I am often asked if Jews for Jesus missionaries are still a problem. Since most people don’t see them handing out religious tracts on street corners and college campuses, the way they did in the 70’s and 80’s, they assume that they are no longer a concern.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Missionaries like Jews for Jesus and “Messianic Jews” have migrated to the web where they reach our children in the comfort of their home and dormitory room.
Additionally, these missionaries regularly launch crusades in major Jewish populations worldwide and are growing in Israel, with dozen of missionaries canvassing the country and placing ads in newspapers like Ha’aretz and on the side of Egged buses.
Two recent news items dramatize this phenomenon.
The Pew study claims 34% of Jews think you can be Jewish and believe Jesus is the messiah. Additionally an article in Mother Jones reported that President George W. Bush will be the keynote fundraiser for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, a group that trains evangelical Christians from the United States, Israel, and around the world to convince Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah.
Jews for Jesus and the “Messianic Jews” have fought for 35 years to achieve acceptance in society. These news items prove that they have been successful. Today, most Christians don’t think twice about the oxymoron of being Jewish and Christian simultaneously. Additionally, the messianic Jews have gained acceptance by riding on the coattails of evangelicals who support Israel financially and politically.
A number of years ago I was asked to attend a Jewish Federation meeting to hear a well-known evangelical pastor. During the Q&A I expressed my concern about the deception of “Messianic Jews” who wear Yarmulkas and light Shabbat candles. The pastor did not see the hypocrisy of Jews who have accepted Christianity using rabbinic traditions to masquerade as traditional Jews.
This misconception is rampant among the Christian community and George Bush is just another victim of the ploy of thinking it is all right to be Jewish and Christian at the same time.
I believe the Pew study also missed the point. If it had asked if you can be Jewish and believe Jesus is God I think the response would have been dramatically lower than 34%. Simply believing Jesus is a human messiah is often a convenient compromise for many intermarried Jews. It would be more uncomfortable for them to accept the Christian belief that Jesus is divine.
As we approach Chanukah, we must take to heart the message of not losing our precious Jewish identity through assimilation and apathy. Let’s commit to continue the battle of the Maccabees and say no to being a Jew for Jesus.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz founded Jews for Judaism International and celebrating 28 years at their December 10th Gala. For information visit www.JewsforJudaism.org/Gala.