Presented by Chosen People Ministries, Dr. Al Reichman
In the latter part of the 19th century people were on the move, for many different reasons. Political and social upheavals in Europe continued throughout the turn of the century. This turmoil generated an intense longing, both for material stability and religious freedom.
It was during this time of tremendous change that a man was born in Berezna, a small town in eastern Hungary, whose life would become interwoven with these people on the move. The Orthodox Jewish community of Berezna was the birthplace of Leopold Cohn, who was destined for a momentous quest. In this part of Europe, Orthodox Judaism was a way of life. Traditional Judaism was all-pervasive in its impact on a daily existence and there was zeal for the Torah (Law). It was not surprising, then, that Leopold Cohn became a rabbi.
A Rabbi’s Quest
It was during his years of rabbinic study that certain portions of Scripture led Leopold Cohn to seek more knowledge about the Messiah. He searched the Scriptures and questioned other rabbis, but still found no satisfactory answers. One rabbi even advised him to go to America where, he said, people knew more about the Messiah. Strange advice, it would seem, yet this noted rabbi said he would lose his position if he were to discuss the Messiah. Later, Leopold Cohn recalled this incident and felt that the rabbi knew something about the Messiah, Jesus.
Real Jewish Faith
Cohn knew that there was but one course for him to follow: he must share the knowledge of the Messiah, Yeshua, with his Jewish people. He explained an early encounter with members of the local community: “I showed them from the Scriptures that to believe in Yeshua was Jewish faith, real Jewish faith.” This became Leopold Cohn’s life calling. It also became a guiding principle for our ministry, which he founded in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, in 1894.
To the Jew First
Leopold Cohn began this ministry by holding meetings in a store which was a renovated horse stable. He founded his work upon faith, in response to the Scriptural exhortation of Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” The ministry’s first Bible meeting was attended by eight Jewish people. The Lord continued to bless this work, and in the course of his lifetime, Leopold Cohn led over 1,000 people to the Lord.
A Family Ministry
Responsible Jewish evangelism has characterized Chosen People Ministries from its inception. Over the years, different aspects of our ministry’s outreach have continued and expanded. The early work was a real family ministry. Mothers would come to the mission to participate in women’s activities. They would also bring their children, who took part in the different programs. These programs in turn resulted in fathers coming to the mission. Through the dedicated work of early workers, many individuals and entire families came to believe in Jesus. There are many Jewish Christian family trees whose spiritual roots began through the outreach of Chosen People Ministries. Several of them, including some of our own staff, are in full-time service for the Lord.