TEL AVIV – A Christian couple posing as ultra-Orthodox Jews in a heavily Jewish Chicago neighborhood have admitted they did so to spread the word of Jesus.
Rivkah Weber and David Costello, parents of two, moved to the West Rogers Park neighborhood and began attending an Orthodox synagogue. Weber wore a kerchief over her hair and skirts that covered her knees, while Costello had sidelocks and a yarmulke and worked at a kosher supermarket.
Rabbi Levi Notik of Chicago told the community that the two were the same pair posing as Jews in New York’s ultra-Orthodox community of Williamsburg last year, Jewish news website COLlive reported.
Notik said that he spoke with the couple, who did not deny being in the neighborhood “on a mission to specifically live among the [religious] community and actively influence others.”
The couple told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that they wanted to spread the word of Jesus to people in the Jewish community.
“We want Jewish people to recognize Yeshua as Moshiach and as a Jewish Messiah,” Costello said in the phone interview, using the Hebrew words for Jesus and the Messiah.
According to JTA, Costello’s speech was full of Hebrew and Yiddish words often used by Orthodox Jews.
“We actually keep the Torah and the mitzvahs,” he said. “We actually have an Orthodox life in our house and every day of our life, and they are saying that it’s simply to deceive and to bring Jewish people to believe in Jesus.”
A newsletter published by JCFI, a Texas church, in 2016 said that the couple hoped to continue their mission “until every Hasidic person has a chance to hear the Gospel.”
“People feel betrayed,” one rabbi in Chicago told JTA. “If you want to believe in something and sell it, that’s your business. But to come into a community and portray to be something you’re not, prey on people, unsuspecting, is unacceptable.”
“They came to Chicago, they moved into their neighborhood, dressing and behaving outwardly like Hasidic Jews,” he said. “They were welcomed into the community and befriending everyone.”
The couple was formerly employed by Global Gates, an organization whose mission is “to see gospel transformation of the world’s most unevangelized people groups [sic].”
In a statement on Friday, David Garrison, executive director of Global Gates said: “The Costellos are not employees of nor are they in any way associated with Global Gates. They were previously employed by Global Gates for less than a year. Their relationship with Global Gates ended in July 2017. Global Gates has no further comment.”
COLlive posted images from the newsletter of Johnson County for Israel, a Texas-based evangelical group that described David and Rivkah’s missionary work among Hasidim.