Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Proselytizing "Jews" for Jesus Invade Brooklyn

An annual summer occurrence, like humidity and mosquitos, is the return of the Jews for Jesus. As if those other aggravations weren't bad enough, anyone walking through Cadman Plaza is liable to be approached by J4Js handing out pamphlets. Proselytizing religions usually go on missions to non-Western countries, where they try to save the noble savages from themselves. Not the Jews for Jesus - they stay right here in America, and they have the balls to go right to the Jewish center of the country to ply their wares. They hand out kitchy cartoon pamphlets to try to get Jews to accept Christ, and they even have teenagers out beating the street.

In this month-long campaign targeting New York City, the more than 150 J4Js have handed out 650,000 pamphlets and have spent $1.4 million on subway ads reading "Jews for Jesus" and "Jesus for Jews." They are specifically targeting Russian-speaking Jews, Israelis, and Hassidim.

Not surprisingly, many New Yorkers have not been receptive. J4J dismisses Jewish anger at their attempts to convert Jews to Christianity as "avoiding the issue." Susan Perlman, associate executive director of J4J, says "If [those who oppose us] knew what we know about who Jesus is and that He's the promised Messiah of Israel and Savior of the world, they'd be joining us out on the streets handing out pamphlets."

I've long been convinced that they see themselves as martyrs, and that angry reactions only make them feel more holy. One of their pamphlets sums it up. Responding to the typical reaction they get on the street, it says: "Okay, okay, so if I had half a brain, I'd get a real job instead of passing out these cockamamie pamphlets. Okay, okay, so I ought to be ashamed of myself... so I'm a disgrace... so I'm an insult to your intelligence." Then comes the kicker: "Now that we've established what a no-goodnik I am, what do you say we talk about the real issue - that Jesus really is the Messiah for Jews and Gentiles alike."

The Commission of Religious Leaders of New York City calls their deception "tantamount to coerced conversions." In response, the Spiritual Deception Prevention Project of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York has its own ad campaign and is posting volunteers near J4J posts to counter the J4J message.

The Daily News summed it up better and with less expletives than I might use.
"They're not like anybody else," says Ruth Guggenheim, spokeswoman for the anti-cult group Jews for Judaism. "Most evangelical Christians are straightforward, they come to the door and say they want you to become a Christian. They're honest." ... While they, too, want Jews to embrace Christ, they only call this becoming a more "fulfilled" or "completed" Jew. And to make it look, well, kosher, they dress it up with Jewish symbols. ... "Someone is trying to get you to betray not just your religion, but your parents and your grandparents," says Prof. Berger. "And these people are using Jewish symbols."
Oy. When are they leaving?

Top photo by
Lorcan Otway.


geoffrobinson said...

So let me get this correct? They believe Jesus is the Messiah. And they believe that believing in the Messiah doesn't make one not Jewish.

How is that deceptive? Do they secretly not believe that or something?

And I think you missed the point of the tract you quoted. The question is "is their message true?" not "are these people bad people?"

Otherwise, you would be falling into the ad hominem logical fallacy.

Aaronay said...

geoffrobinson: whuh? der?

Rick said...

Gar, geoff, don't all of those double negatives make your brain hurt? I couldn't imagine typing them out coherantly, let alone having the experience of reading them.

For good or neutral, Jews for Jesus are in the scope of awareness in this city. Question: What Would Jesus Do?

(I'd have a chili-cheese dog)

Did Jesus think he was as right as the Jews for Jesus do? (or many other religious organizations)

geoffrobinson said...

Jesus said "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

As for the all the double negatives, let me rephrase and simplify.

1) It's not deceptive if you disagree with their premise. It's deceptive if they don't believe it.

2) Focus on whether their message is true not whether they are bad people. If their message is true, you'd probably have a different opinion of them as well.

Sonja Shield said...

Hmmm. I finally got around to googling Geoff, above, to see if my suspicion that he was a J4J was correct. Not exactly, but close enough. In a posting entitled “Do Jews Need Jesus?” he says that “it would be the height of arrogance and sin to not share the gospel with Jewish people.” His conclusion - Jews need to believe in Jesus or they’re going to hell.

Ok, now that we’ve done the full disclosure for you, on to my response:

It’s not about whether the Jews for Jesus have the “truth.” You’re entitled to your belief and I’m entitled to mine, but there’s no absolute truth when it comes to religion.

Secondly, when you try to get people to become Christian but you call it Judaism, that’s deceptive, even if those professing it have drunk the Kool-Aid themselves. On a personal note, I find the whole thing disgusting and immoral.