Moshe Imanuel Ben-Meir (1905-1978) -
Introduction: Ahuvah Ben-Meir, Jerusalem, December 7, 2006
Forword: Joseph Shulam
This sketch was written in the late Seventies.
Published by Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry, Jerusalem, Israel
P.O.Box 8043, Jerusalem 91080, Israel
Edited by B. Broadway, 2007
Abram Poljak in his book 'The Cross in the Star of David' (1936) wrote:
[The English translation of 'The Cross in the Star of David' retained Poljak's German spelling of his friend's name. The publication of Ben Meir's autobiography in 2007 provides valuable additional insight into the relationship of the two men and the birthpangs of the messianic Jewish movement in Palestine / Israel. The following excerpt is reproduced from Ben-Meir's Autobiography by permission ( pp 121-133). Authorization to copy must be obtained from the publisher of the book. Thank you for respecting the copyright.]
One of the great movements which resulted from the Nazi persecution is the movement known as the Jewish Christian Community and The Jerusalem Fellowship, which is still operating chiefly in Germany, with chapters in England, Switzerland , and France.
Two men and two women were the co-founders and sustainers of this movement: Abram Poljak, Baron Albert Springer, Agnes Waldstein, and Pauline Rose. Abraham Poljak should be given full credit, since the others joined him after he started the ball rolling. Of all four of them, Baron Springer has been left to carry on the ministry. Agnes was the first to be gathered to her fathers, followed by Poljak, and then by Pauline Rose. The first two died in Germany and are interred in the Communal Cemetery at Möttlingen, and their tombstones are marked with a cross inside the Star of David, the symbol Poljak designed for the movement. When Ahuvah and I visited their graves in 1973, we noticed a good number of graves with this symbol on the stones. These are the graves of Germans, who joined and remained life-long members of the Reichs Bruderschaft [Brotherhood of the Kingdom], which is the German Auxiliary of the Jewish Christian Community.
Abram Poljak wrote a number of books, the most important one named, The Cross in the Star of David. Among others there are Community in the Holy Spirit, The Jewish Christian Calling, and The Bible on Faith Healing. He wrote in German, and I am not sure if all his writings have English translations. In my library, I have some of his German books as well: Der Ölzweig; Jerusalem, Jerusalem , and Krieg und Frieden.
If these books are still available, they may be obtained from the "The Jewish Christian Community," 409 Westbourne Grove, Westcliffe-on-Sea, Essex, England.
Abram Poljak was born in the Ukraine in 1900 and departed this life on the 28th of October 1963 in Germany. He "embraced Christianity" as a young man to escape the misfortune of having been born a Jew. He immigrated to Germany and reached a high position in the field of journalism. If my memory is correct, he was even agitating for Adolph Hitler in the beginning of his political career, but in 1933, his "friend" Hitler threw him into prison upon learning of his Jewish origin. In 1935, he escaped from prison when one of the guards opened the gates and closed his eyes, but before this miracle happened, Poljak realized that he could not escape his Jewishness and that nominal Christianity is no guarantee of salvation. He, therefore, called upon the God of Israel to forgive and save him, after which he had a vision of the King of the Jews, the crucified and risen Lord Yeshua, and became his adherent and disciple for eternity. This time he was involved with a person and not with religion, with eternity and not with time.
After Poljak heard the good tidings that the I.H.C.A. was operating a Messianic Jewish Colony in Eretz Yisrael, he decided to come and live in it. He boarded a ship and was on his way to the Promised Land, while on the same ship, Sister Esther, a Finnish nurse, was making her way to the Holy Land to join the medical staff of the B.J.S. in Haifa. On board she occupied herself with distributing tracts to Jewish passengers, and she approached Poljak to offer him a tract. He responded by thanking her and telling her, "Thank you, I have been taken care of." Not understanding what he meant, she asked for clarification, so he informed her that he was a Messianic Jew, a believer, and "saved." In the conversation that followed, she learned of the purpose of his journey and advised him to go to Haifa to find the leading brethren of the Messianic Jews. He followed her advice, came directly to our home, and stayed with us for some time, which is how Poljak and I met.
While at our home, we conversed a lot about the position of the Messianic Jews and their situation in the world and in Eretz Yisrael. When I shared with him my vision of Messianic Judaism and synagogues, he listened attentively and patiently and was impressed. In his book, The Cross in the Star of David, he revealed that he caught a vision of what his work should be, which was strengthened and deepened in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, as he stood at the spot where the feet of the Lord shall stand when He returns with the clouds of Heaven. This is the spot shown in a vision to Rose Miller way back in America, and she guided Poljak to see it, as she once guided me.
When he saw that there was no Messianic Jewish Colony, Abram Poljak was deeply disappointed. He remarked that the way the I.H.C.A. talked and wrote about it, people are led to believe that the Colony is already established and calling for settlers. Perhaps something should be written here about this Colony.
Although there were previous attempts to establish Messianic Jewish colonies in Eretz Yisrael, they functioned for a while and then were liquidated. There was an attempt at a colony at the place of Hartuv, not far from modern Bet Shemesh, as well as another venture at the place which is now Mikveh Yisrael, and a third attempt by Motza, to which reference was made above. The story of the colony planned by the I.H.C.A. started according to the account below.
There lived in the city of Jerusalem a godly lady named Elizabeth Ann Finn, who was the wife of the British Consul. Near the Bucharan Quarter, she owned a large tract of land, known as Kerem Avraham Avinu [Abraham's Vineyard], on which there was a soap industry, which gave needy Jews employment. Mrs. Finn, who was a close friend of the Lord and of the Jews, bequeathed this land to the I.H.C.A. Many of us had dreamed of settling in the old Fatherland in a colony of our own, and owning such a large piece of land seemed to be the great opportunity. Commissioners came from England to inspect and look over the land, but after due consideration and advice, it was concluded that the land was unsuitable because the plan was to found a colony, a village whose population would till and live from the soil. Such a colony had to be in the open country, but Kerem Abraham was in the heart of the city.
Today the neighborhood of Geulah is on the land formerly known as Kerem Avraham Avinu, which is truly in the middle of the city. When it was decided to sell it and purchase a parcel of land outside in the country, they sold it for 15,000 pounds sterling.
Another parcel of land of 2,000 dunams was purchased in the vicinity of Gaza from the mayor of Gaza, at three pounds sterling per dunam (including taxes). In Biblical days, Gaza was one of the five Philistine cities, and its inhabitants are wild and anti-Jewish. In our War of Independence, Gaza was overran by the Egyptians and occupied by them until they lost it to Israel in the Six Day War of 1967.
Whatever happened to the purchase of this land, I do not fully remember. The Gazans were informed that the land was to serve as a settlement for Messianic Jews, and they did not like it. Jews are Jews, no matter how they disguise themselves, and Jews they could not and would not tolerate. After much pressure, the mayor annulled the transaction. If he repaid the money, plus the 6,000 pounds fine, is still an unanswered question. Whatever money he did refund, and all the contributions people continued to make were placed in a fund called either the "Palestine Colony Fund," or "Abraham's Vineyard Fund," or both.
In addition the I.H.C.A. had a "Polish Colony Fund" for the establishment of a colony in Poland and also a "HebrewChristian Church Fund." Some of the "Palestine Colony Fund" is used today to aid Messianic Jews in Israel with their housing problems. Loans, free of interest, are offered to help purchase flats, and not far from where we live is a family who acquired their flat by such aid. When he found out there was no colony to which to go, Abraham Poljak turned to live for a while at a Kibbutz
What is written under this heading is not in chronological order because I am writing from memory, and I cannot remember how and when the events referred to have taken place, although I kept my diary.
While in Israel, Abram Poljak began to distribute a mimeographed paper in German named Die Juden Christliche Korrepondenz. Then he traveled to England, where a number of English Christians gathered around him, and the Jerusalem Fellowship came into being. Being of German nationality and identified as "Christian," he was detained by the authorities and shipped to a Prisoners’ Camp in Canada. In October 1946, he published the first number of Jerusalem, a monthly magazine, which is still going strong under the able editorship of Mr. John R. Brockis. Returning to Jerusalem, he was a speaker at the H.C.A. Conference held at Ein Kerem in April 1935, which was attended by about forty Messianic Jews and many guests. Among the other speakers were George Francis, Graham Brown, (the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem), Professor Marzinkosky, (the Russian writer), and myself. Abram Poljak had chosen to speak on the "The Spiritual Situation of the World and Messianic Judaism," while my subject was "The Necessity and Urgency of Messianic Judaism," because of which I was voted out of the Secretariat. Concerning this Conference, Poljak wrote in the Messianic Jewish Press, in May 1935, the following:
"No resolution of any kind was passed at this conference. The impression was that the movement in Palestine is growing and clarifying itself, but the very fact that in the Holy Land, Messianic Jews convene to hold meetings at which there are earnest discussions about the problems of the faith and our time, is of immense importance. It is the sign that summer is near. Learn the parable of the fig tree!"
In September of 1947, Poljak and I published Kol Shofar, [Voice of the Trumpet], which was to serve as the organ of the J.C.C. in the Holy Land. The main work was mine, as he knew no Hebrew, although some of the material was translated from his German. The Monthly, however, for one reason or another, did not continue, and only that one number ever appeared.
On June 22, 1946, in a small room of an Arab house on the Mount of Olives , by the spot where the Messiah shall place his feet when landing from the clouds, according to the vision of Rose Miller, in the presence of ten persons, the foundation for a Synagogue of the Messiah was laid. Thereafter small companies of Messianic Jews met weekly for a Erev Shabbat [Sabbath Evening] service. In Jerusalem the service was patterned after the traditional service of the synagogue, except that the Shabbat lights were kindled in the name of the Messiah and known as the "The Shabbat Lights of the Messiah”. Then the proper Kabbalat Shabbat [Receiving of the Shabbat] prayers took place. The men wore yarmulkes, and the women covered their heads and dressed modestly. The ministers also wore a talit.
In the years 1948-1950, we silently laid some groundwork, but the H.C.A. ended its career shortly before the State of Israel was declared. A good number of Messianic Jews entered the State and were in need of an encouraging, guiding hand. Poljak, Agnes Waldstein, I, and a few others visited, conversed with, and encouraged them. We also interviewed those who were in the employ of the missions. Then a convention of Messianic Jews was convened at the Y.M.C.A. for the days of December 8-9, 1950.
Two hundred Messianic Jews (and more) from all over Israel came, and a number of non-Jews were also present. Although the press had not been invited, the news of the convention somehow leaked out. Nearly all the daily papers and weeklies published reports of it which, whether based on fact or fiction, mirrored the excitement caused in Israel by this convention and the establishment of a "Union of Messianic Jews," for the convention resolved to call all Messianic Jews in Israel to unite together in this Union, under the slogan "Together we stand; divided we fall." The extensive report of the daily paper Yediot Acharonot [Recent Information] was nearest the truth, and here are some quotations from its edition of December 21, 1950:
A committee of thirteen was elected, (seven for Jerusalem, three for Jaffa-Tel Aviv, and three for Haifa), and charged with the building up of the Union, the drafting of its constitution, and its representation to the Government. R. Daniel Zion was elected as the President.
Soon after the convention, Abram Poljak traveled to Europe to raise funds so that the Messianic Synagogue in Israel should be provided with a center and facilities of its own. So far the Synagogue was meeting either in some of the mission halls or in the homes of missionaries, who, with all their good will, could not and would not tolerate our "Judaistic" direction. The Lord had a different calling for him, however.
He returned to Germany and held mass meetings, calling upon the Christians to awake and face the awful crimes they committed against God, and the Lord Jesus, and their people, the Jews. Tens of thousands attended and were shaken out of their neutrality and indifference. They gathered around him, as those Israelites of old around the prophet Elijah, and cried, "We have sinned and committed evil!" They held on to him and would not hear of his leaving them as sheep without a shepherd. Rich Germans offered funds for a center in Germany, and the village of Möttlingen was chosen. When land was made available and buildings put up, Möttlingen became the Jerusalem of these awakened Christians.
A property was made available for similar purposes in Tenuta Crespara, in Switzerland. An auxiliary movement to that of the Jewish Christian Community came into being, Die Reichs Bruderschaft, along with Patmos , a publishing company, and a monthly organ Die Juden- Christliche Gemeinde.
The man who sensed that he was called to revive the Messianic Synagogue, to rescue Messianic Jews from total assimilation, and to settle in Israel was redirected to do most of his work among the people who sought to rid the world of his people. He died and was interned in the soil, from which the blood of millions of Jewish Abels calls out for revenge. Jonah had to go to Niniveh, and Poljak had to go to Germany.
Through Abram Poljak, the Germans were given a new opportunity to escape the judgment that was hanging over them. The Ninivites repented indeed under the preaching of Jonah, and judgment was delayed. Nevertheless, the coming generation annulled the repentance of their fathers, and the delayed judgment fell upon them in fury. The large majority of the Germans ignored Poljak and his preaching, and theologians declared his preaching heresy. Although many have taken his warnings to heart, they are dying out.
The German friendship with Israel is superficial and does not go deep enough. God hardened their hearts, as once He hardened the hearts of Pharaoh, the Führer of Egypt. God's law, "I shall curse those who curse you" (Genesis 12:3), must be vindicated.
In Israel the elected Committee drafted the constitution for the new Union, applied for recognition as a Synagogal unit within Jewry to the Ministry of Religion, and was turned down. The Jerusalemites, who were totally under the influence of the missions, resolved to dissolve the Union, which turned the clock backward. Everyone returned to where he was before, but the Messianic Synagogue continued to meet.
Shlomo Ze'ev Kofsman, supported by French Pentecostals, started meetings in his home, which was below the home of Abram Poljak. The Messianic Synagogue met above in Poljak's home, and below in the Kofsmans' home a like meeting was held, which developed into what is now "The Jerusalem Messianic Assembly" and is now centered in the building which used to be the Beit Dorshei Emet.
Later Brother Kofsman succeeded to persuade the Assemblies of God from America to make the church and manse on the corner of Agron and Keren haYesod Streets available to the use of the Messianic Assembly.
Before it moved to its present place, I used to preach often at the Messianic Assembly. On occasions when the Kofsmans left for visits to France and America, I used to come each week from Haifa to conduct the services.
Since the Union was dissolved, Messianic Jews began to gather for fellowship in small groups all over the State. Some are under the protection of missions, and some are on their own. Some are in the open and others in a sort of underground, while the unity, which the Union was to have activated, is sadly absent. Jewish believers, who were forced by circumstances to immigrate to Israel, brought with them the various and conflicting brands of Christianity, and this is the curse which blights every attempt at unity. Indeed, they are in Jerusalem but not of Jerusalem.
No progress will ever bless Messianic Jews in Israel as long as they hold on to the accursed things they brought with them from countries and churches of the Gentiles. Only in Israel can Messianic Judaism prosper, in spite of oppression and persecution, but everything alien to its spirit must be discarded.
The body, which the Lord Yeshua created, was based on Messianic Jews, and its twelve pillars, the twelve Apostles, were all Jews. On the Pentecost of Acts 2, the 120 cornerstones of the body were all Jews, and 3,000 more were added on that day. Then 5,000 more believed and then many tens of thousands, and all were Jews. We may safely calculate that the body or church of the Lord numbered a million Jews right here in Jerusalem and Eretz Yisrael, and all stood with both feet on the soil of Judaism. In the words of the chronicler, they were "all zealous for the Torah" (Acts 21:20; 22:12).
Then came the holocaust of 70 C.E., followed by the second in the days of Bar Kochbah, and since then Jewish additions to the church began to decrease, while from among the Gentiles they increased, until the whole body was Gentilized, and in time there emerged that world religion which is known as Christianity. The Jewish nation was exiled and scattered into every country and people of the Gentiles, and the Body, or the true Church, was scattered into all the denominations and sects into which Christianity branched.
Now that Israel is in the process of restoration and is returning home to her base, to Zion and Jerusalem, we have every right to expect the restoration of Jewish believers to Messianic Judaism from every country and nation as well as from every church, sect, and Christian denomination. Messianic Judaism will revive in Israel, while Gentile Christianity will slide more and more into foreseen apostasy. "For behold, darkness shall envelope the earth and a fog the nations, but upon you shall the Lord shine, and his glory shall be seen over you" (Isaiah 60:2).
Therefore, Messianic Jews, "Arise and shine, for your light is coming, and the glory of the Lord upon you has arisen" (Isaiah 60:1).
"All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither shall they return again" (Ecclesiastes 1:7).
The rivers of the water of life, whose source is the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, started to flow from the midst of the Jewish people, from Jerusalem, into the sea of the nations, yet the sea is not full because of the salt water, the pagan tendencies from which it is constituted. Finding no space in the sea, the rivers return again from whence they came, to the midst of the Jewish people in Jerusalem.
From Jerusalem they run into the sea; to Jerusalem they return again from the sea.