All Jewish Denominations At Risk

Kudos to Maayan Jaffe for her recent article “Fusion of Faiths: Can Jews believe in Jesus?” (June 21). The
article points out the strong allure of Messianic Judaism to Jewish youth as something new and exotic, while also relating how Messianic Jewish donors can obtain significant influence in mainline Jewish organizations through hefty contributions.

There are two fundamental issues that the Jewish community must address if the highly effective proselytizing by the Messianic groups is to be thwarted. First, apathy must be replaced by concern. Second, major Jewish organizations must be actively enlisted to combat proselytizing.

… As Americans, we Jews are reluctant to be dismissive of anyone’s religious beliefs. Thus, we generally don’t object to Jehovah’s Witnesses or Seventh Day Adventists knocking on our doors and offering us religious literature. We either politely ignore or decline such advances. Dealing with Messianic Jews is much different. Their proselytizers are trained to use specific Biblical text to appear as if they have near encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish scripture, whereas most Jews, unfortunately, have none; and they use this advantage to successfully sway the undereducated and alienated. Once exposed to the supportive atmosphere promulgated by these groups, many join their fold.

Many Orthodox and Conservative leaders don’t think there is a risk to their congregations because their members are too well versed in Judaism to fall prey. Many Reform leaders don’t want to raise this issue with their congregants because many of them are interfaith couples who might be targeted effectively by the Messianics.

The sad truth is that all Jewish denominations are at risk. … The entire Jewish community must be concerned. Otherwise, as Ruth Guggenheim said in the article, in 20 years the Messianics will have won their place as an accepted Jewish denomination. Such acceptance will dramatically increase Jewish assimilation and intermarriage — already severe problems facing our community.

The second fundamental issue is the lack of substantive effort by major Jewish organizations to address the threat to Jewish continuity posed by the Messianic Jewish movement. Jaffe’s article alludes to a root cause: major contributions to these Jewish organizations from Messianic and Evangelical Christian donors. Coalitions like Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and the Christian Zionists and their constituent organizational members donate millions of dollars annually to Jewish causes. … Unfortunately, our Jewish organizational leadership needs to make a very uncomfortable choice: either remain silent as tens of thousands of Jews continue to be deceptively converted to Christianity through the Messianic movement or take a stand against the deceptive proselytizing of Jews and risk losing major donors. We hope our organizational leaders make the choice for Jewish continuity.

Stephen W. Greenfield
Board Member, Jews for Judaism Baltimore

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