Below are some of the memories and reflections from folks here at Jesus People USA (JPUSA) regarding Jews for Jesus’ Jhan Moskowitz. Before recently moving to New York to serve as J for J’s North American Director, he directed the Chicago branch of J for J for twenty five years. We shared his Jesus movement roots and enjoyed his friendship for most of that time. Many of us knew him well.
I’ll add to the below memories here as I receive text contributions, while others may at their discretion add memories in the comments section. You needn’t be a JPUSA member to add your thoughts, of course.
[Added September 9]
Velma and Ron Mitchell, two dear friends of JPUSA whom we’ve known for decades, were quite close to Jhan. They live in New York city themselves, and attended Jhan’s funeral. Below are Velma’s reflections, along with the memorial comments made by Ron at the funeral itself. The Mitchells were kind enough to allow me to publish them here.
Dear Jon and Carol,
We have just seen with much appreciation your tribute to Jhan. We are still in shock since we learned of his death. Jhan was one of Ron’s dearest friends. They lived together in the early 70s, forming an informal interracial/intercultural Christian community on the upper west side Manhattan, of which I was a part. He was the best man at our wedding and a close brother to me personally. He and Melissa actually had their first date at our wedding! We kept in touch with them over the years, staying with them in Chicago before attending our first Cornerstone Festival in ’98, and then again following our second in 2000, getting together with them couple- to- couple at least once a year since they moved back to NYC a few years ago, attending his 60th and vice-versa. Ron gave a tribute at the memorial service in Manhattan yesterday.
The service was truly unique. A perfect reflection of Jhan’s wonderful personality. As you can well imagine, the church was packed full. A delightfully curious mix of Jewish ritual, Christian worship and secular poetry/song. A poem by Walt Whitman was read – one of Jhan’s favorites – ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ Simon and Garfunkel’s song ‘The Boxer’ was played on the air to silent listening (for me the most moving moment in the entire service!) and Toto’s ‘Africa’ played likewise as a postlude. They were all favorites of Jhan’s. Someone as old as we are called it “the best memorial service I’ve ever attended!” When it was all over, Jhan’s wife Melissa made us laugh when, in spite of her tears and ours too, she pronounced it a truly “fun funeral!”
We are devastated but rejoice in the Lord because we were so privileged to have him as a close friend for all those years, and also because we know in faith that we’ll all be reunited with him again someday.
["The Boxer" by Simon and Garfunkel:]
(Ron Mitchell not only is a friend but years ago published his book, Organic Faith, with our Cornerstone Press.)
Remembrance by Ron Mitchell at the Memorial Service for Jhan Moskowitz
Friday, Sept. 8, 2012, 11 AM at Trinity Baptist Church, New York, NY
I met Jhan in 1971, when I had a vision for an intentional Christian community on the upper West Side of Manhattan. He had just taken a job in the same neighborhood where the Lord opened up a ministry opportunity for me. He was game, but there was a problem. While I wanted to bring people together in an apartment – Jhan wanted us to build a houseboat. Yes, a houseboat where we would actually live. The boat would stand alone in the Hudson River, just off Riverside Park near 110th St. — not at 79 Street with other boats.
God used our clash of cultures to balance each other out as we formed a Christian community in two adjacent apartments. We called ourselves “Beth Logos Harambee.” You have to know three languages just to know what this title means. We were Jewish believers, African American believers – and a Greek believer who drew from his Greek Orthodox tradition. When people visited us, they had a multi-cultural experience. With the Greek brother – his name was Pericles — you thought you were in a monastery. With Jhan – when you entered his room, you thought you were entering a tent at the original Woodstock music festival. On the other hand, Jhan would say that my room was like entering a business office.
Jhan also became known as a storyteller – so much that we talked about “the Parables according to Jhan.”
We ministered to the different people we brought to the apartment. Jhan would bring hippies looking for a place to crash. Pericles would bring graduate students from Columbia University. And I would bring in black radicals or folks in need of drug rehab.
God used those relationships to deepen our faith and shape our character. And many of those relationships have remained strong over these many years. Jhan was my best man when my wife, Velma, and I married in 1975. And it was at our wedding that he had his first date with Melissa, his future wife. We both knew that God had made the absolute perfect matches for each of us.
Jhan made an impression wherever he went. After he left to go to California around 1973 and became involved with Jews for Jesus, we knew that he would quickly make his mark. Everyone knew Jews for Jesus for their broadsides. Well, not long after Jhan went to the West Coast, we started seeing this broadside circulating on the streets back here in New York City. On the cover it said “If Easter is a Jewish Holiday, then I must be an Easter egg!” And then there was an illustration using Jhan’s face in the shape of an egg. Yes, Jhan was making an impression! Throughout his life he made unforgettable impressions on countless people. God used Jhan – with all his humor, his imperfections, his love of people, his love of family, and his love of life – to show the world the beautiful things Jesus the Messiah can do with a dedicated life.
Velma and I are eternally thankful to God for the special friendship we shared with Jhan. We rejoice in the multi-cultural community, made up of many different personalities – including personalities like Jhan, which only Jesus can bring together in love.
We pray God’s peace and comfort for Melissa, Kayla, Jesse, and their entire family especially at this time.
[Toto - "Africa":]
[Added September 5]
My (Jon Trott’s) memories of Jhan….
Jhan’s vibe was all New York to me, from the unmistakable accent to the comfortable intellectualism he displayed. His eyes were deep and kind, and his smile infectious. In the few conversations I had with him here at Jesus People USA’s 920 W. Wilson home, we talked everything from politics to Old Testament. The latter category under his tutelage was fascinating, illuminating, and amazingly multi-faceted; he spoke to us about it at least three different times I can recall (which means it was likely more).
I sometimes wondered how he carried his Jewishness — for much of recorded history the ultimate “Other” to Christians and pagans alike — among white Evangelicals. There must have been stress in holding onto two identities — (1) the child of Jewish parents who spent four years in Nazi Concentration camps, (2) the convert to a faith not known for its kindness to his people throughout history. The fierce opposition Jews for Jesus created among those of Jewish faith must have saddened him greatly, but the cross he bore living in the in-between was most often reflected in a gently humorous outlook.
His death shocked me. There are deaths which seem in season, coming at the end of a life well lived and therefore “good deaths.” This doesn’t feel that way. Jhan was a man who appeared in good health, filled with vitality and sure to be ministering for years to come.
He will be missed. My prayers go out to his family and the Jews for Jesus fellowship around the world.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.” – Psalm 116:15 [NRSV]
And Jhan’s story, told by himself…