Proselytization and counter-proselytization of Jews

Proselytization and counter-proselytization of Jews

A number of, particularly Christian and Muslim, religious groups are involved in proselytization of Jews, attempts to recruit, or "missionize" Jews to abandon Judaism. Additionally, there are a number of Jewish counter-missionary and anti-missionary organizations that oppose proselytism by missionaries who work to convert Jews to other faiths and religions.

There are established Jewish counter-missionary organizations that discourage practicing as well as non-practicing Jews from converting to other religions, most often Christianity.[1][2] These groups can be found within all Jewish denominations.


Christian missions to Jews

A number of Christian denominations have programs to reach Jews.[3]

The JTA, a Jewish news service, conducted an extensive analysis of Christian efforts to convert Jews to Christianity,[4] and found that some of the largest evangelical denominations – the Southern Baptists, the Assemblies of God, and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod – have all increased their efforts to evangelize Jews in the recent past.

The article states that the Christian missionary organization Jews for Jesus completed a five-year tour called "Behold Your God" that brought its message to 53 cities worldwide, and the Christian Chosen People Ministries saw its income grow by 31 percent to $7.9 million between 2003 and 2006. Since 1993, Phoenix-based Jewish Voice Ministries International has drawn 500,000 people to festivals and concerts aimed at evangelizing Jews in Eastern Europe, South America and India.

Jews for Judaism[5] a Jewish counter-missionary group, writes that there are over 900 Christian groups in North America actively involved in missionizing the Jewish people.

Jews for Judaism further states that these groups are currently spending over $250 million per year on efforts to convert Jews to Christianity. Jews for Jesus, the best known single ministry to the Jews, spent over $15 million in 2008.[6] The Assemblies of God has an extensive organization targeting Jews for conversion to Christianity.[7]

In Israel

Israel has more than one hundred Messianic congregations, per Yaakov Shalom Ariel, associate professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, and author of Evangelizing The Chosen People.[4]

Proselytizing is legal in the country and missionaries of all religious groups are allowed to proselytize all citizens; however, a 1977 law prohibits any person from offering material benefits as an inducement to conversion. It was also illegal to convert persons under 18 years of age unless one parent were an adherent of the religious group seeking to convert the minor. Despite the legality of proselytism, the government has taken a number of steps that encouraged the perception that proselytizing is against government policy. For example, the MOI has detained individuals suspected of being “missionaries,” and required of such persons bail and a pledge to abstain from missionary activity, in addition to refusing them entry into the country. It maintained denunciations of such activity from antimissionary groups like Yad L'Achim in its border control databases. The MOI has also cited proselytism as a reason to deny student, work, and religious visa extensions, as well as to deny permanent residency petitions. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) promised the Knesset in 1986 to refrain from all proselytism voluntarily in conjunction with receiving a building permit for its Jerusalem Center following protests from the Orthodox community.

A 2010 US State Department report on religious freedom in Israel[8]

Jews for Jesus and Martin "Moishe" Rosen

A leading effort to convert Jews to Christianity is known as Jews for Jesus. It was founded by Martin "Moishe" Rosen, a Jew who grew up in a non-observant home, converted to Christianity, and was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1957. In 1973, Rosen left the employment of the American Board of Missions to the Jews, now called Chosen People Ministries, to incorporate a separate mission which became known as Jews for Jesus ministries. In 1986 he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon. Jews for Jesus is now led by David Brickner, who has been working for the organization since 1977. [9]

Muslim missions to Jews

Muslims have also targeted Jews for conversion.[10] Rabbi Moshe Cohen, of Yad L’Achim, an Israel-based Counter-Missionary organization,[11] has identified Al Dawaa, an Israeli-based Muslim group headed by Sheikh Abu Yassin of Kfar Manda.[12]

Jewish Population

The worldwide Jewish population is 13.3 million. In 2001, 8.3 million lived outside Israel and 4.9 million in Israel. About half of the world’s Jews reside in the Americas, with about 46 percent in North America.[13]

In North America, up to 72% of Jews marry non-Jews[14] Inter-marriage rates have risen from roughly 6% in 1950 to approximately 40%–50% in the year 2000.[15] Harris Interactive has conducted a survey indicating that 52% of American Jews do not believe in God.[16] Though inter-marriage and secular upbringing, fewer Jews practice Judaism, as Jews convert to other religions, or abandon religion.

The foremost sociologist of American Jewry, Marshall Sklare, wrote: "Many intermarried parents declare ... that upon maturity their child will have the right to choose his own identity. This generally means that his identity will be with the majority group. Only if the child has formed a particularly strong identification with the parent who is Jewish will he be motivated to integrate into the minority community. The majority of the children of intermarried Jews, then, will be Gentiles. ...".[17]

Today, of the approximately 6 million ethnic Jews in the United States, about 2 out of 3 either do not identify themselves Jewishly or maintain an affiliation with a synagogue. Of 5.6 million Jews, 2 million American Jews live in households identified as non-Jewish. 60% of Jews below 40 years of age live in households identified as non-Jewish. Since 1985, 52% of Jews who married have done so outside the faith. 1 million, or 54%, of all American Jewish children under the age of 18 are being raised as non-Jews or with no religion. In 1962, 540,000 Jewish children were attending afternoon or weekend schools, and 60,000 were enrolled in day schools. By 1990, fewer than 240,000 Jewish children attended afternoon or weekend schools, and 140,000 attended day schools, a net loss of 220,000 Jewish children. Of the population that consists of people who were born Jewish and are Jewish by choice, only 11% attend synagogue weekly.[18]

Jewish response

Jewish counter-missionary organizations respond to these efforts by offering personal counseling, web sites with articles addressing common missionary tactics, and discussion forums where Jews who have questions about the differences between Judaism and other religions can be answered by observant Jews.[19]

The combination of Jewish apathy, as witnessed by secular (non-Jewish) lifestyles and inter-marriage with non-Jews—and the massive efforts to convert Jews to Christianity—is causing Jews to assimilate and leave Judaism behind. The Jewish response is primarily in the form of Jewish outreach and education[citation needed].

Some Jewish resources are specifically aimed at countering efforts the missionary efforts aimed at Jews.

  • Jews for Judaism is an international organization that provides a wide variety of counseling services, along with education, and outreach programs that enable Jews of all ages to rediscover and strengthen their Jewish heritage. Jews for Judaism has offices in Baltimore, Toronto, Los Angeles, Australia and South Africa.[20] On their website, Jews for Judaism offers many articles discussing missionary tactics towards Jews,[21] approaches by Mormons,[22] Jehovah's Witnesses[23] and various "proof texts" and other arguments often used by missionaries as they evangelize Jews.[24]
  • Messiah Truth[25] is another counter missionary organization which includes articles countering both Christianity[26] and Islam[27] under the heading of "Knowing Your Own Orchard." Messiah Truth also sponsors an educational site, the Virtual Yeshiva[28] including Why Jews Must Reject the Belief in Jesus,[29] Isaiah 7:14 (virgin birth),[30] and Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant.[31] The Messiah Truth organization also offers an interactive forum where Jews may ask questions about Judaism or missionary arguments and be answered by Jewish experts including Rabbis, Yeshiva instructors, and Hebrew professors.[19]
  • Outreach Judaism,[32] a site run by Rabbi Tovia Singer. Outreach Judaism is an international organization that responds directly to the issues raised by missionaries and cults, by exploring Judaism in contradistinction to fundamentalist Christianity. Outreach Judaism provides full-time, multi-level informational resources.

There are other counter-missionary resources. Rabbi Moshe Shulman has responded to specific missionaries who target Jews, including Michael Brown,[33] Rachmiel Frydland, Risto Santala, and David Stern (author of the Christian "Complete Jewish Bible").[34] Rabbi Shulman's website offers scholarly articles on the mis-use of the Targums, Midrash and Talmud by non-Jews who quote from Jewish sources in an attempt to convert Jews.[35]

Yad L'Achim in Israel

In Israel the leading Counter-Missionary organization is Yad L'Achim (Hebrew: יד לאחים‎) which is an Jewish organization operating in Israel focusing on outreach and counter-missionary activity. Yad L'Achim is made up of both paid staff and volunteers, and is largely supported by donations both from Israel and the diaspora.[36] In addition to Yad L'Achim, Shomrei Emet Institute [37] works in Israel serving the English-speaking population. Shomrei Emet is run by Penina Taylor, a counter-missionary, who, although born Jewish, was a missionary herself for seventeen years before returning to Judaism.

See also


  1. ^ David Cho, "Conversion Outreach Plan Stirs Outrage: Jews for Jesus Trains 600 for Street Work", The Washington Post, August 17, 2004; Page B01 full text
  2. ^ "Aishdas Torahnet". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  3. ^ "Evangelizing the Jews". 2008-06-16. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  4. ^ a b Yeoman, Barry (2007-11-15). "JTA, Inc". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  5. ^ "Jews for Judaism". 2011-01-17. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ Who are The Assemblies of God, and what do they have to do with the Jews?
  8. ^ Israel and the occupied territories, International Religious Freedom Report; BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND LABOR. US Department of State. 7 Nov 2010. Retrieved 2011-08-23
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Jews for Allah". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  11. ^ "yad leachim". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  12. ^ "New Danger: Muslim Missionaries". 2007-11-21. Retrieved 2011-01-21. [dead link]
  13. ^ "World Jewish population". Simple to Remember. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  14. ^ "Intermarriage, Why Not?". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  15. ^ "JEWS : Religious, Cultural, and Communal Life". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  16. ^ "Guess Who Doesn’t Believe In God?". Simple to Remember. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  17. ^ America’s Jews (New York: Random House, 1971), p. 202
  18. ^ "Jewish Intermarriage Statistics". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  19. ^ a b "Messiah Truth Discussion Forums". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  20. ^ Jews for Judaism
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Proof Texts
  25. ^ "Messiah Truth". Messiah Truth. 2001-05-25. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  26. ^ "Christianity Analysis". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  27. ^ "Analysis of Islam". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  28. ^ "Counter Missionary". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  29. ^ "Reject Jesus". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  30. ^ "Isaiah 7:14 – An Accurate Grammatical Analysis [Part I & II". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  31. ^ "Isaiah 53 – Who Is the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53? [Part I". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  32. ^ "Judaism's response to Christian missionaries". Outreach Judaism. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  33. ^ "Michael Brown". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  34. ^ "Lies Damned Lies and What the Missionaries Claim the Rabbis say". 1996-02-22. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  35. ^ "Judaism's Answer". Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  36. ^ "About our Staff". 2010-12-23. Retrieved 2011-01-21. [dead link]
  37. ^ []

Further reading

External links

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