Jewish museum books Jesus show by mistake

By Toby Axelrod, April 10, 2008
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It might have been a lovely concert to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary — but the Jewish Museum in Berlin will not be hosting it any more.

The museum has announced it will not rent out its auditorium for a May 4 event featuring US pianist Sam Rotman, after learning that the self-described “Orthodox Jew” planned to share not only Mozart, Debussy and Schubert from the stage, but also his spiritual journey to Jesus.

According to the museum’s statement, the Berlin-based missionary congregation Bet Sar Shalom and the US-based European Initiative evangelical group had wanted to rent the auditorium for a concert by Mr Rotman.

“It was not known to us that the concert... would also be used for missionising,” the statement read. “After we discovered this, and saw that the European Initiative had advertised this as such on their website, we decided not to offer the Jewish Museum as a location for the event.”

The EI website featured prominently the Berlin event, saying that “Mr Rotman while raised an Orthodox Jewish, came to faith in Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah. He will tell his fascinating story at the concert.”

Rotman’s own website says he has been combining concerts with religious testimony for at least 10 years, as part of missionary organisation, CrossWorld, based in Pennsylvania.

A museum spokesman said they had informed the messianic congregation in Berlin by email of the decision not to rent their facility for the concert.

Just how both the Jewish Museum and the Israeli Embassy lent their logos to the event is unclear. It appears that each saw the logo of the other on publicity material, and trusted the event had been approved. The event poster makes no mention of proselytising. A museum spokesman said they had been informed by a Beit Sar Shalom contact that the concert was on the official list of 60th anniversary events sent out by the Israeli Embassy. It has since been removed.

Instead of noting Mr Rotman’s religious transformation, the publicity poster emphasised his identity as an “Orthodox Jew”. The concert’s co-sponsor, European Initiative, is headed by Jeff Serio, former director of the Texas-based Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, who has claimed he had a dream that he was to lead a spiritual “Berlin airlift”, reaching out first to Jews.

Germany has seen a major influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union since 1990. In fact, the official Jewish population has quadrupled to more than 120,000. There may be another 100,000 who are not members of congregations. It is these people that congregations like Beit Sar Shalom wish to reach. Reportedly, the event in question was also advertised in Russian-language papers.

The congregation dedicated its new Messianic Center in Berlin in 2006.Supported by the US-based Chosen People’s Ministries, Beit Sar Shalom is led by Vladimir Pikman, who grew up in a Jewish family in Ukraine, left the Jewish fold, and ultimately trained at the Dallas Theological Seminary in Texas. Pikman has estimated that there are 2,000 “Jewish believers” in Germany.

    Last updated: 5:13pm, May 13 2008