A family of American immigrants living in Israel were revealed to be Christian missionaries who illegally made Aliyah using forged documents.
According to a report Sunday by Behadrei Haredim, the family posed as members of the haredi community, with the father, who went under the alias “Rabbi Michael Elkohen” (also known as Michael Elk and Michael Tzadok), identifying himself as a Kohen and working as a sofer stam, or traditional Jewish scribe responsible for producing Torah scrolls, mezuzuot, phylacteries, and megillahs.
The family lives in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem, and according to the report, was fully integrated into the haredi community, with the children enrolled in haredi schools.
Initially, the family settled in the Nachalaot neighborhood of the capital, after making Aliyah - despite being non-Jews - with falsified documents.
After being outed as missionaries by one of their neighbors, the family relocated to French Hill, with the intention of becoming members of the haredi community and missionizing within the community.
Suspicions were only aroused after one of the family’s children was found to be discussing Christianity with schoolmates, prompting an in-depth investigation into the family’s background.
‘Rabbi Michael’, it was later found, had appeared on television programs produced by MorningStar Ministries, a church network based in South Carolina. The programs have since been scrubbed by the church’s social media accounts.
For years, ‘Rabbi Michael’ posed as a self-styled ‘kabbalist’, and maintained a number of blogs including ‘Aspiring Mekubal’, claiming to be a relative of the Baba Sali and a descendant of Rabbi Isaac Luria, known as the “Arizal”.
“I am a good Jewish boy from New Jersey, a cousin to the Baba Sali and a descendant of the Ari Z”L amongst others, that after obtaining semicha made the daring leap of seeking to learn Kabbalah,” one blog profile reads.
“Born in New Jersey, educated in Philadelphia, attained Semikha from Rabbinut in 2003, went on to become a Sofer, Mohel and Shochet. Currently studying Dayyanut and Kabbalah at Yeshivat HaMekubalim Nahar Shalom and Yeshivat HaMekubalim Beit El. Husband and father of four(for now),” another of his blog profiles reads.
When the family’s mother, Amanda Elkohen, passed away from cancer earlier this year, haredi charities gave the family some $30,000, and 52,000 shekels ($16,000).
The Beyneynu missionary-watch group announced Sunday that it had investigated the family for “many years and taken great care in verifying each piece of evidence before exposing this case to the public. The case was set to be exposed and dealt with this week, but due to one of the missionary’s children proselytizing in school – it was exposed suddenly. We are confident that the Jewish leaders will act strongly against this threat, and quickly put protective measures in place to protect the Jewish community.”