JEWS FOR JESUS FOUNDER, MOISHE ROSEN, DEAD AT 78
Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, and the leading statesman in that movement, died May 19th in San Francisco, California, after a protracted battle with prostate cancer. He was 78.
Rosen, the son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, was raised in Denver, Colorado, where his family attended an Orthodox synagogue. In 1953, at the age of 21, he and his Jewish wife, Ceil, came to believe that Jesus was their Messiah. Shortly thereafter, he felt a call to ministry and after completing his theological studies at Northeastern Bible College in New Jersey in 1957, he was ordained to the ministry at Trinity Baptist Church in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
From 1957-1972 he served in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco with the American Board of Missions to the Jews. By the late sixties, early seventies, the Jesus Movement and the beginnings of the Jews for Jesus movement converged. Rosen took the lead in getting young Jewish followers of Jesus to band together and experiment with unconventional methods and strategies to communicate the gospel to their own people. In September 1973, Rosen’s time with the ABMJ came to an end and Jews for Jesus, the organization, was born. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, the organization gained national recognition as he and his staff engaged in high profile evangelistic activities.
For example, Rosen developed a new form of gospel literature called broadsides which have been handed out one by one on college campuses, in shopping districts, wherever there is foot traffic and the opportunity to engage in conversations. His first attempt, “A Message From Squares,” was handwritten and drawn by him. The homemade style is still employed with over fifty million broadsides distributed to date. Rosen saw the value in using compelling contemporary literature, art, music, poetry and drama to get the gospel message across. He encouraged the development of Jewish gospel music groups and drama teams and looked for ways to get them seen and heard.
Rosen was often quoted as saying, “God has a great sense of humor letting an over-aged, overweight and overbearing person like me lead a youth movement.” He would also say “I have been called the founder/leader of Jews for Jesus but it found me because I was the one who owned the printer that we needed to crank out our broadsides (gospel pamphlets).”
Yet over the years, Rosen has been responsible for training a significant number of men and women who are leaders in the field of Jewish missions today, several as CEOs of other mission agencies. He has also been a sought-after consultant in the field of Jewish evangelism by denominational groups and was considered by leading missiologists to be a key strategist and tactician in his field. Rosen was a special consultant to the Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization’s study group on reaching Jewish people, which met in Pattaya, Thailand in 1980 and was one of the founding leaders of the organization it spawned, The Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, an umbrella group for Jewish mission agencies around the world.
Rosen was also a member of the board of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (1977-1987). This august body held three summits for scholars and two congresses for the Christian community at large to formulate and disseminate the biblical truth about inerrancy.
He also served on the Board of Trustees of Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon for several terms and in 1986 he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from that academic institution. He is listed in Who’s Who in the West.
Rosen stepped down as executive director of the organization in 1996, wanting to see another generation of leadership empowered and in place. The following year, the Conservative Baptist Association named him a “Hero of the Faith.”
Rosen has authored a number of books in his field including: Sayings of Chairman Moishe (1972), Jews For Jesus (1974), Share The New Life With A Jew (1976), Christ in the Passover(1977, revised and expanded 2006), Y’shua-The Jewish Way To Say Jesus (1982, re-issued in Hebrew, 2008), The Universe Is Broken: Who On Earth Can Fix It (1991) Overture to Armageddon (1992), and Witnessing to Jews (1998).
A festschrift in his honor was published in 2009 by Kregel, entitled Jews and the Gospel At The End Of History. One of the contributors to that volume, Dr. David Larsen, professor emeritus of preaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, said of Moishe Rosen, “In modern times, no one has championed such creative and effective ways of winning Jewish people to Christ as has our brother.”
Dr. Vernon Grounds, noted evangelical and President Emeritus of Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary says of Rosen, “He was a dynamic and creative witness! When Moishe Rosen came into a city there was either a revival or a riot.”
Dr. Mark Bailey, president of Dallas Theological Seminary, reflecting on the life and ministry of the man, had this to say: “Moishe Rosen championed the refreshing realization that one can be a Jew for Jesus while retaining one’s cultural heritage…He has inspired and instructed many of us in the rich history of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Jewish foundations of our faith.”
The organization’s executive director, David Brickner, had this to add: “Moishe Rosen has had a tremendous influence on the field of Jewish missions, on the Church and on so many who have sought to serve God in making the gospel known. He was an example to me of many things, but particularly of courage, of curiosity and commitment.”
Moishe Rosen is survived by his wife of sixty years, Ceil, his brother Don, his daughter, Lyn Bond and her husband, Alan, his daughter Ruth Rosen and two grandchildren, Asher and Bethany Bond.
In lieu of flowers, the Rosen family would ask that your donations be made to Jews for Jesus in his honor. Those wishing to reflect on the life and ministry of Moishe Rosen, are invited to access the special website set up in his honor at http://www.jewsforjesus.org/moishe. A special memorial service, followed by a reception will take place at First Baptist Church, 22 Waller Street, San Francisco at 2 p.m. for those who wish to pay their respects.