Alleged Christian missionaries' Messianic shul targets Chicago Jews - report

The synagogue has a Facebook page, Twitter account and website and has given itself the tagline "Making Disciples of Yeshua and Torah in Chicago."

Christianity, illustrative (photo credit: REUTERS)
Christianity, illustrative
(photo credit: REUTERS)

A Messianic couple who previously disguised themselves as Orthodox Jews are now running a new Messianic synagogue in Chicago focused on targeting Orthodox Jews, the missionary investigation NGO Beyneynu revealed Thursday.

The couple, David Costello and Rivkah Costello (the latter formerly Rivkah Weber), had been exposed in a 2019 report by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, which revealed the two had dressed in typical Orthodox attire and attended a synagogue in the West Rogers Park neighborhood. Costello had even worked at a kosher supermarket. 

At the time, rumors had circulated that the two were secretly Christian missionaries, something they confirmed to JTA and admitted that they had become involved in the local Jewish community in order to spread Messianic beliefs.

“We want Jewish people to recognize Yeshua as Moshiach and as a Jewish Messiah,” Costello told JTA in a phone interview in 2019, using the Hebrew words for Jesus and the Messiah.

Regardless, the two claimed to be sincere in their Jewish beliefs and said that though they never denied their Messianic faith, they fully observe the halachot of Orthodox Judaism.

Residents of Hasidic Williamsburg have largely returned to pre-pandemic life, as seen on Sept. 29, 2020.  (credit: DANIEL MORITZ-RABSON)Residents of Hasidic Williamsburg have largely returned to pre-pandemic life, as seen on Sept. 29, 2020. (credit: DANIEL MORITZ-RABSON)

It was later revealed that the two had previously infiltrated the Jewish communities in Flatbush and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York.

Despite this, a Beyneynu investigation has revealed that, whatever their practices may be, the couple are in no way halachically Jewish.

The investigation has made detailed inquiries to the couple's families, specifically David's, as Rivkah has at least claimed to not be Jewish but rather undergoing the conversion process. The details surrounding this are unclear, such as the identity of the beit din or rabbi involved, but one neighbor had told Beyneynu the rabbi was affiliated with Yeshiva University.

According to the investigation, Costello, born in 1981, comes from a long line of Catholics that date back through multiple generations, corroborated by Catholic Church records.

The couple still lives in Chicago, though have been ostracized from their synagogue. Now, however, they have launched a new one, Ahavas Chinam. This synagogue, also registered as a Jewish nonprofit, is registered to an address on N. Richmond Street.

The synagogue has a Facebook page, Twitter account and website and has given itself the tagline "Making Disciples of Yeshua and Torah in Chicago."

The website describes it as a hassidic-style Messianic community. Its about page lists numerous Orthodox principles such as being shomer Shabbat and kashrut, having proper Orthodox prayer services three times a day with men and women separated by a Mechitza and clarifying that its members must either be converts or Jews of matrilineal descent. It also states that Matthew 18, in the New Testament, "is to be the governing structure and discipline or conflict resolution for the congregation."

The website is also blatant about its goal to reach out to Orthodox Jews and have them join the community.

“We are here to help Orthodox Jews find the answers to their questions about Moshiach and create a community where they can grow together in our walk with Moshiach,” the site reads.

According to their Facebook page, Ahavas Chinam is now currently looking for 2-4 families to help them start this community.

According to Beyneynu, these efforts have left some in the Chicago Jewish community nervous.

"We believe the situation in Chicago warrants a united response, not only from the leadership of the Jewish community of Chicago, but of worldwide Jewry," Beyneynu said in a statement.

The Jerusalem Post has reached out to the Costellos for comment.