Received any harassing letters lately telling why you should reject faith in Jesus? The Jews for Jesus staff have been receiving unwanted and unwelcome mail. Some letters and literature are to annoy us, other communications are designed to dissuade us from our faith.
Perhaps you won’t be bothered with such mail, but it’s good to be informed and prepared, just in case. Anti-missionaries do not limit their mischief to harassing missionaries; any Jewish believer is a target. It’s important that we stand together and send a unified message to these self-appointed purveyors of the truth.”
Much of the mail comes from a group which calls itself “Jews for Judaism.” They have made direct or indirect use of a stolen list of our staff’s names, home addresses and phone numbers to do their mischief. It is unfortunate that so many of these anti-missionaries feel their ends justify certain unethical means. In order to “protect” Judaism, they do or encourage others to do what Judaism condemns.
The desperation these opposers display in adopting methods that break the eighth commandment is, in a sense, a tribute to our effectiveness in presenting the gospel to our fellow Jews. Opposition usually encourages us, and the dirty tricks to which we have been subjected show the superiority of Jesus’ ethics over the ethics and “religion” of those who oppose us.
Our master list of Jewish believers is so secure that even our own staff doesn’t have access. You need not worry about anyone stealing your name from us. You’d be surprised though, at the ways anti-missionaries obtain names and addresses. Some Jewish believers who are not alert to their lying and misrepresentation can be tricked pretty easily.
Someone who asks to be put in contact with Jewish believers for fellowship’s sake or to hear about Jesus may be a sincere seeker—then again, they may not. Do be careful about giving out your brothers’ and sisters’ names and phone numbers, and you might advise others in your congregation to do the same.
If you feel doubtful about someone who is looking to meet other Jewish believers, you can always refer them to us. We are glad to witness to those who are sincerely seeking, and to encourage any true believer. We’ve had a little more experience in dealing with these folks and might be able to sort out the sincere inquirers from those who want to do mischief. But if you do hear from anti- missionaries, the following might help you to handle them redemptively.
Anti-Missionaries: Who Are They?
A few anti-missionaries are actually paid by the Jewish community for their efforts to counteract the gospel. Organized opposition affirms the validity of our movement; it is evidence that the gospel is taking root in the hearts of our fellow Jews!
Anti-missionary groups operate on different levels. Some are “ecumenically-oriented.” They claim to build bridges between the Jewish and evangelical communities.
This goal is accomplished through “dialogues.”
For example, the American Jewish Committee has an “inter-religious affairs department” directed by Rabbi James Rudin. The department encourages Jewish-Evangelical “dialogues,” where differing opinions can supposedly be aired in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The dialogues seem harmless, but they are actually a manipulative way to gain a platform from which to denounce the work of Christ among Jews. This is evident in two volumes published in recent years by Baker Book House.1
The dialogues are deceptive and damaging because though they seldom lead to any serious discussion about Jesus, some believers unwittingly allow them to supplant the Christian responsibility of bringing the gospel to our people. This type of “dialogue” is no substitute for honest evangelism!
As for the purpose of dialogue, if it is to build bridges to understanding, why aren’t Jewish believers in Yeshua invited to participate? Because certain Jewish organizations who pay for many of these dialogues intend to alienate us from the rest of the Christian community. It is to their disadvantage for us to be present, since we would then be able to deal with their false allegations. The real goal of dialogue seems to be convincing Christians that it is anti-Semitic and unChristian to “proselytize” (an emotion-packed word misused to describe any attempt to tell Jewish people about Jesus). Let me illustrate with this astounding quote from Rabbi James Rudin:
I fully recognize the religious imperatives of evangelical Christians to carry out the Great Commission to witness to their faith. However, I do not believe that deception, misrepresentation and distortion are part of the Great Commission. When an evangelical church or institution affords a Hebrew Christian group a platform; when otherwise well-intentioned evangelical Christians make financial contributions to such groups; when evangelicals condone the duplicity of some Hebrew Christian [in other words, the Jews for Jesus] groups, such actions compromise the integrity of the authentic dialogue now underway between our two faith communities. I urge the evangelical community to end any support it may be giving to the Hebrew Christian groups. There is such a thing as authentic Judaism and authentic Christianity, but the Hebrew Christian groups are neither.2
That outrageous charge went unchallenged in a volume of essays published by a Christian publishing company!
Other groups are involved in more covert forms of anti-missionary work. The Jewish Community Relations Council is an umbrella organization for smaller groups nationwide. They sponsor a committee in New York City called “Me Task Force Against Missionaries and Cults.” Dr. Phillip Abramowitz is the salaried director of this committee.
I attended one of their seminars in Brooklyn a few years ago. Abramowitz and Rabbi Schoenfeld (the son of the rabbi whose synagogue I grew up in) seemed to be using scare tactics to manipulate the crowd of mostly elderly people. I was shocked by the “information” Dr. Abramowitz passed along to an uninformed, unsuspecting audience. They had no way of knowing he didn’t have any evidence to back his claims.
For example, in speaking of a Messianic congregation in Philadelphia, Abramowitz claimed that young members were building relationships with elderly Jews in the neighborhood for “sinister” purposes. I expected him to conclude, “They want to tell these older people about Jesus.” Instead he told them that these young people were befriending the elderly in order to be written into their wills. I was horrified! I could hardly believe that the leader of this task force would stoop so low as to frighten elderly people with such ridiculous disinformation.
Yehuda Fine, a psychologist who serves on the board of the Task Force Against Missionaries and Cults, spoke at the same meeting. He calls himself a family counselor, but his main responsibility to the Jewish Community Relations Council seems to be speaking to those involved in “cults” and such people as Jews for Jesus.
Rabbi Fine comes across as a loving and concerned individual. Yet, with all his “openness” and airs of kindness, Rabbi Fine’s goal is to rip Christianity out of the souls of Jewish believers and introduce them to his peculiar brand of Orthodoxy.
Opposers also use intimidation and harassment to counter Jews for Jesus’ gospel tracts, They interpose themselves between us and people who want our literature, but their rude behavior helps our image by contrast.
Jews for Judaism, from what we’ve seen, is a small, well-funded group. Their executive director, Rabbi Motty Berger, resides in Israel. The west coast director is Ben-Tzion Kravitz, a defector from the Chabad Lubavitch movement. Kravitz did not grow up in an Orthodox home but became involved at the University of Texas in Austin. He received some sort of training at an obscure Yeshiva and started using the title “Rabbi.”
Larry Levey is the Baltimore director of Jews for Judaism. Levey actually claimed to be a believer in Jesus. In fact, a Jews for Jesus missionary had supposedly led him to the Lord. But we questioned his spiritual stability and when he wanted to come on our Summer Witnessing Campaign, his application was rejected. Poor Larry couldn’t even get a recommendation from the missionary who had prayed with him to accept the Lord!
He moved on to Beth Messiah congregation in Rockville, Maryland, but Dan Juster (the spiritual leader of the congregation) also had doubts about Levey’s spiritual stability. Levey recently “renounced” the faith and now works full- time as an anti-missionary in the Baltimore area. He commends himself as an expert to others who want to stop Jews from hearing about Yeshua.
The Misconception of the Anti-Missionaries
Jewish community leaders, and sometimes even our own families, insist that believers in Yeshua have rejected Judaism and are now revilers of Jewish religion and culture,
Remember that much of the guilt heaped upon us is based on the misconception that if people believe in Jesus they are no longer Jewish. People who tell Jews about Jesus are therefore considered a threat to the Jewish community. But we can be committed to the preservation of the Jewish people without accepting that false premise.
It is God who will ultimately preserve the Jewish people and he will do so through Yeshua. We would be truly guilty if we refused to tell the Jewish people, or any people about him. We must not lull ourselves into forgetting that people are perishing, physically and spiritually, without the Messiah.
Mistaking the Motives of the Anti-Missionaries
It’s only natural for us to want to disprove the charge that we have turned our back on our people. Consequently, we are perhaps overly careful not to believe or say anything negative about Judaism, the Jewish people or Jewish leaders. Sometimes our idealism stretches to the point of naivet?.
It is difficult for most Jewish believers to be realistic about our opposers. We want to believe the best about them simply because they are Jewish. It’s just easier to imagine that they are misinformed, and that they are motivated by pure and lofty ideals. But is that really the case?
I can’t attribute much purity of motives to these self-appointed opponents because if their motives were pure, their methods would be moral. But the methods used against us are so putrid that people with pure motives would not be able to endure the stench of such tactics, much less put them into practice.
The Methods of the Anti-Missionaries
Telephone pranks (often obscene) are one of the milder anti-missionary methods. Jews for Judaism actually published our toll-free number (not given for public use) to invite their newsletter readers to harass us. A number of Jewish people who called ended up willing to study and consider God’s Word after they talked to Moishe. Yes, Moishe answered those calls himself because he remembers how antagonistic he once was to the gospel. But remember that Moishe Rosen has been a believer for over 30 years and has had extensive experience as a missionary. We would not recommend that you try this.
Magazine subscriptions (also obscene) seem to be a favorite with the anti-missionaries. They sent Moishe and Ceil Rosen a subscription to Gallery magazine (a pornographic publication). The subscription was addressed to Ceil. In keeping with their standards of harassing women and children, next they sent a subscription of Playboy magazine to 6-year-old Nathaniel Mendelsohn (the son of one of our senior missionaries in New York).
Victimizing children is not only immoral—it is cowardly. Yet that is exactly the tack recently taken against our Los Angeles branch. Opposers were demonstrating at the open house celebration for our new facility. Frustrated with their inability to harass adults, they began screaming at the children of one of our missionary couples. They shouted that the children weren’t Jewish and that they (the opposers) would take them away from their parents to give them a “real” Jewish upbringing. Of course, this could, and did, frighten a four-year-old. Certain groups tend to attract social deviants who pose as defenders of Judaism in order to justify hostility and bullyish behavior.
That’s not the end of their chicanery. Someone placed an ad in the personals of a “sex newspaper offering the services of one of our missionary’s wives for every manner of sexual perversion.
Anti-missionaries are notorious for fabricating all sorts of things—not just orders for magazine subscriptions and false advertising. They produced letters and pamphlets written under names of spiritual leaders like Harvey Koelner, Moishe Rosen, Alan Kurzweil and Baruch Goldstein. The literature claimed that these people had renounced the faith and it used their names to condemn all efforts to tell Jewish people about Jesus. These slanderous statements are spiritual pornography. They are a slimy attempt to cast suspicion among believers.
The cruelty these anti-missionaries are capable of was vividly portrayed when they began harassing a sister on our staff who had breast cancer. Their behavior toward her is an embarrassment to Judaism. It demonstrates a moral bankruptcy which should convince every Jewish believer to disregard the sugary sweet pleadings they sometimes use to disguise their poison.
This sister’s cancer had progressed to the necessity of a mastectomy. Somehow, Larry Levey of Jews for Judaism found out about her situation. His next photocopied harassment letter to her home included a personal note of concern regarding her surgery. In light of the rest of his letter, it was like honey dripping from the mouth of a cobra!
Another “anti-missionary” sent a letter stating that God had brought the disease upon this woman because of her belief in Jesus and profession as a missionary. A short time later, she received a notice of subscription along with a bill for Playboy magazine. Instead of her name, they had substituted a couple of words on the mailing label to mock her surgery.
Other pornographic magazines came similarly addressed and when we brought it to the attention of the companies promoting the pornographic magazines, even they were embarrassed and outraged at how they were being used to ridicule a cancer victim.
If anti-missionaries represented the high and noble ideals of the Jewish religion, they would not involve themselves in such disgusting and twisted activities.
It is hard to say what motivates people. Anti-missionaries have left open evidence of their pranks, but motives are in the heart, which only God can know for certain. Although we can’t state their motives unequivocally, we can offer some practical insights.
Perhaps someone like Larry Levey feels a need to justify why he left the faith. As you know, it isn’t easy being a Jewish believer. Some people just can’t handle the cost. The feelings of rejection and the pain of being misunderstood are, for some, too high a price to pay even for the truth. Conversely, there is considerable status awarded to any Jewish believer who betrays Christianity. Levey gained status by rejecting Yeshua and by harassing Jewish believers.
There is also the matter of remuneration. Anti-missionaries don’t usually perform their “services” for free. The Jewish community is convinced that belief in Jesus is a threat to survival. They feel obligated to give money to those who claim they can alleviate the supposed threat. I thought twice about writing this article because I know anti-missionaries will find a way of promoting themselves by wrenching my words out of context for fund-raising purposes. But I concluded that my responsibility is to speak openly about things which may concern the mishpochah—why should I concern myself with the few anti-missionaries who receive this letter? I know their own deceit will be their undoing.
Another possible motivation is as ancient as the Gospel of John. Chapter nine tells what happened when Jesus healed a man who was born blind. By then, some of the Jewish leadership had decided that anyone who believed that Jesus came from God would be put out of the synagogue. When the blind man testified that Jesus was indeed from God (John 9:30-33), the leaders replied, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us? Then they put him out” (John 9:34).
This was not even a controversy over Jesus’ deity, but simply whether or not his miracle was valid, and if he was sent from God. Jesus was a threat, not to Judaism, but to the religious structure of the day. Anyone who followed him did so at the risk of excommunication.
Things haven’t changed. If the Messiah has come, he has authority over the religious establishment, and all Jews and Gentiles should repent and receive him as King of their lives. We are not a threat to the preservation of the Jewish people, but to the system which keeps those who oppose us in power! And so, like the blind man whom Jesus healed, we are excluded from the Jewish community. This hurts those of us who sincerely wish to be included, and we must guard that wish, lest it be exploited.
Our Response to the Anti-Missionaries
Would you take a letter seriously, knowing the sender had obtained your address-either directly or indirectly from a stolen document? Neither would we! You can’t speak a moral message by immoral means. Keep some of the pranks they’ve pulled in mind, and you’ll see the sense of disregarding any mail you might receive from anti-missionaries.
In addition to the spurious methods of obtaining mailing lists, their literature tends to be superficial. The way they twist Scripture is ludicrous. Their logic, as well as their literary style, seems designed to indoctrinate young children who would not investigate these matters on their own.
You might think their goal is to “win us back to the fold,” but this is not usually the case! They hope to intimidate us into keeping quiet about our faith, or if that does not work, they will content themselves with attempts to cause us distress. The cruelty of their mischief speaks for itself.
Sometimes these people approach our missionaries while we are handing out tracts. They often begin with flattery: “You seem more intelligent than your friends—more reasonable. Maybe we can talk.” But once the missionary proves unresponsive, the mask drops and the anti-missionaries quickly revert to threats, abusive language, and acts of pubescent cruelty.
Can we do anything to witness to these people? Yes, but not in the way you might think. You can’t witness to a person who has no respect for you. If you can win their respect at all, it will be by showing that you know who they are and what they are doing…and by making it clear that you are not going to play their game. The first step in responding to the anti-missionaries is refusing to interact.
Interaction with anti-missionaries is fruitless because they are not interested in what you have to say. Don’t let pride trap you into thinking that somehow you will be God’s chosen instrument to help them see the light. They are only talking to you because they have a job to do on you. If they cannot shake your faith, they will settle for wasting your time.
When you refuse to interact, most anti-missionaries will try to bait you into responding with questions like: “What are you afraid of?” “Are you afraid to talk to me?” “Moishe Rosen told you not to talk to me?” They are not even curious about the answers to these questions; they are trying to annoy you into entering a discussion you didn’t want.
Questions like “prove that you are sincere,” or “prove that you are still Jewish,” are hard to ignore because they appeal to a desire to be understood and accepted by our own people. But responding to this type of badgering will not bring understanding. Giving sincere answers to phony questions is a mistake.
If we let them, anti-missionaries will take advantage of our desire for the approval of our families and friends. They suddenly become warm and sympathetic. They say they accept us no matter what we believe. Then they ask us to prove our sincerity by showing them a reasonable basis for believing in Jesus. Of course, they fail to mention that they have appointed themselves to judge what constitutes a “reasonable basis.” In fact, they are not only the judge, but the jury as well! Later you discover they are also the prosecuting attorney whose purpose it is to humiliate you in a court of confusion.
It’s hard to refuse to talk about Jesus to someone who seems like they really want to know about him. Just remember that an anti-missionary who experiences a change of heart and really wants to know the gospel will not approach just anybody. He or she will seek out a missionary or minister who is experienced and has had a thorough theological education. It is easy to flatter ourselves or allow ourselves to be flattered when an ant-missionary shows a supposed willingness to discuss spiritual matters with us. I have even heard the line, “You are the only person I can really talk to about this.” Let’s not allow ourselves to be patronized and manipulated.
These people often begin with a “sweetness and light” approach, and their sympathy and attentiveness can be gratifying. It makes us feel good. But it is a seduction, and the apostle Paul said to Timothy, “Flee youthful lusts!” (II Tim 2:22). That does not apply only to sexual temptation. Anti-missionaries will appeal to our pride and offer acceptance while many of us are still hurting because family and friends treat us like traitors or fools. The goal of this seduction is to persuade us to loosen our grip on the truth—the method is to tempt us to reach for the pleasures of approval.
Another reason to refuse interaction with anti-missionaries is the fact that they have an agenda. They are like Jehovah’s Witnesses. When the Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your door, they have a goal. If they can just get you to take a piece of literature (even if you only take it to get rid of them) they consider that an achievement. They draw encouragement and satisfaction from it.
Likewise, even if your response is to send a terse or angry letter to an anti-missionary, they are pleased that they have evoked a reaction. Your response is chalked up as an achievement. Those “achievements” help to fund the anti-missionaries; they will publish your angry letter or earnest response as evidence that they are really interacting. As the story of your interaction is repeated, you would be amazed by the creative embellishments which show how you were so stupid and they were so smart. Why should we present ourselves to be used in this way? It is one thing to be abused for the sake of the gospel; it is another to be abused for the sake of raising funds to help the opposition.
It’s hard to know how to respond to anti-missionaries if you don’t know how to recognize them. They seldom present themselves as anti-missionaries. They are “specialists” whom your well-intentioned parents or family rabbi will ask to contact you. They might present themselves as family counselors, as Yehuda Fine often does in New York City. They might just be a sympathetic stranger, or a friend of a friend who lends an understanding ear.
Jesus told us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. We must recognize a wolf, especially when it is dressed in sheep’s clothing. Any time you are asked to speak to someone with a special understanding of your position, you should know you are probably being set up.
I began this article with the hope that Jewish believers will present a united stand toward anti-missionaries. If you decline interaction with the anti-missionaries and another Jewish believer declines interaction, and another—they might get bored and involve themselves with more constructive activities.
It would be nice if they could make better use of the Jewish community’s money by helping Soviet Jews emigrate to Israel instead of trying to harass and intimidate Jewish believers in Jesus. Make no mistake, as long as there are Jewish believers who are willing to interact with anti-missionaries, they will use your involvement to keep raising funds to do their dirty work.
So if you do meet up with anti-missionaries, whether by mail, by phone, or in person, try to keep the good of the whole mishpochah in mind by not adding fuel to the anti-missionaries’ fire.
But after refusing to interact, there is a second response to the anti-missionaries. We are responsible to pray for them. If you read their material carefully, you’ll see that they are presenting a ” nega-Judaism.” In other words, they have nothing positive to say about Judaism, other than an occasional promise of warm fuzzy feelings if you’ll celebrate Shabbat.
Most of their message is negative; instead of telling how and why it is terrific to be an Orthodox Jew, they go on and on about how stupid it is to believe in Jesus. If the God of Israel were central in their brand of Judaism, they would not need to resort to mud-slinging to attract people “back to the fold.”
How should we respond if we see anger in them? Just remember that many of us were also angry before we knew the Lord. Prayer is a powerful weapon, only instead of harming our enemies, it allows us to counter their attacks with love.
The third response is rejoice! God is moving in our people’s hearts; otherwise, there would be no reason for attempts to prevent us from preaching the gospel. We don’t enjoy the attacks, but we do enjoy the blessing of God when we are persecuted for his name’s sake. That is one of the big differences between us and the anti-missionaries. We know the Lord; we have rivers of living water flowing from our souls and we can rejoice even in the negative and sometimes cruel circumstances of our lives.
A Word of Caution:
I hope this article won’t cause anyone to close out people who are sincerely interested in the gospel. Let me end with some tips on how to recognize a sincere seeker.
- A sincere seeker will be able to honestly pray, “God of Israel, show me the truth and if Jesus is the Messiah I am willing to believe in him.”
- A sincere person will read the Bible with you.
- A sincere seeker will listen when you answer their questions. That doesn’t mean they will agree, but they will really hear you and weigh what you say.
- Sincere people ask questions because they are looking for answers, not because they are looking for a way to “stump” you. If someone asks “rapid fire” questions, and uses each answer as a platform for another question, they don’t want to learn from you, they want to teach you.
- A sincere seeker is interested in deciding what they should believe, not what you should believe. They will not expect you to reciprocate by learning “more about your own Judaism.” Anyone who wants to play a game of “let’s make a deal,” is not genuinely interested.
If we keep alert and prayerful, if we guard against our own pride, it will not be difficult to discern who is sincerely open to our witness and who is not. Let’s keep our eyes open and our hearts ready for real opportunities to share the love of Yeshua.
- The first volume is entitled Evangelicals and Jews in Conversation and the second is Evangelicals and Jews in an Age of Pluralism (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984).
- Evangelicals and Jews in an Age of Pluralism, edited by Marc Tanenbaum, Marvin Wilson, A. James Rudin (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984), p. 42-43.