Jews for Jesus
by Stephanie Persin
Jews for Jesus is a conservative, Christian evangelical organization that seeks to convert Jews to Christianity.
- Beliefs of Jews for Jesus
- Methods of Evangelizing
- Arguments Against Jews for Jesus
- Jewish Responses
- Christian Responses
Jews for Jesus was founded by Martin "Moishe"
Rosen in 1973. Rosen's mission, having converted to Christianity himself, was to help bring other Jews to the Christian faith. Rosen
became a Baptist minister and a member of the American Board of Missions
to the Jews. The ABMJ's goal was clear: To convert Jews into Christians.
Rosen found that most Jews were unwilling to leave their Jewish traditions
Taking on a new tactic, Rosen left the ABMJ and started
an organization that would convert Jews while allowing them to keep
their religious title. Jews for Jesus claims that Jesus is the "Jewish
Messiah." Other evangelist groups reference the New
Testament as evidence that Jesus is the son of God. Jews for Jesus, on the other hand, cites the Torah and Hebrew psalms as proof
that Jesus truly is the messiah for the Jews as well as Christians.
Rosen and his followers claim that Jesus' coming was predicted in ancient
Hebrew Scriptures, and therefore, if Jews follow the Torah, then they
must believe in Jesus as messiah.
Martin Rosen has used these tactics to convert thousands of Jews (as
well as many non-Jews) to Christianity. Jews for Jesus have a budget
of up to $24 million per year. This money has been used to fund their
large evangelizing campaigns. The most recent worldwide campaign started
in 2001 and is called "Operation Behold Your God." Thousands
of evangelists were sent to London, Australia, Moscow, and throughout
America to distribute pamphlets and to preach the ways of the "Jewish
Beliefs of Jews for Jesus
Jews for Jesus has many "core beliefs" that
are written as an attempt to combine Judaism and Christianity. Traditional Christian beliefs are clear throughout
each of the organization's statements of faith. Jews for Jesus believe
"in one sovereign God, existing in three persons: Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit." Other statements include the belief that all
persons are born with original sin, that Jesus was born of a virgin
birth, and that a person's salvation is contingent on his belief in
the greatness of Jesus.
Traditional Jewish beliefs seem to be absent from their
decrees. In fact, there is only one mention of the Old
Testament in the Jews for Jesus' "Statement of Faith."
Jewish literature is mentioned in the statement, but only to be rejected
as not "binding" by the Jews for Jesus. Traditional Jewish
literature can be identified as anything from Maimonides' and Rashi's interpretations,
to the Talmud itself. If these
Jewish texts were taken to be God's word, the Jews for Jesus could not
fully support messianic Judaism. Jewish interpretative texts give no
proof that Jesus is the messiah.
The mission statement of Jews for Jesus is: "We exist to make
the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide."
While they are strongly devoted to Jesus, the most important belief
of Jews for Jesus is the evangelizing of the Jewish people and the conversion
of Jews to Christianity.
Methods of Evangelizing
Jews for Jesus uses colorful pamphlets and bright T-shirts to get across
their message: "Be more Jewish: Believe in Jesus." Large mailings
and a bombardment of pamphleteering are the main methods used by Jews
for Jesus. The organization is also known for targeting vulnerable populations
of Jews. New Jewish immigrants and college freshman as well as senior
citizens and interfaith couples are easy targets for the organization.
The organization also holds services, addresses its
ministers as "rabbi,"
and hosts Seders in cities
with large Jewish populations. Evangelists in the organization have
been trained to recite phrases from the Old Testament and to use Yiddish words so as to convince potential converts that Jews for Jesus maintain
While Jews for Jesus might confuse Jews about its motives, Martin Rosen
makes his own goal clear: "Our duty is to aid the church at large
and we work as an arm of that body to gather in the Lost Sheep of the
House of Israel." When Jews for Jesus gains a follower, the new
member is usually baptized and converted to Christianity. These new
Christians refer to themselves as "Hebrew Christians" or "Messianic
Arguments Against Jews for Jesus
Jews for Jesus maintains that a Jew can keep their religious identity,
even after converting to Christianity. Jews for Jesus is appealing because
it claims that its converts can believe in Jesus, partake in baptism,
celebrate Christmas, and remain Jewish, all at the same time. Jews for
Jesus preach a combination of Judaism and Christianity.
The Torah itself argues against this idea of Judeo-Christian
combination. While all Jews are considered members for life, a person
who worships another god or idol is no longer considered Jewish (I
Kings 18:21). Worship of Jesus as the son of God is considered belief
in a foreign god, and the convert would not be considered Jewish. Judaism
does, however, always allow a converted Jew to return to the faith when
they again accept the oneness of God.
Jews for Jesus claims that
Jews must put faith in Jesus as their savior
from sin. Original sin is an inherently Christian
belief and, according to Judaism, “sin
is an act, not a state of being” (Jews for Judaism). The Torah does not teach
that humans are born with sin, but that individual
repentance is necessary when a person strays
from the commandments of
God. In other words, Jews do not believe that one person (namely, Jesus)
is capable of repenting for all of humanity's sins through his death.
Likewise, Jews do not believe that one must pray to
Jesus for God to hear. God, according to the Tanakh,
can hear every individual's prayer. As it is written in Psalms
145:18, “God is near to all who
call unto Him.” Christians
feel that they must pray to Jesus in order
for God to hear their words.
The most important argument
against Jews for Jesus is the fact that
Jews do not believe that the messiah has
arrived. According to the Torah, the messiah
must be a descendent of King
do not consider Jesus to be a direct descendent.
More importantly, the messiah is
supposed to bring peace to all humanity.
As is stated in Isaiah
2:4, “And nation shall not lift
up sword against nation, neither shall they
learn war anymore.” Jesus' coming did not
bring about peace and, therefore, Jews
cannot accept him as the messiah.
In response, Jews for Jesus might refer to the Second Coming of Jesus.
The gospels predict that Jesus will ascend Earth again to fulfill his
messianic prophecies. Of course, there is no mention of a Second Coming
in the Torah. Therefore, Jews for Jesus is unable to use Jewish textual
evidence to prove that Jesus is the messiah and will come again.
Many Jews are infuriated by Rosen's evangelizing methods. In response,
Jews have created several organizations to combat Jews for Jesus and
other messianic organizations.
“Jews for Judaism” and "“Outreach
Judaism” are non-denominational
organizations that fight against missionaries
and cults who are seeking to convert Jews.
These Jewish outreach organizations do not
try to convert Christians to Judaism, but
rather, they focus on educating Jews about
their own heritage. The organizations offer
classes, counseling, and another perspective
for Jews who have been persuaded by Christian
missionary organizations. "Jews for
Judaism" uses some of its rival's
tactics, and disproves the idea of Jesus
as the Jewish Messiah by using excerpts
from the New Testament.
Supreme Court also made clear its feelings on Jews for Jesus as
it applies to eligibility for aliyah.
While all Jews are eligible to receive Israeli citizenship, the Supreme
Court determined that Jews for Jesus are not actually Jews, as belief
in Jesus as the Messiah is not a Jewish value. Rather, they said, Jews
for Jesus "marks the clear separation between Judaism and Christianity"
Christians have voiced mixed
responses to the Jews for Jesus' campaign.
Some Christians, such as Reverend Clark Lobenstine,
maintain that Jews for Jesus goes “beyond
the bounds of appropriate and ethically
based religious outreach” (Washington
One organization, the Interfaith
Conference of Metropolitan Washington, has
gone so far as to condemn Jews for Jesus
for being “harmful to the spirit of
interreligious respect and tolerance” (ADL).
According to the Interfaith Conference, an
organization representing many different
churches, Jews for Jesus is a coercive force
that preys on susceptible Jews.
Other churches, however, have a different opinion. Some Christians
believe that it is their duty to convert Jews to Christianity, but that
many churches are afraid to offend Jewish leaders. Some of these churches
support Martin Rosen and the goals of Jews for Jesus.
Sources: Jews for Jesus; Jews
for Judaism; Washington Post,
(August 17, 2004); Cho, David, “Conversion
Outreach Plan Stirs Outrage”; The
Anti-Defamation League (ADL)