Today is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Daniel Zion. He was the Chief Rabbi of Bulgaria and for a short time was also the Chief Rabbi of Jaffa, Israel. He came to faith in Yeshua through multiple miraculous encounters.
In a speech given on the Israeli radio station “Kol Yisrael,” the rabbi spoke of his first encounter with the New Testament:
More than twenty years ago, I had the first opportunity of reading the New Testament. It influenced me greatly. I began to speak about it in a small circle in Bulgaria. I always regretted that Jesus the Messiah has been estranged from the community of Israel. Jesus the Messiah did nothing but good for the Jewish people. He called them to repentance, proclaimed the Kingdom of God and Divine Love, a love towards all men, even one’s enemies.
In one encounter with the Messiah, he received a message to pass on to the Czar of Bulgaria. Zion stated in this message that if the Jewish people under the Czar’s reign were not protected from being sent to the Nazi death camps, God would judge the leadership and the nation of Bulgaria.
After receiving this message, which the Metropolitan Stefan of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church assured him was from the Lord, the Czar met face to face with Adolf Hitler, may his name be obliterated. The Czar told him that he would not put his Jews on the trains to Poland. He made the argument that he could use them for various labor needs.
The Nazis soon singled out Daniel Zion, recognizing that he was responsible for the preservation of the Bulgarian Jewish population. They arrested him and sent him to Samovit labor camp located on the Danube River. While interned in the camp, the Jewish prisoners looked upon the ships docked outside and assumed that they would soon be shipped off to Poland to die. However, because of Daniel Zion’s efforts on their behalf, that day never came.
He was often brought out before his brothers and flogged by the Nazi guards. The Bulgarian Jews saw him as a suffering tzaddik taking undue punishment on their behalf.
Once released, Daniel Zion wrote and published the first Jewish book in Bulgaria after Nazi occupation. It detailed the horrible conditions under the fascist control of the Third Reich.
Ultimately, Zion was responsible for saving the lives of over forty thousand Bulgarian Jews. After the war, he led thousands of them to move back to the Holy Land. Once there, he was accused of converting to Christianity, which he had never done. He was a faithful Jew who believed in Yeshua the Messiah. He continues in his radio address, “Do not think that I have left Judaism. On the contrary, I have remained Jewish, and have become more Jewish because Jesus himself remained Jewish.”
Zion received much persecution for his beliefs, but he held onto his faith in Yeshua without wavering:
In spite of all the difficulties, suffering and persecutions, which I have endured incessantly, nothing could dissuade me from my faith. On the contrary, God, to whom I had given my heart and to whom I turn in all my needs, has given me the strength and power to continue my witness. He spoke to me through a verse in Isaiah 41:10, ‘Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ By this I understood that a great and important task has been given to me by the Eternal God, which I must accomplish at all costs.
He worked alongside Abram Poljak and Pauline Rose in building the Messianic community in Jerusalem acting as both cantor and preacher. He also served as president of the Union of Messianic Jews in Israel. Zion wrote ten books during his career in Sofia on topics ranging from science and health to personal memoirs and Jewish mysticism.
Daniel Zion was a righteous man of God who deserves to have his memory serve as a blessing to all future generations. With God’s help Vine of David will soon release a work that will honor his name.
Rabbi Daniel Zion died at the age of ninety-six on the 23rd of Cheshvan, 5740 (November 13, 1979), and is buried in the Holon cemetery in Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv, Israel.
- Transcript taken from “A Former Chief Rabbi Finds Christ” by Dr. Jacob Gartenhaus.