Faydra L. Shapiro
In Our Time: Jews & Christians

Combating Antisemitism or Jewish Mission?

It was recently brought to my attention that a major Christian missionary organization, Chosen People Ministries, is holding a large, public “Oppose Antisemitism” rally in New York City in a few days. Without a doubt, Christians ought to actively oppose antisemitism. In fact, seeing those Christians who do take a stand to combat antisemitism feels like an essential piece of righting a very deep and longstanding historic wrong, a position demanded by true Christian faith.

And while I know it’s out of the ordinary for an Orthodox Jew, I’ve had some positive things to say about Jewish believers in Jesus. I think the mainstream Jewish community actually has a lot to learn from their firm commitment to maintaining Jewish values and practices while living out their faith in Jesus. When I say that some of my dearest friends are Jewish believers in Jesus, I do not exaggerate. I am not in any way hesitant to engage with Jewish believers, the New Testament or Christians. And while I am very much opposed to Christian mission to Jews, it doesn’t usually bother me all that much. Evangelicals evangelize. I don’t find it particularly threatening. I proudly work for a Christian, pro-Israel organization.

My problem is specifically with Chosen People Ministries, an organization that “exists to pray for, evangelize, disciple, and serve Jewish people,” sponsoring a major public event to combat antisemitism, particularly at this time.

Chosen People Ministries knows that their mission is one that is profoundly threatening and offensive to the mainstream Jewish community. The organization could have discretely participated in any of the public events held to show Christian opposition to antisemitism. The organization could have discretely raised a whole bunch of money and anonymously donated it to help any number of Jewish community needs right now. Its members could have been encouraged to act, as individuals, to stand with Jews to oppose antisemitism in any number of ways. And could have done so in a way that is not offensive and adding an additional level of threat to the Jewish community at this time.

Used with permission of The Philos Project

Chosen People Ministries, a truly profound gesture at your rally would be this: to announce that you are – even temporarily – renouncing Jewish evangelism. To notice that right now the Jewish people are battered, threatened, depressed, anxious, insecure, shocked. To realize that your job is to do one thing in this hour: to comfort and stand with and support the people of Israel. To help ensure am Yisrael chai. Because it’s not at all clear to me how Jewish evangelism and Jewish survival really work together.

The dynamic of trying to “support the Jewish people” at the same time as “evangelizing the Jewish people” particularly at a time of our profound pain, weakness and suffering is like pouring salt into a gaping wound.

Responsible evangelism must mean knowing that vulnerable populations cannot make free decisions: the young, the poor, the uneducated, the grieving, these are people who might not be able to exercise truly free choices. Responsible theology means knowing that faith must be a free response. Right now, all Jews, everywhere, are vulnerable populations, swirling and frightened, grieving from the crazy events happening to us and around us.

This might be the time for you to be more humble. To be a little…quieter, to listen, to know what is needed in this time. This is not the time for you to capitalize on our suffering to advance your own plan. At a time when Jews are afraid – to go to school,  to wear a Star of David, to mention they have been to Israel, to go to synagogue – we shouldn’t also need to fear you and your agenda.

About the Author
Faydra Shapiro is the founding director of the Israel Center for Jewish-Christian Relations and holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies. She is also a senior fellow at The Philos Project and a member of the Center for the Study of Religion at Tel Hai College in Israel. Dr. Shapiro teaches visiting Christian groups as well as local Israelis and also writes regular academic and popular articles on Jewish-Christian relations. She is passionate about her mission of creating greater understanding between Jews and Christians both in Israel and in the diaspora. Her latest book is "Catholic Approaches to the People, Land and State of Israel", published in 2022.
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