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Jews for Judaism

May 25, 2012 – 9:46 am22 Comments

Jews for Jesus campaigners

In the following article, Rabbi Eli Cohen looks at how Christianity, which started as a Jewish group, morphed into a non-Jewish movement and how Christian missionaries are still targetting Jews.

Today over 1,000 Christian missionary groups spend over $300 million annually, targeting Jews for conversion worldwide. In recent decades, they’ve succeeded in converting hundreds of thousands of Jews.

Many of these organizations camouflage themselves to appear Jewish in order to allow Jews to feel “at home” when he or she joins the group. They may call their clergy “rabbis” and refer to their churches as “synagogues.”

They often celebrate Jewish holidays with a Christian spin, hold Shabbat services and wear Jewish skullcaps and prayer shawls to create the impression that a Jew can become a Christian and still maintain his or her Jewish identity.

These missionaries operate widely over the internet, through television and radio programs, run large public events, send their field workers to distribute missionary literature and visit people at their homes and work places.

But for most Jews, the person asking us to embrace Jesus won’t be a missionary, but will usually be a Christian friend, neighbour, fellow-student, or business associate.

Jews for Judaism provides educational programs that promote both critical thinking and a greater familiarity with the Jewish scriptures and Judaism.  These programs are geared to help inoculate our community against aggressive and targeted evangelistic efforts to convert Jews.

The two presentations that Jews for Judaism will be presenting at Limmud Oz will explore how Christianity, which started as a Jewish group, morphed into a non-Jewish movement, and how missionaries today are trying to blur the distinctions between these two mutually exclusive religions.

Rabbi Eli Cohen is the Director of Jews for Judaism Australia as well as a consultant to Jews for Judaism International. He studied at rabbinical colleges around the world, including the Rabbinical College of America and the Rabbinical College of Canada. He is also the Rabbi of the Newtown Synagogue in Sydney.

As part of the lead up to Limmud Oz 2012, we are publishing some articles by presenters in order to give our readership a taste of some of sessions on offer. If you are a presenter and would like to write an article about your upcoming session, please contact the editors.

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22 Comments »

  • Elijah says:

    Jews for Judaism should expand their activities to include Chabad!

    What do Jews for Jesus and Chabad have in common? In the vein of Monty Python – two very naughty boys called Joshua ben Joseph and Menachem ben Levi.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    So because they target their converts when they’re adults (actually legally able to make decisions for themselves), you’re angry?

    Why aren’t you so angry when little kids are told gods exist before they’re old enough to talk, let alone think for themselves?

    It’s only bad indoctrination when it hits close to home I guess, eh? This is the type of hypocrisy one expects from small-minded organised religion.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Elijah

    Unnecessary – I’m not sympathetic to Chabad but I deplore the nasty attack. The comparison to Christianity is inexact – they have not elevated the rebbe in question to the Divinity and it is unnecessarily provocative and an example of sloppy thinking to suggest otherwise.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Daniel

    As usual, although your point has some value, the presentation fails miserably.

    The rabbi in question is concerned about groups that deliberately utilise Jewish identity markers to influence Jews to change their religious beliefs. Although he is concerned about the change of belief, I think it is the arguably ambiguous presentation which is the issue at hand.

  • First comment: don’t target J4J, target Chabad. Second comment: don’t target J4J, target all religion. Does anyone have something to say that is on topic ????

  • Daniel Levy says:

    TheSadducee, if you take the assumption that having faith is a good thing, what’s so bad about trying to evangelise people to the “right” faith.

    If you thought you knew the quick and easy way to eternal salvation (Jesus), wouldn’t you be trying to save as many people as possible? Some people will concentrate on converting the Jews, others will do missionary work in Africa etc.

    Unless you are able to reject the assumption out of hand, that these religions are man-made and a load of bollocks, you can’t really have a go at one religion for trying to convey their message to people of your religion. You both equally believe you have it correct, and you’ve both equally brainwashed your children into believing it. If you draw the line at foreigners brainwashing your own congregation then you’re simply a hypocrite.

    The presentation of my point is fine, you just like being a hipster. I would basically liken you to this comic here: http://xkcd.com/774/

    TheSadducee, you’re basically a hipster secularist.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Daniel Levy,

    The rights or wrongs of particular faiths – and their conversionist beliefs – or religion as a whole is not the issue that Rabbi Cohen is discussing in his piece.

    As TheSadducee so cogently reinforced in his point above, the concern is the sheer deception used by Jews for Jesus and other Jewish-style Christian messianic groups.

    Take for example the large number of first generation migrants from the Former Soviet Union. The majority have, thanks to the communist regime, spent much of their lives living in great ignorance of their Jewish tradition. Many have a desire to know more. When accosted by a kippah-wearing “rabbi” and invited to join a friendly gathering at a “synagogue” or a cost-free “seder”, it is understandable that many agree to participate. They are told that this is Judaism in its purest form, and that they have an opportunity to return to the practices of their ancestors.

    They do not realise that they are being conned by a powerful Christian church that is doing all in its power to convert Jews, even if this involves blatant misrepresentation.

    This is what the problem is Mr Levy. This is why this form of conversion is so offensive.

    Jews and all who hold dear the values of tolerance and respect should join in protesting against J4J and such groups, and applaud the efforts of Rabbi Cohen and his Jews for Judaism movement in actively countering J4J’s deceptions.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Thanks Daniel.

    Perhaps you can take a tip from this presentation when you push your views – funny and without the bombast…

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/2012/04/18/bigot2/

  • ariel says:

    Once again a forum on Galus has turned personal within a record of 2 posts!

    Daniel, you and your alma mater wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the Tanach. Why continue to attack the very premises of your own existence?

    Jews for Jesus are far better equipped in the US where you can see daily 10-min long ads on tv encouraging Jews to come to “synagogue” for a service run “in your own language”.
    As Sadducee says, it is this duplicity which is unethical. If they just came out and said “convert to X-ianty to save yourself” they would be honest; ironically, they would also fail.

    Shkoyach to Rabbi Cohen for your hard work. Other rabbis around the world, such as Tovya Singer also do a great job of keeping Jews Jewish.

  • Seraphya Berrin says:

    As Sadducee says, it is this duplicity which is unethical. If they just came out and said “convert to X-ianty to save yourself” they would be honest; ironically, they would also fail.

    Similarly if Chabad or any of the other kiruv orgs did this and were honest about what their true ideologies were up front thy would also fail.

    If duplicity in advertising and such tactics is enough to condemn J4J then you have to apply the same standards to other organizations as well.

  • Elijah says:

    I’m very ‘sad to see’ that you think I’ve attacked Chabad in a nasty way.

    Hillel the Elder is attributed a saying something like – treat others as you would like them to treat you, the rest of the Torah is commentary.

    Chabad has done a lot of good work in redirecting vulnerable people away from self harm. The problem with Chabad is that they either refuse to state or obfuscate their true belief about Rabbi Schneerson as the messiah. Some believe he is not dead, others think he is hidden or transformed, some state he is dead as a prerequisite to be messiah and of equal stature to Daniel, others think he is the creator. Arguably, this belief is indistinguishable from ancient Christian ideas.

    I can think of ONLY one former Chabad rabbi who has openly declared Rabbi Schneerson is not the messiah – Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch. Rabbi Deutsch is now the “Liozna” rebbe and reviled by Chabad.

    The danger of Chabad is that the vulnerable are indoctrinated with the “King Moshiach” propaganda. The Satmar rebbe was asked which religion is closest to Judaism, he quipped, Chabad.

    Judaism needs to formally reject the Chabad “Schneerson is messiah”. Hopefully Chabad followers realise that they are outside of the accepted norm of Judaism before a schism becomes reality. Jews for Judaism need to target Chabad.

    If we observed Hillel’s remark and stopped obsessing over minutiae we would all get on better with each other. Maybe this what the ‘sad to sees’ realised, it would be divisive for Rabbis to make proclamations and rules about this and that. Much better to stick to the Torah rules and use the Sanhedrin to sort out the nitty gritty grey areas.

  • ariel says:

    Seraphya and Elijah, I agree with you.
    I just didn’t feel it was necessary to turn a discussion about J4J into an attack on Chabad or anyone else.

    I give credit where it’s due. Jews 4 Judaism do good work preventing conversion to X-ianty.

    Having said that, Chabad rabbis would do better to teach Jews about Judaism and the spectrum of minhag and hashkafah within Orthodoxy, rather than pretend theirs is the only kind to be practiced.
    (The best example is when a Chabad rabbi teaching bnei mitzvah teach them the Chabad nussach for laying tefillin. They should rather inquire as to the families’ origins and teach them those minhagim; and if they don’t know them, they should enable the family to reasearch them. I know one Chabad rabbi in Sydney who does teach the boys their own minhagim and is very respectful to other hashkafot).

  • TheSadducee says:

    ariel

    But why should Chabad teach other traditions when they have their own?

    They are a Hassidic sect, informed by their rebbes’ intuitions and spirituality and they don’t, nor should they, have to teach other traditions – they have a duty to respect those other traditions (which are valid) but their concern should be with informing others of their own particular traditions and interpretations.

    I would suggest that if you don’t know your own traditions then you don’t actually have any, true?

  • Marky says:

    I cannot see where chabad are using deception, while it is clear that j 4 j are.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Marky

    The suggestion is that some members of Chabad deliberately obfuscate their views on the Messiah when doing their outreach and then introduce their views when they have the “hooks in”, so to speak.

    To suggest that this is a policy on behalf of the entire sect is absurd.

    It is possible in the case of individuals, but it is a personal belief and like any, the individual chooses to accept or reject them as they see fit. They are not actively brainwashing people (or at least that I am aware of).

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Harry,

    Your point about duplicity is well taken. It still remains that teaching a child ANY religion is duplicitous. You are telling them what their identity and life philosophy is before they’ve even had a chance to determine it for themselves.

    And if you are going to be outraged at duplicity, then you shouldn’t be doing the same thing in your own backyard. That is the point I started with, and it hasn’t changed.

  • Marky says:

    The Sud. The views of Chabad(as
    also the differences of opinion within) are publicly known, so there is no deception, whereas j4j pretend they are jews. It is as if chabad 1st pretend they are Satmar, Belz etc., which doesn’t happen.

    BTW on our street there is this guy who is sadly not the full penny. He has some complaint about something in life. Whenever he hears two people talking about anything whatsoever, he butts in with his issues, which have nothing to do with the topic of conversation. Sounds just like our Daniel..

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Marky, once again, highly ironic that the man who is literally suffering from delusions about supernatural beings is saying that I’m not the full penny.

  • Marky says:

    That I (and others here) are suffering those delusions is a matter of opinion. Whereas you acting as that poor guy will be seen by anyone reading your posts..

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Is it really a matter of opinion? The psychiatric definition of delusion:

    “a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact”

  • Marky says:

    Facts. I haven’t seen any from you..and not much reason either..

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Marky, you’ve seen plenty, you’ve acknowledged none of them.

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