A Martyr for Messiah
In every generation God raises up men who are faithful to Him in even the most difficult circumstances. One such man was Pastor Isaac Feinstein, a Jewish believer in Jesus who befriended and mentored Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand as World War II was breaking out in Europe.
Pastor Feinstein led a congregation of Hebrew Christians in Jassy, Romania, with his Swiss wife, Lydia, and their six children. He had come to know the Lord through a ministry planted there in 1843 by Scottish Pastor Robert Murray McCheyne. Also saved through that ministry was Alfred Edersheim (1825–1889), one of the world’s most famous Hebrew-Christian Bible scholars.
When the Nazis arrived, Richard, who lived in Bucharest, pleaded with Feinstein to leave Jassy for safety. But Feinstein replied, ”The shepherd’s duty is to die together with his flock. I know they will kill me, but I cannot abandon my brethren.”1
On June 27, 1941, anti-Semitic mobs savagely murdered more than 13,000 Jewish people, including every member of Feinstein’s congregation, with the exception of two young girls. The Jews who survived were deported on what has become known as the “death train.”
Nazis seized Pastor Feinstein from his home and herded him and more than 2,000 Jews into cattle cars, shoving around 140 people in an area that could hold only 40. Then they sealed all the doors, windows, and cracks as steam poured in from below. The victims stood for hours in the frying heat of the sun, suffocating. When the doors opened, dead bodies tumbled out, including Pastor Feinstein’s. Wrote Wurmbrand:
When Feinstein realized that death was at hand, he turned to a rabbi who was standing near him and said: “It is time for us to sing the psalms!” He died while the rabbi was reciting the psalms aloud, and Feinstein was explaining what they foretold about Jesus. When death came with suffocation, his head was resting on the rabbi’s shoulder. The rabbi himself died only a few minutes later—a Mosaic Jew and a Christian Jew were the victims of the same hatred, the hatred which in Rumania was doubly vile because it masqueraded behind the name of “Christian.”2
Two survivors later testified in court of Feinstein’s death. Because his death was verified, his Swiss wife and children were able to obtain a death certificate enabling them to get passports to go to Switzerland. Wrote Mrs. Feinstein:
The death of your beloved father made possible your salvation, my dear children. It had always been his wish to bring you to Switzerland, to safety; only from that expensive price it was made possible. Oh that you might never forget that precious life and sacrifice.3
Feinstein’s death was a fitting illustration of what Jesus did for us. Jesus did not abandon this sinful world but, as “that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Heb. 13:20), laid His life down for it (Jn. 10:11). His loving, willing sacrifice made our eternal safety in heaven possible (1 Jn. 5:13).
- Richard Wurmbrand, Christ on the Jewish Road (Middlebury, IN: Living Sacrifice Books, 1975), 32.
- Kal Kjaer-Hansen, “Isaac Feinstein: A Martyr for Christ in Romania,” Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism <lcje.net/papers/2007.html>.