Back in 1969 when I was employed by another mission board, I realized that those of us who were involved in Jewish evangelism were talking more to ourselves than to those we were trying to reach. God had shown me that in order to succeed I must make myself vulnerable and easily accessible. I must leave the confines of my comfortable office in west-side Manhattan and get out among unbelievers where they could hear what I believed and listen to what I wanted to say to them.
To accomplish this I decided on a two-fold plan. I would experiment with a new form of gospel tract that contained just a short, pithy message; and I would make it easy for any interested reader to find me and talk to me.
Those were the days of protest, when people were pegged either hip” (modern, free-thinking) or “square” (standard, establishment-oriented). I thought the hippies, many of whom were Jewish, might be more open to new ideas, so I wrote a short piece directed to that group titled “A Message from Squares.” Instead of putting down hippies, I described what I admired about them. Then I wrote briefly about Jesus being the Jewish Messiah and Savior for everyone and invited a response.
I wanted to have my newly-designed tract typeset and printed for distribution, but that was not to be. In those days before desktop publishing, typesetting was expensive. My mission board, which was less than enthused from the start with my unorthodox idea, turned down my new tract for printing.
They did say that I could try to distribute the tract if I would accede to two conditions. I must use my own money to duplicate it, and to avoid embarrassing the mission, I must not identify myself on it as mission staff.
I agreed to the conditions and set to work. With a black flair pen I drew a block figure and scrawled my message on a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper. Instead of Martin Rosen, I signed Moishe, the Jewish name by which my mother always called me, and I put down the telephone number where I could be reached. Then out of my own pocket I paid for mimeographing the first 5,000 of those tracts. I folded them into the rectangular shape we now call “broadsides” and distributed them in Greenwich Village where many of the hippies hung out.
No one had ever seen literature like that. Unlike the ponderous, solemn gospel literature most people usually refused or threw away without reading, my brief, punchy message piqued curiosity. People took the tracts, read them and responded in droves by telephone and in person.
I had let everyone at the mission know that if anyone telephoned or came in to see Moishe Rosen, that was me! I would interrupt whatever I was doing to talk to that person. The receptionist and elevator operator had orders to put all such calls through to my extension and to bring any inquirers (no matter how unkempt) upstairs to my office.
I ended up with wall-to-wall long-haired, be-denimed hippie inquirers in my office, and I had the time of my life telling them about Jesus. That was the precursor of what later became our Jews for Jesus outreach in San Francisco.