From Bill Sutter’s Desk Sep/Oct 2008
When Bethel Baptist Church in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, celebrated the modern State of Israel’s 60th anniversary, it went all out!The congregation staged a biblically based, three-act dramatic performance of The Life of Moses—A Prince of Egypt, A Man of God.
With a main cast of 26, a supporting cast of 95, and a technical team of 79 (some of whom also served in the cast), the mammoth, two-and-a-half-hour performance traced Moses’ life from his birth and bondage in Egypt to his confrontations with Pharaoh and the drama of the Exodus.
Rounding out the inspirational tribute was a series of scenes depicting the Israelites’ challenges in the wilderness in preparation for their entrance into the Promised Land.
In addition to garnering the participation of Bethel Baptist Church’s members and friends, this monumental production also attracted the involvement of many people within the Jewish community of southern New Jersey. They encouraged the folks at Bethel and provided valuable support, beginning with the initial concepts and continuing through to the details of the actual performances.
In a special news release, Alan Respler, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern New Jersey, said, “I warmly recommend this wonderful performance, for all ages, all people.”
According to Barbara Sharp, director of the congregation’s massive effort, “It is an honor to join in celebrating the anniversary of the State of Israel. Moses serves as our gift to the Jewish community in appreciation for the wonderful heritage that the Jewish people have given to us as Christians.”
The enthusiastic and sometimes emotional responses of the Jewish people who attended one of the eight performances over two weekends demonstrated that Barbara Sharp’s mission was definitely achieved.
Following the play, Harriet Kessler, editor of the Jewish Community Voice newspaper published by the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, wrote, “Bethel Baptist Church found a glorious way to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary.”
Rev. David Cortner, Bethel’s senior pastor, reflected on the church’s presentation: “It’s not just to share the factual, historical story from the Word of God, but to show that it has practical application to our lives today! Our great Jehovah God who did miraculous things for Moses is the same God who loves and cares for each one of us today.”
The church’s outreach to Cherry Hill’s Jewish community can be traced back to previous years’ performances of Joseph—God Meant It for Good, also directed by Barbara Sharp. In joint effort with The Friends of Israel, personal invitations were extended to a number of Jewish leaders, encouraging them to experience firsthand the church’s dramatic production based on the Hebrew Scriptures. These same leaders who attended Joseph encouraged the Jewish community to list Bethel Baptist Church’s Moses as an officially supported “Israel at 60” event.
This is one of many illustrations of how Christians have been reaching out to their Jewish friends this year in response to the opportunities of “Israel at 60,” something that we at The Friends of Israel have been encouraging throughout this year. Christians have been showing up with posters like those I saw recently at a Jewish community rally for Israel in Margate, New Jersey: “Christians Support Israel at 60.” And congregations have been using their church signs to express their sentiments, as evidenced by the posting “Happy Birthday Israel” along the highway in front of Newtown Community Church in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.
Many Jewish people have noticed and dearly appreciate these efforts, which demonstrate that Bible-believing Christians are rock-solid in their support of Israel as the God-given homeland of the Jewish people. May such efforts be multiplied—over and over.