Jake Rosen grew up in a Jewish family in St. Louis.
“We were a typical Jewish family in University City," Rosen said. "That’s where I was raised, went to Hebrew school, and where I had my Bar Mitzvah.”
Given that upbringing, one might find it hard to believe that Rosen is a church pastor. But he serves in that capacity at Beit Chesed, a messianic congregation hosted by Clayton Community Church in Rock Hill. For many years, the congregation met in . Many of its members are residents.
Beit Chesed hosts a monthly Shabbat meal at 6:30 p.m. on the last Friday of every month. The event is open to everyone in the surrounding community, regardless of their religious and ethnic background.
“The word Shabbat means ‘rest,’ and that is exactly what the evening is about; it is a very restful community get-together,” Rosen said.
Candles are lit. Noodle kugel fills the room. Prayers are said in Hebrew first, then English. Participants come from diverse backgrounds. Some are Jewish-Christians, some have spent time in Jerusalem and some are just interested.
“Many people within the broader church are interested in Christianity’s Jewish heritage. Many of our members are non-Jewish believers who are interested in Judaism,” Rosen said.
The congregation started as a house church back in 1998 and has undergone various changes in location and leadership. About a year ago, Clayton Community Church and Beit Chesed joined together.
“Beit Chesed is not some sort of hybrid synagogue-church type thing. We are simply a Jewish expression of the Christian faith,” Rosen said.
When Beit Chesed is not hosting the monthly Shabbat meals, it has a weekly Shabbat service on Fridays at 7:15 p.m. In lieu of food, the weekly Shabbat services offer music. Gregory Lowe provides the music for Beit Chesed.
“I have been with Beit Chesed since day one. I am not a Jewish believer; I am a Gentile grafted into that same vine. It is really something special to be part of this ministry,” Lowe said.
Although potluck dinners are nothing new, the family style meals help to bring about something that is all too often missing—community.
“Our generation really wants to build community. That is why we are rehabbing things like these community potlucks and the Friday night services,” Lowe said.
Beit Chesed meets at Clayton Community Church, 2501 Rockford Ave.