Last week, the good citizens of Ra’anana awoke to find their cars plastered with what appeared to be parking tickets. However, on closer examination, the cards turned out to be yet another slick missionary campaign conducted by Jews for Jesus. The message read, in part: “Jews, you have been condemned to death. But you can still save yourselves from this terrible punishment – all you have to do is believe in Jesus and all will be forgiven!” The card also included a coupon for a free book, They Call Him Yeshua.
Later in the week, on two successive mornings, Jews for Jesus members solicited cars at the Ra’anana junction, until city authorities were notified and the missionaries were driven off.
But rest assured they will be back. Because, as they freely admit, they are missionaries with a “holy” mission: “to make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide.” As such, they are driven by an obsessive compulsion to convince Jews everywhere that we erred when we initially rejected Jesus as the messiah, and can only atone for that “sin” and enter the kingdom of heaven by embracing him now.
JFJ HAS been at it since 1973, when Moishe Rosen, who died last month – you’ll excuse me if I don’t sit shiva – founded Hineni Ministries. Born Jewish (unlike the vast majority of the “Jews” for Jesus), Rosen converted to Christianity and became a Baptist minister. He convinced the Baptists and other evangelical organizations to fund his efforts to capture the souls of Jews around the world, and JFJ eventually opened branches in 11 countries.
Handing out millions of promotional pamphlets per year, its favorite targets are the unsuspecting, the uninitiated and the uninformed: Russian Jews, college students, interfaith couples and, despite our government’s anti-missionary laws, alienated Israeli youth. And its favorite tactic is the “love bomb”; bombarding its prey with attention, affection and even cash, until they are “hooked.”
JFJ will stop at nothing to advance its cause, often relying on a doctrine it calls “divine deception,” the conviction that one may bend or even break the truth if it’s for a “sacred” cause. It combines clever advertising gimmicks – including posters in Yiddish or ads featuring supposed Holocaust survivors who have “found the truth” – with carefully-constructed propaganda campaigns. Knowing that Jews have a visceral negativity toward proselytizers, JFJ hides its true identity behind code-names like “Messianic Jews” or “completed Jews,” insisting that one can retain his observance of Jewish laws and customs, while at the same time affirming Jesus as the messiah.
Of course, Judaism utterly rejects this nonsense, and holds that Christianity and Judaism are conflicting – not compatible – religions. In a world that is clearly imperfect – where poverty, hatred and war still unfortunately abound – it is obvious that the messianic dream is far from fulfilled. And if the State of Israel does indeed signal the “footsteps of the messiah,” that is so despite the fact that we endured the most sadistic and systematic efforts of Christianity to destroy us over the millennia.
Though there are branches of Judaism which accept as Jewish those Jews who do not observe the commandments – and even those who profess not to believe in God at all – they draw the line at acceptance of Jesus. And so JFJ groups which have applied for funding from various Jewish federations in America – talk about chutzpa – have been categorically rejected, and Israel rightly denies them automatic citizenship under the Law of Return. Simply put, these people are the theological equivalent of “Indians for Custer,” and should never be confused with real Jews.
NOW, MOST of us would simply dismiss JFJ and the other missionary groups as a nuisance to be avoided, a bizarre blip on the religious radar screen. We might put them rather low on the ladder of problems we face. Yet I think it is important that we take their threat seriously, and so I think we ought to do two things: First, let us emphatically declare that JFJ is an insidious, anti-Semitic organization, no less than the KKK or the Muslim Brotherhood.
In trying to convince Jews that authentic Judaism is outdated, irrelevant and passé, it denies our uniqueness and denigrates our beliefs. It is a form of delegitimization worthy of the inquisitors, or the worst popes of the Catholic Church. As the late philosopher Emil Fackenheim wrote: “There can be no Jewish-Christian dialogue worthy of the name, unless one Christian activity is abandoned: missions to the Jews. They have become attempts to do in one way what Hitler did in another.”
Second, and perhaps more important, we need to strengthen our own belief system and educate our young people about the beauty, insight and authenticity of Judaism. Our religious tradition, if properly transmitted, offers the very best opportunity for spiritual fulfillment and meaningful self-growth. It has an answer to all our most probing questions, if only we dare ask them to those qualified to answer.
A number of years ago, I was asked by a local reporter to attend a press conference being given by Michael Evans, yet another so-called Hebrew Christian. After giving his spiel, I stood up to refute his arguments. I began by telling the press that, despite his claim, he was not a Jew. He stood up to argue, but I assured the reporters that I could prove it. I took out a Bible – our version, not the “new, improved” edition – and turned to the section describing the commandment of tzitzit, attaching fringes to the corners of one’s garment.
I then duly took out my tzitzit to show to all assembled. “Now, produce yours, if you are indeed a Jew!” I said to Evans.
Embarrassed, he fumbled for an excuse, but the (non-Jewish) reporters
were insistent: “Where are your strings?” they demanded. “Show us your
Evans, his presentation deflated, left the conference in a huff, and
the whole episode was duly reported in the next day’s papers.
If we succeed in strengthening the “ties” that bind us to our own
extraordinary faith, we will have little to fear from those who would
question its worth and wisdom.
The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana. firstname.lastname@example.org