Christian missionaries infiltrate ultra-Orthodox enclave in Jerusalem

Haredi residents of French Hill neighborhood in shock after Ultra-Orthodox news site reveals that father of local family who worked as a scribe and even married couples is actually working to preach Christianity.

Israel Hayom/April 26, 2021

By Hanan Greenwood

The Haredi community in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem was rocked by scandal on Sunday after local residents discovered that a prominent Haredi family were actually Christian missionaries, the Haredi news site Bahadrei Hadarim reported.

According to the report, the family used forged documents to make aliyah as Jews. Their first home in Israel was in the Nachlaot neighborhood, but after their true identities were revealed they decamped to French Hill in the northern part of the capital.

After moving to French Hill, the family integrated into community life. The father identified himself as a Cohen and a scribe, producing tefillin and mezuzah scrolls, and even conducted marriage ceremonies. The family's children were enrolled in local Haredi schools. The mother died recently after a long illness, and the community collected charity for the mourning family, embracing them as immigrants in Israel without any extended family.

But then active members of the community discovered that the family were not Haredi Jews, or Jewish at all – they were Christian missionaries. According to Bahadrei Hadarim, the father admitted that he had come to Israel to infiltrate the community and spread his Christian faith. At first, the development was kept secret so that the family could not move away before steps were taken to revoke their citizenship.

However, on Sunday morning, the father began to cover his tracks and his daughters did not arrive at school. He also reportedly began to take down his original Facebook profile, which had reportedly been labeled "A Jew in every sense."

"We decided to tell the neighborhood about it so that the residents would know the real story and he wouldn't escape to another neighborhood," one of the community members who discovered the story told the site.

Another community member involved in the affairs told the news site that the mother, before she died, had said that she was the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, but "it turned out that she was the daughter of a Christian couple, and there are even certificates of her parents' baptism."

"Luckily, we just discovered the fraud, so we froze all the charity money collected to support the family. We're in complete shock," he said.

The Jewish outreach organization Yad L'Achim issued a statement in response to the report, explaining that the group had been handing the family's case "for years," and arguing that making the affair public harmed the battle against missionary activity and its "behind-the-scenes work in this case and against other cases of missionaries masquerading [as Jews].

"Six years ago, the resident in question confirmed to us that he was in touch with missionaries in order to preach, and promised that he had changed his ways, but we are now reviewing material that raise serious questions in the matter. When the process is complete, we will make our conclusions public to the relevant authorities," the organization said.

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