God's Amazing Work In Russian Jewish BrooklynBy Leslie McMillan, Executive Director of the Russian Community Life Center
"Let My people go, that they may serve Me." (Exodus 8:1b)
In the late 1980s, the Former Soviet Union began to release from captivity its multitude of persecuted Jews. Most of these refugees are going home to Israel, the Promised Land, but 300,000 Russian Jews have now arrived in Brooklyn.
God is regathering His Chosen People to Israel in prophetic fulfillment, while allowing many to pilgrimage in Brooklyn for a season.
"So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace." (Romans 11:5)
He is also removing the veil from their eyes. Perhaps more than any Jewish group since the First Century, Russian Jews are willing to embrace Messiah Jesus (Yeshua) as their own. For those in Brooklyn, before the promised regathering comes a time of repentance and redemption. In the heart of Brooklyn, the Lord is building a tabernacle in the urban wilderness.
The Russian Community Life Center is a ministry established and mostly operated by Russian Jewish immigrants to Brooklyn. Our mission is to bring about the social, physical and spiritual birth of the Russian community in the United States. We begin in Brooklyn. The Lord has graciously given us a lovely facility on Brighton Beach Avenue, in the epicenter of Russian Jewish Brooklyn. Outside of Israel, there is no community more populated with Russian Jews than the southern one-third of Brooklyn.
"But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!" (Romans 11:12)
Ours is an independent charitable service and Gospel outreach organization whose purpose is to transform the Russian immigrant community in a manner that will glorify Messiah Jesus.
Russian immigrants need stable community relationships as well as individual spiritual rebirth. With love, we want to empower immigrants to integrate successfully in America while maintaining their special identity. More importantly, we want them to realize their true identity in the Messiah. Thus, every program is prayerfully intended to offer service, saturated by the Gospel.
As the Lord leads and enables, our work involves at least three elements. First, we desire to faithfully improve what we are already doing so the Lord can bless us with more. Second, we plan to expand the variety and availability of programs offered. Third, we anticipate much greater fruit through the ministry opportunities made possible by a facility continuously operating in the heart of Russian Jewish Brooklyn. Our hearts prayerfully seek to recognize various parts of the Russian community, and to follow God's ways for us to care for them.
"And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." (Isaiah 58:10)
The Russian Community Life Center was established as an IRS 501(c)(3) in 1996, but its work began in 1993. It was started by Russian Jewish believers who offered English/Bible classes that would also introduce immigrants to Messiah Jesus. The executive director was hired in 1998 and we have had a facility within Russian Jewish Brooklyn since 1999. Hundreds of immigrants have been served, and dozens have trusted Messiah Jesus as their Savior.
Our ministry works among the 300,000 Russian Jewish immigrants who have come to Brooklyn in the last thirteen years. We serve other Russian speakers as well. A 1999 study shows that in the five preceding years, people from the Former Soviet Union were New York City's largest immigrant group. The study also identifies this as the most highly educated group in immigration history. They leave their native land as engineers, doctors, professional musicians or economists, and arrive in America to become home attendants, house cleaners, babysitters and drivers. They must start over again from the bottom - and the older one is, the more difficult and depressing this is.
Secular and Jewish programs give English and other instruction, but our English/Bible classes additionally meet immigrants' most important need - to know Jesus.
"Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, You Who lead Joseph like a flock; You Who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken Your might; come and save us. Restore us, O God; make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved." (Psalm 80:1-3)
Our flexible and accessible English classes, low tuition and Bible instruction appeal to many immigrants. In the current semester, our 8 teachers provide 23 English/Bible classes (plus 2 citizenship classes) that meet a total of 39 times, or 87 hours, every week. Each of our 36 weekly Bible studies lasts at least half an hour. Our present enrollment is about 165 students, but we have served at least 275 since September. The terrorist incident was extraordinarily shocking to the immigrants, who had expected security in America, and we believe that many people waited for a few months before determining to learn English.
We know that each student who continues in our classes improves in language skills. We also know that each student who attends even once hears the Gospel in a penetrating way. We always teach the Bible from the perspective of how Jesus fulfills God's work with the Jewish people and with all people. Many respond right in the classroom. As usual, several people have prayed recently in class to receive Messiah Jesus. (We do not keep records of these decisions.) We are eager to serve more immigrants and see more souls saved by Messiah Jesus. In the next school year, we hope to increase by 10 the number of classes offered, which would allow us to serve monthly about 100 more immigrants - for this life and for eternity.
We are close partners with Hope Of Israel Congregation, several of whose key people are also our key people. This is a Russian Jewish church in Brooklyn. Pastor Greg Zhelezny is the founder and President of the RCLC. Our students are invited to attend Hope Of Israel worship services and other activities, and this is a place for new believers to participate and mature in the Body of Messiah. We also work with Chosen People Ministries, some of whose key people are also our key people. Their President, Mitch Glaser, is one of our founding board members, and one of their missionaries, Klaudia Zhelezny (Greg's mother), directs our English/Bible Program.
In addition to the English/Bible and citizenship classes, the Lord is providing for many outreach activities. For example, we regularly advertise in four of Brooklyn's major Russian newspapers (each with an average weekly circulation of 27,000), always noting that our classes include half an hour of Bible instruc-tion, both Tenach and New Testament. We also do street evangelism each week, sometimes with visiting believers, handing out Gospel literature in Russian. We can just step outside our door and distribute a hundred brochures per hour! Seeds unto eternal life, by the overflowing hand-ful! (No Russian language skills required.) For the Biblical holy days, we have special services at the center for students, church members and new people. We love to teach them how Messiah Jesus fulfills the events that Jewish people have been observing for millennia.
In addition, we are working to produce in December a complete, first-rate presentation of Handel's Messiah in the greatest hall in Russian Jewish Brooklyn, the 1500-seat Millennium Theater. Russians are highly cultured, yet have never heard the most glorious music written this side of heaven. We are partnering with Chosen People Ministries and some large Bible-believing Manhattan churches to bring together a full choir and orchestra, along with some Russian soloists. We already have the whole libretto in Russian, comprised of Scripture verse after Scripture verse, which together read like an incredibly profound, Jewishly-sensitive tract.
We are very busy, but very small. Always before our eyes are the nearly 300,000 Russian Jews in Brooklyn who are still wandering in the wilder-ness without Jesus. We pray for even one percent, and then more! Oh, Lord, save Your people, build Your tabernacle and glorify Your name!
"Our Redeemer - the Lord Almighty is His name - is the Holy One of Israel." (Isaiah 47:4)