Ministry Highlight: Interview with Jonathan Craft, Las Vegas, NV
Our ministry is alive and well in Las Vegas, Nevada, which boasts a thriving Jewish community. We have several workers there loving and serving the Jewish people while sharing the truth of God’s Word in the community. At the root of these efforts is Jonathan Craft, our Las Vegas field representative who has served with The Friends of Israel for more than 20 years. He and his wife, Linda, model the mission of our ministry faithfully.
Jonathan sits down with us this week to discuss his work in Las Vegas’s Jewish community and how he and Linda chose to settle there. His story of evangelism with a Buddhist at the Warsaw Ghetto Remembrance Garden will remind you of the beauty of the Good News and strengthen your own faith in Jesus. Enjoy this up-close look at our ministry through Jonathan’s stories of his diligent service!
Jonathan Craft: There's a Buddhist janitor that works there. And I was up there that morning doing my quiet time. And I explained to her how she was a blessing to the Jewish people for what she was doing there. And I also took the opportunity to share with her about what the Bible explains about sin and how the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, died in our place for our sin and that He didn't stay dead, but He resurrected in order to prove to us that He had power over sin and death. And you know, that morning, with tears in her eyes, she prayed, she confessed her sin, and she prayed to receive the payment that Christ had made for her sin.
Steve Conover: Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover. With me is our host and teacher Chris Katulka. We are so glad you chose to join us today, Chris. Where are we headed this week?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, now, for our listeners, you may not know it, but Friends of Israel ministers in 15 different countries, and today you're going to actually hear two stories about our Friends of Israel's evangelism outreach. We have two wonderful accounts of men God called to show and share the love of Christ. And we're going to open our program with one of them, Apples of Gold. You're very familiar with Apples of Gold probably. It's the stories from the life of Holocaust survivor Zvi Kalisher. Zvi is now with the Lord, but when he became a follower of Jesus in Israel, his passion was to share Messiah Jesus with anyone God brought across his path. His testimony lives on in the lives of those who minister with the Friends of Israel all around the world.
So after Apples of Gold, I'm going to introduce you to Jonathan Craft, who is currently ministering in Las Vegas. Jonathan and Zvi actually had something in common. Zvi survived the Warsaw Ghetto and Jonathan today honors those like Zvi by serving at a Warsaw Ghetto Memorial in Las Vegas. Just wait and hear the story that Jonathan's going to share. You're going to love it.
Steve Conover: We sure hope you stay with us. But first in the news, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently spoke to US Vice President Kamala Harris. Their conversation was wide ranging. Vice President Harris congratulated Netanyahu on the successful rollout of the vaccine. Netanyahu stressed his commitment to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons that would be used on Israel.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, Steve, this is my take on this conversation, and ultimately what the Biden administration's going to have to do in the Middle East. Biden's decision on the Iran deal, as Netanyahu was talking about maintaining that commitment to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Biden's decision on whether or not to enter back into the Iran deal is going to really show us his level of understanding of the new Middle East that exists. To lack sanctions and to placate Iran now would only let those Middle East countries that made peace with Israel recently, it would only let them know that America is not serious about the paradigm shift that's going on in the new Middle East today. Going back to the old Iran deal will only show the world that America prefers to lead from behind instead of charging ahead with new alliances and partners that are working together in the Middle East.
Mike Kellogg: I often go to Mea Shearim, the ultra Orthodox section of Jerusalem, because I know how deeply into sin these people have fallen. And the Word of God has charged me to warn them to come to God before it's too late.
Recently, I was walking along the street in that area when I heard children singing an old song I had not heard in more than 50 years. The singing was coming from a religious elementary school. The song reminded me of the children I sang it with in Warsaw in 1938. As I listened, I mourned for the children of my youth. The sorrowful lyrics are from Psalm 44. The more I listened, the less peace I felt in my heart.
Finally, I went inside to speak with the rabbi. The rabbi, a very old man, approached me and asked, "Where are you from?" I told him I had come inside because I heard the class singing. I asked, "Why are you singing a song of such deep grief and exile?" He replied, "Because I like it." I said, "When I was the age of these children in 1938, before the Holocaust, I sang that song many times. But I do not sing it anymore because I have believed in God and now I know the Lord will never hide His face from me."
The rabbi asked the children, "Should we continue our lesson or listen to what this man has to say?" I silently prayed in my heart, "Oh, Lord, guide me. Give me the words to say." At that same time, the rabbi called several other rabbis into the room. I began to tell them about myself, my life in Poland before the war, my experiences during the Holocaust, how I lost my family in the Warsaw ghetto and the concentration camps, my arrival in Israel and my participation in all the wars through 1973. Then I began to tell them about my faith. I could not start by declaring, "I believe in Jesus." I wanted them to mention His name first. I wanted them to mention His name first. I quoted several passages from Isaiah, Micah, and other prophets about the Messiah, all the while waiting for the outcry when they realized I was speaking about Jesus Christ. One of the teachers soon asked, "What books have you read?" I responded, “the book I have in my hand, the Holy Bible, the book I love best. Is it sin to love God's Word?"
I continued to speak for about 35 minutes and everyone, students and teachers alike, listened carefully. When I finished, one of the students asked, "Why did you come here?" "Because of the sad song you were singing." I replied. "I wanted you to be able to rejoice in the Lord with me. The Jewish people have lamented long enough. It is time to call upon the Lord. Then you can say with Isaiah, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation." The rabbis just looked at each other in silence.
I left the school with a good feeling. I believe many of those I spoke to were seriously considering the things I said. I trust they will read the Bible passages for themselves and see the Lord alone can bring them out of sorrow and into joy and peace if they only would trust Him as the Messiah and Savior.
Chris Katulka: Well, everybody, I have a fantastic guest with us today. You know, we just heard Apples of Gold. We just heard from Zvi, and Zvi is a Holocaust survivor who loved the Lord. When he got to Israel, became a believer in the Lord Jesus, and he started sharing the gospel with anybody who came into his path. And you know what? That legacy of Zvi lives on all around the world. And so for today's The Friends of Israel In Action program, I want to introduce you to a dear friend, a colleague, Jonathan Craft, who ministers with The Friends of Israel in Las Vegas. Jonathan, great to have you on the program.
Jonathan Craft: Thank you Chris, it's good to be here.
Chris Katulka: Jonathan, I have fond memories of me and you and Linda, your wife. I can remember when I first started doing an internship at Friends of Israel in 2004, they flew me out to you, to Las Vegas, my first time to Las Vegas, and I got a chance to see your ministry upfront and personal, the personal ministry that you have. It's a phenomenal ministry. And the thing with Friends of Israel in Las Vegas, and one of the things I want to know is, you're not from Las Vegas, you're from Illinois. What was the calling that you had to pack up everything in Illinois and you and your wife Linda make your way out to Las Vegas?
Jonathan Craft: Yes. Well, 25 years ago, we were very active in our local church and Lynn and I both served in various capacities there. We were both on the outreach committee of our church. Our pastor had a heart for outreach and our annual mission conferences that were done there, they were very amazing that we would do there. And we were always involved with those. And it seemed like every year at these conferences, Linda and I would be asked the question, "What about you two? Is God calling you into full-time ministry?" We never said no, but we never said yes, either. That is not until 1996. We finally made the commitment to go where God wanted us to go and do whatever He wanted us to do.
Friends from our church, they would ask us, "Where does God want you to serve? Africa, New Guinea, Japan?" No one ever said serving the Jewish community in Las Vegas, Nevada. Well, I made contact with three different organizations that did outreach, and one of those was the Friends of Israel. And the director at the time was Elwood McQuaid. And he told us, "Contact our rep, Steve Herzig, in Chicago." And Chicago wasn't far from us, but like all good husbands, I procrastinated. And my wife got very frustrated and she said, "Are you going to contact Steve Herzig?" And I said, "I don't know. I don't know what to do." And she said, "Well, what do you think God’s going to do? Put Steve Herzig on our doorstep?" I said, "I don't know."
But you know, Chris, two weeks later, Steve Herzig was a last minute substitute for another rep who couldn't make it to our meeting at our church, and so we met with Steve Herzig. And the long story short of that, Steve recommended we spend one month at Friends of Israel Outreach in New Jersey that July, and it was called City Lights East. And we did that. And at the end of that, the recommendation for us was to attend a nine month long Institute of Jewish studies program that Friends of Israel put on, again in New Jersey, and this time with a two week trip to Israel. We attended that, and during the Jewish culture and customs and outreach class, I had to miss a class because I had to take our vehicle to the repair shop.
I was sitting there in the waiting room and I started a conversation with a gentleman and he asked me what I was doing. And when I told him I was studying at IJS, learning Jewish customs and culture, his response to me was, "I'm Jewish. Tomorrow's Shabbat. Come and join my family."
Chris Katulka: Oh, that's fantastic.
Jonathan Craft: That was amazing. And that was my first real contact with a Jewish family. And Chris, it was great. And at the end of our IJS time, Friends of Israel sent us to the West Coast to look at possible places to serve, and they included Las Vegas, and we're thinking, "Las Vegas?" But we saw when we got there, there were 70,000, there were 70,000 Jewish people in the Las Vegas Valley. It was the fastest growing population in the country at the time. So coming to Las Vegas, that was a no-brainer. And today there are over 100,000 Jewish people in the Las Vegas Valley. FOI approved us serving there, and so we're here and we're fully convinced this is exactly where God wants us to be.
Chris Katulka: I've seen you there, and I know that's where God wants you to be. You're bringing a light to Sin City and you're ministering to the Jewish people there and to Gentiles as well. And I know we have a fantastic story coming up in a moment that I want you to share with our audience. But before you do that, can you just share briefly, what do you do, Jonathan? You're in there, you're ministering to the Jewish community of Las Vegas. What do you do practically? I think that would be something good for our audience to know.
Jonathan Craft: Well, we got involved here through making contacts. I remember when we first came, they had what they called Jewish Geography Night. We didn't have any clue as to how we were going to make contacts with people. But we went to that. You go in, you put your name on a map, where you're from, and then you look for other people. We walked in the door, a couple walked up to us. "Hi, we're Harold and Rochelle. We're from New York." And we spent the rest of the night talking with them. When we were done, Harold hands me his card. "I know Las Vegas pretty good," he says, "you need anything?" That started a friendship.
So through events like that, we got to know a lot of different people. And early on, I got connected with AIPAC, the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee. It's a lobbying group, goes to Washington. And the first one of those I attended, there was about 5,000 people there. And I think probably out of all that group, I was probably the only evangelical Christian there. And I had the opportunity to share with them, "I'm a believer in the Messiah and we support Israel. We love Israel and the Jewish people." And they were very surprised, but yet they were very grateful, and today, many, many Christian people attend that. And I remember I got a call from one of the directors there and they said, "Jonathan, we send rabbis. We'd like to send pastors too. What do you recommend we do?" And I said, "Well, send them together, pastors and rabbis." And that opened the door for many more people to go and for there to be much more communication between the two. And so that's been a real blessing to do something like that.
We had young people come out, we had seven different groups come out and work with us from churches, church youth groups. And we got them connected with working at the Holocaust Resource Center at Jewish Family Services. They did painting, washing of windows, they organized, they indexed. We have several contacts with older Jewish people. They help maintain their property and anything that they need. So any way that we can be of service in the Jewish community, that's what we've done.
Chris Katulka: And, Jonathan, I know from your ministry you're a very hands-on kind of guy as well. You're not too shy to get your hands dirty. You help your Jewish friends out by maybe doing their lawn or helping with some plumbing issues or anything that you do to make a connection. Isn't that right?
Jonathan Craft: Yes. Plumbing, no pun intended, make a connection. Yes. Our Savior is Jewish and it was not below Him to put a towel on and wash His disciples feet. So I mean, He was a servant.
Chris Katulka: Yes.
Jonathan Craft: And if we can be a servant to the Jewish people, that's what we want to do here.
Chris Katulka: That's great. Now, listen, we're going to take a break in a moment, but I want you to know something. You can read Jonathan's story in Israel My Glory. It's a section. It's a new section that we have actually called The Friends of Israel In Action. And you can not only read about what Jonathan is doing, but you can read about what's happening internationally with the Friends of Israel. We really want you to know something as you're listening to this broadcast, this is more than just a radio program. The Friends of Israel is more than just a radio program. We are an outreach to people to make Christ known. We are an evangelistic outreach in 15 countries all around the world. Jonathan is one of many workers that are serving in the Jewish community. And I think he's got a fantastic story coming up. Don't go anywhere, and we'll see you on the other side.
We've been listening to Jonathan Craft share his stories of how he ministers in the Jewish community. And can I tell you something? Zvi Kalisher is a Holocaust survivor who really took the first step in Israel for the Friends of Israel to make Messiah known to everyone. And his story is such an amazing story. He is a Holocaust survivor that at a very young age was left to navigate the Holocaust at the age of 12, all by himself, only to land on the shores of Israel to ultimately have to defend his new country. And then through that the Lord used him to minister to many Israelis, to minister the gospel to them. You need to know the story of Zvi Kalisher. I actually had the privilege of sitting and listening to him tell these stories in person. He's now with the Lord, but the stories live on in Dr.Elwood McQuaid's Zvi, The Miraculous Story of Triumph Over the Holocaust.
This book will detail all of the accounts that he had navigating his way as a young boy through the Holocaust, an amazing experience. Steve, how can our listeners get their hands on this book?
Steve Conover: Yeah, to purchase your copy of Zvi, The Miraculous Story of Triumph Over The Holocaust, visit us at foiradio.org. That's foiradio.org, or you can call our listener line at (888) 343-6940, and someone will return your call during our regular business hours. That's (888) 343-6940. To order in Canada, call (888) 664-2584. Again, in Canada, that's (888) 664-2584.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back everybody. We are with Jonathan Craft, a field ministries representative with the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry in Las Vegas. A fun place to be, I've ministered with Jonathan out there many, many years ago. It's fantastic. Jonathan, we were talking about a lot of the tangible things that you do to serve the Jewish people in Las Vegas, as a minister of the gospel with the Friends of Israel. I'm interested to know, you have a fantastic story about the Warsaw Memorial Ghetto in Las Vegas. Can you share a little bit about that story?
Jonathan Craft: Sure. I'll tell you, the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial, it's located on the campus of Temple Beth Shalom. It's a conservative synagogue about a mile from our home. It commemorates the 400,000 Jewish people that were crammed in there in a 1.3 mile area. 392,000 of them lost their lives to bullets, to gassing, to starving. A friend of ours, a Jewish friend, Henry Kronberg, he's going to be 102 years old this year, along with another Jewish man saw a advertisement from the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, and it offered paving stones from that memorial to anyone who could plan and put together a Memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto. They applied, they got the stones, they built the structure. It's a round structure about 35 feet in diameter. It has stones mounted. These stones, these actual paving stones, mounted in the walls and the floor. And it also incorporates two gates, iron gates, from that ghetto. It has six flames that represent the 6 million that died in the gas chambers and were burned. And it's an amazing place.
And it became a must-see for our church youth groups that came to work with us and Henry Kronberg usually comes and he tells his story as a survivor. And over the course of time, talking with Henry, I discovered that when he was liberated at the Nordhausen Internment Camp, my father was in Patton's Army. I mean, it's an amazing story and how he got connected with Las Vegas. And it's just amazing how God works those things out. But there was a day, Chris, I go up and I help to maintain that, and make it ready for people coming to see it, and that. At the memorial, one day I went up there. I needed a quiet place. My wife does Bible study and her Bible studies get a little noisy. So I went up there.
And there's a Buddhist janitor that works there, and she volunteered to water the roses when we were going to be out of town. She volunteered to do that for us. And I was up there that morning doing my quiet time. And it's so happened she took that time to come out and we ran into each other. And I thanked her once again for watering the roses. But I had my Bible there and I explained to her how she was a blessing to the Jewish people for what she was doing there. And I also took the opportunity to share with her about what the Bible explains about sin and how the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, died in our place for our sin. And that he didn't stay dead, but He resurrected in order to prove to us that He had power over sin and death. And that morning, with tears in her eyes, she prayed, she confessed her sin, and she prayed to receive the payment that Christ had made for her sin.
Chris Katulka: Amazing.
Jonathan Craft: And so sharing the good news with her that morning, with this janitor, the next day I went up there, I took her a Bible, I showed her where to begin reading in it. But to be honest with you, she has since quit working there. And I've not had contact with her, but you know, Chris, God orchestrated that moment in time.
Chris Katulka: Yes.
Jonathan Craft: For her to come and place her faith in the Messiah. So we praise God for that.
Chris Katulka: Yes. And I want our listening audience to please be praying for her. If you're listening, please be praying for her right now. Listen, it's been fantastic talking with Jonathan. I told you he had a great story. Here is a Gentile that loves the Jewish Messiah, think about this, loves the Jewish Messiah, serves at a local synagogue, at a memorial, a Warsaw memorial, and is able to share the gospel to a Buddhist who comes to faith in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah. It's amazing. This is exactly what God had planned all along from the scriptures. It's an amazing testament to God's faithfulness and kindness. And Jonathan, thank you so much for dedicating your life to the Lord, to serve him through The Friends of Israel, Jonathan, and thank you for being with us.
Jonathan Craft: Well, thank you, Chris. I enjoyed being here and God bless you and thank you all to the listeners for the support, the prayer. You're amazing. Thank you.
Steve Conover: We're so glad you chose to join us today for The Friends of Israel Today. A quick reminder, you can purchase Elwood McQuaid's compelling biography on the life of Zvi by going to foiradio.org, that's foiradio.org, or you can call our listener line at (888) 343-6940. In Canada, it's (888) 664-2584.
Chris Katulka: Steve, I have our radio production calendar open here, and I'm looking at the next four weeks and I'm excited about it, because we're going to be looking at the kings of Israel. There's a lot of application for the life of a believer with these individual kings and the stories that we can pull for them and how we can apply them to our lives. But we're actually going to be looking at II Chronicles over the next four weeks, we're going to pull out some of the kings and we're going to look at how God is speaking to us today as believers.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold, and I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
Zvi: The Miraculous Story Of Triumph Over the Holocaust
By Elwood McQuaid
The Friends of Israel’s best-selling book Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph Over the Holocaust tells an incredible story of inspiration. Separated from his parents and forced to face the trials of Hitler’s Nazi regime, Holocaust survivor Zvi Kalisher triumphed against all odds and found his way to Israel and faith in the Messiah.
His life was filled with incredible moments of courage and faithfulness. It will touch your life, as you’ll find it difficult to put down!
IN CANADA? ORDER HERE!
Apples of Gold: Mourning the Children of My Youth
While walking through an ultra-Orthodox section of Jerusalem, Zvi could hear school children singing an old song that he had sung as a child. The song was sad, and it reminded him of the other children he had sung the song with, many of whom perished in Nazi death camps. He desired for them to lament no longer and to call upon the Lord and rejoice in His salvation. Praying for guidance, Zvi entered the school to talk to the rabbi and the children to share the joy of the Lord with them.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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