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A Jerusalem rabbi who’s suspected of being an undercover Christian missionary from New Jersey is getting a one-way ticket out of Israel — and, depending on your spiritual beliefs, a possible first-class booking into heaven.
His family had allegedly spent years assimilating into an ultra-Orthodox community in the Holy City, becoming so embedded that the so-called cleric had even been known to perform marriage rites for couples, according to Israel’s nonprofit missionary watchdog organization Beyneynu.
The missionary’s ulterior position? Converting members of the Jewish faith to Christianity, the watchdog group claimed.
“The family has been under surveillance for at least seven years,” said Beyneynu researcher Shannon Nussan in a statement to ultra-Orthodox website Behadrei Haredim. “[We have been] investigating the case of a covert missionary in French Hill for many years,” but moved to expose him now “due to one of the missionary’s children proselytizing in school.”
The rabbi’s wife (or rebbetzin, in Yiddish) was also known to play an active role in the down-low religious takeover plot, in part by subverting Jewish social media with Christian themes, according to Beyneynu, which also reported that the woman in fact died in 2020, and was buried in a Jewish cemetery.
“We are confident that the Jewish leaders will act strongly against this threat, and quickly put protective measures in place to protect the Jewish community,” Beyneynu announced in a statement.
In 2014, the group first confronted the unnamed Christian mole, who then “disappeared” from their sights until recently, having since re-emerged in a new neighborhood, according to the Guardian, which pointed out that missionary work is not illegal in Israel. However, there is a ban on preaching or bribing to convert any person age 18 or under without parental consent.
The status of the “gentile rabbi” came to light after Behadrei Haredim reported that his 13-year-old daughter told a schoolmate that Jesus “accepts everyone, even if they are wrong,” according to the Guardian. Behadrei Haredim claimed the family is originally from an unnamed New Jersey town and emigrated to Israel using fraudulent identities and travel documents, telling authorities they were the family of Holocaust survivors.
“Until now we kept it quiet because we did not want the father to move to another neighborhood [to carry on his work] — and we wanted to work to get his citizenship revoked,” said Yoni Kayman, a community member involved in Beyneynu’s investigation, the Times of Israel reported.
Jewish law allows for Jews, born anywhere in the world, to be Israeli citizens if they can prove their ethnicity.
“I was born Jewish,” he said, and added that he “repented” for his past missionary work “seven or eight years ago.”
The news network also quoted a community member as saying their neighbors were “in great shock” over the controversy.
Meanwhile, Beyneynu said they have found “no sign or proof that the family has Jewish roots.”