Family members challenge claims by Jews for Jesus missionary

New Jersey Jewish News/September 8, 2006
By Debra Rubin

Family members of a well-known staff missionary for Jews for Jesus are challenging claims he made during a recent New Jersey appearance, saying they fit into a pattern of deception that led to the closing of his ministry in Maryland in 2001.

Chris Lee, son-in-law of missionary Stan Telchin, contacted NJ Jewish News after reading an article on the newspaper’s Web site about Telchin’s July 26 speech at Calvary Chapel Crossroads, an evangelical church in South Brunswick.

Lee challenged Telchin’s assertions that he had once been named man of the year and served as a board member at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington in Rockville, Md.

He also disputed his father-in-law’s account that his check to the United Jewish Appeal, now part of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, was returned by the organization.

Both institutions also dispute Telchin’s account.

Lee and his wife, Ann Telchin Lee, operate a Web site, A Toxic Faith, to dispute many of her father’s claims, including his account of the close-knit Telchin family as depicted in two of Telchin’s books, Betrayed and Messianic Judaism Is Not Christianity: A Loving Call to Unity.

In an ad promoting the elder Telchin’s appearance that ran in the Sentinel, a Middlesex County weekly, Telchin explains that he began to question his own Jewish beliefs after his “21-year-old daughter,” whom he identified at the South Brunswick program as his oldest daughter, Judy, told him that she believed in Jesus.

At the South Brunswick program, Telchin again credited Judy for his conversion and added that his wife, Ethel, and younger daughter, Ann, also came to believe that Jesus was the messiah.

Lee, who called from his home in Las Vegas, declined to say whether he and his wife were practicing Christians but affirmed they were not allied with Jews for Jesus.

“He is the only one in the family affiliated with Jews for Jesus,” he said of his father-in-law, with whom he and his wife have not spoken in six years.

In a phone conversation, Ann Telchin said, “I want him to quit lying about my family. I don’t want to be part of his public testimony, and I call for the restoration of our family. I haven’t spoken to my sister since my mother’s funeral [in 2000], and I miss her and my father. I have a 15-year-old son whose grandpa hasn’t responded to him in six years. When this all happened, we could have gotten together and discussed matters and avoided all this heartache. Until there is restoration of my family, I want him to stop using me to perpetuate his ministry.”

On their Web site, Ann Telchin also called her father’s second book, Messianic Judaism, “one of the most anti-Semitic things I have read in a long time.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish and interfaith groups, Jews for Jesus uses “duplicitous” and “ethically immoral” tactics to attract Jews of marginal observance, such as members of the Russian immigrant community.

Lee said he had obtained an audiotape of Telchin’s South Brunswick appearance through the church, which he said was a standard fund-raising practice of many such churches.

Lee said he contacted Washington’s Hebrew Home and federation after reviewing Telchin’s talk.

“I discovered that saying the United Jewish Appeal returned his funds is an absolute lie,” he said. “They said to me they accepted money from Catholics, Muslims, Lutherans, atheists.”

Reached by NJJN, a Washington federation spokesperson said no record of Telchin’s donations could be found because of the large span of time that had elapsed. But the federation released this statement: “We never refuse donations on the basis of race or religion. It is the policy of the Jewish federation to accept all donations regardless of ethnic origin or religious affiliation.”

Marilyn Feldman, the director of public relations at the Hebrew Home, said she could confirm Telchin had never won the institution’s major annual award, the Hymen Goldman Humanitarian Award, but said the home had a volunteer men’s club affiliated with it years ago, the records from which she did not have.

“He’s gone back just far enough,” said Feldman. “I don’t find his name among our board members as far as I can research. I just don’t have the men’s club records in my archives. Possibly he received some sort of award from the men’s club, but I don’t have the records that would completely disprove his statements. I can tell you I cannot find his name in any of my archives, and I’ve been at the home since 1985.”

Coming on the heels of a July 14 appearance by Jews for Jesus in Highland Park, where missionaries passed out literature on Raritan Avenue, Telchin’s presentation caused enough alarm within the Jewish community that the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County sent out an alert to its rabbis and synagogues.

It also came at the tail end of a $3 million campaign conducted in July by Jews for Jesus in the greater New York area, where representatives from the missionary organization distributed leaflets in Essex, Bergen, Union, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties.

An actor by training

Lee said he and his wife also disputed that Telchin earned a doctoral degree, a claim he has made in several evangelical churches that they name and post on their Web site. Telchin received a bachelor of arts degree in speech from George Washington University in 1949 and a master of arts degree in drama from Catholic University.

“He was training to be a Shakespearean actor,” said Lee, whose Web site even contains a photo of a much younger Telchin as Macbeth.

Lee said the advanced degree is an honorary one presented in 2001 by the American Christian College and Seminary in Oklahoma.

More significantly, Telchin’s daughter and son-in-law challenge Telchin’s claims to have been ordained as a minister at Christ Church in Washington, DC, in 1979, saying the church has no record of Telchin’s ordination.

“For a number of years, Stan Telchin has presented himself as the Rev. Stan Telchin, so you can imagine our utter shock and disbelief when investigators of the Internal Revenue Service based out of St. Petersburg, Fla., while conducting an investigation of his handling of donor money for his ministry, raised the ordination issue,” said Lee. “One of the reasons we wanted to know more was because he married his daughter and me.”

When NJJN called a phone number listed to an S. Telchin in Sarasota, Fla., Telchin picked up the phone and said he was in Missouri. He questioned the motivation for doing such a story and said the Lees’ allegations were all “lies.” He insisted he was, in fact, ordained at Christ Church.

“Why would you want to get into this garbage and filth and nonsense?” he asked “Why do you want to attack the messenger? It’s not me that’s the issue, but the message I share. For six years this man [Lee] has been trying to discredit me, but he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He just makes allegations with no basis in fact.”

The angry wake of a father-daughter split

The dispute between Jews for Jesus representative Stan Telchin and his daughter and son-in-law, Ann Telchin Lee and Chris Lee, extends well beyond Telchin’s recent South Brunswick appearance.

Their Web site, a toxic, maintains a list of allegations and documents pertaining to Telchin and offers a peephole into a simmering family feud.

The most serious allegation is that Telchin misappropriated funds as head of Stan Telchin Ministries, which closed down in 2001.

“There was an ethical reason this had to be pursued,” Chris Lee said in an interview, acknowledging he also had a more personal reason for challenging his father-in-law.

“He had asked Ann to serve as secretary of his ministry, and she agreed,” he said. “She was the co-signer on the account. She opened envelopes and deposited donations. She was an officer only because she wanted to help him. I knew my wife was in potential grave legal jeopardy because officers and executives can be held liable for such misuse of money. I felt I turned him in not because I wanted to, but because I had to.”

In the years since, the couple requested that Telchin stop referring to Ann in his talks. When he did not desist, they started their Web site.

“Since then I cannot tell you the e-mails and phone calls we have received from all over the United States, Europe, Israel, South America, and Hong Kong, including pastors,” said Lee. “[Telchin] has not spoken to his daughter in six years. She wrote him a letter, but it was returned unopened.”

Lee said his most startling discovery came on Nov. 18, 2000, while Telchin was away on his honeymoon with his second wife. He said he walked into his father-in-law’s office and set down his coffee cup on the desk; the impact jarred on the computer screen.

“Imagine my absolute horror when I discovered in 1999 the State of Maryland — in which Stan Telchin Ministries operated — forced it to close down,” said Lee. “I actually got a copy of the certificate of forfeiture, which is like having your medical license suspended for failure to file proper government documents.”

Telchin, however, insisted he decided to leave his ministry to join Jews for Jesus and voluntarily forfeited his pulpit.

“I stopped paying for my accreditation,” Telchin added. “These are just lies out of the pit of hell. The IRS never cancelled my corporation. If that were true I’d be in jail. It’s all lies. Why would you want to do something so evil, low, and rotten as to discredit me? [Lee] thinks he’s correct, but as God is my judge, he is not.”

A copy of the Maryland forfeiture notice, which suspended the corporation, was obtained by NJJN. It was signed by Paul B. Anderson of the charter division of the state Department of Assessments and Taxation on April 11, 2001, and was affixed with the official state seal. In it Anderson wrote, “Stan Telchin Ministries is not in good standing with the department for the following reasons: The corporation has been forfeited.”

Lee alleged he discovered that money had been misappropriated for personal auto leases, home improvements, cell phone calls, and trips, all of which are documented on the Web site.

Lee said his father-in-law “failed to make it right” after moving to Florida, so the son-in-law filed a complaint with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department about the financial wrongdoing, which led to an FBI investigation. Lee said David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus, was sent all documentation of Telchin’s inaccuracies and financial records to Jews for Jesus, but the group has never responded.

In several calls to Jews for Jesus’ national headquarters in San Francisco, NJJN was told someone would respond to the allegations. However, an official response was never received.

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