THE discovery that a pair of Christian missionaries had infiltrated a Jewish community to sneakily promote Jesus as The One True Saviour has reportedly caused gloom and consternation in Chicago.
Rivkah Weber and David Costello, above, recently moved to a Jewish neighborhood in West Rogers Park. They dress, act and – according community website COL live – “behave like Frum (observant) Jews”, and have been praying in local synagogues.
But the missionaries, who wear orthodox Jewish clothing, were exposed by Rabbi Levi Notik who informed the community that the couple had been recognised by a visitor from Brooklyn as a pair who had been unmasked there last year and ordered to leave.
The COL live report says:
David looks like a Frum yid, wearing the traditional clothing and sporting long peyos (sidelocks).
When questioned, the imposters admitted that Weber is not Jewish, and Costello claims his maternal great-grandmother was.
Notik says that he met with the couple, and they did not deny being in the neighborhood:
On a mission to specifically live among the Frum community and actively influence others. They have beliefs of Kefira and Christianity. He doesn’t deny any of it, on the contrary, he insists that he is correct in his way, and has no regrets.
After doing research, Notik discovered that the couple has ties to the international Christian group Global Gates, whose vision according to their website is:
To see gospel transformation of the world’s most unevangelized people groups who have come to global gateway cities, and through them reach their communities around the world.
The newsletter for Johnson County for Israel, an evangelical group based in Texas, ran an article on the couple in 2016, describing their mission to infiltrate a Chasidic community. The couple lists their top five projects they were working on through 2017 are:
1) the planting of a Hasidic-friendly Congregation,
2) a 24/7 Prayer Wall for the Hasidic Community within the next six months,
3) Holiday Outreaches by giving out gifts with tracts,
4) Charity Bags For the Sabbath,
5) Personal Discipleship with Hasidic believers and evangelism within the community. This endeavor will continue until every Hasidic person has a chance to hear the Gospel.
They have been asked to leave the Chicago community, and Costello lost his job at a kosher shop.
In a statement on Friday, May 17, David Garrison, Executive Director of Global Gates said:
The Costellos are not employees of nor are they in any way associated with Global Gates. They were previously employed by Global Gates for less than a year. Their relationship with Global Gates ended in July 2017. Global Gates has no further comment.
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the couple said they do believe in Jesus and that one reason they had become involved in the Jewish community was to spread their beliefs.
We want Jewish people to recognize Yeshua as Moshiach and as a Jewish Messiah.
He claims that he never hid his beliefs if asked and spoke with people in the community about them, but would not specify how many. Costello, who peppers his speech with Hebrew and Yiddish words, said the family is sincere in their observance of an Orthodox lifestyle.
We actually keep the Torah and the mitzvahs. We actually have an Orthodox life in our house and every day of our life, and they are saying that it’s simply to deceive and to bring Jewish people to believe in Jesus.
He denies the claim.
‘People feel betrayed. If you want to believe in something and sell it, that’s your business. But to come into a community and portray to be something you’re not, prey on people, unsuspecting, is unacceptable.’
On Thursday, JTA spoke with three rabbis who had interacted with the couple. None would allow their names to be printed in the article.
People feel betrayed. If you want to believe in something and sell it, that’s your business. But to come into a community and portray to be something you’re not, prey on people, unsuspecting, is unacceptable.
Though traditional Judaism believes in the concept of a Messiah, no Jewish denominations consider Jesus to be the Messiah. Messianic groups, such as Jews for Jesus, are not accepted as Jewish by the broader Jewish community, even though some adherents may have been born Jewish and their ritual life includes Jewish practices.
Costello denied reports that his wife had worked as a babysitter in Chicago and tried to talk to children about her faith.
In profiling the couple, Johnson County for Israe said:
David and Rivkah have taken a very costly yet bold stand for the Lord in Brooklyn as they live kosher among Hasidim while serving Jesus as their Savior.
Another Orthodox rabbi and community leader in Chicago said that during Purim, some families had found gift baskets at their homes containing missionary materials but it wasn’t clear at the time who had put them there. The rabbi said he now believes it was the work of the couple.
Costello denied he and his wife were behind this. He admitted that the couple had done something similar years ago, but not in Chicago.
The second rabbi, who had several interactions with the couple, had not suspected that they were missionaries, but said he had felt something wasn’t quite right.
For example, he said that Costello had vast knowledge about the Bible but spoke poor Hebrew. And though Weber dressed quite modestly, she did not always wear darker colors, as traditionally favoured by Hasidic women, and did not correctly pronounce certain Hebrew and Yiddish words.
I just thought that there was something off.
Hat tip: Antony Niall