Using art to share the gospel with Jewish neighbours

Jews for Jesus International is about to observe our 50th anniversary, our Jubilee. Yovel, as this special year is called in Hebrew, is an appointed time in the Scriptures when the people of Israel were to proclaim liberty to the captives. And that is exactly what we are doing just now!

This is the most comprehensive global outreach we have ever conducted, with hundreds of missionaries and volunteers sharing the good news all at the same time in London, Jerusalem, New York City and here in Sydney, along with our other branches around the globe. We call them capstones.

We had dozens of visitors for the opening weekend and were amazed at the great responses.

We have trialled some activities during the last few years to see if we could reach the Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) Jewish people of Sydney’s eastern suburbs. And our successes in two areas have encouraged us to take on this ‘capstone’ outreach this month, even as you, Eternity readers, are reading this. We are in the midst of this outreach, based in Taylor Square, Sydney, 400 metres from the Jewish Museum.

The two areas of successful outreach we have trialled have been our Art Lounge in our Bondi Junction bookshop, as well as small Shabbat gatherings for dinners and Bible presentations. Each was well received and, as a direct result, we have ramped those up in May and it’s growing bigger each day.

We hired a pop-up shopfront at 205 Oxford Street (Nicknamed Room 205), Darlinghurst. In the first week, we began readying the exhibition space so that by Friday evening we were ready. We had dozens of visitors for the opening weekend and were amazed at the great responses.

We hired an Israeli DJ who likes us and is a regular to the shop. We served wine and cheese and nibbles. The vibe was tremendous, and many have returned and brought friends to see the exhibition.

Every day we open the space from 11am to 8pm. And we are delighted with the traffic flow, and the interest in the art and in our information.

Bob Mendelsohn speaks to the gathered crowd at the Jews for Jesus art exhibition

Bob Mendelsohn speaks at the Jews for Jesus art exhibition

Penny is one of the artists in our exhibition. She is from South Africa but now lives in Perth, and flew across to be with us in the opening. She told us that she was able to have a good conversation with one of our young Russian Jewish adults named Joanna. Joanna had been quite negative about the paintings, and Penny was able to dig a bit deeper into where this negativity came from. Penny was able to talk about the power of healing prayer. Joanna was very interested in this and said that she wanted to have this prayer. And they prayed together!

One afternoon a vehicle pulled up to a stop outside the venue, and one of our workers recognised the driver. We invited him and sure enough, he and his Jewish wife and daughter came the next day. The wife, whose name means ‘love’, sees herself as spiritual but not religious. Both husband and wife had questions about our faith; it was a great discussion. They loved the exhibition and conversation and seemed quite surprised about our connecting Jewish things like the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and Jesus. One of the best things is that we can now stay in touch.

Sandra is a 60-year-old Jewish lady from Argentina who now lives in Sydney. She had hidden her Jewish identity for decades, but when she saw our exhibition, she felt the liberty to admit she is a Jew (although when it came to Jesus, that was another story altogether!). But she also invited us to her exhibition not far from our shop, which we will go to for sure. And like each of these encounters, we will be continuing the conversation and the gospel witness.

Yosef from Israel and his Ukrainian-born wife are both Jews. They are open-minded to the issue of the gospel, so much so that they have become good mates with their Christian neighbours. The neighbours heard about the exhibition and invited Yosef and Marina to the event, and the Jewish couple were pleasantly surprised at the warm welcome and the information we gave them. They want to stay in touch!

Walls art exhibition – Jews for Jesus

The exhibition ends on Friday night 2 June. If you are in Sydney before then, please come to visit and consider bringing a mate, even a Jewish mate, to see the displays and to meet our staff. The theme is “walls” – that is, what separates us from one another and what separates us from God. It’s a great theme for discussion. We’ve given away many New Testaments and our booklets, which have a brief essay on walls and a blurb about each artist.

On Thursday night (5 to 8 pm) 1 June, we will have a closing night event with one of the artists conducting a live painting demonstration.

Thanks, Eternity readers, for your care for your Jewish neighbours and work colleagues, and for us who minister along with you to them. Together, we are proclaiming the liberty of Jesus the Messiah to everyone!

Bob Mendelsohn is the National Director for Jews for Jesus, Australia