A Message from Squares”: The First Broadside”

It was 1969 and God was changing my heart. I found myself willing to be more vulnerable, wanting to relate to people one by one rather than preaching to crowds. Handing out tracts was one way to meet people, but I was uncomfortable with the choice of tracts. They were too preachy” to reach contemporary people.

It was in the midst of the hippie movement. Conventional people were called “squares.” A square was not “with it.” A square couldn’t roll with the Rolling Stones. A square was flat on six sides. And it was used as a term of derision by those who were “hip.”

I wanted to speak to those “hipsters”—the younger generation. So I wrote “A Message from Squares.” I signed it as Moishe Rosen (which is my real name—what my mother called me) because the chief of the mission where I was serving felt that the pamphlet would be an embarrassment to the organization if I used the name by which I was commonly introduced, Martin Rosen. I scrawled out my message with a flair pen, along with my own cover “illustration.” Then I got a very good price to print 5000 of the strangest looking tracts I’d ever seen.

After a week of distributing those pamphlets, I had an office full of hippies, who “just happened” to drop in. That was the beginning of the Jews for Jesus movement in 1969, and the new style of tracts eventually became a hallmark of the Jews for Jesus organization.

When I got to California, I knew that I needed someone to make the pamphlets more artistic, and I prayed that God would send a helper. Steffi Rubin nTe Geiser came to the Lord after attending one of our meetings in Berkeley, and proceeded to write dozens of pamphlets, adding whimsical characters to illustrate them. The hand scrawling became “calligraphy” and our tracts were really quite appealing.

We cranked them out by the thousands on an old gestetner (silk screen reproduction machine) and I knew that we would soon wear out the machine. So I prayed that God would provide another way for us to produce them. When some friends in ministry called to ask if we could use an old Chief 15 offset press, I didn’t know what it was or how to use it, but I accepted. Sam Nadler, who had come to faith shortly before, knew how to operate this small offset press and taught many of the early Jews for Jesus.

Pamphlets used during the Revolutionary War were called “broadsheets.” I liked that term but someone else started calling them “broadsides” and the term stuck.

I’ve since written a couple hundred of these tracts and many others have written some as well. To be a broadside, the tract must be good-natured, affirmative of the reader and contain humor. I’ve always tried to write from the vantage point of a nine-year-old boy, one who looks at the parade and comments that the Emperor, instead of being dressed in finery, is really in his underwear.

Jews for Jesus was incorporated in 1973, and as early as 1974 we had organized opposition who, among other things, produced counter-literature. They couldn’t get many people to take their pamphlets until they started using a format similar to broadsides—which they did in 1980. I remember one time a Jewish man approached me and asked, “Are these the pamphlets for Jesus or against Jesus?” And I said, “For Jesus, look at my T-shirt.” He said, “Oh good, I already know about against Jesus,” and he took one.

From the beginning, some have collected Jews for Jesus broadsides. Often when I was passing them out, people would come up to me, look at the broadside and say, “I’ve already got that one, do you have any new ones?” The broadside you see enclosed is now terribly outdated, but it was the first, a little piece of Jews for Jesus history that you might enjoy. Keep it if you’re a collector, if not toss it when you’re through…unless you know someone who still talks and thinks like a hippie from the sixties, in which case you just might pass it on!

More not-so-trivial-trivia

It’d be pretty difficult to “guestimate” how many millions of broadsides Jews for Jesus has hand-delivered to individuals over 25 years, but we can tell you that we have handed out over 44 million during our summer outreaches alone! Now if you took all those broadsides and laid them down end to end, you’d have 5,903 miles of gospel pamphlets—enough to stretch all the way from San Francisco to Paris.


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