In one of the strangest stories ever relating to Christian attempts to convert Jews, a married couple in Chicago has been identified as missionaries — but they were dressed, lived, and worked, as apparent Orthodox Jews.
David and Rivka Costello, neither of whom is Jewish, moved in to a predominantly strictly Orthodox neighbourhood in Chicago, West Rogers Park, several months ago. As far as their neighbours were aware, the couple was as Jewish as everyone else: she babysat, in her home, for the community’s children, while he wore the conventional dress of other men in the area, complete with beard and peyot, and was a regular shul attender.
But their plan to convert their neighbours was foiled when a visitor from New York, recognised the Costellos — who had, apparently, tried the same trick in Brooklyn last year. He told Chicago’s Rabbi Levi Notik, who approached the couple and asked them about their identity.
He told a local website that the Costellos had admitted that they were “on a mission to specifically live among the frum community and actively influence others.” Costello, 37, was raised in a Christian family in New Jersey but says his maternal great-grandmother was Jewish. He says his wife, 27, is from North Carolina and may have some Jewish ancestry on her father’s side but has not been able to verify it.
Rabbi Notik said: “They believe in Christianity. He doesn’t deny any of it, on the contrary, he insists that he is correct in his way, and has no regrets.”
Making inquiries about the couple, Rabbi Notik found a newsletter published by a Texan church in which there was a profile of the Costellos and their mission to infiltrate a Chasidic community.
David Costello, who has now had to give up his job at a local kosher supermarket after the revelation, told the JTA: “We want Jewish people to recognise Yeshua (Jesus) as a Jewish Messiah”.
He claimed, said the JTA, that he had never hidden his beliefs if asked and had spoken to people in the community about them. He said the family was sincere in their observance of an Orthodox lifestyle.
“We actually keep the Torah and the mitzvahs,” he said. “We actually have an Orthodox life in our house and every day of our life, and they are saying that it’s simply to deceive and to bring Jewish people to believe in Jesus.” He denies the claim.