By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News -
A family of Evangelical Christians posing as Orthodox Jews has been outed by an anti-missionary organization after years of moving from one religious American community to another and performing religious rites that could now be invalidated, The JC reported in an exclusive Thursday.
Michael and Summer Dawson, who call themselves Isaacson and claim to come from Jewish families, currently live in Phoenix, Arizona. They have also lived in Houston, Texas, Portland, Oregon and Milwaukee. Michael acts as a rabbi and has officiated at Jewish weddings, divorces and conversions. He has been a principal kashrut supervisor, led synagogue prayers, and written marriage documents (called ketubot), mezuzahs and at least one Torah scroll. He and his wife have also performed the ritual washing of the dead before their burial.
All these activities must be performed by Jews to be valid. But according to Beyneynu, a nonprofit organization that monitors missionary activity in Israel, professional genealogists they used proved that the Dawsons entirely faked their Jewish background.
Michael’s supposed ordination also came through a “rabbi” in Phoenix, Michael Aminov, who sells Jewish conversion, circumcision and wedding documents to non-Jews who want to immigrate to Israel. Beyneynu collected numerous documents from rabbinic authorities in Israel and abroad attesting to Aminov’s actions.
In a letter written to Israeli Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, Beyneynu founder Shannon Nuszen said that the group has been told that the family is now in the process of immigrating to Israel themselves. The organization attached proofs of their real family history, which showed them to be Christian Lutherans, and provided details of how the couple tricked various American rabbis into providing certification of their Jewishness.
Nuszen also wrote that whenever questioned by suspicious rabbis or others in a community, “they do not deny their beliefs in Jesus and give detailed explanations regarding their belief that Jesus is the Jewish messiah.” They would then immediately move to a new community and begin gaining the trust of its Jewish members.
“It’s extremely dangerous,” Nuszen told World Israel News. “Each generation is more vulnerable than the next, and missionaries are known to target the most vulnerable among us.”
“We are seeing a tremendous impact here in Israel, with the number of Jewish believers in Jesus doubling over the last five years. And you can tell it’s only amped up the missionaries’ efforts. Missions to the Jews are growing, and we are seeing more and more of these covert missionaries infiltrating our communities than ever before. Not long ago, such tactics were unheard of. Missionaries dressed like Hasidic Jews? With semicha (rabbinic ordination)? Performing sacred Jewish rituals? Unheard of!”
Beyneynu wrote to the Rabbinate and is publicizing the story because “it is much easier to stop an attempt at immigration fraud before a family is granted citizenship than after the fact,” she said. And as she wrote to the chief rabbi, there are serious ramifications of Jewish law that have to be addressed because of the couple’s actions, especially in the area of personal status.
The JC’s subsequent investigation discovered Michael’s aunt, who lives in Maryland. She flatly denied that the family had any Jewish roots, saying that her nephew had a “very devout Lutheran” mother and brother. When confronted with a family history the Dawsons had written, she “scoffed” at the claims they had made regarding Jewish links. She also mentioned that Michael had married his wife in a Lutheran church in Michigan before the two “got into the Jewish faith.”
The embedding of Christians in Jewish communities in the hope of eventually converting them is not a new phenomenon. Most recently, in June, there was a case in Jerusalem of a supposedly ultra-Orthodox couple, Michael and Amanda Elk, who were outed after Amanda died in February and was buried as a Jew. Michael Elk subsequently admitted that they had pretended to be Jews for years in order to covertly convert observant Jews to Christianity.
Nuszen hopes that this newest scandal will raise a most necessary awareness of the problem.
“Because the Dawsons were active for more than 12 years, constantly moving every one to two years, the massiveness of our investigation and involvement of many rabbis and communities has sent a real wake up call to authorities,” she said.