Adventist Church Ordains First Jewish Pastors in Israel

Seventh-day Adventist pastors Oleg Elkine and Valentine Novgorodsky are ordained June 16 in Jerusalem. [Photo courtesy Israel Field]Source: Adventist News Network

[July 2, 2007] Missionaries, none of whom were Israeli, have been sharing the Seventh-day Adventist Church's message of hope in Israel since 1898. But on June 16, the first pastors of Israeli descent in Israel were ordained to continue sharing the gospel in that volatile state.

Oleg Elkine and Valentine Novgorodsky now join four other pastors in ministering to about 800 members of the Adventist Church in Israel. Although neither pastor was born in Israel, anyone who is Jewish and those with Jewish parents or grandparents and spouses can be granted citizenship automatically, according to Israel's Law of Return.

Novgorodsky, originally from the Ukraine, said he remembered praying 15 years ago for a chance to come minister in Israel.

"Now after eight years of living in Israel and with this ordination I feel as if it is a sign that my prayers were answered," Novgorodsky said.

Richard Elofer, president of the Adventist church in Israel, said the ordinations were "historic" and an important move forward for the church.

"Until about 10 years ago the church leadership in Israel was completely foreign," Elofer said. "Today the church has their own Israeli pastors, which lessens cultural barriers. It seems also that the church will have more legitimacy in Israel and certainly the pastor will have more impact on the population."

Elofer also said visa difficulties will be minimized with Israeli ministers.

There are roughly 800 Adventists in Israel worshiping in 15 churches, up 10 years ago from about 300 members in five churches.

Both newly ordained pastors earned their bachelor's degrees at the Zaoksky Adventist University in Russia and are now working on their master's degrees.