The Baltimore Jewish Council passed a policy statement at its Jan. 30 meeting condemning deceptive proselytizing.
“For centuries, attempts have been made to convert the Jewish people to Christianity, and the Jewish community has always resisted these attempts,” the statement said. “In that vein, it is disconcerting that these ‘Messianic Jews’ or ‘Hebrew Christians’ have created a false and misleading setting that purports to allow Jews to retain their Jewish identity while at the same time embracing Jesus.”
The policy was prompted by two incidents in 2013 that involved a Messianic Jewish group called Israel Restoration Ministries.
“They had a number of well-dressed, well-mannered young people who would knock on doors in Jewish areas because they wanted to talk about Jesus,” said Arthur Abramson, executive director of the BJC. “The line was [that] the fulfillment of your being Jewish is to accept Jesus into your life.”
In the fall, Jewish residents in Owings Mills, Reisterstown and Silver Spring received postcards that posed the question, “Is it possible to be both Jewish and Christian?” It featured the logos of Jews for Judaism, the BJC, ABC/Ch. 2, WMAR-TV and the Baltimore Jewish Times.
The BJC, Jews for Judaism and JT logos were used without permission. Beside the images was the Israel Restoration Ministries logo.
This past Chanukah, representatives of Chosen People Ministries, a group of Messianic Jews and Christians, gave out free latkes and sufganiyot outside of the student union building at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Ruth Guggenheim, executive director of Jews for Judaism, said the BJC’s stance helps raise awareness in faith communities about the issue.
“They’re doing something to help the community realize this is a growing issue,” she said. “It is on the agenda of other religions to use deception at times to proselytize to the Jewish people.”