QUESTION: Do you often have opportunities to witness to Orthodox Jewish people? Are they more difficult to reach? Are they more apt to give the gospel a hearing because they believe the Old Testament Scriptures?
ANSWER: It is not always those of Orthodox Jewish backgrounds who are the most open to the message of Yeshua. There is a common misconception that all Orthodox Jews know everything about the Old Testament, believe it literally from cover to cover and have a deep spiritual orientation. Orthodox Judaism is more often a commitment to tradition and liturgical practices than to a search for spiritual truths. Paradoxically, a less observant Jewish person might really be searching for spiritual understanding and a personal knowledge of God. Whenever anyone—Jew or Gentile, Orthodox or liberal—becomes interested in Yeshua, it is the work of the Holy Spirit.
We try to be as faithful as possible in presenting the gospel in its Jewish context to everyone we can reach. Some of those who respond come from Orthodox Jewish backgrounds, and some do not. Some are Jewish, and others are not.
Various religious backgrounds present various problems in evangelism. One of the problems involved in presenting the gospel to Orthodox Jewish people is their cultural and geographical insulation. Most Orthodox Jewish people live in tightly-knit communities. All their friends are usually other Orthodox Jews, and if they associate with non-Jews, it is usually only in the workplace or the marketplace.
We do not single out Orthodox Jewish people. If we undertook to distribute tracts at the door of a synagogue, that would be extremely offensive and would serve to close their minds to the gospel more than ever. Neither can we effectively hand out gospel literature in an entirely Jewish neighborhood, because most Orthodox Jewish people would not risk the stigma of being seen accepting a tract, even though they might be curious or interested in our message. That is one of the reasons we conduct summer witnessing campaigns and why they are so effective. Orthodox Jewish people—and others as well—feel more comfortable listening to a street message or accepting a gospel tract in the anonymity of a downtown commuter crowd or shopping area. They can take the literature inconspicuously and read it later in privacy. Then, of course, the outcome is in the Lord’s hands.