«National HOTLINE: 1-800-477-6631 Fourth Edition. Revised. Copyright ©2001 Jews for Judaism International Inc. ©All rights ...»
JEWS FOR JUDAISM
P.O. Box 351235
Los Angeles, CA 90035
National HOTLINE: 1-800-477-6631
Fourth Edition. Revised.
Copyright ©2001 Jews for Judaism International Inc.
©All rights reserved. Reproduction of this work, in whole or in part,
without written permission of Jews for Judaism International Inc., is prohibited.
This revised edition of The Jewish Response to Missionaries Counter-Missionary Handbook is dedicated in blessed memory of our dear friend Donna Sudarsky k"z May the individuals she continues to touch through this book discover the beauty and hidden treasures of the Judaism she cherished.
Publication and distribution of this booklet has been made possible by the generous support of David and Gitel Rubin Mt. Sinai Memorial Park Martin and Sylvia Tulkoff The Donna Sudarsky Trust The Milken Family Foundation S. Jerome and Judith Tamkin Foundation Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Los Angeles
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FOREWORDF or many years I have been familiar with the fine international organization, Jews for Judaism. Its founder and West Coast director, Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, has worked arduously within the Jewish community to offer counseling services and educational material to counter the arguments of missionary claims. The work of Jews for Judaism has had a major impact in disseminating the truths embodied in Jewish tradition.
As a scholar of the history of Christianity and comparative religion, I can affirm that Rabbi Kravitz is quite correct: Many forms of evangelical Christianity target Jews for conversion and, in some cases, use questionable tactics to do so. As a teacher of religious studies, theology, and ethics at Stanford, Princeton, the University of California, and a number of other universities, I have dealt firsthand with the theological issues of messianism, salvation, vicarious atonement and the like.
Needless to say, these questions, raised among Jewish students both in the lecture halls and outside of class, can be very challenging.
In fact, one of the greatest issues impacting the Jewish collegiate today is the threat of manipulative and deceptive missionary practices.
From a scholar’s perspective, one of the most dangerous and confusing of these tactics is the way missionaries use the Hebrew Bible. This is, to be sure, nothing new. As many scholars have demonstrated, Christian groups from the beginning re-interpreted the Hebrew Bible in order to support their claims that Christianity superseded Judaism. But this is not the Jewish perspective and not even the claim of all Christians.
Today, many Christians are re-examining the roots of their religion and, with dismay, recognizing the anti-Jewish sentiments at its core. Many Christians are also approaching Judaism with an open mind, learning to appreciate the unique truths of Judaism’s Torah and rabbinic tradition. However, the evangelical missionaries who target Jews remain unaware of, or actively resist, the deeper
O n ABC’s award-winning news program, 20/20, Barbara Walters recently asked, “What if your 12-year-old came home and said an adult had persuaded him to change his religion?” This question introduced the story of a boy who was coerced into conversion three months shy of his Bar Mitzvah. His conversion took place during a youth program held in a Southern Baptist church. The church member who spoke to this boy told him that he could be “Jewish and Christian at the same time.” The report made clear that a serious threat to the Jewish community has taken on new proportions.
According to recent Gallup and Harris polls, there are over 70 million “born again” Christians in North America, many of whom are convinced that in order for Jesus to return, the Jewish people must first be converted to Christianity. Christian denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention – which passed a resolution in 1996 targeting Jews for conversion – and the Assemblies of G-d, as well as countless other Christian groups worldwide, contribute more than $250 million annually to aggressively evangelize Jews. These evangelical Christians have established special “Hebrew Christian synagogues” to attract Jews. Such “synagogues” have grown in number from 20 to over 400 in the last twenty years.
Missionaries convince their recruits that they are not complete as Jews until they accept Jesus as the Messiah, and that a Jew retains his or her Jewish identity after converting to Christianity.
According to a 1990 Council of Jewish Federations population study, over 600,000 Jews in North America alone identify with some type of Christianity. Over the past 25 years, more than 275,000 Jews worldwide have been converted specifically by missionaries who use deceptive tactics that masquerade Christian beliefs in the guise of Judaism. The Gospel is preached by “Messianic rabbis” wearing yarmulkas (skullcaps) and talleisim (prayer shawls) at “Shabbat” and “High Holiday” services. These “Hebrew
Christians” promote their Christian faith by using a new name:
“Messianic Judaism.” These groups have influenced evangelical churches to adopt the Jews for judaism 9 same deceptive techniques. For the first time in history, Jews are welcomed into the church and told that they can retain their Jewish identity. Church members then introduce the Jew to “someone Jewish who has accepted the Lord.” This method of proselytizing increases the number of contact people, who serve as conduits to the “Hebrew Christian” missionaries, to include Christian associates at work, at school and in social settings. In addition, new programs such as the $16-million theme park in Orlando, Florida, called The Holy Land Experience, and traveling conferences like “To the Jew First in the New Millennium” are virtual training grounds to teach Christians how to effectively evangelize their Jewish acquaintances.
Contrary to popular perception, it is not only emotionally unstable Jews who fall prey to the missionaries’ efforts; in fact, all Jews are susceptible. Missionaries often target college campuses, hospitals, drug rehabilitation programs, seniors’ residences, and shopping malls in Jewish neighborhoods, as well as the Israeli community, Soviet immigrants and intermarried couples. They deliberately misquote, mistranslate and misinterpret Jewish scriptures and rabbinical texts in an attempt to “prove” that Jesus was both the Jewish Messiah and G-d. Their delegitimization of Judaism, in concert with their misleading exploitation of Jewish symbols, religious artifacts and even traditional music, serve to confuse the potential convert, making him or her more vulnerable.
These missionary groups – over 900 in North America alone – are active worldwide, and can be found in almost every Jewish population center. Several governing bodies in this movement have considerable political clout; one has even been granted “observer” status at the United Nations. Several groups have founded “Messianic Jewish” day schools for children and “yeshivot” where they produce ordained “Messianic rabbis.” There are over 100 “Messianic congregations” in Israel, and over 38 in the former Soviet Union.
These groups prey almost exclusively upon uneducated, unaffiliated and alienated Jews.
In response to this ever-growing threat, Jews for Judaism International was established in 1986. The only worldwide countermissionary resource and outreach network, Jews for Judaism has branches in Los Angeles; New York; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.;
Toronto; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Melbourne, Australia. Its two primary goals are preventive education and winning back those Jews who have been influenced by missionaries.
The Jewish Response to Missionaries 10 Jews for Judaism achieves these goals through counseling “Hebrew Christians,” monitoring missionary activity and offering a speakers’ bureau and intensive counter-missionary courses. Jews for Judaism is also a pioneer in the use of multi-media advertising and the worldwide distribution of counter-missionary materials. We have produced a wide selection of literature and audio and video tapes, available in English, Russian and closed-caption for the hearing impaired. Additionally, we have a highly-acclaimed website at www.jewsforjudaism.org.
The best antidote to “Hebrew Christian” missionaries and cults is an educated and committed Jewish community. Jews for Judaism offers several programs outlining the nature and extent of the efforts to convert Jews, and explaining how to counteract them. These courses foster an awareness of missionary techniques, including fallacies and deceptions used by missionary groups who misrepresent Judaism.
Jews are often confused and intimidated by missionaries. It is important that we understand the theological flaws in the “Hebrew Christian” argument that accepting Jesus is a fulfillment of Judaism.
While most Jews know that we do not accept Jesus as Messiah or G-d, few are able to explain why.
To this end, Jews for Judaism also provides campus outreach, outreach to Russian Jews, and outreach to “Hebrew Christians.” Voluntary counseling is available to those who have become involved in a “Hebrew Christian” group. Based upon the premise that the individual did not have enough information at the time to make an informed decision, he or she is presented with the Jewish arguments to counter the Christian perspective. Several of our branches have developed support groups, offering understanding and encouragement to individuals and families touched by missionaries and cults.
How successful is Jews for Judaism? There is a 60 to 70% chance that any Jewish person who is considering converting to Christianity, or already has converted, will return to Judaism if they are willing to listen to the Jewish point of view. Most of these individuals leave our counseling with a renewed pride in and vital appreciation of their Jewish heritage.
Jews for judaism Jews for judaism 11
TO CONVERT JEWSO ver the past decade there has been an alarming increase in the influence of evangelical Christianity. This growth has been accompanied by an astonishing increase in Christian missionary activities which target Jews for conversion. The annual budget for one such missionary group, “Jews for Jesus,” is over $12 million. Well over 1,000 missionary groups, which actively work to convert Jews worldwide, spend over $250 million each year on their efforts. They sponsor hundreds of full-time missionaries, as well as television and radio programs, and have created over 400 “Messianic synagogues,” which strive to appear Jewish but are, in fact, Christian.
CONVERSION TACTICSThese groups use three deceptive tactics to attract Jews. Firstly, they imply that a Jew can retain his Judaism even after converting.
Secondly, they frequently misquote, mistranslate and misrepresent Jewish scripture and rabbinical texts in order to substantiate their claims. Thirdly, they attempt to delegitimize Judaism by claiming that Christianity is the only spiritual path to G-d and to salvation.
In addition, many missionary groups employ scare tactics and intimidation to discourage individuals from talking with rabbis, thereby preventing them from having an opportunity to hear an opposing viewpoint.
Such deceptive tactics are morally objectionable to Jews and non-Jews alike. Among the numerous Christian groups which have publicly condemned the “Hebrew Christian” movements are: The Episcopal Bishops of Maryland; The Archdiocese of Harrisburg, PA; The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington D.C.; The Campus Ministry Board at American University in Washington, D.C.; The National Conference of Christians and Jews (Southern California Region); and The Interfaith Conference of Washington, D.C. (a group that includes the Roman Catholic Archdiocese as well as Baptist and mainline Protestant groups).
Jews for judaism 13
THE EXTENT OF THE PROBLEMDespite such widespread condemnation, the efforts of the “Hebrew Christians” have met with alarming success. According to the Christian magazine Charisma, “More Jews have accepted Jesus as their Messiah in the past 19 years than in the past 19 centuries.*” Most authorities say that there are over 275,000 Jewish converts to “Hebrew Christianity” worldwide.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a) teaches that “Whoever saves a single Jewish soul is as if he saved an entire world.” This passage underscores the importance of helping each individual. Even if only one Jewish person were being misled, our concern would be great.
When you multiply this by hundreds of thousands, the anguish and concern is far more pronounced.