The Jewish experience with Christians (in particular, clergy) through the centuries has been, shall we say, uneven. Another word might be catastrophic.
From medieval anti-Semitism originating in the Church, to present-day trouble spots within evangelicalism, Christians have often gotten it wrong about Israel, harboring anti-Jewish sentiments that in its most extreme form ended with the Holocaust.
All this unpleasant history seems lost on many Christians today.
Not Chris Quintana.
The long-time pastor of Calvary Chapel Cypress (CA) has loved Israel and the Jewish people from the beginning, it seems, and a recent seminar experience typifies the heartfelt connection between the Cypress congregation, and the land of Israel. In fact, a stroll down the hallways of the Cypress art-deco-style complex reveals framed photos of trips to the Holy Land. Quintana is leading another next year.
In June, the church hosted a launch party of sorts for the America-Israel Friendship League, which seeks to build friendships between America and Israel. The New York-based group has a long history working with Christians of all stripes.
“The AIFL has been doing that since its inception (1971),” says Daniella Rilov, the group’s director. “The AIFL is in essence a 40 year-old start-up, and we try to reinvent ourselves all the time. We have targeted specific groups that came to Israel way before it was a common thing; Christians are a key element within that demographic. The idea of doing mission was not common but we did that in the early ‘70s. For the Christian community, we supported for example the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel (NCLCI), providing office space for its national headquarters here in New York City. We worked with National Conference of Churches at Seton Hall, to develop study tours for clergy.”
The June event, an advocacy seminar aimed at informing audiences of the realities facing the Jewish state, featured expert speakers, including Dr. Uri Bar-Ner, the former Israeli ambassador to Turkey. The AIFL created a format in which audience members had ample time with speakers, and the questions asked of Bar-Ner, for example, revealed a savvy understanding that evangelicals are known for when it comes to Middle East issues (including the deplorable, current plight of persecuted Christians).
Quintana was more than pleased with the seminar, which was also live-streamed.
“What happened out here should be repeated, to be sure,” he said.
Calvary Chapels have historically been strong supporters of Israel, a worldview promoted by the movement’s late founder, Chuck Smith.
The AIFL church outreach program is unique, in that it offers a range of topics from biblical education, to issues Israel is facing today. Dr. Alex Grobman, a leading Holocaust expert, is part of the seminar package; the combination of evangelical and Jewish speakers also enhances the experience for participants.
A full slate of seminars are in the planning stages for 2016. For more information, contact William Behrer at the AIFL: 212-213-8630, ext. 230.