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September 4, 2008

Palin, proselytizing and Jews for Jesus

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/palin_and_jews_for_jesus_20080903/

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Photo: NYT

Most Christians consider me a Jew for Jesus. But whenever they say this, I feel it necessary to correct them. I am, in fact, an ethnic Jew who believes in Jesus, but Jews for Jesus belong to a certain group of evangelical missionaries who proselytize Jews by presenting Christianity in a Jewish wrapper. And that is not me.

Though Bel Air Presbyterian’s college group used the Jews for Jesus building in Westwood for Bible studies during my first two years at UCLA, the only interaction I’ve had with employees of the organization is when they reached out to me at the Israel festival last year and invited me to a BBQ after they found out a Christian mole had infiltrated The Jewish Journal.

The group has been criticized by Jewish organizations—the Anti-Defamation League said in a 2004 report that they target “Jews for conversion with subterfuge and deception.”

“Christians have been trying to make us disappear as Jews for 2,000 years. Now they’re trying a different method, which is for them to tell us that you can believe in Jesus and still be Jewish,” ADL chief Abe Foxman told Jeffrey Goldberg in a 1997 NYT Magazine article. “It’s baloney, of course.”

So what to make of the sermon last month from the head of Jews for Jesus at Republican VP hopeful Sarah Palin’s church?

the Wasilla Bible Church, gave its pulpit over to a figure viewed with deep hostility by many Jewish organizations: David Brickner, the executive director of Jews for Jesus.

Palin’s pastor, Larry Kroon, introduced Brickner on Aug. 17, according to a transcript of the sermon on the church’s website.

“He’s a leader of Jews for Jesus, a ministry that is out on the leading edge in a pressing, demanding area of witnessing and evangelism,” Kroon said.

Brickner then explained that Jesus and his disciples were themselves Jewish.

“The Jewish community, in particular, has a difficult time understanding this reality,” he said.
Brickner’s mission has drawn wide criticism from the organized Jewish community, and the Anti-Defamation League accused them in a report of “targeting Jews for conversion with subterfuge and deception.”

Brickner also described terrorist attacks on Israelis as God’s “judgment of unbelief” of Jews who haven’t embraced Christianity.

“Judgment is very real and we see it played out on the pages of the newspapers and on the television. It’s very real. When [Brickner’s son] was in Jerusalem he was there to witness some of that judgment, some of that conflict, when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem took a bulldozer and went plowing through a score of cars, killing numbers of people. Judgment — you can’t miss it.”

Palin was in church that day, Kroon said, though he cautioned against attributing Brickner’s views to her.

The executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Ira Forman, cited the “cultural distance” between Palin and almost all American Jews.

“She’s totally out of step with the American Jewish community,” he said. “She is against reproductive freedom – even against abortion in the case of rape and incest. She has said that climate change is not man-made. She has said that she would favor teaching creationism in the schools. These are all way, way, way outside the mainstream.”

John McCain’s campaign said yesterday that Palin wasn’t aware Brickner would be speaking at her church that Sunday and that she didn’t share his views. I have no reason to doubt her sincerity. But we have already heard that Palin has a Jewish problem—and the drumbeat seems to be getting louder. How does this complicate McCain’s popularity with hawkish and right-leaning Jews?

After the jump, Palin, who, yes, as was sort of suspected, sounded good last night, speaks at her church about a gas pipeline, the war in Iraq and other stuff.

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