By Tanya Specktorov
I grew up in Siberia, but that's not actually where my family started out. Dad lived with his uncle and worked for him on the far eastern border of Russia in the city of Vladivostock. His uncle owned a precious stones and metals factory where they fashioned jewels and articles of gold and silver. In fact, my Jewish family has a history of working in this trade for the emperors of Russia, until the 1917 revolution, when the last emperor was assassinated and the Bolsheviks took over.
When my father, whose name was Ascolt, was 15, the Communists came to their home and killed his uncle and every single member of his family except my dad; the neighbors had warned him not to go home that day. His uncle's business was nationalized by the Communist bosses.
Ascolt found out that the authorities were aware he had survived and were looking for him. When they did catch him, instead of killing him, they sent him to a place called Yakutsk, a town in a vast, wild plain far north of China, on latitude with Alaska. And there he lived some years in wretched poverty. The cold and misery were beyond description. There was no running water then, no cars or other means of transportation. The only contact with the outside world would be when planes could land in the warmer months.
The fact was that there were a lot of rich Jews living there - or more accurately, formerly rich Jews. They now had nothing. Or almost nothing. Incredibly, there were still people who wanted jewelry made or repaired, so Dad would go to work at 4:00 a.m., doing the only thing he knew how to do - create jewelry and repair watches.
BORN ON A FROZEN PLAIN
I was born in 1953, the youngest of three daughters. It was the same year that Stalin died. Restrictions eased and it became possible to travel (with permission, of course) from place to place. Yakutsk was a relatively free area simply because it was so desolate and bleak - a place the police just didn't bother people much.
My parents left Yakutsk for a little town near Irkutsk, Siberia when I was five - a far more progressive area, and there were many Jews living there. The Siberian climate there was much better than Yakutsk's and the Jews prospered among the large number of universities and cultural institutions. I was a sickly child, diagnosed with a heart disorder and was in and out of hospitals and children's recuperation centers. I remember praying as a child, "God, if you know I exist, please let me be well."
My father continued to create jewelry in Siberia. However, the KGB questioned him several times about his clients until he finally vowed he would never work in precious stones and metals again. Knowing that working in such luxury items could be very dangerous for the Jewish community, he, from then on, kept his regular business strictly to repairing watches.
However, my father was known as a very straight and honest man, and people who had jewels hidden from the Communists would need their expensive things fixed from time to time. They entrusted their jewels to my father who, behind closed doors, continued to repair and create special-order pieces for his clients. Whenever I was able, I would go to my father's shop and help him repair watches and even build them from scratch.
Slowly my health improved and I began to feel better. My mother was the director of all the beauty salons near Irkutsk (remember, that's the way they did it under Commu-nism.) After graduating from high school, I went to work in one of those salons, but my passion was my classical piano, which I studied for 15 years.
My father was, by now, retired with a very low pension. He learned that if he would return to Yakutzk where they paid four times as much and work there for another three years, his pension would be much higher. So my mother and father left for Yakutsk, and I found myself left alone at 19. At times, I would talk to God. When I heard about Yeshua for the first time, I didn't cast him away. Once, I came across a book about Yeshua who lived in the land of Israel. There was nothing in me that was against Him.
My parents returned from Yakutsk after three years; my father was very sick - obviously from the ruthless temperatures and brutal conditions. He came back only to spend a year in the hospital and then died.
I MARRY A HYPNOTIST
I fell in love with someone by whom I had a child - my daughter, Nikol. However, the two of us soon parted ways. I then met another man, Vadim, twenty-four years older than I, who asked me to marry him. He was good to me and loved my daughter. Vadim was a hypnotist and although it was illegal for him to do so, he found plenty of people who were ready to have him hypnotize them in the hope of receiving healing. We traveled from city to city applying his techniques, and I learned his expertise and worked alongside him for six years. However, I began to have serious attacks from some kind of nerve disease where my body would become frozen - the muscles of my entire body constricted with panic attacks. For four years I was afraid to be left alone for a moment.
Even before I was aware of the truths of the Bible, I felt there was some spiritual cause and effect, and that this man was increasingly in control of my every move. I found I was afraid to even leave his presence for a moment, and he made it clear he wanted me with him at all times. I was sick and felt myself a virtual prisoner. Somehow, I gained enough courage to find a psychiatrist who told me to change locations, change husbands, change everything.
I went to the authorities to seek permission to leave for Lithuania (in those days, one could not travel from city to city without permission from the Soviet authorities.) Then one day when my husband was out, I grabbed Nikol and ran for my life.
At 29, I started life over again in Lithuania. I was able to secure an office job as a secretary in a large television factory, because even though Lithuanians have their own language, all official documents had to be in Russian.
A NEW LIFE IN ISRAEL
Eleven long years I worked in Lithuania and then in 1994 Nikol and I were able to immigrate to Israel. I think that the Lithuanian authorities thought that I was going to Israel to die. I was 5'7" and 90 pounds. I had no appetite and struggled to live through the day. A Lithuanian doctor had just looked at me and said, "You have thyroid cancer." That was his diagnosis with no examination whatsoever.
I said to myself, "I don't have cancer!" I would talk to God, and I felt I would find help in Israel. Actually, my dream had been to come to Israel since I was 15 years old. I read books about Israel and longed to come back to my ancestral home. And now, we were here! I quickly landed a job in a Tel Aviv jewelry factory where I worked for six and a half years, producing beautiful jewelry.
But as the economic situation in Israel plunged, I was laid off of my job and unable to find work. I was at the end of myself, with no hope and no future. My appetite disappeared completely and I continued to go downhill until I weighed 85 pounds. I was in deep depression and had lost the desire to live. The Israeli doctors tried to regulate my thyroid, but nothing seemed to help. At one point I actually felt I saw my spirit floating outside my body.
AND THEN CAME THE GOOD LIFE
My sister, Galina, who had come to Israel before me, invited me to her Messianic congregation, Tiferet Yeshua (the Glory of Yeshua), that she had been attending for five years. She had spoken to me many times about the congregation and had been praying for me those five years, but I was afraid to be in a crowd. However, she kept telling me that Yeshua was the answer to my problems, and that I could be healed through Him. When I finally walked into the congregation, I was in much pain with the nerve disorder and muscle constriction, and literally crept into the meeting room stiff legged, like a robot.
But when I heard the singing and worship that day, I knew instantly I had come home. I immediately fell in love with my living God, and I adore worshiping my King! I am now a new person. I am slowly gaining weight (now 104), and have no sign of any nerve disorder and have more energy than I have had in many years. My face no longer looks like a face of death. God has brought me to the land of Israel and here I have found Him!
I can hardly fathom that I have received help from istandwithisrael.com to start my own business and have been given the opportunity to once again create beautiful jewelry. And to know that with every piece I create, I am helping to fund the future coffee house ministry for our congregation! God has given me more than I could ask or think!
WE ENTER THIS MONTH REMEMBERING THE SACRIFICE OF OUR MESSIAH, ON THE DAY OF REPENTANCE, YOM KIPPUR. (Oct. 5-6) WE WISH OUR WONDERFUL MAOZ READERS A BEAUTIFUL AND HAPPY SEASON OF THANKSGIVING AS WE CELEBRATE SUCCOT (FEAST OF TABERNACLES), THE FEAST THAT FORESHADOWS THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE MESSIANIC KINGDOM ON EARTH! (Oct. 10-18)
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A MESSAGE FROM DAVID BRICKNER
Executive Director of Jews for Jesus
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS FOR ISRAEL
Recently, I had a conversation with the pastor of a large church in California. This church has long been a friend and supporter of Jews for Jesus, giving more than $150,000 each year to all sorts of missions. The pastor called to discuss the merits of an organization his church is supporting called the Holy Land Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
The pastor had received an email from one of his congregants who had seen an article on our web site that was critical of this organization. He knew that Jews for Jesus is not in the habit of criticizing other ministries and so he was troubled. I explained to the pastor that friends and supporters ask us about this group so often we felt obligated to comment.
Many Christians believe that when they give to the Holy Land Fellowship of Christians and Jews (a.k.a. "Rabbi Eckstein") they are giving to a Christian organization run by a "Messianic rabbi."
When I explain that Yechiel Eckstein is not a believer in Jesus, and that in fact he opposes the gospel going to the Jewish people, most Christians I meet are shocked, dismayed and hurt. They feel betrayed and deceived.
Others however, including the aforementioned pastor, know that Rabbi Eckstein does not believe in Jesus. They give, as one would to a secular agency, because of the relief and social services that this organization provides. These people love the Jews and want to bless my people. I understand that they desire to support "mercy ministries" that benefit Jewish people, even if those organizations don't believe those whom they help need Jesus.
What is more, this particular pastor pointed out to me, On Wings of Eagles (part of Rabbi Eckstein's organization) offers to educate churches and individuals on subjects ranging from anti-Semitism to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and much more. The pastor informed me that the quality of their information was such that they were happy to continue supporting Eckstein.
I left two thoughts with that pastor and would like to leave them with you this month. First, Rabbi Eckstein's organization has him in a position of middleman, disbursing funds as he sees fit to other organizations. He has no direct "mercy ministry" so donors are basically looking to him to choose organizations that are reputable. I am not questioning whether or not he chooses reputable organizations, but I believe that Christians would want to know this as a simple matter of stewardship so they can take knowledge of where their funds are going.
My second point has to do with the nature of mercy ministries themselves. I am for mercy ministries, but I like to view them in the context of what Jesus had to say: "And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward." (Mt. 10:42) I believe that mercy ministries are best and most meaningfully done in the name of Jesus or at least in the name of one of His disciples.
Yechiel Eckstein is very skilled at leading Christians to believe that the best thing they can do for my Jewish people is meet the needs that his organization tends to. He probably believes this himself but it is important to realize that Rabbi Eckstein is no follower of Jesus and actually opposes those Jews who do follow Him. Notice I say those "Jews" who follow Him.
Eckstein is famous for building bridges with Christians, but only those Christians who are not Jewish and who do not openly advocate Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and the only way to the Father.
Eckstein's book, "What Christians Should Know About Jews and Judaism," was reviewed in 1987 by Ray Gannon for the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE). Gannon observes Ecktein's persuasiveness and his agenda to limit Christian witness to the arena of formal dialogue (presumably limited to the religious "experts") rather than Christians sharing their convictions on a personal level and offering Jesus as a viable option to their Jewish friends.
In addition, Gannon points out that, "Eckstein does not seem to allow for the sincere faith convictions of Jewish people who recognize Yeshua as Messiah and Lord. He fully disallows the rights of believing Jewish people to foster the continuation of their cultural experience as Jews. He seemingly demands that they despise and abandon Jewish culture as a punishment for their sincere faith…. In his attack upon Messianic Jews and Jewish evangelism, he has the audacity to dub Messianic believers, 'Judaizers.'" *
Is his purpose to incite a Christian theological riot against Messianic Jews? Could he really be so genuinely ignorant of our theological posture?" Finally, Gannon points out that Eckstein suggests that "the rejection of Jesus as Messiah is the key to Jewish suvival."
Ray Gannon's review hints at the wedge that a well-spoken and influential person like Rabbi Eckstein is capable of driving into the community of evangelical Christians. Christians who seek to be educated by Eckstein concerning the Jewish people should understand that he would love to see messianic Jewish groups and particularly Jewish missions "on the outs" with Christians whose prayers and support we need. Ultimately, it is not our needs, but the needs of our unbelieving Jewish people that we are talking about.
What my people need more than a cup of cold water is the living water which Jesus promised: "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:38) Giving to mercy ministries is good. Yet, I question the wisdom (not the intentions) of giving a cup of cold water through those who would oppose efforts to offer the living water that Jesus wants us to offer to Jews as well as Gentiles.
To all those loving Christians who have given help to my people through On Wings of Eagles or other such groups, I know God still will bless the gift and the giver. But wouldn't it be better to give the help in Jesus name, and with the understanding that Jesus has even more to give to those who will seek Him?
I think of the words of Jesus to the woman at the well, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." (John 4:10)
Reprinted with permission http://www.jewsforjesus.com/
* (Quotes taken from Dr. Ray Gannon's review of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein's book, "What Christians Should Know About Jews and Judaism," prepared for The Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (North American Regional Meeting in Chicago, March 25-26, 1987.)
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Dear Maoz and istandwithisrael.com partners,
We will never forget the day Tanya first walked into our congregation. Her face had the look of death written all over her. She had two people holding her up to bring her to a seat.
She could not stand and sat slumped in her chair as we worshipped the Lord. At the end of the service her sister asked us to pray for her, which we did. The following week, and the one after, she kept coming back. And we saw she was visibly changing.
She has become one of our most ardent worshippers, and is literally a new person.
Sometime last year, we said to her, "Tanya, it is time for you to find another job. If you wish, we would be able to help you through our istandwithisrael.com fund to take a job training course of some kind so that you can earn a living and meet your own needs - and even help others."
She replied that she already had a skill - making beautiful jewelry. But she did not have the money to buy the basic tools and the supply of "findings," (the pieces needed to make jewelry) to start her own jewelry business. We asked her to make a few sample articles to show us what she could do.
When we saw her work, we were utterly amazed - it was beautiful, exquisite work, a sort of bold combination of Russian-Middle Eastern boutique jewelry - made from pewter, bronze and semi-precious metals, stones and crystals.
Maoz' humanitarian fund, istandwithisrael.com, gave Tanya a few thousand dollars to begin her own business, and she began producing her delicate, lovely pieces - necklaces, earrings, and also Judaica like the Star of David and mezuzot. Those are the door pieces with "Hear Oh Israel, our God is One God! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…" written inside the mezuzah and placed on the door post of Jewish homes (and often on the doorpost of those Christians with a Jewish heart!)
Last spring we brought a few pieces with us to some conferences and meetings in the U.S. and the jewelry sold like hotcakes. With little promotion up until now, Tanya is barely keeping up with the orders we have given her.
In fact, Tanya has had to rent a larger apartment so she could have a workroom instead of working out of her tiny bedroom! She is in the process of hiring more people from our congregation in order to train them to help make her jewelry.
Just think! This gift from istandwithisrael.com has enabled Tanya to begin to earn her own living and now she will be able to hire others from our congregation who are in great need of work! This is no minor thing in a country whose economy is as depressed as Israel's. We believe this is a fantastic success story, but the end is not yet!
When you purchase a piece of jewelry, you will be supporting an Israeli business run by believers AND will be directly contributing to our future Coffee House Outreach Center in downtown Tel Aviv.
Again, look what great things God has done through istandwithisrael.com:
Tanya is now making a living, instead of having to depend on the State and on the congregation. Other believers from our congregation will have work through Jewels of Israel. Funding will help towards opening our Coffee House to reach the lost of Tel Aviv.
Tanya can tell you that the miraculous power of God and the help that she has received from the believers through istandwithisrael.com has brought her back from death's door. She loves making jewelry, and now she gets to do it and help raise money for the Coffee House! She has been given abundant life through the generous hand of the Body of Messiah - through YOU!
And so we are delighted to give all of our Maoz readers a chance to purchase some of Tanya's beautiful hand-made Israeli jewelry!
In the last 12 months, istandwithisrael.com has distributed $255,000 to needy Israeli believers like Tanya, and to victims of terrorism. Whether you wish to contribute funds to istandwithisrael.com so that other believers can be helped to rise out of their economic quagmire, or give to Maoz' ministry of evangelism and discipleship for the people of Tel Aviv, you are helping to fulfill Bible prophesy which promises, "All Israel shall be saved."
Your regular, monthly investment into the lives of those reached by this ministry is vital to the vision that God has burned deep within our hearts - to meet the biggest need in every Israeli's life - their personal encounter with Yeshua, their Messiah.
We thank you and bless you for helping us every month to maximize the opportunities at this remarkable season when God is again visiting His people!
For the sake of Zion,
Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram
P.S. Because all of the jewelry is handmade in Israel, it will take four to six weeks to get it to you. But there is still time to order it for the Christmas and Hanukah season, and have it for the most wonderful, unique gifts!
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