JERUSALEM, July 2 (Compass Direct News) – A hard-line Jewish ultra-Orthodox group in Israel that singles out Jewish Christians known as Messianic Jews for harassment and abuse is taking aim at a couple it claims is manipulating minors into becoming Christians.
The group, Yad L’Achim, this week placed leaflets around the home of Serge and Naama Kogen, 37 and 42 respectively, in Mevasseret Zion, a suburban community located just west of Jerusalem. The same week someone took out a full-page ad in a local newspaper giving the couple’s address and telling residents they were part of a missionary group “targeting” the community. The Kogens are native Israelis and hence not part of any missionary group.
The advertisement invited the public to a protest planned against the Kogens, and on Sunday (June 26), about 20 of the group’s supporters demonstrated outside the couple’s home, where they denounced them over megaphones for 90 minutes.
The protests came after Yad L’Achim lost a court case against the Kogens and their congregational leader, Asher Intrater. The group had accused them of “proselytizing” minors.
During the protest, a distraught 16-year-old girl, the alleged target of the couple’s “missionary” efforts, said all of Yad L’Achim’s claims were false. Donna Lubofsky maintains that she has never converted to Christianity. She wanted to speak at the protest to give her side of what happened, but the organizers wouldn’t let her, she said.
“They are all liars, all liars! Ask them, why won’t they let me speak?” Donna told Compass at the protest. “They won’t let me speak because what they are saying is untrue. They [the Kogens] never tried to get me to believe. They are just good people.”
‘Lot of Love’
The Kogens met Donna a year ago while they were next-door neighbors. Naama Kogen said Donna, whom she described as a “genius,” had some issues adjusting to a new school, and her home life seemed problematic. The girl quickly became a regular fixture at the Kogen household and “a close part of the family,” in Kogen’s words.
“She said she had never seen a family like ours. We have a lot of love in our home,” Kogen said, adding the teenager told her the time she spent in their house was the first time she felt loved. Kogen said that during the course of the friendship, problems persisted in the girl’s home, and at times she was afraid to return there. She also said the teenager began experimenting with alcohol and other potentially self-destructive behaviors from which the Kogens were able to deter her.
“I told her she would be the only one to suffer in the end,” Kogen said. “Step by step, I started to see an improvement.”
Kogen and her husband were emphatic in their claim they never discussed religion with Donna, but that she expressed interest in attending their congregational worship. Kogen said she obtained permission from Donna’s mother, and she attended Shabbat meetings with the congregation for about two months.
But Donna’s mother, Bella Lubofsky, told protestors that the Kogens “took” the girl “every Friday.”
Despite the progress Donna was making in some areas of her personal life, her family life was still in tatters, according to Kogen. She said she urged Donna to approach her parents and try to reconcile their relationship, but things remained tense.
The problems came to a head after a disagreement at the Kogen home when Lubofsky allegedly pushed her daughter, and the Kogens had her spend the night until things calmed down. Soon afterward, Lubofsky reported the Kogens to the police for “proselytizing.”
Serge Kogen said police investigated the case, found that they had done nothing illegal and dropped the investigation. Yad L’Achim, not dissuaded by the police finding, went to court and brought charges directly against the couple and against Intrater, leader of the Ahavat Yeshua Congregation.
As with the police, the court found nothing illegal and on June 14 dismissed all charges against Intrater and the Kogens.
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