Jews for Jesus” started out as an experiment in communications.
I was a missionary with the American Board of Missions to the Jews in New York when a zealous new believer took out an ad in the Village Voice. The ad said, “We are a group of Jews for Jesus who meet at _____ and all are welcome.”
She thought I’d be very pleased but I wasn’t—at first. Ministry has boundaries and the Village Voice was the voice of homosexuals, dissidents, free love advocates and hippies. It was not respectable.
“Why didn’t you take out an ad in the New York Times?” I asked her. “Because it was too expensive,” she said. “Besides, we’re supposed to go to sinners.” To my knowledge, that was the first time the term “Jews for Jesus” had been used.
Before long, I decided to move to San Francisco to be part of what God was doing toward the end of “the Jesus revolution.” Another Jewish believer who also wanted to be part of the happening showed up with the slogan “Jews for Jesus” embroidered on his denim jacket. I decided to see what would happen if we turned the slogan into a tract, enhanced by the use of posters. The idea was to create a mystery.
We reworked a tract that was originally called “Gentiles for Jesus.” One volunteer knew how to make silkscreen posters and gave me a list of supplies, including 15 x 18 inch newsprint. I only wanted 100 posters, but I couldn’t find a pad of 100 sheets of the required newsprint, so I bought a pad of 500. I figured she’d make 100 posters and leave the rest of the paper for another time.
Lana, our silkscreener, did the work in a big basement with no windows. She worked all night long. In the morning she was dizzy from the fumes, but she had gone through the entire pad and we had five times as many posters as I expected!
Four of us went out at 11 o’clock at night. We took our homemade posters, wheat paste, rollers, a squeegee and a little step ladder to the campus of San Francisco State University. We figured the best place to put up posters would be where posters had already been put up…so we put up our posters over every other poster we saw. It was actually pretty easy.
When we ran out of places to put posters we went to Berkeley and continued putting them up all along Telegraph Avenue. We finished our work at the kiosks on campus. It took most of the night and we used all but 50 of the posters.
A week later, I was handing out tracts at San Francisco State and a guy asked me, “How many of you are there?” I said, “I may be fat, but there is just one of me.” He said, “No, I mean your organization.” I said, “What organization? It’s just me; there is no organization.” A rumor had started that there were Jews for Jesus all over the campus. Somehow, they couldn’t tell the difference between people and posters. So this guy kept insisting I tell him how many Jews for Jesus there were. “It is just a slogan,” I told him. Then I witnessed to him.
Little did I know that he was the reporter from the student newspaper. The next thing I know, there’s a front-page article about this new sect that is so secret, the members deny it exists. And once people read about the secret agency in the newspaper, they just knew it existed.
I spent the next couple of months denying that there was a Jews for Jesus organization. But more reporters started coming to me and the more we talked, the more sure people became that there was such a thing as “Jews for Jesus.”
Then one day in the mail I received a check made out to “Jews for Jesus.” I didn’t know what to do with the check, so I sent it in to the mission office in New York.
Later, I asked them what they did with it. They deposited it and sent the man a receipt. I asked, “Did the check clear?” and they said it did. So I said, “Well, I guess there is such a thing as Jews for Jesus, at least the bank thinks so.”
Eventually I parted ways with the mission and our little rag tag group incorporated as a new mission called “Hineni Ministries.” However (and this was probably God’s grace) people wouldn’t stop calling us Jews for Jesus. So we accepted it as our identity and the name of our organization—and it has been one of our greatest blessings.