The Chosen people are getting choosey. Jewish leaders in Flatbush, Brooklyn, are furious that Chosen People Ministries, which calls itself a “Messianic Jewish” organization, plans to set up shop on their turf. The New York Daily News reports that earlier this year, Chosen People Ministries purchased an 11,000-square-foot building (a former Jewish funeral home) and its 150-seat sanctuary on Coney Island Avenue for $2.1 million.
Come spring, the sanctuary will open its doors and play host to “Jewish-style Christian worship services,” the Daily News reported. The center will also offer a theological training program, linked to a Christian evangelical seminary. Mitch Glaser, president of the group, has big plans for the space; he intends to hold English language classes for Flatbush’s Russian community, as well as drug and alcohol abuse counseling.
But Jewish leaders and residents of Flatbush are not excited about this addition to the neighborhood, fearing that the center aims to convert the area’s large Orthodox community. But Glaser denies this claim. “It just happened that this was a good spot for us,” he told the Daily News. “Do I want our fellow Jewish people to have an opportunity to learn about [Jesus] and even believe he’s the Messiah? I would say, unequivocally, yes.” Adding fuel to the fire, Glaser claims his group practices “a very Jewish version” of evangelical Christianity.
Despite the community’s outrage, The Jewish Week reports that Rabbi Craig Miller, co-director of the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Spiritual Deception Project, “has no plans now for a citywide campaign to oppose the Messianic center.” Miller says that he and other Jewish leaders of Flatbush’s Orthodox community are “still at an information-gathering stage.” In the meantime, Jewish residents and leaders alike are holding their ground, refusing to call the group by its chosen name.