Messianic Father And Son Masquerading As Orthodox Jews Performed Conversions, Marriages In US

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NEW YORK (VINnews) — A father and son masquerading as Orthodox rabbis have been accused of being secret evangelical Christians, according to a report by the Jewish Chronicle.

Michael and Calev Isaacson, who allegedly changed their family name from Dawson, were active in a number of Jewish communities around the US. The two performed numerous religious functions, including writing Torah scrolls and mezuzos, washing the dead as well as conducting weddings, divorces and even conversions. If indeed the two are Christian, the matter would present numerous halachic problems for the communities where they were active.

Investigators claim that neither man is Jewish, making any rituals in which they took part invalid. They are suspected of being a “sleeper cell” of evangelical Christians who may ultimately attempt to make aliyah and embed themselves within Israeli society. Extensive research has so far uncovered no evidence of a Jewish heritage or legitimate conversion within the family. An aunt of Michael Isaacson was shocked that he even claimed Jewish identity, stating that she found his background claims “bizarre.”

The Isaacson’s have not attempted to convert people to Christianity but at the same time have refused in the past to deny their belief in Jesus. When confronted regarding their beliefs, the Isaacsons tended to relocate to another community further away.

Currently the Isaacsons reside in Phoenix, Arizona. The family was based in Texas between 2014 and 2016, when Michael Isaacson worked as a supervisor in the Houston Kashrut Association. They have also lived as Orthodox Jews in Portland, Oregon and Milwaukee.

Blending into each community in which they have lived, the Isaacsons have led prayers, blown the shofar, given religious lessons and hosted Orthodox Jewish guests.

Investigators at the anti-missionary organisation Beynenyu claim the family always move on when confronted by suspicious rabbis and fellow members of their community to escape being uncovered.

A similar story was exposed a few months ago in Israel when a person calling himself Michoel Hakohen and living in Jerusalem as an orthodox Jew turned out to be a Christian missionary named Michael Elk. Elk too had written Mezuzos and performed other religious ceremonies including circumcisions and his children even studied in chareidi schools until he was exposed. Elk has since changed his appearance and attempted to enter Jewish communities in other regions.

Beyneynu claims that there are a number of similar Messianic Jews who are embedded in orthodox communities around Israel but the story of the Isaacsons proves that the problem may exist in the US as well as in Israel.

During their travels, the family acquired documentation from rabbinical authorities attesting to their Jewish identity without proper checks being made to ensure their claims were accurate. This has enabled them to build an identity as Jews, which Beyneynu fears they plan to use eventually to make aliyah.

Suspicions were first aroused about the Isaacsons after a post appeared on the website of a known Messianic group, the Gates of Zion. The post announced a Shabbat event at which the Isaacsons would be present, mentioning they had previously worked with a known messianic pastor called Guy Cohen and with the ministry in Israel at which he is based, Harvest of Asher.

In email exchanges seen by the Jewish Chronicle between the Isaacsons and various rabbis challenging them about their beliefs and ancestry, the family insists they are not Messianic missionaries. They acknowledge having had “the privilege of working with” Guy Cohen, and describe him as a “long-time family friend” but say they were involved with “humanitarian aid”.

They wrote that although Guy Cohen is a messianic Jew “he does not promote missionary tactics but rather works together with the local Jewish community in humanitarian aid”.

When pressed as to their own beliefs they say: “We do not reject Yeshua [Jesus] the Jewish Messiah,” adding “We have no doubts concerning the identity of the Messiah.”

However, they insist theirs was an “ongoing process of return” to Judaism, rather than a conversion or a deception.

They write that they “do reject missionary tactics and do not support any person or organization who seeks to target or convert Jews away from the Jewish faith, heritage and birthright”. The two insisted that they “were not here to missionize, but to learn.”

The family has given a written history of their family background and Jewish involvement to various Jewish individuals and authorities, including members of a Bet Din in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they had aroused suspicions, leading to a meeting with the local community rabbi. They showed him a document outlining their history of involvement in various Jewish communities, and their claim to being halachically Jewish by birth.

The document says that Michael’s family originally came from Finland, where his mother’s family had been called Isaacson. It claims they “fled Europe in 1937 through Finland to New York”. However Michael’s aunt told the Jewish Chronicle that the family arrived in the US many years earlier. Moreover she insisted that the family is not Jewish and added that Michael’s mother was Lutheran and his brother is married to a Lutheran minister. She said that her father had been Swedish and not Jewish.

“I remember that they had their wedding in a small Lutheran church near the house my sister has by a lake in Michigan, and shortly after that Michael and Summer got into the Jewish faith.

“When they went to the lake to visit my sister she had to keep all the food separate, it had to be wrapped up, silverware had to be different.”

”A wedding announcement in 1995 in a Palm Springs newspaper shows that Michael and Summer Dawson were married in Trinity Lutheran Church in New Era Michigan. They would later obtain a Jewish marriage certificate in 2013 from a Rabbi Rich in Dallas, having told him they became religious after their non-Jewish marriage. At their request he carried out a Jewish wedding for them. Rabbi Rich has since told investigators he was unaware of their true background and would “readily renounce his signature”.

In the years following their wedding, they started to appear in Jewish communities around the US, presenting themselves as Orthodox Jews, starting in Houston, Texas.

Jewish community members say that Michael Isaacson or Dawson’s wife Summer claimed she had Marrano heritage, which would mean her family originated in the Iberian peninsula and had been forced to convert from Judaism in the 15th Century under the Spanish Inquisition. Many Marranos or Conversos continued to keep some Jewish traditions.

However, the Jewish Chronicle has seen genealogical research into Summer Dawson’s family that shows a direct maternal line to her great grandmother’s baptism in Mexico. That would require a conversion to Judaism to have taken place at some point since for Summer to be considered Jewish. According to the genealogical report, there is a string of Baptisms and Christian marriages in Summer’s family. Summer Dawson’s maternal great-grandfather was called Jesus De La Rosa.

The report also shows that Michael Dawson’s maternal grandmother Helen Mattson was married in 1916 in Messiah Lutheran Church in the Bronx, a Scandinavian church. Another of his ancestors is buried in St Michael’s Cemetery in the Bronx.

 


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