I was asked to write a piece about proselytizing for a magazine. Thirty-five hundred words later, my publisher said he loved it. Sadly, the editorial board did not.
When the most open and loving Christians cannot accept the right of the Jewish people to share their fears of preachers, I lose my faith in interfaith.
Chanukah is fast approaching. We not only celebrate the victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, we celebrate the loyal Jews who were loyal to Judaism, fighting other Jews who had become Hellenized and who were siding with the Greeks. Returning to the Temple they saw it had been defiled and that pigs had been sacrificed on the altar. And so these loyal Jews purified the Temple and save us.
I think the time has come to take back our culture and heritage from those who wish to culturally appropriate it. It’s time to view Eretz Yisrael as the Temple and like the Maccabees who re-dedicated the Temple to our God, let us rededicate the Jewish state to the Jewish people by demanding that all who live there respect the Jewish people and our culture and heritage and stop proselytizing.
Here is that 3500 essay. I wrote it just after the High Holidays. I know it’s long but I hope you take the time to read it. We are under attack from so many fronts. We can at least promise the Jewish people that in Israel they will be respected as Jews and not attacked by those who believe their gospel is the better one.
Rededicating the Land of Israel to the Jewish People
I am writing this article just after the Jewish Holy Days of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I have come from synagogue having asked for forgiveness from God; for my sins against Him, and in unison with the congregation, like all congregations around the world, for the sins of the People of Israel against God in the hope that We, the whole community of Israel, will be forgiven because WE have all sinned, knowingly or not.
And God said “I have pardoned in response to your plea.”
For on this day atonement shall be made to you, to purify you; you shall be cleansed of all your sins before the Eternal.
I personally asked for forgiveness for the anger in my heart from the rise in anti-Semitism, especially the latest reincarnation; proselytizing to the Jewish people. One might call it Post -modern anti-Semitism. There are times when this unending attack on the Jewish people, this incessant need to convince us to accept Jesus, not only accept Jesus but accept the view that Jews can believe in Jesus and still remain Jewish, triggers angst and fear and leads me into rivers of despair.
Peter Stockland and I have discussed this. He said, “I would love it if there were an organization called Catholics Who Respect Jews for Being Jews.” I would love it if all people would respect Jews for being Jews.
Michael Oren, the past American Ambassador to Israel said: “I have no statistics on the size of the Messianic community, but I think certainly that the State of Israel wants the Jewish people to remain Jewish…” While noting that “Israel greatly values its relationship with the evangelical community and other Christian communities in the world,” he cautioned that, “We are very sensitive to the notion of proselytizing — very sensitive.”
There are 7 billion people in the world. Approximately 2.5 billion are Catholic/Christians. The latest census says there are now 15 million Jews. Judaism took root more than 1500 years before Christianity. It is said that 3500 years ago 600,000 Jews stood at the foot of Mt Sinai and accepted the teachings of the Torah with the words “na’aseh v’nishma“–“We will do and we will hear” the words of God: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. And today we, the Jewish people, still speak as if were all present when God revealed himself to us. Yet, we, the Jewish people were given this ethic in a desert so that it would belong to all who choose to honour the teachings. Judaism teaches:
“The righteous of all nations have a share in the world to come.”
So, how is it that there are only 15 million Jews, today? Sadly, it is because over the millennia, right up to today, Jews are murdered for the crime of being Jewish.
From Mount Sinai 3500 years ago to today, the Jewish people have been attacked. Whether physically or politically, socially, or economically through the BDS movement, and now through aggressive proselytizing, the world has continued to try and annihilate the Jews.
I have lost track of the number of times I have been asked to explain Jew-hatred. How many times I have been asked the eternal question “Why the Jews?” I have decided with time, that the question does not require an answer; not from me. Rather, it is time to turn to others and ask them the question “Why the Jews;” ask them to look into their souls and consider changing their behaviour toward my people. For all we ask, for all we ever asked was to be treated with respect. To be treated equally as the children of the same God who created all of us with equal intrinsic value, instilling within us the divine spark, teaching us that all life is sacred.
After thousands of years of attempts to ethnically cleanse the Jews from the face of the earth-in the name of Jesus- there are Christians who feel it is appropriate to ask Jews to accept Jesus-the man in whose name our people have been more than decimated-because we are now to see him as a Jew. These people are culturally appropriating the heritage of the Jews and overlaying Jesus and “selling” it back to us. They cannot accept the fact that the two faiths share the same ethic, the same love of God, with different delivery systems.
There are today those who believe it is their right and responsibility to bring the Jews to Jesus. They are members pf organizations like International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) and King of Kings Community KKCJ and FIRM (Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries). Charisma News writes about Jews for Jesus which has a new center in Tel Aviv. “The Christian Jew Foundation not only does missionary work, it also supports a number of national pastors. Chosen People Ministries has centers in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and congregations in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Ariel. Maoz is an Israeli organization that publishes books in Hebrew and supports Israel while” helping Jewish people meet their Messiah.”
The primary evangelistic work in Israel is not through missions. “It is being done through local Messianic congregations. The larger ones are in Tiberias, K’far Saba, Netanya, Jerusalem and Jaffa. There are 150-plus congregations in Israel with as many as 15,000 Messianic Jewish believers, of whom about 60 percent speak Russian as their first language”. Many Jews from Russia have only vague memories of their faith. The Soviet Union banned the Jews from being Jewish. They are easy targets for proselytizers. I think of these proselytizers as remnants of the Amalekites:The tribe who picked off the weakest of the Jewish people after they fled Pharaoh and were making their way home.
I find this proselytizing offensive here, in Canada, but it is more painful to me, a Jewish woman, mother of three, Savta (grandmother) of nine grandchildren, the daughter of parents named Abraham and Sarah, to see this taking hold in Israel the Jewish State. Imagine living in Vatican City and being constantly approached by people who want to share the news with you-that Jesus is not the Saviour, and give you verses from the bible to prove to you that you are wrong in your belief. Not only wrong, but that you are not quite complete in God’s eyes.
The people in these “evangelizing organizations” believe they have the mandate to “get Israel back into biblical theology.” That they have a mission:
“to unite a global fellowship of biblically sound believers committed to cultivating Messiah-centered relationships that work to bless the inhabitants of Israel and the worldwide Jewish community.”
There are those like Calev Myers of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice who have declared “We believe the day is coming, friends, when Jesus once again will reveal himself to Israel, to the Jewish people.”
A good friend of mine sent me this note. “You must know that the Christian intention is to spiritually annihilate the Jewish people by ‘converting them.’ This is a spiritual ‘holocaust of love’ that is all the more insidious because it is couched in ‘love’ language.” It is to the Jewish people as deadly as the attacks against our physical bodies.”
We are a people of memory. Our memories are inscribed on our collective soul.
WE remember the horrors done to our people through the centuries.
WE remember when the The Crusaders, on their way from Rouen in Normandy to Jerusalem to liberate the Holy city from the Muslims, murdered us along the way, accusing us of being, “killers of the prophets, and murderers of the Lord.”
WE remember in 1146, the blood of Jews ran through the streets of the Maghreb.
WE remember the pogroms in the 13th century throughout Germany, in Mainz and Cracow.
I recently read Simon Schama’s book The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words 1000 BC-1492 AD. The last chapter is titled Exile from Exile and it is heartbreaking. He shares stories of the Jewish people who were living in Spain, having wandered there from one exile to another. Some of our greatest Rabbis lived and worked in Spain and even assisted royalty. But as the Christian world turned again on our people, every attempt was made to eradicate every vestige of us from the face of the earth; our books, our synagogues, our people.
The Spanish Inquisition brought the days of auto-da-fé; days declared feast days and holidays for the masses so they could watch Jews burn. On Passover our children were taken from their homes, pulled from the arms of their parents and adopted out to Christians. Other Jews were forced into buildings, overcrowded, little food (foreshadowing the Warsaw Ghetto?), often starved for days in an attempt to force conversions.
“In that spirit, when the guards had a mind to it, they beat the starving, sick Jews until they tired of the entertainment. Large numbers perished from the maltreatment, and those who barely survived were dragged by their hair to the font, some of them clutching their prayer shawls about them as they were manhandled into Christianity.”
And then there were the refugees: the rest of the Jews of Spain, estimated between 165,000 and 400,000 who refused to convert and left for Portugal, where they thought they would find a safe haven.
“They went along the roads and over the fields…in much travail, and misfortune, some falling, others standing up, some dying, others being born, others still falling sick, and there was not a Christian who did not feel sorrow for them and wherever they went the Christians beseeched them to be baptized and some in their misery would convert and remain, but few did so, and the rabbis continually gave them strength and bade women and girls sing and play tambourines and timbrels to raise the people’s spirit.”
From the persecution of Jews in 7th-century Spain by the Visigoths who forced the Jews of their Spanish domains to renounce their religion and vow their acceptance of the Christian faith, to the persecution of Jews in the Byzantine Empire (700-850) and the Conversos (tens of thousands) also called Maranos (pigs) who secretly practiced Judaism after being forcibly converted by the Spanish Inquisition, we, the Jewish people who come together to recite Kol Nidre, also recite for them.
“Kol Nidre is the prayer of people not free to make their own decision, forced to say what they do not mean. In repeating the Kol Nidre prayer, We identify with the agony of our forebears who had to say “yes” when they meant “no.”
WE also remember the rampages in the 16th century throughout Italy, Switzerland and Germany following the Passion plays.
WE remember the Cossacks and Poles in the 17th century led by Russian tyrants Chmielnicki and Krivonos murdering us.
We remember the murder, death by bullets, of 1.5 million of our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine from the villages of Rawa-Ruska, Rata, Belz, Busk, Lviv, Sataniv. WE remember seeing our mothers and daughters heads shaved, running naked through the forest to a pit already dug where they stood and waited to be shot by the Nazi mobile units-the Einsatzgruppen, and fall into the pit where they were covered by dirt, often by the locals, before the next group would be brought to the edge and shot. Dead, nearly dead and wounded, we watched the earth move for three days until all died.
We remember 1942 when Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, set up this operation digging up the and burning those bodies in special furnaces that were designed to fit up to two thousand in order to hide all traces of the executions intending to make the bodies of all the Reich’s victims, principally the Jews, disappear. The bodies were dug up, counted, and then burned.
“….the bodies were placed on wooden crosspieces, themselves positioned on metal beams. Women’s bodies were placed below to feed the fire…I understood later that the SS responsible for burning bodies had underestimated their work and had got bogged down in destroying the mass graves of the large towns. The advance of the Red Army had interrupted their plan.”
WE remember World War II France: 76,000 of us deported to the Nazi concentration camps and incinerated.
We remember the murder of Jews since the Holocaust, in Argentina, Bulgaria, Germany, France and Israel.
Jesus said “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.…Matthew 5:17-18
I doubt when St. Paul began to share the teachings of Jesus, sharing the Gospel around the Mediterranean, that he ever thought his words would lead to the massacre of his first family.
I think, though, St. Paul would have approved of the language of Jewish theologian and philosopher, Franz Rosenzweig, who spoke of “Judaism as the sun–that is the source–and Christianity as the rays of the sun–that which spreads monotheism to the world.” And Maimonides, the most widely accepted authority on Jewish philosophy, known affectionately as the Rambam, who wrote that the two major religions, Christianity and Islam, are necessary preparations for the coming of the Messiah and the universal worship of God that will follow in the future.
In his legal opus Hayad Hachazaka, he stated that thanks to Christianity and Islam “the world has become full of the ideas of the Messiah, the ideas of the Torah and the ideas of the commandments, so that these have spread to faraway islands and to many dim hearted nations, and they now discuss these ideas and the commandments of the Torah.”
Yet, despite the fact the Jewish people respect other religions, I despair the attempt of others to convert us now through subterfuge by helpful Christian organizations that have to come to understand the Jewish fear of outsiders and over time have changed their methods, not their attitude. They realize the Jewish people have been especially challenged during the wars with Lebanon, Hamas and added to the high taxes used to pay for defense, Israelis are grateful to Messianic Jews, sometimes in spite of themselves, for food, clothes, medicine and other supplies. And these proselytizers feel “Messianic Judaism is changing things.”
Except there is no such thing as Messianic Judaism-it’s Christianity hiding in wolves clothing.
I despair the call of Canadian Wayne Hilsden, now preaching in Israel, who wants
“a greater emphasis on the Jewish/Old Testament roots of our faith; a worship-style more suited to Jewish-Israeli culture; an expression of our message of Yeshua (Jesus) in terms Israelis could relate to and understand; a commitment to stand alongside the nation of Israel through prayer and practical support; a deeper level of communication and cooperation with other Messianic communities in Israel and abroad.”
I despair the various theologies that explain the extrinsic value of the Jewish people to the fulfillment of the Christian Gospel and the return of the Christian messiah: the discussions about the failure of Replacement theology (which condoned the pogroms and prosecutions and would not have been averse to the work of the Nazis) and then the passing of Fulfillment Theology and now Covenantal Theology. “For the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)”
I despair the theology that natural Israel still has a redemptive role to play before the Second Coming of Christ: the teaching that “we show respect for natural Israel as still elect of God, even in their unbelief.” I gather the idea is that with time we will be won over.
I despair the subterfuge of missionaries like Sandra Teplisky, President of Light of Zion, a Messianic Jewish outreach to Israel and the church: “He does not want us (Christians) to disparage the Jews,” she says. Rather she wants to promote “cooperation among Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus Christ through activities and by advocating on behalf of Messianic believers.”
Except there is no such thing as Jewish and Gentile followers of Christ.
I despair the activities of Jews for Jesus, especially in Israel. This international organization’s stated purpose is to, “make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide.” While just after WWII there were “almost no Israeli-born believers in Jesus,” today the latest reports estimate almost 20,000 people and 150 congregations in “the Land” (as Eretz Yisrael is called), and globally the 2013 reports range as high as 300,000 Messianic Jewish believers.”
I despair the 1996 proclamation made in Jerusalem at the Third International Christian Zionist Congress
“God the Father, Almighty, chose the ancient nation and people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to reveal His plan of redemption for the world. They remain elect of God, and without the Jewish nation His redemptive purposes for the world will not be completed. Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and has promised to return to Jerusalem, to Israel and to the world.”
I despair the words of Jonathan Bernis, chairman of Messianic Jewish Bible Institute “The idea seems to be that it is somehow ‘intolerant’ for Jewish believers in Jesus to share their convictions with other Jews. The real intolerance is coming from those who apparently think that no Jewish person should ever be exposed to the claims of the most famous Jew who ever lived.”
I despair the damage that these various theologies will have on Am Yisrael-the People of Israel-the Jews wherever we live. If these teachings continue there will be no Jewish people and no need of our Jewish State.
David Wolpe, a Rabbi whose writings I have come to admire, recently wrote: “There are some today who speak of themselves as “Jews for Jesus.” This is nonsense. It makes as much sense as saying “Christians for Muhammad.” A Jew who accepts Jesus has cut himself off from the faith community of Jews, and that has been so for 2,000 years. Moreover, that Christians argue with the Jewish community about the legitimacy of “Jews for Jesus” is presumption of a high order. I would not presume to tell Christians who is a Christian and emphatically reject the idea that the Christian community can tell me who qualifies as a Jew.
The much loved Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote about attempts to convert the Jews: “How can we take seriously a friendship that is conditioned ultimately on the hope and expectation that the Jew will disappear? How would a Christian feel if we Jews were engaged in an effort to bring about the liquidation of Christianity?”
A young woman who has converted to Judaism wrote this in response to the unending comments by those who call themselves Jews who believe in Jesus:
“All of these encounters begin with an expressed love for Judaism. They gather in my consciousness, this litany of pestilent microaggressions, as instances of philo-Semitism. All follow from a belief that what is Jewish should be cherished and respected, but it’s the underlying reason why that leaves me feeling uneasy. Love declared, but with the caveat that of course we are still lacking, feels very much like something else.”
I want to share with you the words of Gershom Gorenberg, author of The End of Days.
“The Jews die or convert. As a Jew, I can’t feel very comfortable with the affections of somebody who looks forward to that scenario… They don’t love the real Jewish people. They love us as characters in their story, in their play, and that’s not who we are. And we never auditioned for that part, and the play is not one that ends up good for us… If you listen to the drama that they are describing, essentially, it’s a five-act play in which the Jews disappear in the fourth act.”
I fear that proselytizers will affect the relationship between Christians and Jews. We will begin to question the motivations of all our Christian friends. Is your love for the Jewish people, the Jewish state, an unconditional love or are you using us to fulfill your needs, your understanding of biblical prophecy, evangelizing the Jews into extinction?
Forgive us. Pardon us. Grant us atonement.