The Conversion Vaccine
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The Conversion Vaccine

The Conversion Vaccine

The best defense to the ambitious "Jews for Jesus" missionary campaign.

by

This July, like so many before it, New York City's oppressive summer weather is being accompanied by another perennially irritating mass of hot air. "Jews for Jesus" -- this year along with "The Chosen People Ministries" and the "Christian Jew Foundation Ministries" -- are out in force, trying to convince Jews that relinquishing their faith in favor of a contrary belief system (one, even, in whose name untold numbers of Jews over the centuries were made to suffer and die) is somehow not an abandonment of Judaism but its "fulfillment."

Boosted by a budget of millions, Jews for Jesus alone has mailed material to 400,000 Jewish homes in the area, and Yiddish DVDs to 80,000 Orthodox ones. It is also running radio spots (complete with a klezmer "Hava Nagila" in the background) and placing ads in subways and newspapers.

Although in the past the missionary organization focused on Manhattan, this year it is aiming at all five New York City boroughs and surrounding counties, with special campaigns aimed at Russian-speaking Jews and Israeli expatriates.

Many Orthodox recipients of the Yiddish DVDs, seeing their title and packaging, assumed that they contained inspirational Jewish material. When they popped the discs into their computers, though, their anticipation turned to disgust as they realized the deception (call it Ruse for Jesus). After filing the unwelcome gift in appropriate receptacles, many then telephoned Jewish organizations like Agudath Israel of America, and Jewish newspapers, to warn others about the high-tech wolf in sheep's clothing.

Even the group's name misleads. There must surely be some Jews within its ranks, but interviewing a random sampling of its clean-cut, fixed-smile minions quickly reveals that the organization is composed less of Jews who have embraced the Christian savior than of born and bred evangelical Christians trying to foist their faith on Jews.

For the most part, it is Christians whom they attract, too. As a recent New York Times article noted, most of those "who pray with Jews for Jesus missionaries... are, in fact, non-Jews, according to the organization's statistics." Still and all, for those of us Jews who consider every Jewish soul infinitely precious, the missionaries' pushy pushing of their "good news" among our brethren is bad news enough.

Familiarity with Judaism's beliefs and Jewish history is a most effective inoculation against conversion-itis.

It is, of course, an exceedingly rare product of a traditional Jewish education who might fall prey to Christian proselytizing. Familiarity with Judaism's beliefs and Jewish history is a most effective inoculation against conversion-itis. Unfortunately, though, there is no lack of Jews with sorely limited knowledge of their own faith. To the missionaries, they are their keys to heaven; to us Jews, they are our brothers and sisters, whose own road to heaven lies in a connection to their people and their ancestral faith.

And so the current missionary onslaught should serve as yet another timely and trenchant reminder that we Jews, all of us, need to do more to empower Jewish education -- and the Jewisher the better.

In the wake of the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey's alarming statistics, there followed an increased awareness within the larger Jewish community of the importance, and dire underfunding, of Jewish day schools, high schools and yeshivos. In more recent years, though, according to Dr. Marvin Schick, who is intimately familiar with the landscape of American Jewish education, things have changed, and not for the better.

Indeed, while there have been laudable private initiatives and some communal restructuring of priorities, few if any Jewish federations place support of day schools high on their list of concerns. An informal survey of Jewish federations in several large American cities yields average allocations of 2% to 7% of federation funds for such schools, with most contributions, including in New York, well toward the lower end.

Is it unreasonable to expect more from our Jewish philanthropic structures?

True enough, most Jewish schools are Orthodox, and most contributors to Jewish federations are not. But is that reason to turn a blind eye -- or, at best, a severely myopic one -- to the need for, and needs of, schools that happily accept, nurture and educate all local Jewish children, regardless of their families' level of observance?

Particularly important (and particularly needy) are Jewish "immigrant schools," those that provide for the education of children from families who have come to our shores from former Soviet Union lands and elsewhere. Such families are considered high priority by missionaries. Should they not be of equally high priority to Jewish charitable institutions?

If the broader Jewish community truly wants to fight the missionary scourge, it needs to ponder hard the fact that, in the realm of spiritual health no less than physical, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound -- here, a ton -- of cure.

As no less an authority than televangelist preacher John Hagee recently said (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 7): "If rabbis would put more emphasis on putting Jewish kids into Jewish schools, young Jews would never want to become Christians."

From the mouths of missionaries.

Published: July 15, 2006


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Visitor Comments: 32

(32) Anonymous, May 10, 2010 5:01 PM

Make them rich, they will turn from ever seeing G-d

After a while of hearing what all the J4J does, it starts getting funny. They go to just lenths, it's rather comical. Well, they may get rich off of all of this, like John Haggee has, which makes it harder for them ever to enter into the Kingdom of G-d. Which means they are not going to Heaven. (According to their book) They will have persecutions till the day they die. The muslims hate, and they are violent with their hate, towards all christians. Maybe they do have a purpose and mission to fulfill. G-d is fed up with those trying to stop the preaching of the good news. This good news isn't about jesus. The good news is about the G-d of Israel. The christians try to give the credit to jesus what G-d does. G-d is fed up! G-d is a jealous G-d. He doesn't tolerate those that are unfaithful to him, he will spit them out of his mouth. J4J doesn't preach that do they? When they worship anyone besides the G-d of Israel. When they have made a molded image of G-d into a man called jesus. They think G-d's patience is a sign of his approval. So wrong, the time is coming very soon. Wait, are we seeing it already on the earth? Natural disasters one right after the other.

(31) Tamar, August 3, 2008 7:13 AM

Know Torah-defeat J4J

Those of us who have left the church and converted or did teshuva (and we did this without missionaries spending millions to tell us we need to) have personal insight to these tactics. They will say we put too much emphasis on oral law over written-they don't understand (how can they?) However, they have so much doctrine that is made up and taught for their own convenience without any substance they have no right to talk about anyone's oral traditions. examples include: rapture, only the blood saves, J-s-s did away with the law, no matter how good you are only belief in J-s-s name will get you to heaven etc...

In a conversation with some J4J people I quickly realized they do not have Torah knowledge of any kind-all they do have is tactics on how to confuse others who do not know Torah. They would not/could not answer any of my direct questions and I am not a scolar. They are highly traind but not in scriptures. It is very sad. Live our faith and do mitzvot, study Torah and you will not have a problem with these people. Most importantly-pass it on to your children and children's children!

I guess misery loves company which is why they are spending so much money on these campaigns-if they can get others to believe it then it legitimizes them.

(30) Anonymous, August 9, 2006 12:00 AM

Outreach Judaism

I grew up in a Southern Baptist home and so did my husband. We've been married for 6 years and have now undertaken the conversion process in our hearts and home. I found lectures that my husband downloaded to my iPod from Rabbi Tovia Singer of Outreach Judaism to be incredibly helpful in putting to bed some of my most significant hang-ups about Judaism. My pre-programmed little brain needed concrete evidence from the Bible that Jews were correct. As a person striving for the truth, his lectures gave me tremendous hope and encouragement that I was on the right path. But furthermore, the knowledge I've gained from them will be incredibly helpful if and when I am confronted with christian missionaries in the future. If his lectures were so persuasive to me an ex-baptist- then surely they can be helpful to those of you out there who are already Jewish and are looking for ways to arm yourselves and your children for the battle against "soul-winning" christian organizations. You can find his information and lectures on simpletoremember.com

(29) Aisling, July 24, 2006 12:00 AM

I love this web site

I am a Jewish woman who married a Christian man. I love him dearly and we have a beautiful daughter together. Over the past two years my own faith has been rattled quite a bit; not because of him but partly because of my own desire for us to all worship as a family, to have peace in our home (he watches John Hagee and I've left the room on more than one occasion when he's been on tv). I was raised in a Jewish and Catholic home and converted to Judaism a few years ago. Since trying to follow Catholicism with my husband I've felt much less of a connection to G-d and upon reading "In my Father's Footsteps" this week I burst into tears, realizing the enormity of trying to follow something that isn't truly in my heart. Thank you for your wonderful site. It has brought me back to the realization that mine is truly a Jewish soul, and that I need to pursue my Jewish studies more actively.

(28) Anonymous, July 20, 2006 12:00 AM

Antidote

The best antidote to Christian missionaries is an informed and fulfilling Jewish observant life.There can be an outwardly attractive spirituality in some Christian worship services, appearing to fill a gap in the Jewishly uninformed, but ultimately the spirituality and connection with Hashem in Judaism is far deeper and far more fulfilling for the Jewish soul.By the way, I am an ex-Christian who converted to orthodox Judaism.

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