A meeting of Jewish and Christian minds in Paris

A meeting of Jewish and Christian minds in Paris

Standing in back, Joshua Turnil, leader of Jews for Jesus Paris branch

A meeting of the minds took place between Jews and Christians in Paris the first weekend of October 2018. The group of 148 people completely packed out the room, brought together by a common concern: the problem of anti-Semitism in France.

The meeting was actually a colloquium on anti-Semitism, hosted by CNEF (stands for “National Council of Evangelicals of France”) of which Jews for Jesus is a member. The CNEF is the major umbrella agency of France’s evangelicals. Among the Christian speakers for the day-long colloquium were key church leaders, renowned theologians, seminary professors, and historians.

Among the Jewish speakers were Israel’s ambassador to Paris, the leading rabbi of the conservative Jewish movement in France, and the Israeli director of Keren haYasod, a group that sponsors trips to Israel specifically for the purpose of doing community service there. Musicians added an artistic note to the meeting, and refreshments encouraged people to congregate and enjoy conversation during breaks.

An appraisal of the current state of affairs in France underscored the need for Jews and evangelicals to lock arms and stand together against France’s climate of anti-Semitism. Etienne Lhermenault, the president of the CNEF, called the meeting a watermark event, and emphasized the need for another such conference with a wider, more national focus (this one was mainly focused on Paris).

What was especially encouraging about this conference was the freedom that everyone felt to be themselves and be true to their convictions. In many cases in the past, Christians who wanted to show friendship and support to the Jewish community had done so with the promise of keeping evangelism off the table. That was not the case at this meeting. Among those in attendance were Joshua Turnil, leader of our Paris branch, and his team. They were the only Jewish group who were followers of Jesus who received the same level of threat from anti-Semitic groups as other Jewish groups, and now has barricades in front of their offices as required by the French authorities.

Evangelism was not the point of the gathering, but the Jewish speakers who came understood that they were meeting with people who unashamedly believe in the lifesaving message that only Yeshua can bring. It was clear that this belief was part of the DNA of the Christian individuals and organizations represented. In an attitude of mutual respect, no one felt a need for anyone to hide or apologize for that belief.

Conversations between believers and non-believers in Jesus occurred during breaks, and many such conversations were spiritual in nature. The director of Keren haYasod expressed great enthusiasm in partnering with evangelical Christians who would like to volunteer for community service in Israel, knowing that such people would not try to press their belief in Jesus on anyone, but would freely share with any who were interested.

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