NYBR COMMUNITY ALERT
The Jewish Response to Missionaries
The acclaimed Jews for Judaism Handbook, written by Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz is now available for you to read online.
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This July, Hebrew-Christian groups such as
Jews for Jesus will work to convert Jews
to another religion.
“So Rabbi, What are You Going to Do?”
Rabbi Robert Levine , President
Rabbi Craig Miller, Vice President
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President
This summer the Jewish community of the greater New York area faces the largest and most well funded missionary campaign in history. Jews for Jesus, the Hebrew-Christian missionary group, is planning a “Behold Your God” campaign July 1 – 29, throughout our community. This campaign is the capstone event in their five year outreach effort to Jews around the world. Over $3 million is expected to be spent including a $1 million media buy for ads in subways, newspaper and billboards.
In response, The Jewish Community Relations Council of NY has launched the Spiritual Deception Prevention Project working closely with the UJA Federation of New York, Jews for Judaism, The New York Board of Rabbis and all denominations of the of the Jewish community. To combat this missionary challenge as a united people we must: 1) help educate Jewish community leaders about the aggressive and deceptive tactics of missionaries and cults that target the Jewish community for conversion 2) educate and inspire Jewish pride and identity in the community.
Jews for Jesus plan is as follows: bring their deceptive message to all five boroughs of NYC as well as Long Island, Westchester, Rockland and northern New Jersey using a cadre of professional missionaries supplemented by specially trained summer volunteers. These efforts will also target specific populations for special attention, such as: Russian-Speaking Jews, Jewish singles, Bukharian Jews, Israelis and Chasidic Jews with brochures and DVDs in Russian, Yiddish, English and Hebrew.
The Jewish community can expect to see ads in subways, on billboards, in major media outlets and receive telemarketing phone calls.
Hebrew – Christian missionaries have every legal right to proclaim what they believe in the public square. The issue is not one of the First Amendment but that they embrace a strategy that attempts to deceive Jews into believing that one can be both a Jew and Christian. When symbols and rituals, sacred exclusively to Judaism, are expropriated for use as props for the sake of converting Jews to a distinctly different religion, this behavior is deceptive.
The entire Jewish community is of one accord: Those who adopt another religion should not maintain they are loyal members of two faiths simultaneously. Jewish converts to Christianity may pray in so-called synagogues, they may go through the motions of observing Jewish holidays, they may even use Hebrew words and Jewish rituals, but their religion is Christianity, not Judaism. To claim otherwise is wrong. The mis-use of core Jewish symbols, rituals and terminology is not merely offensive, it is deceptive.
In response, New York’s Jewish community is focusing on a positive message:
Many Jews — One Answer — Yes to Judaism.
Several Christian leaders have informed us that they will be making a statement regarding spiritual misrepresentation and the need to respect the integrity of different religious traditions.
This month, and every month, make your Jewish life and practice stronger and more meaningful -
- Learn Torah – and more about Judaism.
- Pray to the One G-d of All Humanity – and connect with a synagogue.
- Light Shabbat candles – and bless your children.
- Have a Shabbat meal – with family and friends.
- Give Tzedaka (Charity) – help those in need.
- Do Tikun Olam – find a way to make the world a better place.
But Rabbi, Jesus Makes Me Feel More Jewish
Concerns over congregants converting to Christianity rarely keep the
typical pulpit rabbi awake at night. Based on trends monitored by the
Spiritual Deception Prevention Project (SDPP) of the Jewish Community
Relations Council of New York, this soon may change. Missionary groups
such as Jews for Jesus and Chosen People Ministries are increasing their
efforts to convert Jews to Christianity. Mainstream Christian groups,
such as the Southern Baptists and other likeminded evangelical Christian
groups are encouraging their members to spread the “Good News” to all
especially the “lost sheep of Israel.”
The Growing Problem of Conversion
Currently, Jews who are influenced by Christianity number around
100,000. They either pray in established churches, such as Baptist or
Assemblies of God, or in one of the more than 300 houses of worship
where Jewish symbols are mixed with Christian worship. The latter is
known as Hebrew-Christianity The reasons for conversions are many:
personal or family problems, bad experiences in synagogue, a desire for
a more exciting worship modality, boredom with Jewish worship, and/
or a feeling of sinfulness that they would now believe only Jesus can
change. As a pulpit rabbi your first encounter with Jews professing a
belief in Jesus will most likely be by telephone.
How Jews Should Act-
How Jews react to Hebrew-Christians will determine whether they consider
their efforts a success or failure. They thrive on interaction. The
most effective way to deal with them is to ignore them. They want and
need publicity – positive or negative.
Don’t take a flyer – it will count as part of their total for “flyers distributed”.
Don’t engage in conversations with the missionaries
They are trained in the sales technique of Hebrew-Christianity through the manipulated use of our Torah.
Don’t give them your name, address, e-mail or phone number. They will follow-up on this contact information. It gives them “proof” that they are successful to their funders
Don’t react with anger or aggression – You are always a Jewish ambassador
Don’t be insulting. It makes them feel like martyrs
Any violence or acts of vandalism is just great publicity for them and helps Hebrew-Christian groups raise money. Just hang up the phone, close the door or keep walking
Do respond with a “No, thank you” or “I’m happy with my Judaism.”
Do tell us when and where you saw the Hebrew-Christians.
Do find ways to connect with Judaism and your community.
“So, Rabbi, What are You Going to Do?”
A hypothetical situation could be as follows: a person calls hysterically
saying that a child, teenager, friend or parent has just
declared their belief in Jesus or expressed a strong interest. Another
common scenario is a parent finding a copy of the New
Testament in their child’s room. The caller is frightened and
confused and wants the rabbi to do something immediately.
You are in a delicate position. For many converts to Christianity,
the meeting with the rabbi is an unmitigated disaster. The
rabbi’s inability to deal with their issues strongly reinforces their
new- found Christian beliefs.
As the rabbi you are both on the frontline and expected to single-
handedly turn the situation around. This is an impossible
task to do alone. Your goal needs to be to find out why they are
converting and to locate others to assist people in the discovery
or rediscovery of the spiritual power of their religion. ‘Though
each case is different, the following steps are suggested:
 Get to Know the Person Involved– A common first impulse
is to immediately want to talk to the person. Before making any
contact, find out as much as you can. Conversions are the result
of a complex interplay of emotional, spiritual and intellectual
factors. Ask about his or her religious and social background,
synagogue involvement and Jewish education. Ask about any
significantly negative Jewish experiences the person may have
undergone. This is especially important because a large number
of Jewish converts to Christianity report tremendous anger toward
the Jewish community based on one or more incidents.
Finally, find out about the nature of the person’s Christian involvement;
is it through a specific church or ministry or organizations?
 Become Informed -- One of the worst approaches that a
rabbi can take is to be unprepared while meeting with the convert
or potential convert. Counter-Christian conversion methodology
is not taught in any rabbinical program. What most
rabbis know about the type of Christianity to which a Jew may
convert is generally inaccurate and counterproductive. Therefore,
what the rabbi needs to show is that Judaism itself is a
valid spiritual path based on God’s teachings. For instance, a
common mistake is to look at a Christian proof-text such as
Isaiah 53 and offer the Jewish interpretation based on Rashi
or modern scholarship. Once done, you’ve lost the person. The
convert or potential convert has been told by missionaries that
Judaism is a religion based on the opinion of men, not God.
You have now confirmed this view. He or she is now convinced
that Judaism is more concerned with the teachings of
the Rabbis or scholars rather than with the clear meaning of
God’s word, the Bible. Before meeting or talking with the person,
contact one of the resources at the number below. The
SDPP can provide correct information and referrals, as well as
assist you in developing a strategy for dealing with each particular
 Develop a Jewish Support Network -- As a rabbi your time
is limited. Therefore, you will need help. Individuals involved
in the convert or potential convert’s life, such as parents,
friends, children and synagogue members, need to become
involved. In addition, professionals who are experts in this
area may be needed. As a rabbi you can meet with the convert,
explain why Jews do not accept Jesus and encourage
greater Jewish involvement. This is important, but it is the
people closest to the convert or potential convert who need to
understand their role as part of the “team” that will bring
their loved one or friend back to Judaism. In many ways the
rabbi’s role is one part therapist, one part spiritual guide and
three parts coach of the “team.”
Despite this network, you, as the pulpit rabbi, represent the
face of Judaism. Your demeanor needs to be one of compassion
and concern. The convert or potential convert needs to
know that you care about his or her religious struggles and
that you value him or her as a person, as a Jew and as a member
of the community.
 Follow-up and Follow-through – You need to win the
person’s trust as a spiritual counselor. But you and the people
on your team are very busy. The rabbi must make it his responsibility
to follow-up with both the person and everyone
who has agreed to help. Lack of follow through will destroy
the person’s confidence in you and the Jewish religion which
Frequently Asked Questions About Hebrew-Christian
Missionaries & “Jews for Jesus”
Q What are Hebrew-Christian Missionaries and “Jews for Jesus”?
A “Jews for Jesus” is just one of over 900 “Hebrew-Christian” missionary groups which attempt to convert Jews to Christianity. Leaders of these groups are many times ordained Christian ministers who are specifically trained in techniques for converting unsuspecting Jews. Members of these groups use Jewish symbols (such as a Star of David or skullcap) so as to appear Jewish. Their goal is to take Jews away from Judaism and to bring them into the Christian Church. These groups are currently spending over $250 million per year on these efforts. Despite any trappings of Jewish tradition, their theology is 100% Christian. Both Jewish and Christian groups have denounced their tactics.
Q What type of Jew is most vulnerable?
A The average Jewish convert to Christianity is between 15 and 35 years old and has little Jewish education. Since people
are most vulnerable at times of personal change and transition, the missionaries center their efforts on a number of vulnerable
Jewish populations, including high school and college students, senior citizens, and recent immigrants.
Q How might I be approached?
A Someone might come to your door, catch you on the street or leave literature at your door. A letter or invitation to a “Jewish cultural” event might be mailed to you. A new friend, associate or someone from your neighborhood might invite you to a social gathering.
Q How do people join Hebrew-Christian missionary groups?
A “Joining” is a gradual process that starts with a personal contact by an appealing, friendly individual. Recruiters look for spiritual seekers, at-risk and alienated people. They offer help, friendship, love and “quick answers” to complicated problems. The vulnerable may feel that their needs are being met and come to depend upon this new source for support. The one-on-one relationship expands to an entire group. For a vulnerable person, instant acceptance by a friendly group of people is very enticing.
Q What are some of the tell-tale signs of these groups?
A If someone starts talking about being a “Messianic”, “fulfilled”, or “completed” Jew or claims that a Jew can accept Jesus or, as they sometimes call him, “Yeshua” without giving up Judaism – that you can be a “Jew for Jesus”- then you are speaking with a Hebrew-Christian missionary.
Q How “Jewish” are Hebrew-Christian groups like “Jews for Jesus”?
A While a large number of members are, in fact, born Jews, others are gentiles who have adopted Jewish or Hebrew names in order to appear Jewish. On a religious level, the “Jewishness” is a facade; these groups accept traditional Christian teaching and reject Jewish teaching in every single area where the two diverge. According to Judaism, the Messiah will not be divine or eliminate the obligation to observe Torah. Jews believe in a monotheistic system of a non-corporeal God. By believing that Jesus is “co-equal to God, the Father,” Hebrew-Christians have crossed over into another belief system.
Q Is the Jewish community unified in opposing Hebrew-Christians?
A On several occasions leaders of the four major Jewish movements have signed on to joint statements opposing Hebrew- Christian theology and tactics. In part they said:
“Though Hebrew Christianity claims to be a form of Judaism, it is not … It deceptively uses the sacred symbols ofJewish observance … as a cover to convert Jews to Christianity, a belief system antithetical to Judaism … Hebrew Christians are in radical conflict with the communal interests and the destiny of the Jewish people. They have crossed an unbridgeable chasm by accepting another religion. Despite this separation, they continue to attempt to convert their former co-religionists”
Q Don’t Hebrew-Christians have a constitutional right to spread their message?
A Hebrew – Christian missionaries have every legal right to proclaim what they believe in the public square. The issue is not one of the First Amendment but that their attempts to deceive Jews into believing that one can be both a Jew and Christian. When symbols and rituals, sacred exclusively to Judaism, are expropriated for use as props for the sake of converting Jews to a distinctly different religion, this behavior is deceptive.
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