Rabbi cautions against fundamentalist groups

RedandBlack.com/March 17, 2004
By Cassandra Belter

Rabbi Tovia Singer speaks to University students during the lecture, "The Battle for the Jewish Soul: Are Missionaries Winning?," sponsored by the Campus Center for Jewish Life Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall. Singer began his lecture as the fictional character Mitch Goldman, a supposed representative of the organization Jews for Jesus. (Sara Hopkins - The Red & Black)

Rabbi Tovia Singer made an argument against what he calls "fundamentalist Christian organizations like Jews for Jesus" at a Hillel program Tuesday evening.

In a stuffy Memorial Hall meeting room, about 70 students, members of the campus's center for Jewish life and others, waited on Singer, the feature lecturer from New York.

They were instead greeted unknowingly by the character Mitch Goldman, who introduced himself as the New York director of Jews for Jesus.

Wearing a navy blue T-shirt with "Jews for Jesus" spelled out in white block letters," Goldman" spoke of his childhood as a Jew and how he came to accept the unknown truths about the religion he now endorses.

Two of the main issues that Messianic Jews focus on that differentiate them from traditional Judaism are their beliefs in Jesus as the Messiah and that blood sacrifice is necessary for atonement, Waldman said.

"There is a Messianic church in Athens," she said. "I don't call it a synagogue."

"When my grandmother and I would walk by a church on a street, she would squeeze my little hand -- her deal was she wouldn't walk on the same side of the street as a church," he said. "Is that a powerful lesson?"

Although Singer convincingly played the fictitious part of Goldman and incited many of his audience members to question him determinedly, a twinkle of amusement in his eyes was a dead giveaway to the fact that he was representing his own opposition.

Amy Waldman, a senior from Alpharetta, caught on to Singer's set-up immediately and served the Goldman character with tricky questions from a study guide co-written by Singer.

"I brought a study guide -- his Web site has been on my favorite places list for like three years," Waldman said before the event.

"(Singer) educates Jewish people on what to say in response to Jews for Jesus," she said.

Waldman, a Jew, was first introduced to Jews for Jesus when they had set up a table at the Tate Student Center a few years ago.

"I knew what they were saying wasn't true, but I didn't have the educational means to refute them, so I decided to educate myself," she said.

Gabriel Sibony, a sophomore from Guatemala, said he has been approached to convert from Judaism on the University campus.

"I've just been given those little green bibles," he said. "I have 10 of them."

Sibony said he didn't know what specific groups had approached him.

"I don't distinguish between them," he said of Gideons and other Christian groups.

Aaron Fruchtman, a sophomore from Atlanta, said he is unaffected by groups trying to convert him from Judaism.

"I have a big knowledge base in my religion -- they've just not been successful," he said. "If they're nice, I'll be nice and have a discussion with them, but I don't go out of my way to have a talk with the guy who stands up on Tate on Wednesdays."

Lance Simon, the Hillel organizer of the event, mediated a brief discussion session during Singer's "transformation."

Singer opened his discussion on Jews for Jesus with the assertion that most Christians have "enormous respect for the Jewish faith."

"Judaism to them is their mother religion," he said before cautioning his listeners not to use his discussion materials against Christians who don't attack Judaism.

Singer brought up "The Passion of the Christ" during his talk, a subject that had been chatted about before the event as members of the Anti-Defamation League, a group that fights anti-Semitism, handed out brochures about the movie.

"The Roman Catholic Church today and Catholics in general are not at all interested in converting Jews," he said. "People like (Mel) Gibson are a members of a throwback church that rejects the second Vatican."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.