Keeping Faith

Scottsdale Progress

The Arizona Republic/December, 1982
By Kim Sue Lia Perkes (Progress Religion Editor)

The cover of the booklet reads: "What in G-d's name is going on in Arizona?! Impostors - Hiding Behind the Star of David."

Between its cover unfolds the sentiments of Valley Jewish leaders towards such groups as Jews for Jesus, the Jewish Voice Broadcast, Messianic Congregation, Campus Crusade, Hebrew Christians, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Young Life and Here's Life.

"We regard these groups as the most anti-Semitic groups in America today," said Rick Ross, a member of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix Subcommittee on Missionary Activities Directed Towards the Jewish Community.

"They seek to convert, not accept Jews. They are refusing to accept the right of Judaism to exist as a faith," Ross said. "I call is spiritual genocide."

"Not only are they trying to get the people to convert to the tenants of fundamentalism, but they are hoping to establish their own form of Judaism."

The booklet is designed to inform Jews and non-Jews alike about the purpose of these fundamentalist groups, he added.

Ross said the Jewish population does not condemn the existence of fundamentalism, but the tactics and purpose of these groups should be exposed.

For instance, in a release titled "Jews for Jesus; A confidential Report: Not to be Distributed to Non-Christians," it says:

"We define ourselves as evangelical fundamentalist…As we win and disciple Jewish people, we urge them either to take place in a local evangelical church or establish a congregation and call their own minister. Our duty is to aid the church at large and we work as an arm of that body to gather in the Lost Sheep of the house of Israel."

Although they are concerned about the proselytizing efforts of these groups, they are angered more by the converts who continue to call themselves Jews, Ross said.

"We probably have the lowest conversion rate of any denomination in our country. But the point is these (former Jews) have made a cognizant decision to convert to another faith. If they choose to use the name Jew they must preface it with 'I am a former Jew' or 'I am an apostate.'

"You cannot be a Jew and believe in Jesus. That's fraud. What if you called yourself a Baptist for Buddha or a Catholic for Krishna?"

"The Jewish community defines its own integrity and what is legitimately Jewish - those who have left is or wish to imply that our faith is 'incomplete' do not have the right or legitimate authority to define the parameters of Judaism," said Rabbi Maynard Bell of Temple Solel.

"Given the fact that in 2,000 years of historical experience Jews have been harassed, persecuted and often killed for remaining loyal to their ancestral faith, the visceral reaction of Jews to the effort of even well-meaning evangelists is easily understandable," Bell said. "Many do not appreciate the anti-Semitic implications of evangelism aimed at Jews."

That "many" also includes mainline churches, Ross said.

"It's important that the people know this is the Born Again Christian community not the mainline churches," he said. "The mainline churches don't like it any better than we do>"

In the back of the booklet, representatives from Catholic, Presbyterian, Congregational and Methodist churches offer their support to the Jewish community and denounce the work of fundamentalist missionary groups to convert Jews.

"Christians need to become more aware of the incongruity and ingratitude of organized attempts at converting Jews," says the Rev. Ian McPherson of Covenant United Presbyterian Church in the booklet. "Christianity needs the presence of Judaism - to attack Judaism is to cut Christianity from its roots."

Another key concern, is the way these groups operate on the high school and college level, Ross said.

"They're breaking up families," he said. "I know of a son that told his parents they would burn in hell for not conforming to fundamentalism.

"We're so concerned with our kids and cults, I think we should start taking a good hard look at Inter-Varsity, Young Life and other fundamentalist groups."

Students with drug and alcohol problems are prey for these conversionary groups, Ross said, adding these converts are actually using evangelism as an escape.

"It's a quick fix and it doesn't really answer their problems. They merely become trapped in another form of addiction. They become addicted to religious fanatics. The end result is a disorientated individual."

Ross said the Jewish community is not trying to wipe out fundamentalists, but they do not believe they should be targeting Jews, or any other religion for that matter, solely for conversionary purposes.

"I think it's a shame that bridges can't be built between the fundamentalists and the Jews," he said.

Copies of the booklet, What in G-d's name is Going on in Arizona?! Impostors - Hiding behind the Star of David, are available for 50 cents from the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, 1718 W. Maryland Ave., Phoenix, AZ, 85015.

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