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Five Rabbis Who Came to Faith and Still Endure Persecution

 1800_Three Hasidic Jews

“Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized.”  (Acts 9:18)

In the Jewish community around the world, a widespread misconception persists which says none of the Jewish sages and rabbis have believed that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Jewish Messiah.

This false notion is one of the reasons why many Jewish people today don’t believe in Him.  The objection that Yeshua cannot be the Jewish Messiah is reasoned this way:

“If such pious, respected, learned men do not believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, then who am I—a person less knowledgeable about the Torah and God than they—to believe in Him?”

Descendants of the Hasidic rabbinical dynasty

Descendants of the Hasidic rabbinical dynasty within Orthodox Judaism (Grand Rabbi Mordechai Yissachar Ber Leifer (right) with Grand Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke Leifer of Chust (USA).

The truth, however, is that throughout history, hundreds of Orthodox Jewish rabbis, even leaders of entire communities, have realized that Yeshua is most definitely the Promised Messiah of Israel and the world.

For their faith in Yeshua, they were ostracized from their spiritual community and persecuted.  And although the men in this article are deceased, the persecution persists in the form of anti-missionary websites that try to discredit their testimonies and label them as apostates.

These were educated men, even authorities in Jewish Halacha (rabbinical laws and regulations), life and thought.

As we read their testimonies, we shall see that a Jewish believer in Yeshua as the Messiah is not meshugah (crazy) or ignorant of Judaism as so many believe.


Orthodox Jews praying at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem

Jerusalem: Rabbi Chil Slostowski

“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”  (Psalm 118:22–23; fulfilled in Matthew 21:33–44)

Rabbi Chil Slostowski—an authority in Kashrut (rabbinic dietary laws)—was an Orthodox rabbi who came to believe in Yeshua as the Messiah.

Ordained at the age of 17, he became a gadol (great man) in Poland, leading congregations and serving in the rabbinic seminary in Lodz.

He despised Christianity and Yeshua (Jesus) because of all the terrible stories he had read about Him in the Talmud (oral law).  As a seminary professor, he passed on his hostility toward Christianity and Yeshua to his students.

God, however, brought a missionary into his life who was well acquainted with the Talmud, and Rabbi Slostowski enjoyed conversing with him.

As he recalls in his testimony published in the book Rabbis Meet Jesus the Messiah and on the Messianic Good News website,

“Here I must confess that the Missionary’s words had penetrated only my mind and not my heart. Sometimes the truth takes many years to proceed from the head into the heart, and so it was in my case.”

To avert this heart penetration, his parents brought the matter to the attention of pre-state Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Rav Avraham Isaac Kook, who invited Slostowski to Israel and appointed him Secretary to the Chief Rabbinate of Jerusalem.

Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935)

Renowned Torah scholar, Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935) was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine (Israel) and the founder of the Religious Zionist Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav.

After the death of Rabbi Kook, Slostowski accepted a call as a teacher of the Talmud at a rabbinical seminary in Tel Aviv.

One day, while on a trip to Jerusalem, a young man discreetly handed him a Brit Chadashah (New Testament) on the train. As he began to read it, the Holy Spirit shined through the veil that hid the truth from his heart, and he became convinced that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah.

After two months of silence, he openly confessed his faith.  For this public confession, he was pelted with rocks and needed to be hospitalized.  He continued, however, to proclaim that Yeshua is the Messiah.

When they saw that he was not moved by physical attacks, they attempted to win him back through different means.

A prominent Jewish man offered to adopt him as his son and make him heir to his fortune if only he would renounce his faith in Yeshua.

Rabbi Slostowski replied, “If you can give me peace for my soul, procure me the presence of God and pardon for my sins, I will return to rabbinical Judaism.”

The rich man answered:  “That I cannot do for I do not possess myself what you are asking.”  The danger to his life became so great that eventually this Jewish follower of Yeshua had to flee Israel for Beirut, Syria.

There, Rabbi Slostowski continued to share the truth that Yeshua is the Messiah by showing the Jewish People prophecies, such as Isaiah 53, which Yeshua has fulfilled.

Isaiah 53 from the Great Isaiah Scroll (Dead Sea Scroll)

Isaiah 53 from the Great Isaiah Scroll (Dead Sea Scroll) (Photo by Ardon Bar Hama)

United States: Rabbi Sam Stern

“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  (Zechariah 9:9; fulfilled in Matthew 21:1–11)

Rabbi Sam Stern was born in Poland into a strict Orthodox Jewish rabbinic home just after the devastation of World War I.

He writes in his testimony published on the Menorah Ministries website (and elsewhere) that from an early age, he learned Hebrew and studied the ancient Jewish writings.

Although the Jewish people in Poland lived among Gentiles, they did not mix with them because the Jewish manner of dress, language, place of worship, and occupations differed so greatly from the Polish people.

The first encounter he had with non-Jews as a little boy of six years old turned out to be quite traumatic.  While walking outside the Jewish Ghetto, a Gentile boy threw stones at him, shouting, “Jew! Jew!”

Jewish children in the Lodz Ghetto in German-Occupied Poland are rounded up for extermination in the Chelmno death camp.

Jewish children in the Lodz Ghetto in German-Occupied Poland are rounded up for extermination in the Chelmno death camp.

When a frightened little Sam ran home and asked his mother why a boy he had never met before would hate him so much, she answered, “He is a Christian and Christians are Jew haters. Even if he does not know you, he is your enemy.”

Sam’s parents instilled in him a longing for the day when the Messiah would come and the suffering of the Jewish people at the hands of the Christians would finally come to an end.  This hope for Messiah’s coming helped him endure the humiliation and persecution he suffered from Gentile neighbors.

Just after Stern received his ordination as an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, World War II broke out on September 1, 1939.  Suddenly the Jews of Poland were in grave danger.

Six years later, at the end of the war in 1945, six million Jews, including one million children, had been murdered by the Nazis.

The Warsaw Ghetto was a closed ghetto.  In May 1943, the Nazis attempted to liquidate it, sending many to the deaths in labor and concentration camps.  Individual Jews escaped, however, and continued to hide in the ruins.

The Warsaw Ghetto was a closed ghetto. In May 1943, the Nazis attempted to liquidate it, sending many to the deaths in labor and concentration camps. this photo is from Jürgen Stroop Report to Heinrich Himmler from May 1943. The original German caption reads: “Forcibly pulled out of dug-outs.” Individual Jews escaped, however, and continued to hide in the ruins.

Though Stern had survived the concentration camps, his family was annihilated. He found himself completely alone in the world, without a single relative or friend.

Eventually immigrating to the United States, he worked as a rabbi while questioning why God had allowed millions of Jews to perish in the Holocaust.

God always answers sincere questions of the heart about Him, and Stern soon received his answer. Walking down the street, he was handed a tract in English. He recalls, “As I could not read English I decided to go into the store to find out what kind of sale they were having.”

He actually walked into a mission to the Jews. 

Yiddish-English vote poster

Women surrounded by posters in English and Yiddish supporting Franklin D. Roosevelt, teaching them how to vote, 1935. (Photo: Wikicommons)

Through an interpreter, Stern heard about how God, in His great love, had already sent the Messiah and was not responsible for the Holocaust.

But Rabbi Stern had a lifetime of memories from his parents telling him that Christians were the enemies of the Jews, citing for the missionary Christianity’s horrid anti-Semitic history.

The interpreter answered this valid challenge by saying, “The Lord teaches us to love our enemies, to show love to those who hate us. All those who do not obey the teachings of the Lord Yeshua are not His followers.”

Those who planned and executed mass genocide on the Jewish People were not true followers of the Lord Yeshua, no matter how much they may claim to be.  Once, that false burden was shattered, Rabbi Stern could focus on the truth of Messiah’s identity

In the Yiddish Brit Chadashah (New Testament) that was given to him, Stern especially investigated the prophecy of Isaiah 53 and wondered why he had never known that Isaiah had written these words.

He showed Isaiah 53 to a rabbi friend in New York. He writes:

“He did not know either that Isaiah had written the chapter. The only conclusion I could reach was that the main reason so many rabbis and other Jews don’t know the Messiah the Savior of the Old and New Testament, is that they don’t know the Bible. I decided to do everything in my power to bring the Jewish Bible to them.”

Rabbi Daniel Zion

Rabbi Daniel Zion

Israel: Rabbi Daniel Zion

“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”  (Isaiah 53:5; fulfilled in 1 Peter 2:22–25; Romans 5:6–8; Philippians 2:6–11)

The son of a rabbi, Rabbi Daniel Zion directed a Yeshiva (rabbinical school) in Thessalonica, Greece.

When the growing Jewish community in Sofia, Bulgaria needed rabbis, he
moved there and was eventually elected chief rabbi of Bulgaria.

When Bulgaria decided to expel the Jews during the Nazi occupation, Rabbi Zion told the Jewish community it was better to die in their home country than in Poland. He organized a protest march, and invited the entire community to the Central Synagogue of Sofia to pray for a reversal of this wicked decision.

sofia synagogue, bulgaria

Interior of Sofia Synagogue: officially opened in September 1909 in the presence of Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, this synagogue is the largest synagogue in Southeastern Europe. (Photo: Wikicommons)

Interior of Sofia Synagogue: officially opened in September 1909 in the presence of Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, this synagogue is the largest synagogue in Southeastern Europe.

Multitudes of Jews attended the prayer meeting, but when they exited the synagogue, many were beaten and about 250 were arrested.

Despite that, they continued their march to the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian
Orthodox Church to seek intercession by the Bishop, Metropolite Stephen, a man respected in the Jewish community.

Bishop Stephen did indeed intercede with the king, who interceded with Hitler to keep the Jewish population from being sent to Auschwitz, though thousands were imprisoned in labor camps within Bulgaria, and they did not escape persecution.

The Nazis targeted Rabbi Zion as one of the Chief Rabbis of Bulgaria and publicly flogged him in front of the Great Synagogue of Sofia. 

Sofia Synagogue, Bulgaria

Sofia Synagogue, Bulgaria

Rabbi Zion is also remembered as being a Torah-observant Jewish Believer in Yeshua. He followed Yeshua as a true Jewish Believer by seeking to keep all of the rabbinic laws, which Yeshua Himself would have kept.

He became a judge in the Rabbinic Court of Jerusalem, but was stripped of his title when the Jewish leaders learned of his faith in Yeshua.

The four books he had written in Bulgarian about Yeshua were used as evidence.

He had this to say in defense of his faith:

“I am poor and feeble, persecuted and vulnerable, Yeshua conquered me, and with the New Man He honored me. He delivered me from the poverty-stricken self with His great love; He cherishes me.

“Every day the canny satan aspires to grab my faith, I hold on to my
Encourager, and chase the satan away. I stand here alone in my faith; the whole world is against me. I give up all the earthly honor for the sake of the Messiah my mate.”

Despite being disbarred for his faith, the Bulgarian Jews continued to honor Rabbi Zion as their rabbi.  

After his death in 1979 at the ripe old age of 96, the Bulgarian Jewish community in Israel gave him a burial with full military and state honors.  His casket stood in the center of Jaffa with full military guard. At noon, men carried it on foot to the cemetery in Holon.

Holon Cemetery

Holocaust Memorials at Holon Cemetery (Photo: Wikicommons)

Rome: Rabbi Israel Zolli

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. …”  (Isaiah 61:1–3; fulfilled in Luke 4:16–20; John chapters 9, 11; Matthew 9:1–8 and many other physical and spiritual healings)

Foreseeing that the Nazis would eventually enter Rome, Rabbi Israel Zolli, chief rabbi of Rome, warned the Italian Jews to destroy their records and go underground.

Israel Zolli

Israel Zolli

His warnings went unheeded; the Jews in Italy felt safe from the dangers of Fascism and Nazism since Mussolini had rejected biological racism.

However, when Mussolini’s regime collapsed in 1943, the Nazis entered Rome.

Colonel Kappler, a Nazi senior German officer, decided to line his pockets with the wealth of the Jewish People and presented a list of 300 names that included Rabbi Israel Zolli.

Kappler gave the community the option of either delivering the 300 Jews to him or 50 kilograms of gold, about $56,000 at the time.  Since the community could only muster 35 kg of gold, Rabbi Zolli was appointed to approach the Vatican for the rest. (Haaretz)

Because the Vatican was being closely watched by the Gestapo, Zolli disguised himself and entered through a remote door.  Zolli asked Pope Pius XII to help meet the shortfall through an intermediary, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Maglione.

Zolli is reported to have appealed to Maglione by saying, “The New
Testament cannot abandon the Old.”

Pope Pius XII did meet the shortfall that day, and later he also protected many Jews by making churches, monasteries, convents and the Vatican places of sanctuary and refuge for the Jewish people.


A model of St. Peter’s Basilica and Vatican City, the administrative center of the Roman Catholic Church. (Photo: Wikicommons)

Following the war in 1945, Rabbi Zolli publicly confessed his faith in Yeshua.

When an interviewer asked him if he believed that the Messiah had come he answered:

“Yes, positively. I have believed it for many years. And now I am so firmly convinced of the truth of it that I can face the whole world and defend my faith with the certainty and solidity of the mountains.”

His faith in Yeshua came after at least 13 years of studiously seeking the answer to that question.

Although called a heretic and excommunicated by the Jewish community and its leaders—who went as far as proclaiming a fast for several days to grieve his “treason” and mourn him as one who is dead—he remained committed to Yeshua.  (TheWorldLovesItsOwn)

Rabbi Ignatz Lichtenstein

Rabbi Ignatz Lichtenstein

Hungary: Rabbi Ignatz Lichtenstein

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  (Micah 5:2; fulfilled in Luke 2:1-7;Matthew 2:1–6)

Rabbi Ignatz (Isaac) Lichtenstein was a believing Chassid (righteous man) who served as the chief Rabbi of the Northern District of Hungary from 1857 until 1892.

Later in life, when he came to the knowledge of the truth that Yeshua is the
Messiah, he wrote in his booklet, Two Letters: What I Really Wish:

“I had thought the New Testament to be impure, a source of pride, of
overweening selfishness, of hatred, of the worst kind of violence, but as I opened it, I felt myself peculiarly and wonderfully taken possession of. A sudden glory, a light, flashed through my soul.

“I looked for thorns and gathered roses; I discovered pearls instead of pebbles; instead of hatred, love; instead of vengeance, forgiveness; instead of bondage, freedom; instead of pride, humility; instead of enmity, conciliation; instead of death, life, salvation, resurrection, heavenly treasure.”

While officiating as the rabbi, he wrote several booklets that prove faith in Yeshua is compatible with Judaism. He and even the relatives of his wife were made to suffer in the marketplace of trade, restricting their income.

In 1892, after preaching the Brit Chadashah within his own synagogue for some time, and enduring severe reprisals for it, he resigned his position.  He remained a Torah-observant Jewish follower of Yeshua his entire life, but the “shadow police” followed him wherever he went.  Even his landlord reported to him.

He never underwent a Christian baptism or joined a Church, since he believed that he had found true Judaism in the Good News of the entire Bible, saying,

“I remain among my own brethren, as a watchman from within and to plead with them to behold in [Yeshua] Jesus the true glory of Israel.” (MessianicAssociation)

Plaque of Maimonides

Plaque of Maimonides at Rambam Medical Center, Haifa: one of Maimonides’ 13 principles of the Jewish faith is a firm belief in the coming of Messiah.

Rabbis Who Believed in Yeshua

Yeshua asked,  “Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.'” (Mark 8:29)

The accounts you have just read about Orthodox Jewish Rabbis who have come to faith in Yeshua HaMashiach (the Messiah) are but a few of many.  Of course, hope in the coming of the Messiah is nothing new in Judaism.  The Messiah has been spoken about by all our Hebrew prophets and anticipated daily by religious Jews.

In fact, one of the 13 principles of Jewish faith formulated by the great Jewish sage Maimonides, which is considered a summary of the required beliefs of Judaism, is the firm belief in the coming of the Messiah.

Although most Jewish people still do not believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is this Messiah (Mashiach in Hebrew), many learned and respected Rabbis and sages have come to realize this truth.

Those who accept Yeshua often do so after investigating the Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Each of us can play a part in sharing these prophecies with the Jewish People.

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”  (Luke 24:27)

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