They all begin to look alike after a while—the shops, the cafes, the decorative streets. You find them in every major city—meccas for bustling Friday and Saturday night crowds. They invite prominent businessmen and women dressed in Blass suits and Cardin ties, who go there seeking enjoyable reminiscense of times past and entertainment among others who enjoy a similar lifestyle. They invite teenagers who, pretending to be grown up, talk like adults and dress like sophisticates as though everyone were watching them.
Drug dealers go there, too. They are not the Bowery or downtown slum type. They are nouveau-class, yuppie affiliates who work the streets as undercover vendors, available to those who know and seek them, yet invisible to the unaware.
The people who congregate in these places on weekends are still looking for the answer to life. They think they can find it in designer clothing. They chase after it in the bars and dance halls.
They are unaware that the answer is Jesus, and that is where we Jews for Jesus enter the scene. Columbus Avenue or Greenwich Village in New York, Rush Street in Chicago, Westwood in Los Angeles and other similar gathering places throughout the country draw us because they provide us with arenas of spiritual responsibility.
We Jews for Jesus find an affinity between us and the folk who engage in these weekly vanity fairs. Most of us come from similar cultures. We heard the same music when we were growing up. We concerned ourselves with the same ideals and the same politics and politicians. We enjoyed and remember the same movies. These people are our” people.
The term our might sound strange, since most of the crowds are typically cosmopolitan, hence multi-ethnic and not necessarily Jewish. How then can those folk be “our” people? Consider some of our Jews for Jesus staff: I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home in Kansas City, Missouri. David Brickner grew up with Jewish Christian parents in Boston, Massachusetts. Stan Meyer had a reform Jewish background in San Antonio, Texas. Many of us grew up in New York with various degrees of faith. We American Jews today comprise a mixed bag of cultural and religious expressions. No single word can summarize American Jewry. Not all are religious. Not all attend synagogue every week. Not all keep kosher.
As we Jews for Jesus stand in those busy places handing out gospel tracts to the bustling crowds, we see people like those with whom we grew up. We share a similar past and understand their concerns and needs.
We are the same, yet because of Christ, we are different. And because of that significant difference, we can make a difference in their lives. Pray for us in Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and all across the country as we encounter “our” people and try to share God’s good love with them.
Bob Mendelsohn is the leader of Jews for Jesus' work in Sydney, Australia. He grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Kansas City, but became a college drop-out when he decided to look for the meaning of life in the counterculture of the '60s. He found meaning and relevance in Jesus which caused him much trouble at home. But he says, It was worth the cost." Bob has worked for Jews for Jesus since 1979, and served as the leader of our work in Washington DC and New York City before moving to Sydney in 1998. Bob and his wife Patty both graduated from the University of Kansas and Fuller Seminary. The Mendelsohns live in Sydney near their son. Their two daughters and one grandson live in the US.