Wednesday afternoon I answered my door in Pico Robertson to discover three young people, ranging from 18 to 22 years old. They wanted to talk to me about “Israel Restoration.” For a moment I thought they were talking about rebuilding Israeli forests. However, the moment I saw their literature, I knew they were Christian missionaries.
I welcomed them into my home and proceeded to give them a two-hour lesson about the spiritual beauty and integrity of Judaism. I also answered their questions, including who I thought Jesus was.
I left them with some things to ponder and they left me with a DVD Testimonial of their “boss,” Tom Cantor, and a Hebrew-English New Testament.
It turns out that Cantor is a multi-millionaire Jewish businessman who converted to and became part of the 70-million-strong evangelical Christian movement. He produced the DVD about his conversion to Christianity and hired 200 young Christians to spread the Gospel in Jewish neighborhoods including Encino, Westwood, Beverly Hills and Hancock Park.
My encounter was cordial and respectful; however, the average individual would not be as prepared as I was for such an encounter. I, in fact, would not mind having a face-to-face discussion with Tom Cantor himself, if for no other reason than to dispel the negative Jewish stereotypes on his DVD as well as some of his glaring theological mistakes.
There is a good chance you or your children will encounter missionaries. More than 85% of high school and college students report they have been approached. This may happen in person; however, the internet has become the more popular and effective arena for proselytizing, giving missionaries easy access into homes and dormitory rooms.
To prepare you for an encounter, whether in person or online, I have a few suggestions. Firstly, be aware that the best response may be to politely and firmly say, “No thank you.” If you do choose to engage in dialogue, don’t assume the missionaries are correct simply because you don’t have answers to their questions, and don’t feel pressured to give an answer on the spot. There are always two sides to every argument. If you apply good Critical Thinking skills you will take time to research your replies.
Secondly, turn to your rabbi for answers or visit the JewsForJudaism.org website, which has an extensive library and free literature for download.
Finally, be aware that many missionaries give away free Bibles that are replete with misleading and incorrect translations of the Hebrew original.
Unfortunately, 80% of today’s North American Jews are unable to read or understand Hebrew. An accurate and trustworthy English translation of the entire Jewish Scriptures is vital to making an informed study of Judaism, and now there is a new and important tool that meets this need.
ArtScroll Publications has released a new English translation of the complete Jewish Bible, and I was one of several consultants who fine-tuned the commentary notes, using my specific expertise to provide insights into passages that have frequently been distorted or mistranslated in non-Jewish Bibles.
This new Bible, “The ArtScroll English Tanach,” is a wonderful resource for the English-speaking Jewish community, and especially for unaffiliated Jews and students. The easily accessible knowledge it contains will certainly prove to be a valuable asset for those using vital Critical Thinking skills to evaluate the often cleverly deceptive claims of missionaries.