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.