Jews for Jesus
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Jews for Jesus is a Messianic Jewish non-profit organization founded in 1973 which seeks to share its belief that Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Jewish people. They use symbols, holidays, and stories from classic Jewish sources, rebranding them as Christian.
- 1 Beliefs
- 2 History
- 3 Funding and outreach
- 4 Evangelism
- 5 Opposition and criticism
- 6 Litigation
- 7 "That Jew Died for You" video
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
A summary of Jews for Jesus' beliefs:
- The Old and New Testaments, as originally written, are divinely inspired and inerrant.
- Recognition of the value of traditional Jewish literature, but only where it is supported by the Bible.
- God the creator exists as a trinity, is perfect, all wise, all powerful and all loving.
- Jesus is the Messiah, the second person of the Trinity, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of all humanity, rose again, and is co-equal with God. Jesus will return to earth in the near future.
- People are saved through a belief in Jesus as savior and an acknowledgment of their sins, not by their achievements.
- Heaven is a reward for those who are saved; Hell is a place of eternal separation from God for the lost.
- Israel exists as a covenant people through whom God continues to accomplish His purposes and that the Church is composed of both Jews and Gentiles who acknowledge Jesus as Messiah and Redeemer.
Jews for Jesus takes the mainstream Christian positions that Jesus is the Messiah, that his coming was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, and that Jesus is the son of God, the second person of the Trinity. Jews for Jesus believes that their views of the Messiah are entirely compatible with the view of God presented in Jewish scriptures, and that the doctrine of the Trinity, fundamental to the Christian faith, is not entirely alien to Judaism.
According to an article on Jews for Jesus by B. Robinson of Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance,
Their doctrinal statement is basically indistinguishable from Evangelical and other conservative Christian groups. ... They differ from some Evangelical Christian groups in their belief that Israel continues to exist as a "covenant people." They also integrate some Jewish customs and use Hebrew and Yiddish in some literature.
Jews for Jesus was founded by Moishe Rosen in San Francisco in 1973. It was originally called Hineni Ministries, after the Hebrew word meaning "Here I am". Originally, "Jews for Jesus" was simply one of the organization's several slogans but after the media began to call the group "Jews for Jesus" the organization adopted that name. David Brickner has been the executive director of Jews for Jesus since 1996.
Funding and outreach
Jews for Jesus is funded by donations from like-minded Christians. It has a full-time staff of more than 200 employees running branch offices in seven cities across the United States. There are also branch offices in Australia, Toronto, London, Paris, Germany (in Essen and Berlin), Hungary, Israel, South Africa, Moscow and Ukraine (in Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Kiev and Odessa). In addition to its English-language website, the group has websites in Hebrew, Portuguese, Polish, Persian, Italian, Spanish and Korean.
The majority of evangelism used by Jews for Jesus consists of handing out literature on the streets, one-on-one Bible studies, full-page ads in leading newspapers and magazines, ISSUES (an eight-page evangelistic publication for Jewish seekers) and internet evangelism. The organization uses colorful pamphlets and T-shirts to get their message across, engaging with populations of Jews which they see as receptive to their message such as recent immigrants, college students, senior citizens and interfaith couples.
On their official website, Jews for Jesus says that they give out 8 million pamphlets a year. They use college-age volunteers for some of their short-term evangelism campaigns. Each July they send a team of 20 to 30 to New York City, which they say has the world's largest and most diverse Jewish population.
Opposition and criticism
Belief in Jesus as deity, son of God, or even a non-divine Christ/Messiah or Prophet (as in Islam), is held as incompatible with Judaism by all Jewish religious movements. In a 2013 Pew Forum study, 60% of US Jews said that belief in Jesus as the Messiah was not "compatible with being Jewish", while 34% found it compatible and 4% didn't know.
In 1993 the Task Force on Missionaries and Cults of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRCNY) issued a statement which has been endorsed by the four major Jewish denominations: Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Reform Judaism, and Reconstructionist Judaism, as well as national Jewish organizations. Based on this statement, the Spiritual Deception Prevention Project at the JCRCNY stated:
On several occasions leaders of the four major Jewish movements have signed on to joint statements opposing Hebrew-Christian theology and tactics. In part they said: "Though Hebrew Christianity claims to be a form of Judaism, it is not ... It deceptively uses the sacred symbols of Jewish observance ... as a cover to convert Jews to Christianity, a belief system antithetical to Judaism ... Hebrew Christians are in radical conflict with the communal interests and the destiny of the Jewish people. They have crossed an unbridgeable chasm by accepting another religion. Despite this separation, they continue to attempt to convert their former co-religionists."
The director of a counter-missionary group Torah Atlanta, Rabbi Efraim Davidson, stated that "the Jews for Jesus use aggressive proselytizing to target disenfranchised or unaffiliated Jews, Russian immigrants and college students" and that "their techniques are manipulative, deceptive and anti-Semitic."
There are Jews for Jesus who use the trappings of Judaism to bring people into a religion that teaches that Judaism is finished. Jews for Jesus are worse theologically than the mainstream of Catholicism or Protestantism, which now affirm that Judaism is a valid religion. Jews for Jesus say that it is not. They use the Jewish trappings, but de facto, they are teaching the classic Christian supersessionism—that Judaism was at best a foreshadowing of Christianity.
Some Western Christians object to evangelizing Jews because they see Jewish religious practice as valid in and of itself. Some Liberal Protestant denominations that have issued statements criticizing evangelism of Jews include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church USA, which said in 1988 that Jews have their own covenant with God. The Board of Governors of the Long Island Council of Churches opposes proselytizing of Jews, and voiced these sentiments in a statement that "noted with alarm" the "subterfuge and dishonesty" inherent in the "mixing [of] religious symbols in ways which distort their essential meaning", and named Jews for Jesus as one of the three groups about whom such behavior was alleged.
In 2003, the sponsorship of Jews for Jesus by All Souls Church, Langham Place, a Conservative Evangelical Church in London, with a launch event on Rosh Hashanah launching a UK mission targeting the Jewish community led to the Interfaith Alliance UK, a coalition of Jewish, Christian and Islamic religious leaders, issuing a letter of protest to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington includes Muslims, Jews, and liberal church groups. The Conference states that they "support the right of all religions to share their message in the spirit of good will"; however Rev. Clark Lobenstine, has condemned the "proselytizing efforts" of "Jews for Jesus and other messianic Jewish groups". His wording matched the Conference's 1987 "Statement on Proselytism", which makes claims against "groups that have adopted the label of Hebrew Christianity, Messianic Judaism, or Jews for Jesus", so it is unclear which claims are directed at Jews for Jesus in particular.
America's Religions. An Educator's Guide to Beliefs and Practices contains "[a] note about Jews for Jesus, Messianic Jews, Hebrew Christians, and similar groups: Jews in these groups who have converted to Christianity but continue to observe various Jewish practices are no longer considered part of the Jewish community in the usual sense".
1998 and 2005–2006 – online name
Jews for Jesus has been involved in litigation regarding Internet use of its name. In 1998 they successfully sued Steven Brodsky for cybersquatting — registering the domain name jewsforjesus.org for a site criticizing the organization. The domain now belongs to Jews for Jesus and is used for their main site.
In 2005 Jews for Jesus sued Google for allowing a Blogspot user to put up a site at the third-level subdomain jewsforjesus.blogspot.com. In September 2006 Christianity Today reported that "Jews for Jesus settled out of court with a critical blogger identified as 'Whistle Blower' on jewsforjesus.blogspot.com. The evangelistic ministry assumed control of the site."
2006 – misuse of Jackie Mason name
In 2006 comedian and actor Jackie Mason filed a lawsuit against Jews for Jesus, alleging that they unlawfully distributed a pamphlet which used his name and likeness in a way that suggested he was a member of the group. In fact, Mason is Jewish and not associated with Jews for Jesus. Jews for Jesus has issued a detailed response to the allegation on their website.
A judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denied a preliminary injunction against Jews for Jesus over the pamphlet, finding the distribution of the pamphlet to be protected by the First Amendment, and also stated that the pamphlet did not suggest that Mason was a Christian.
In December 2006, Mason dropped the lawsuit against Jews for Jesus after they issued a letter of apology to Mason. The group's executive director, David Brickner, stated in the letter to Mason that he wanted "to convey my sincere apologies for any distress that you felt over our tract." Brickner continued that he believed its publication was protected by the Constitution, but the group was willing in the interest of peace and love for Israel to retire the pamphlet. Mason replied in front of the federal court in Manhattan where he accepted the apology, "There's no such thing as a Jew for Jesus. It's like saying a black man is for the KKK. You can't be a table and a chair. You're either a Jew or a Gentile."
"That Jew Died for You" video
In 2014, Jews for Jesus published a three-minute YouTube video called That Jew Died for You, to coincide with Passover, Holy Week and Holocaust Remembrance Day on 28 April. A long-haired Jesus dragging a large wooden cross appears in the film until an Auschwitz extermination camp guard sends him to the gas chambers and says "just another Jew" in German. Jews for Jesus said that the objective of the film was for Jesus to be identified with the victims rather than the perpetrators of the Holocaust and that "the Holocaust has been used – perhaps more than any other event or topic – to prevent Jewish people from considering the good news of Jesus." Jay Michaelson, writing in The Jewish Daily Forward, described it as "the most tasteless YouTube video ever" and wrote "not to state the obvious, but it desecrates the memory of six million Jews to use their suffering as a way to convert Jews to Christianity." Fox News and the History Channel refused to play an advert for the film.
- Benjamin Hubbard; John Hatfield; James Santucci (1997). America's Religions. An Educator's Guide to Beliefs and Practices. Teacher Ideas Press, a Division of Libraries Unlimited. p. 100. ISBN 1-56308-469-4.
- Statement of Faith (Jews for Jesus) written January 1, 2005
- Don't Christians Believe in Three Gods? (Jews for Jesus) January 1, 2005
- "While it is true that the Old Testament portion of Scripture does not present as clear a picture of the three-in-one/one-as-three Godhead, there are indications of the plurality of the Godhead in the Hebrew Scriptures." The Trinity in the Old Testament by Catherine Damato. (Jews for Jesus) June 1, 1987
- "Their doctrinal statement is basically indistinguishable from Evangelical and other conservative Christian groups."
- "Finances". Jews for Jesus. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- The Real Jews for Jesus. Christian Dollars at Work by Jason Levinson (Torah Atlanta)
- "Jews for Jesus". Archived from the original on 17 June 2010.
- "Branches - Jews for Jesus".
- Jews for Jesus. Financial information for FY2010 (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability)
- "What We Do - About Jews for Jesus - Jews for Jesus".
- Targeting vulnerable population groups:
- "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." (Jews for Jesus by Stephanie Persin. Jewish Virtual Library)
- "Since people are most vulnerable at times of personal change and transition, the missionaries center their efforts on a number of vulnerable Jewish populations, including high school and college students, senior citizens, and recent immigrants." (Frequently Asked Questions About Hebrew-Christian Missionaries & "Jews for Jesus" New York Board of Rabbis)
- "Such congregations are designed to appear Jewish, but they are actually fundamentalist Christian churches which use traditional Jewish symbols to lure the most vulnerable of our Jewish people into their ranks."
- "Young men and women are particularly vulnerable to evangelicals because so often these adolescents are unsure of themselves, the world around them, and the adulthood that awaits them. ... The elderly are also perilously vulnerable..." (Evangelizing the Jews, Part 2: Who is Most Vulnerable? by Rabbi Tovia Singer (outreachjudaism.org). Also at Aish)
- "Deceptive proselytizing is practiced on the most vulnerable of populations – residents of hospitals and old aged homes, confused youth, college students away from home. These proselytizing techniques are tantamount to coerced conversions and should be condemned." (Soc.Culture.Jewish Newsgroups. Frequently Asked Questions and Answers)
- "Individuals are most vulnerable to these groups and their tactics when they are lonely and hurting, overwhelmed or confused, away from their support system or have lost a loved one or a close friend." (College Programs. Got Friends? by Scott Hillman, Jews For Judaism)
- "Their efforts here have drawn criticism from mainstream Jews and some Christians, who accuse Jews for Jesus of leading the vulnerable – the young, the old, recent immigrants..." (Jews for Jesus missionaries find warmth, hostility By Matthew Hay Brown (Baltimore Sun) August 27, 2005
- "Nonetheless, JFJ continues to make this contradictory claim, purposefully focusing on young, naïve, or socially vulnerable populations with their campaigns. College students, recent immigrants (most notably Russian Jews), and the elderly are targets for conversion." (Jews for Jesus offends Jews and Christians By Ethan Frenchman and Seth Mayer, Chicago Maroon. October 4, 2005)
- "What We Do - About Jews for Jesus - Jews for Jesus".
- "Join - Jews for Jesus".
- "New York Summer Outreach - Jews for Jesus".
- "For most American Jews, it is acceptable to blend some degree of foreign spiritual elements with Judaism. The one exception is Christianity, which is perceived to be incompatible with any form of Jewishness. Jews for Jesus and other Messianic Jewish groups are thus seen as antithetical to Judaism and are completely rejected by the majority of Jews". (Kaplan, Dana Evan. The Cambridge Companion to American Judaism, Cambridge University Press, August 15, 2005, p. 9).
- A belief in the divinity of Jesus is incompatible with Judaism:
- "The point is this: that the whole Christology of the Church — the whole complex of doctrines about the Son of God who died on the Cross to save humanity from sin and death — is incompatible with Judaism, and indeed in discontinuity with the Hebraism that preceded it." Rayner, John D. A Jewish Understanding of the World, Berghahn Books, 1998, p. 187. ISBN 1-57181-974-6
- "It has always been recognized, for instance, after the rise of Christianity and Islam, that these two religions are incompatible with Judaism and that no Jew can consistently embrace them while remaining an adherent of Judaism." Neusner, Jacob & Avery-Peck, Alan Jeffery. The Blackwell Reader in Judaism, Blackwell Publishing, 2001, p. 8. ISBN 0-631-20738-4
- "Aside from its belief in Jesus as the Messiah, Christianity has altered many of the most fundamental concepts of Judaism." Kaplan, Aryeh. The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology: Volume 1, Illuminating Expositions on Jewish Thought and Practice, Mesorah Publication, 1991, p. 264. ISBN 0-89906-866-9
- "[The] doctrine of Christ was and will remain alien to Jewish religious thought." Wylen, Stephen M. Settings of Silver: An Introduction to Judaism, Paulist Press, 2000, p. 75. ISBN 0-8091-3960-X
- "For a Jew, however, any form of shituf is tantamount to idolatry in the fullest sense of the word. There is then no way that a Jew can ever accept Jesus as a deity, mediator or savior (messiah), or even as a prophet, without betraying Judaism. To call oneself, therefore, a 'Hebrew-Christian,' a 'Jew for Jesus,' or in the latest version a 'messianic Jew,' is an oxymoron. Just as one cannot be a 'Christian Buddhist,' or a 'Christian for Krishna,' one cannot be a 'Jew for Jesus.'" Schochet, Rabbi J. Immanuel. "Judaism has no place for those who betray their roots", Canadian Jewish News, July 29, 1999.
- This July, Hebrew-Christian groups such as Jews for Jesus will work to convert Jews to another religion. The Jewish Response to Missionaries (NY Board of Rabbis)
- Judaism and Jesus Don't Mix (foundationstone.com)
- Jews believe that "Jews for Jesus", "Messianic Jews", and "Hebrew Christians" are no longer Jews, even if they were once Jews (whatjewsbelieve.org)
- "If you believe Jesus is the messiah, died for anyone else's sins, is God's chosen son, or any other dogma of Christian belief, you are not Jewish. You are Christian. Period." (Jews for Jesus: Who's Who & What's What by Rabbi Susan Grossman (beliefnet – virtualtalmud) August 28, 2006; archived 2006-11-23 at )
- "For two thousand years, Jews rejected the claim that Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies of the Hebrew Bible, as well as the dogmatic claims about him made by the church fathers — that he was born of a virgin, the son of God, part of a divine Trinity, and was resurrected after his death. ... For two thousand years, a central wish of Christianity was to be the object of desire by Jews, whose conversion would demonstrate their acceptance that Jesus has fulfilled their own biblical prophecies." (Jewish Views of Jesus by Susannah Heschel, in Jesus In The World's Faiths: Leading Thinkers From Five Faiths Reflect On His Meaning by Gregory A. Barker, editor. (Orbis Books, 2005) ISBN 1-57075-573-6. p.149)
- "[There] are limits to pluralism, beyond which a group is schismatic to the point where it is no longer considered Jewish. For example, everyone considers Messianic Judaism and belief in Buddha as outside of the Jewish sphere." (Why did the majority of the Jewish world reject Jesus as the Messiah, and why did the first Christians accept Jesus as the Messiah? by Rabbi Shraga Simmons)
- "No Jew accepts Jesus as the Messiah. When someone makes that faith commitment, they become Christian. It is not possible for someone to be both Christian and Jewish." (Why don't Jews accept Jesus as the Messiah? by Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner)
- Meeting the Challenge: Hebrew Christians and the Jewish Community
- "Frequently Asked Questions About Hebrew-Christian Missionaries & "Jews for Jesus"" (PDF). Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. Spiritual Deception Prevention Project
- Portland Jews Brace for Assault by 'Jews for Jesus' By Paul Haist (Jewish Review) May 15, 2002
- "Rabbi Irving Greenberg on Jewish-Christian relations, the Holocaust, Israel, religion, pluralism". Beliefnet.
- Pluralistic opposition:
- Should Christians Attempt to Evangelize Jews? Israel's Covenant with God Remains Valid by Allan R. Brockway
- Policies of mainline and liberal Christians towards proselytizing Jews (religioustolerance.org)
- What about Christian Jews or Jewish Christians? by Fritz Voll (International Council of Christians and Jews) Ecumenical Considerations on Jewish-Christian Dialogue (World Council of Churches)
- In the United Kingdom, there has been opposition to the activities of Jews for Jesus from the Council of Christians and Jews which has prohibited members of the organisation from joining its meetings, through the issuing of a Code of Conduct opposing Jewish proselytisation by Christians.[not specific enough to verify]
- "I normally defend my denomination. I'm loyal to it. But I have never targeted Muslims. I have never targeted Jews." "Billy Graham Blasts Brethren" by Eric J. Greenberg, The Jewish Week. January 7, 2000, referring to a Southern Baptist Convention event in Chicago 
- The Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations: "Christians should not target Jews for conversion". The Center for Christian-Jewish Learning at Boston College. September 1, 2002
- Guidelines for Lutheran – Jewish Relations, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America . Retrieved July 5, 2009.
- Spector, S. Evangelicals and Israel, 2008, Oxford University Press: Oxford, p. 114
- A Theological Understanding of the Relationship Between Christians and Jews, 199th General Assembly (1987) of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
- Jews for Jesus: Targeting Jews for Conversion with Subterfuge and Deception, Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved July 5, 2009.
- The Guardian Imams join plea for gay tolerance 26 September 2003
- IFCMW membership
- "PCUSA's excerpt of the IFCMW's 'Statement on Proselytism'" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-06-21.[permanent dead link]
- David Cho (August 17, 2004). "Conversion Outreach Plan Stirs Outrage. Jews for Jesus Trains 600 for Street Work". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-06-21.
- "IFCMW Statement on Proselytism in a longer quote". Archived from the original on 2012-01-27. Retrieved 2011-06-21.
- "Jews for Jesus".
- Balmer, Randall. Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, Baylor University Press, November 2004, p. 448
- "Jews for Jesus: Targeting Jews for Conversion - Legal Cases". Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith. Archived from the original on 2012-10-13.
- Google Sued for Trademark Infringement Based on Third-Level Subdomain by Eric Goldman (CircleID) December 30, 2005
- Christianity Today News Briefs September 1, 2006
- Comic sues Jews for Jesus
- Press Release: Jews for Jesus and Jackie Mason (Jews for Jesus) August 25, 2006
- Jackie Mason Charges Against Jews For Jesus Denied By U.S. District Court, November 8, 2006
- USA Today, nymag.com (and many others) quoting an Associated Press release, December 4, 2006.
- Heather Saul (25 April 2014). "Jews for Jesus video showing Jesus being sent to Nazi gas chambers sparks outrage". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2014-04-28.
- "'That Jew died for you' - the 'most tasteless YouTube video ever'?". Haaretz. 23 April 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-06-27.
- Jay Michaelson (17 April 2014). "When Jesus Died at Auschwitz". The Jewish Daily Forward. Archived from the original on 2015-03-17.
- Called to Controversy: The Unlikely Story of Moishe Rosen and the Founding of Jews for Jesus by Ruth Rosen (Thomas Nelson, 2012) ISBN 978-1-59555-491-8
- Not ashamed: The story of Jews for Jesus by Ruth Tucker (Multnomah Publishers, 2000) ISBN 978-1-57673-700-2
- Sentenced for Life: A Story of an Entry and an Exit into the World of Fundamentalist Christianity and Jews for Jesus by Jo Ann Schneider Farris (Writers Club Press, 2002) ISBN 0-595-24940-X
- Messianic Judaism: A rabbi's journey through religious change in America by Carol Harris-Shapiro (Beacon Press, 1999) ISBN 978-0-8070-1040-2
- Evangelizing the Chosen People: Missions to the Jews in America, 1880–2000 by Yaakov Ariel (The University of North Carolina Press, 1999) ISBN 0-8078-2566-2
- Hawking God. A Young Jewish Woman's Ordeal in Jews for Jesus by Ellen Kamentsky (Sapphire Press, 1993) An excerpt
- Jews for Jesus: An Anthropological Study by Juliene G. Lipson (AMS Press, 1990) ISBN 0-404-62605-X
- Smashing the Idols: A Jewish Inquiry into the Cult Phenomenon by Gary D. Eisenberg (Jason Aronson, 1988) ISBN 0-87668-974-8