(*Mishegoss is a Jewish word for foolishness or craziness)
We try to bring you items of interest concerning Jewish people and Jewish evangelism. In fact, sometimes it is the other way around!
Recently two friends who support Jews for Jesus pointed out a piece that appeared on March 28, 2005 in Arutz Sheva” at israelnationalnews.com. The piece is entitled, “An Exchange with a Missionary” in which a rabbi purports to have had a conversation with a Jews for Jesus missionary.
To find out how Jews for Jesus do NOT conduct themselves, and to follow the gist of this editorial, we hope you will read the piece for yourself.
Perhaps there is an outside chance that the rabbi did have this type of exchange with someone who claimed to be on our staff and wasn’t, but frankly, we seriously doubt any encounter ever happened the way the rabbi described it.
Executive Director David Brickner wrote to the columnist, Rabbi Aron Moss, to ask where, when, and with whom this supposed interaction took place. In his letter, David told the rabbi, “The conversation you reported does not reflect the kind of answers or responses you would receive from a trained Jews for Jesus missionary. If you would care to know what our response to your questions might be I would be more than happy to interact with you . . .”
The rabbi wrote back, stating that the interaction had taken place “several years ago on a college campus” and that he “didn”t get the guy”s name.” David wrote back asking if the rabbi could tell him which college campus and how many years ago. He also commented wryly on the rabbi’s selective memory, seeing as he published the “conversation” as though he were reiterating it word for word. At the time of this writing, David has received no further clarification from the rabbi.
Meanwhile, we sent a letter to the editor, offering the opportunity to satisfy their journalistic integrity by allowing us to reply to the rabbi’s misrepresentation of our organization.
Incredibly, the editor wrote back to say, “We follow journalistic practice by allowing comments from the public on our news stories and op-eds, but not on Torah pieces.” He further explained that the Torah is too sacred to be left open for comment by anyone who happened to read it. We wrote back, expressing dismay that the editor characterized the rabbi”s misrepresentation of us as Torah.
We understand that the editor has a vested “non-interest” in what we have to say about Rabbi Moss”s supposed conversation with one of our missionaries. But we thought that you might be interested, and so we asked Jews for Jesus Founder Moishe Rosen for his reflections, which were as follows:
I believe that most rabbis conduct themselves with integrity. But those who set out to combat missionaries have very few tools and must resort to discrediting the messenger as a way to justify ignoring the Gospel message.
That is what Rabbi Aron Moss appears to be doing in his piece, “An Exchange with a Missionary.” In what I regard as a blatant fabrication, he reports a Jews for Jesus missionary beginning a conversation with the statement, “Rabbi, do you know that you will only be saved when you accept Jesus as the Messiah?”
No missionary in his right mind would begin with a leading question like that because the only answer could be “yes” or “no.” If the answer is “yes,” then it should be the rabbi who’s doing the witnessing, because he knows Christ. If the answer is “no,” it’s the beginning of a quarrel.
The way that a real missionary would begin a conversation would be to say, “Let me ask you a question. What do you think about Jesus? Who do you think that He is?” That’s a true missionary question, because it calls on people to think and reach within themselves for a response.
But the rabbi goes on with his (most likely) fictional account, whereby he makes the missionary look stupid by using the issue of Heaven and Hell against the backdrop of those who were innocent and those who were guilty in the Holocaust. Questions about Heaven and Hell that can only be answered “yes” or “no” are akin to asking, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet? Just answer “yes” or “no.”” You don”t get the opportunity to explain that you never started beating your wife, so the question is inaccurately framed and therefore moot.
The fact of the matter is that missionaries will not discuss Heaven or Hell with someone who doesn’t believe in Hell. If someone questions us about Hell, a missionary ordinarily asks, “Do you believe in Hell?” Establishing that a person believes in Hell before continuing the discussion is important. If they say “no,” it’s the end of the discussion, because Hell won’t make any more sense to that person than the Easter Bunny or werewolves. Meaningful discussion can’t take place when only one of the people is serious about the subject.
Today, the knowledge of Scripture and belief in Heaven and Hell are absent from the consciousness of most people. That is why the rabbi is able to end his piece so casually with the remark that maybe Hell isn”t so bad if he will be with all the innocent Jewish martyrs. To him, Hell seems to be an imaginary place that one can take lightly. A real missionary would not discuss it with him on that basis.
Nevertheless, to us and to most Christian workers, true evangelism is not built on threatening people. We take Hell seriously. But evangelism is not built on bad news: “You will be punished.” It”s built on the good news: “You can be saved!”
The rabbi describes himself as saying to the missionary, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but you represent an organization that believes that vicious murderers are rewarded in Heaven, and their innocent victims are punished in Hell. In your worldview, no matter how cruel and barbaric someone is in their lifetime, they’ll be fine in the afterlife as long as they say they accept Jesus. . . I think the morality is a bit twisted there.”
Well, dear rabbi, what do you think about the morality of a clergyman who constructs imaginary conversations to make himself look wise and good? With your misrepresentation of missionaries and what Christians believe, let me ask you a question. Have you no fear of divine retribution? Does the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob want you to tell lies to build a case against Christianity? And why do you say “correct me if I”m wrong” in print, yet you don”t heed the correction when it comes to you personally from the executive director of our mission?
But then maybe we should say nothing to people like Rabbi Moss. His caricature of the way that a Jews for Jesus missionary believes and behaves is so far from reality that those Jews to whom he is speaking will be pleasantly surprised when they encounter a real missionary.
Ed: Thanks to those of you who help Jews for Jesus by alerting us to media items that concern us, thus giving us the opportunity to respond!