Revised February 27, 2022
Efforts to promote unity among Messianic/Hebrew Roots movement had been underway for many years before the B’ney Yosef (Children of Joseph) initiative came together in 2014. One of those efforts was United 2 Restore, a forum established by Hanoch Young and Ken Rank to promote mutual respect and understanding between Judah and Ephraim. Hanoch, an Orthodox Jewish Israeli with roots in the Bronx, caught the vision of Ephraim’s awakening and restoration in the 1990s and has worked actively to share that vision ever since. Ken is an Ephraimite originally from New Jersey who is one of the leaders of Beit Minorah Congregation in Winchester, Kentucky. After Sukkot in 2014, Hanoch and Ken recorded a podcast to report on recent events, particularly the March of the Nations in Jerusalem. The march has happened for many years, but something unprecedented happened in 2014: a group of Ephraimites identifying themselves as such, marching behind a United 2 Restore banner. As Hanoch explained, that was only the latest of many indicators that the time had come for Ephraim’s awakening. He also noted that there was talk of holding a B’ney Yosef National Congress in Israel the following spring.
That was perhaps the first public mention of an idea Ephraim and Rimona Frank had pondered for quite some time. From their home in Israel, the Franks had long taught and anticipated the emergence of Ephraim. The United 2 Restore presence in the March of Nations inspired them to act on the idea, and with help from willing volunteers in Israel, Europe, and North America, they began planning the First B’ney Yosef National Congress. The Congress convened May 23-25, 2015 (just after Shavuot) at the Eshel Hashomron Hotel in Ariel, Israel, with 135 participants from 12 countries. This gathering affirmed the vision and sense of community among these self-identified Ephraimites and inspired them to share the spirit of the Congress in their nations. The European participants resolved to gather early in 2016 for that purpose. Similarly, several North American participants met at the invitation of Mikell Clayton to discuss a summit, ideally in Florida so that Batya and Angus Wootten could attend. Ephraim and Rimona endorsed these plans, personally encouraging many European and American delegates to carry them through to completion.
The Europeans met in January 2016 in Germany, and since then have continued to expand their contacts with Ephraimites in Europe and elsewhere. The Dutch, in particular, have carried forward the spirit of the Congress thanks to the efforts of Hadassah Drost in facilitating the establishment of Bney Yosef Holland.
In America, not much happened over the summer of 2015 as the returning delegates pondered and prayed through what they had experienced, asking the Father what to do next. That resulted in several developments over the fall and winter, beginning with the inaugural National Shabbat (now called the BYNA Family Reunion) in North Georgia. The vision of the National Shabbat was to gather the people of God together to worship Him as a people, regardless of differences, on the day He set aside as holy and as a sign of His covenant with Israel. In South Carolina, where Congress participants had been sharing the news of the Congress at fellowships and congregations across the state, the vision of the National Shabbat quickly gained interest, resulting in the first South Carolina National Shabbat on December 5 of that year.
That same weekend, the B’ney Yosef Region 35 Conference convened in Denton, Texas. Congress participants from Texas had birthed the idea for this conference during their Sukkot gathering just two months earlier. Originally intended as a Congress-like conference for the people of Texas, it expanded to include 100 participants from 12 states, including people from as far away as Ohio, Arizona, and Florida. A key conversation during the conference began when Eddie Chumney and Congress participants Mark and Polly Webb discussed how to take the momentum of the Congress and translate it into enduring action with a focus on our Hebrew identity and our home in Israel. Before the weekend had concluded, those discussions resulted in a plan of action and resolve to reach out to the National Shabbat organizers in Georgia and South Carolina to invite them into the process. With their help, the plan quickly advanced to the next stage: the B’ney Yosef North America Plenary Conference at Henry Horton State Park near Nashville, Tennessee.
The Plenary commenced on January 15, 2016, just six weeks after the Region 35 conference. About 40 people attended from the US and Canada, many of whom had been at the Congress. Their purpose was to investigate specific ways of moving forward with establishment of an organization that would embody the spirit of the Congress on our continent. By the end of that weekend, plans were in motion to hold the Inaugural B’ney Yosef North America Summit near Tampa, Florida, March 4-6 – just six weeks away.
The Plenary established three committees to oversee preparations for the Summit. The first was the Writing Committee under the leadership of Ken Rank. They would craft what became BYNA’s Articles of Declaration, our founding document and statement of principles. As they put their heads together in writing, Mark Webb directed the work of an Exploratory Committee to develop qualifications and position descriptions for BYNA’s two governing councils: the Council of Elders and the Administrative Council (initially called the Executive Council). This was the blending of two ideas proposed at the Plenary. Al McCarn had drawn on his military and government experience in presenting the concept of an executive body to manage the business of BYNA. Ken Rank, in consultation with Frank Houtz, proposed a body of elders to provide godly oversight to the executives. With those concepts in mind, the Exploratory Committee proceeded not only to establish the qualifications and position descriptions, but to solicit nominations and examine the suitability of each nominee.
The third committee was the Interim Executive Committee under the leadership of Al McCarn. Their task was to plan, coordinate, and promote the Summit, with the intent of formally establishing BYNA through adoption of the Articles of Declaration and affirmation of the nominees as Elders and Administrators. Preparations included coordination across all three committees, as well as issuing invitations and confirming attendance.
The work of the committees continued up to the last minute, but preparations were complete as 200 participants began to arrive at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater on March 4. Attendees included Ephraim & Rimona Frank and Hanoch Young from Israel, Hadassah’s son Yahnathan from the Netherlands, and Batya Wootten as an honored pioneer of the Ephraimite awakening. Although there was little time to debate the details of the Articles of Declaration or the qualifications of each nominee, the committee leaders presented reports on the thoroughness with which the work had been done. In the end, the Summit as a whole was satisfied with the due diligence of the committees and the suitability of all that they proposed, knowing that any flaws would be corrected over time. The Spirit of the Lord was tangibly present that Sunday as all 200 stood to affirm the Articles and BYNA’s new Elders and Administrative Council.
That, in brief, is how BYNA came into existence. Our first years have been a time of setting priorities, learning to relate to one another as mispacha (family) rather than as colleagues, and yielding to the Holy Spirit’s refining of us individually and collectively. Although steps have been small and quiet up to now, the vision birthed in our hearts at the First B’ney Yosef Congress and expanded at the Inaugural Summit continues to inspire us as we take our place in the awakening of our Ephraimite people.