Messianic Jewish Couple Accused of Converting a Minor
Yad L’ Achim, a Jewish ultra-Orthodox group in Israel, led a protest in Mevasseret Zion, a suburban community just west of Jerusalem, targeting Serge and Naama Kogen, 37 and 42, who are Messianic Jews (Jewish Christians). On June 26, about 20 supporters demonstrated outside the couple’s home where they denounced them over megaphones for 90 minutes. Their crime? Befriending a neighbor’s 16-year-old daughter in a time of trouble.
The Kogen’s met 16-year-old Donna Lubofsky a year ago when they were neighbors. Donna was having personal problems at school and at home and found in the Kogen home a haven of love and safety. Both Donna and the Kogens insist that they did not discuss religion, but at one point Donna asked to attend worship with them and the Lubofsky’s allegedly gave permission for her to attend.
The Kogen’s consistently counseled Donna to try to reconcile with her parents, but the problems came to a head after a disagreement at the Kogen home when Mrs. Lubofsky allegedly pushed her daughter. Donna spent the night with the Kogen’s while the conflict with her mother calmed down. Soon afterward, the Lubofsky’s reported the Kogen’s to the police for “proselytizing.” The police investigation found that the Kogen’s had done nothing illegal, but, for unconfirmed reasons, Yad L’ Achim became involved and brought charges directly against the Kogen’s and against Asher Intrater, leader of their congregation. The court’s findings concurred that they had done nothing illegal.
Subsequently, an advertisement was posted inviting the public to a June 26 protest planned against the Kogen’s. During the protest, Donna Lubofsky adamantly maintained that Yad L’ Achim’s claims were false. 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?” she told Compass Direct News at the protest. “They never tried to get me to believe. They are just good people.”
Yad L’ Achim is known to be a fringe group with an aggressive, confrontational style whose views aren’t representative of most in Israel. The Kogens’ friends and neighbors, even as they are now acutely aware of their religious beliefs, have been very kind and supportive of them. The protest coincidentally comes at a time when Yad L’ Achim is trying to push new “anti-missionary” laws through the Knesset, Israel’s national parliamentary body. Under current Israeli law, spreading one’s faith is legal; only “proselytizing” to minors and gaining converts through “material incentives” is illegal. According to its website, literature and speeches, Yad L’ Achim wants to make “proselytizing” by all non-Jewish groups illegal.
Intrater, leader of the Kogen’s congregation, clarifies that Messianic Jews do not claim to be Christian; rather they see themselves as Jews who believe in the Messianic claims of “Yeshua.” “They [Yad L’ Achim] look at us as worse than Christians,” Intrater said. “They look at us as if we’ve betrayed our people and become Gentiles. They feel hatred toward us and see us as the enemy. We don’t look at them that way. These are our people, and we love them.”
Lord Jesus, You are calling to Yourself a people from all nations and tribes. Thank you for those in the Jewish community who recognize You as the Messiah. We appeal to You on behalf of these Messianic Jews to give strength and authority to their message as they proclaim Your truth among their Jewish brothers and sisters. Father, please protect the Kogen family and their congregation. Establish Your peace in their homes and their hearts. Amen