Sunday, August 29, 2004

Jews for Jesus targets the Detroit and Ann Arbor Jewish communities


Special to the Jewish News

An international effort targeting Jews and Judaism is coming to metro Detroit and Ann Arbor Sept. 3-24. And no matter how much you try to avoid them, the “Jews for Jesus” will be working hard to make sure you can’t.

“The goal is to make Y’shua (Jesus) an unavoidable issue,” says local co-leader of the effort, Loren Jacobs, whose congregants at the “Messianic” Congregation Shema Yisrael in Bloomfield Township call him rabbi. According to Jacobs, local “Messianic Jews” and members of supportive Christian congregations as well as Jews for Jesus missionaries from other states will be arriving to share the message that “believing in Jesus is the most Jewish thing a Jewish person can do.”


The U-M Hillel is also preparing for the campaign, says Hillel Assistant Director Rabbi Jason Miller.

“Historically, they have been successful at targeting college students,” he says. “They know how highly impressionable college students can be.”

During Ad Hoc Committee meetings, “the discussion focused on the difficulty of denouncing the JFJ effort without aiding in their publicity effort,” says Rabbi Miller. “We Jewish leaders do not want to do for JFJ what the conservative media did for Michael Moore’s film [Fahrenheit 9-11].”

“Rather than devising our own strategy to combat the BYG campaign, [Hillel] will follow the Jews for Judaism playbook” by printing its “7 Answers to Jews for Jesus” brochure [see sidebar] to distribute at all of its welcome-back events this fall.

“We will make students aware of the upcoming JFJ campaign through our e-mail network,” says Rabbi Miller, who will address the subject during his Rosh Hashanah sermon. “We have over 1,500 students attend services here, but we also need to reach the unaffiliated students who will not likely attend holiday services.”

Community leaders are confident the BYG campaign will not succeed and may be less extensive than in other cities. But they are prepared for whatever might occur and are flexible enough to adapt.

Again, the consensus is expressed clearly in Schiffman’s document: “Hebrew Christianity constitutes a profound challenge to the Jewish community with its heritage of open mindedness and its desire to embrace all Jews no matter how close or how far from our tradition. Yet there are times when a line must be drawn, when a barrier must be erected.

“Our history tells us that when confronted with Jews who have adopted another faith and who seek to lure others to follow that same path, we must stand firm in asserting that this other faith is not Judaism; and that its adherents, even if of Jewish status, forfeit their privileges as Jews.

“How much more so is this the case when our ancient rabbis already confronted the very same phenomenon in the form of Jewish Christianity and pronounced it loudly and clearly to be another faith, and when our modern rabbis stand united behind these principles.”

No comments: