution” for the Jewish question, the annihilation of European Jewry.

Martin Luther and the Jews

While Protestants and today’s Evangelicals have often denied any binding links to the Catholic Church, we should be slow to speak and quick to listen.  Martin Luther is unanimously acknowledged by “Bible-believers” as the leading voice for our “justification by faith”, the doctrine where God declares an unrighteous individual to be righteous through the work of Christ, by faith alone.  And yet, some of Luther’s words were an easy accomplice to the Nazis’ later atrocities. 

In Luther’s early ministry, he believed the Jews had not come to Christ because of the impure gospel of the Catholic Church.  Yet, in the last decade of his life, Luther’s views toward them became more harsh and unmerciful.  In 1543, Luther published an anti-Jewish treatise proclaiming,

For such ruthless wrath of God is sufficient evidence that they assuredly have erred and gone astray. Even a child can comprehend this. For one dare not regard God as so cruel that he would punish his own people so long, so terribly, so unmercifully, and in addition keep silent, comforting them neither with words nor with deeds, and fixing no time limit and no end to it. Who would have faith, hope, or love toward such a God? Therefore this work of wrath is proof that the Jews, surely rejected by God, are no longer his people, and neither is he any longer their God. 

On the Jews and Their Lies (1543), Martin Luther.  Translated by Martin H. Bertram

And more infamously, Luther would further assert that if the Jews would not accept Christ, then Christians should go on the offensive against them and their property.

What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. If we do, we become sharers in their lies, cursing and blasphemy…. I shall give you my sincere advice:

First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom…

Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. For they pursue in them the same aims as in their synagogues. Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies. This will bring home to them that they are not masters in our country, as they boast, but that they are living in exile and in captivity, as they incessantly wail and lament about us before God.

Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.

Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb….

My essay, I hope, will furnish a Christian (who in any case has no desire to become a Jew) with enough material not only to defend himself against the blind, venomous Jews, but also to become the foe of the Jews’ malice, lying, and cursing, and to understand not only that their belief is false but that they are surely possessed by all devils. May Christ, our dear Lord, convert them mercifully and preserve us steadfastly and immovably in the knowledge of him, which is eternal life.  Amen.

Evangelicals’ Love for Israel

As detailed above, the Nazis easily found anti-Semitic ideas within Church thought and resulting post-Christian European society.  While Nazi ideology developed from a more complex background than just European Christianity’s history, it is not hard to understand how the implementation of the Nazis’ anti-Jewish practices may be rooted in the Church’s spurned efforts to convert the Jewish people. 

Many consider the birth of the modern state of Israel to be a result of the Holocaust, a belated homeland for the Jews to protect their people.  Even more, many of Israel’s wars over the past 65 years have been viewed through that lens of the Holocaust, as ominous threats to Jewish survival.  Prior to the Holocaust and before the formation of Israel in 1948, new efforts began in the 19th century to spread the gospel to the Jewish people inside Palestine.  Descended from that new wave of Christian work, Evangelicals were among the newest followers of Jesus to minister in the Holy Land.  They have also typically been the most vocal supporters of Israel as well.

Living in Israel today as a Christian carries the inescapable association with the Holocaust.  In fact, Evangelicals who live here often do not call themselves “Christians” but prefer to use the circumlocution “believers” (i.e. believers in Jesus).  Evangelicals do this because among many Israelis the Holocaust, the Inquisition, and the Crusades are considered Christian phenomena.  From their perspectives, missionaries are practically synonymous with Nazis.  Therefore, Evangelicals meeting Israelis would rather they focus on Jesus than the ugly history associated with the Church’s relationship with the Jewish people.

Ironically, Israel, one of the smaller countries in the world, has one of the highest rates of Christian workers and Christian organizations per capita.  Evangelicals from abroad often ask why, after so many years, so few Jews in Israel have accepted Jesus as their Messiah.  It’s not for lack of concentrated and ardent effort.  But maybe that is the problem. 

As Evangelicals, if we can learn anything from the terrible result of the Holocaust, we must learn love.  For everything we do in service for the gospel of Jesus must be done out of pure love.  If there is any envy, bitterness, or pride in our ministry, our witness at best is a clanging cymbal, or at worst a root of destruction.

[1] To see a long list of “Canonical and Nazi Anti-Jewish Measures” that Hilberg compiled:
[2] The Destruction of the European Jews (1985), pg 8. 


News on Holocaust Survivors

  • Holocaust survivors say Israel must do more to help them
  • Jews from Amsterdam who survived Nazi camps or managed to hide were fined for tax avoidance
  • Holocaust Survivors in Israel: Population Estimates, Demographic, Health and Social Characteristics, and Needs.  Read the report.
  • Listen to Holocaust Survivors’ Stories


Charity Report:Your Gifts Helped these Individuals, Families, and Ministries during February and March 2013

Beit El is a Messianic Jewish Ethiopian Congregation in Jerusalem with more than 100 members.  Support went to families who are struggling to cover their bills, young families with babies in need of diapers, wet wipes, and formula, and to the Beit El children’s ministry. 

Club for the Blind is an Israeli social service to the blind residents of Tiberias which was dormant before JCF’s involvement. The club has around 30 members and meets three times a week for classes and trips.  This photo is from their Purim party in February.  The party was a joint gathering with the Blind Club and the Paz Children’s Club of Tiberias.  According to the Israeli social worker, “The Blind Club greatly enjoyed hosting the children, and at the same time, the kids were empowered when they were able to help out with the Blind Club.”

House of Light is an Israeli Arab Christian ministry led by Anis and Nawal Barhoum that provides spiritual and social aid to both Jewish and Arab residents. JCF specifically aids House of Light’s prison work, which visits and disciples current and former prisoners. House of Light reports:

With joy and praises we give thanks to the Lord for he is tremendously gracious to us. He has blessed all our Christmas prison visits with much fruit. He has made our hearts leap with joy by sending a dear Russian speaking believer to serve along side Anis throughout the past year as well as on the House of Light Christmas group visits. It is much different when the Russian speaking inmates express their hearts when hearing the message and reading the Bible in their own language.  We lift prayers and exaltations as he has also received permission to visit the prisons during 2013.

In conjunction with the Jerusalem Municipality’s Social Welfare Program, JCF contributed $800 towards food vouchers for 23 needy families over the Passover holidays.

Iris is a single disabled mother with an infant. She and her brother grew up in an orphanage and were very close. While in her twenties, she found her brother after he committed suicide.  Since becoming pregnant and giving birth, she has had severe dental problems due to hormonal changes. During that time she has had nine root canals. JCF helped cover part of her dental fees with $417.

The Moors are a Christian family in Jericho with several financial debts. Due to medical problems, they owe nearly $3000 to the local pharmacy and grocery store which has allowed them to purchase food and medicine on credit.  Neither merchants are willing to give any more credit without paying off some of the debt.  JCF contributed $500 towards their debt.

The Jaseys are a Christian family in Bethlehem with several outstanding bills. JCF helped cover part ($250) of their electricity and water bills.

Dorothy is an elderly lady living in a very difficult financial situation. She has lived in a neglected apartment without electricity for the last four years. Recently, there was a water leak that she was not aware of and a large water bill now needs to be paid. The social welfare program is working with her to try and ask for a reduction in the bill and pay off the balance. The water company has shut off the water supply and is demanding a minimum payment which JCF is helping cover ($395).

News: Larry and Mary Ehrlich Bring 4th Israel Study Tour from Augustine Christian Academy

This past March, Larry and Mary Ehrlich, U.S. Directors for JCF, led their 4th Israel trip of high school juniors and seniors from the Augustine Christian Academy of Tulsa, OK, where Larry is the school administrator.  Mary writes about their experience on a JCF study tour led by Yoni Gerrish:

We arrived at Ben Gurion Airport early afternoon, so we had time for a stop in the Elah Valley on the way to our first night in Beersheva.  Many commented on this experience later how amazing it was to fly into this modern city of skyscrapers, get on a modern highway, then get out of the bus and read the story of David and Goliath and realize that you're standing right in that valley.  This just begins to explain the immense joy it is to bring first timers (and others) to Israel.  So fun to see the lights go on and the amazing discoveries that each person makes….

We’ve been visiting Nofei Golan High School in Katzrin since 2006….We take over English literature books for their English library.  Due to Passover vacation this year we couldn’t go to the school, but our teacher contact met us for coffee and then invited us to her home in a Golan moshav.  Her father was part of the Kindertransport, a rescue mission of nearly 10,000 Jewish children from Europe to England.  After putting their son on the ship to England, his parents sailed with 937 refugees on the MS St. Louis trying to escape Nazi Germany.  Cuba, the United States, and Canada sadly did not allow the refugees safe haven, so the ship returned to Europe docking at Antwerp, Belgium where a committee of representatives of various countries decided the fate of the people.  288 people, including her father's parents, were allowed to go to England, and so her father and his parents were miraculously reunited in England.  

She had recently acquired historical artifacts relating to her family history when she helped her mother sort through her house.  She passed around and showed our group original documents and pictures from her grandparents’ and father’s experiences— a cloth yellow Star of David and a letter her 12 year old father had written to the people who were going to be his “parents” in England.  It was a very special time.  Fortunately, her grandparents were among the few passengers of the M.S. St Louis that survived because they were able to go to England when the ship returned to Europe.

This is a video that one of the students shared from their Israel adventure.


JCF Study Tours: Come Learn and Experience the Land of the Bible

When you come to Israel on a JCF Study Tour you will never read your Bible the same again.  Are you ready to experience God and the Scripture in a new and life-changing way?  Join Yoni Gerrish and the JCF staff on a tour in 2013 investigating “The Backgrounds of Jesus’ World.”   See for details.

Biblical Language Fluency Workshops

Randall Buth and the Biblical Language Center will be offering Biblical Language Fluency Workshops in Fresno, California this July.  BLC’s workshops run “immersion style", with the entire day taking place in Koine Greek or Biblical Hebrew.  Both full group sessions and small groups led by a team of facilitators provide maximum personal attention and practice.

Choose from:
Biblical Hebrew Fluency Workshop (July 9-18, 2013)
Koine Greek Fluency Workshop (July 23-Aug 1, 2013)

For more information on the Biblical Language Fluency Workshops in Fresno, click here.

Prayer Requests and Praise Reports

  • Holocaust Survivors—Approximately 192,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel.  Some are resorting to skipping meals and medicine due to financial hardship.  More here.
  • SyriaAround 70,000 people have died and over one million refugees have fled the country in their civil war.  For more on the Syrian Civil War, here.
  • Shevet Achim, a Christian ministry which brings children into Israel for heart operations, has recently been working at bringing Syrian refugee children.  Their April 8th prayer request: “Another step forward this week as a country hosting the Syrian refugees agreed in writing to allow little blue Duaa to leave for surgery in Israel and return (highly irregular since she has no passport). But due to a day-long computer outage today the paper is still not in our hands. And the family is getting nervous! We persevere and pray for God’s will to be done.”
  • Kopps in the States—Chuck and Liz Kopp are in the United States for the next three months on sabbatical.  They will be visiting and speaking at different locations before their return to Israel at the beginning of July.
  • Dalia Gerrish has received a clean bill of health one year after beginning chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Good News in the Middle East


  • New Exhibit on King Herod at the Israel Museum, “The Final Journey of King Herod the Great.”  The exhibit will run from February 12 through the fall.
  • Oil in Israel’s Future?  It is estimated that Israel has nearly 250 billion barrels of untapped oil shale reserves.
  • Israel and Iran: A love story?  When war between Israel and Iran seemed imminent, Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry shared a poster on Facebook of himself and his daughter with a bold message: “Iranians ... we [heart] you.”

Good News in the Middle East


  • New Exhibit on King Herod at the Israel Museum, “The Final Journey of King Herod the Great.”  The exhibit will run from February 12 through the fall.
  • Oil in Israel’s Future?  It is estimated that Israel has nearly 250 billion barrels of untapped oil shale reserves.
  • Israel and Iran: A love story?  When war between Israel and Iran seemed imminent, Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry shared a poster on Facebook of himself and his daughter with a bold message: “Iranians ... we [heart] you.”