Montreal girds for Christian messianic drive

Canadian Jewish News/September 15, 2005
By David Lazarus

Jews for Jesus plans to open a branch in Montreal as part of “Behold Your God,” its international missionary campaign to convert Jews to Christianity that starts here Sept. 18 and runs for three weeks.

The missionary group’s website says the new outpost will be led by Karl deSouza from its Toronto office.

“Karl will be leading the [Montreal] branch, and we hope that through the campaign, friendships with many Christians and contract with many Jewish seekers will get off to a running start,” the site says.

Jews for Jesus says deSouza was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and that his mother is “from the Bene-Israel Jewish community in India.” It says “he came to know Jesus as his Messiah” in his senior year at Concordia University and that his parents have also “come to faith.”

The group’s five-year “Behold Your God” drive, launched in 2001, targets 65 cities around the world (outside Israel) with Jewish populations greater than 25,000. It has reached 40 so far.

In Canada, that has included a 2003 stop in Toronto, where Jews for Jesus claims to have reached 10 Jews “who trusted in Y’shua” – Jesus’ Hebrew name – and several other dozen “who were willing to be followed up on,” said Rabbi Michael Skobac, education director of Jews for Judaism.

The Toronto-based counter-missionary group has been working closely with Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec region (CJC-Q), FEDERATION CJA and local synagogues to mount an all-out counter-campaign to run concurrently with the conversion effort.

Rebecca Rosenberg, CJC-Q’s associate director, said the main goal is “to reach as many Jews as possible in order to let them know [Jews for Jesus] is coming and to know what to expect.”

When it comes to missionary conversion efforts, “we have to subscribe to the notion that even one is too many,” Rosenberg said. “We have to be there to safeguard Jewish community members.”

Jews for Judaism believes Jews for Jesus and other such groups use deception to convert Jews, telling them that if they accept Jesus, they can still be “fulfilled” or “committed” Jews. Jews for Judaism also opposes the missionary group’s selective targeting of Jews.

The counter-campaign’s “launching pad,” Rabbi Skobac said, will be a full weekend of activities called “Stand Up for Judaism,” to be held at the Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation. Slated events include a Sept. 19 “town hall meeting” with Rabbi Skobac and an all-day “counter-missionary survival seminar” on Sept. 18.

Other synagogues will have education and Shabbat programs, and rabbis will recruit volunteers from their pulpits.

The counter-campaign also features an eight-page insert in The CJN – an abridged version of of a book by Jews for Judaism founder Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, The Jewish Response to Missionaries.

Jews for Judaism is recruiting dozens of volunteers to “counter-leaflet” missionaries at high-traffic street-corners over the three-week period. Its campaign will also include public seminars, events in Jewish schools, a hotline to call if missionaries are seen distributing material, and cellphone communication to make volunteers available at a moment’s notice.

“We have a real comprehensive program,” Rabbi Skobac said. “The idea is preventtive education and to hopefully make the community less vulnerable.”

Julius Ciss, Jews for Judaism’s Toronto director, said that while Montreal Jews are probably less likely to be swayed by missionaries than Jews in other communities due to their strong “traditional” habits, the threat from Jews for Jesus still remains.

“According to [Jews for Jesus’] own website, they’ve given out 12 million pamphlets and 851 Jews have been ‘converted.’” Ciss said. “Montreal is not immune.”

He said that although Jews for Jesus has never established a permanent presence in Montreal, several “messianic synagogues” have been operating in the city for years.

On its website, Jews for Jesus describes Montreal as a city where “[h]edonism, relativism and secularism are rampant” and as one “that needs the Gospel.”

It says that in Montreal, “most Jews have never heard the Gospel in terms they can understand and are perishing without Messiah!”

Plans in Montreal, according to the site, include “broadsiding” the public with evangelical material in the downtown core, as well as telephone and door-to-door canvassing, staging a debate “between an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and messianic Jewish scholar,” and holding “testimony evenings and film showings.”

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