Criticized Televangelist Helps Synagogue

Joel Osteen Allows Celebration of Rosh Hashanah and Beth Yesharun at Lakewood Church

Hurricane Harvey destroyed large swathes of Texas with high and powerful storm winds. Heavy rains led to the flooding of the Beth Yesharun synagogue. The high waters forced many Jews to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur- two holiest days in the Jewish calendar- out of their traditional synagogue. Witnessing their predicament, John Culberson, the US Representative, called up the Lakewood Church and asked if the Christian worship place would open its doors to the congregation of Beth Yeshrun. The church replied with an affirmative.

The website of Lakewood Church announced its charitable act. A page stated the obvious flooding of Beth Yeshurun and the displacement of its congregation. There was the obligatory picture of the ever-smiling Osteens gracing the web page. The site continues on to say that the leadership of Beth Yeshurun asked for Pastors Joel Osteen and Victoria Osteen. Both of them gave instant help. According to Jackelyn Viera Iloff, the spokesperson for Osteen’s Lakewood Church, the calamity offers an excellent opportunity for the church to do something meaningful for Beth Yeshurun. She pointed out that the church has always been close with the Jewish community in the region. The local media reported that a number of church members are all set to volunteer and serve the stricken Jewish community in the midst of their holidays.

Critics are well aware of the many reasons behind the Osteens’ sudden generosity. The pastors were heavily criticized during the earlier days of Hurricane Harvey devastation when they refused to open the church doors to displaced people citing that the church was made inaccessible due to flooding. Social media users caught them out, posting photographs that showed a perfectly dry church. The uproar compelled the Osteens to open their 16,800 seat capacity church. The Osteens described the situation as a kind of “mix-up.” The Osteens have made their money primarily through televangelism. They preach a kind of “prosperity gospel.”

Beth Yesharun, with its address in Houston’s Meyerland section, got submerged under one foot of water. David Rosen, the Senior Rabbi, told the media that the temple is completely flooded. The congregation has 2,000 member families. It is regarded as one of the biggest Jewish sanctuaries in the United States. It is to be mentioned that synagogues regularly take bigger church sanctuaries during High Holy Days. The house generally gets packed and services could need tickets to be accessed.

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