Nearly one year after Jews for Jesus launched one of its most successful and controversial evangelism campaigns, more than 1.3 million people worldwide have watched That Jew Died for You.

The three-minute YouTube video depicts Jesus carrying the cross to a gas chamber. The film’s goal was to “reshape views of Jesus and his relationship to the Holocaust.” Pegged to Yom HaShoah, a day when Israel remembers the Holocaust (held the evening of April 15 this year), many Jews called it the “most tasteless YouTube video ever.”

In Ukraine, where nearly 1 million Jews were murdered during World War II, Holocaust references are usually used to make political points. During January’s 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Russian and Ukrainian leaders compared each other to Nazis and publicly fought over which country should get the credit for freeing the concentration camp in occupied Poland.

But Ukraine’s Messianic Jewish community is talking about the Holocaust in its evangelistic efforts. And now Messianic congregations are thriving in many of the same communities that suffered the deepest Holocaust wounds.

Remembrance and education

The Soviet Union suppressed information about the Holocaust in its effort to create a “common Soviet people,” said Igor Rusniak, director of the Bible college at Kiev Jewish Messianic Congregation (KJMC). Thus, many Ukrainian Christians still don’t grasp that the Holocaust targeted Jews in particular. Rusniak says, “Practically every Jewish family in Ukraine has relatives who were murdered by Nazis during the war.” For these Jews, the Holocaust only proved that Christians with power are not to be trusted.

One way Messianic congregations ...

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