Israel Restoration Ministries, the same California-based Messianic Jewish organization that distributed postcards in the fall displaying the logos of numerous local Jewish organizations, is back at it.
Postcards with the headline, “Seder without a Passover or Seder with a Passover?” arrived in mailboxes across some of Baltimore’s most densely Jewish neighborhoods just in time for the end of the Passover holiday. While these cards lacked the logos that caused a stir months ago — none of the local Jewish organizations had consented to the use of their logo, and all spoke out against it — many community members were annoyed nonetheless, said Ruth Guggenheim, executive director of Jews for Judaism.
To the many people who have called Jews for Judaism to express their frustration with receiving yet another proselytizing mailing, Guggenheim said the best advice she has is to throw it away.
Better yet, she said, this most recent effort by the Messianic Jewish community can be transformed into an opening for Baltimore’s Jewish community.
“We should use this as an opportunity to raise awareness [about what we as Jews do believe],” she said. The average Jew won’t be converted by a postcard or a video distributed online, she added, but parents and rabbis can use these efforts as a way to teach children about why they believe what they believe and strengthen their own faith.
“What we’re seeing is another effort by Tom Cantor and Israel Restoration Ministries to try to demonstrate to the Baltimore Jewish community that they should be considered as Jews,” said Arthur Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. The Council passed a resolution in January denouncing deceptive proselytizing by Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Christian organizations.
The resolution reads: “Jewish people who accept Jesus as their savior, calling themselves ‘Messianic Jews’ or ‘Hebrew Christians,’ actually have adopted a religion that is not Judaism and have removed themselves from the Jewish community. … 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 organization is making another effort to prove that it is “Jewish,” said Abramson, “and again, it fails.”
For the time being, though, it doesn’t seem organizations such as Jews for Jesus, Israel Restoration Ministries or Chosen People will stop targeting Jewish populations any time soon.
Eric Rader, a member of Israel Restoration Ministries, said his organization purposefully sends their materials and volunteers to ZIP codes with large Jewish populations in an effort to reach Jews who, in their opinion, have been “indoctrinated” by rabbis and other Jewish leaders over the course of history. This mailing, he said, went out to ZIP codes in 18 different cities across the country.
“If it’s real and it’s the truth, why wouldn’t we tell people?” he asked, comparing spreading the message of Jesus to telling neighbors or friends about a new and improved vacuum. “It’s like presenting some new something-or-other.”