Jews for Jesus in new push

By Candice Krieger, June 20, 2008

Rabbis express deep concern after JC investigation reveals scale of missionary group’s membership drive

The missionary group Jews for Jesus has launched a new push to gain the allegiance of British Jews, the JC can reveal.

More than 30 volunteers from the London branch of the international organisation, whose central tenet is that Jesus is the Messiah and that Jews need to recognise him as such, are approaching and handing out leaflets to Jews across London.

Targeted campaign areas include Golders Green, Finchley, Edgware, Hatton Garden, Bond Street and High Street Kensington. JC staff outside Chancery Lane tube station were handed literature by campaigners wearing t-shirts with Jewish symbols. A number of recipients have commented that some of the t-shirts make their wearers look as though they are members of Jewish youth movements.

The charity, funded by the evangelical church, is understood to have spent between £10,000 and £15,000 on a two-week outreach campaign, due to end tomorrow. It says it has printed 350,000 promotional leaflets for the drive.

Operatives accost passers-by, many of them religiou Jews, in London's Hatton Garden

The organisation, which had a gross income of £600,592 in 2006 and expenditure of £493,242, according to its latest accounts, has also sent between 500 and 1,000 Jews for Jesus magazines to Jewish homes. The last time it conducted such an extensive push in London was in 2003.

When contacted by the JC this week, Jews for Jesus UK director Stephen Pacht, 51, said: “We would like more people to believe in Jesus. We believe it would be good for society.”

Mr Pacht, who is the British-born son of Jewish parents, said of the recruitment drive: “So far, it has been successful. We have talked to a lot of people, prayed with a lot of people and had a few follow-up calls and emails.”

He said he had started to believe in Jesus while still at university, aged 21, when he had been impressed by the faith of a born-again Christian. A former chartered accountant, Mr Pacht lived in France for 14 years where he was director of the Jews for Jesus campaign. He moved back to the UK three years ago and has been director of the UK branch since then.

He told the JC that Israelis living in the UK were easier to talk to than British Jews. “Generally, we feel that Israelis are more secure in their identities, so there is less fear to explore Jesus. There is more apprehension among the British diaspora.”

Mr Pacht, rejecting the idea that his organisation was “targeting” Jews, added: “There is always the accusation that we target the vulnerable. We talk to those who are willing to talk.”

In promotional leaflets obtained by the JC, there is a testimony by one Messianic Jew that states: “And at a certain point, I secretly began to believe in Jesus. Suddenly I knew in my heart that it was true — Jesus is our Messiah. Now my wife and son are believers too.”

The veteran anti-missionary campaigner, Rabbi Shmuel Arkush of Birmingham Lubavitch, expressed deep concern about the Jews for Jesus campaign. He said: “I am worried that a vulnerable person will get drawn in. If you shoot 100,000 bullets, one will hit. We are very concerned for every single Jew.

“[Jews for Jesus] is theologically unsound. I am not comfortable with theological ideas being peddled in such an open way.

"It’s a front for converting Jews to Christianity, and as far as Jews are concerned, it is highly unwelcome and unnecessary.”

Rabbi Arkush, director of Operation Judaism, a counselling service that works to combat missionary threats, added: “We have helped people who have been ensnared by Jews for Jesus and other types of organisations.”

Manchester’s Rabbi YY Rubenstein labelled the Jews for Jesus push as “insulting” and “antisemitic”.

He said: “Their [Jews for Jesus] definition of what is a Jew is not ‘our’ definition, so their claims for success, by definition, are bogus.

“They must know it is profoundly offensive to Jews. The idea that Jews are ignorant of what they are selling is stupid and insulting.

"We have rejected, do reject and always will reject what they are saying. To target Jews, I see it as antisemitic.

“Those in the community who are trying to reach out to other faith communities in Britain, and build bridges, have to shake their heads at these people, who are destroying attempts to build bridges or tearing them down again.” 

What Jews For Jesus leaflets claim

“Actually, being more Jewish isn’t based on what you know or what you do but on who you follow...the Messiah of Israel. Moses and the rest of the Prophets would say the most Jewish thing you could do is believe in Messiah. His name is Y’shua (that’s Hebrew for Jesus).”

“The most Jewish thing anyone can do is believe in Jesus, but you don’t have to be Jewish to know the God of Israel.”

“Believing in Jesus makes us all be more of who God wants us to be and that is what is most important.”

‘Converts’ quoted in JfJ pamphlets

Gerry Lewin, Oxfordshire:
“I looked at a so-called ‘Christian’ bible to discover the differences between Christianity and Judaism. I found that the New Testament was far from antisemitic and written by Jews, for Jews and predominantly about Jews.

“It pointed out how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies concerning the Messiah. I asked God to show me the evidence for this. And at a certain point I secretly began to believe in Jesus.

“Suddenly I knew in my heart that it was true — Jesus is our Messiah.”

Carol Flatauer-Hedges, Hertfordshire:
“I believed everyone who wasn’t Jewish was a Christian and therefore hostile towards me.

“My opinions changed at university when I shared a flat with a girl who turned out to be a committed Christian. She told me about Jesus and prayed for me.

“One day, driven by total desperation at the meaninglessness of my life, and at the end of all my emotional and intellectual resources, I marched into the kitchen where she was and ordered her to ‘tell me about Jesus’.

“I asked God to reveal himself and to show me the truth about Jesus. I am told that soon after my whole face lit up.”

Louise Kiverstein-Cooper, Bristol:
“After a difficult period in my life, a good friend became a Christian; I saw the big positive change in her. She showed me how the Prophet Isaiah refers clearly to Jesus. As I read and questioned, it became clear that Jesus is God’s son and the saviour of Jews and non-Jews. Knowing this and committing to Jesus Christ has transformed my life and priorities.”

Toby Weiss, London:
“My Jewish heritage meant a lot to me but I always wondered if it was possible to actually know God, rather than just knowing ‘about’ him.

“Out of intellectual curiosity I attended a course which explained that Jesus had died for our sins and promised forgiveness and eternal life. A few years later, through reading Bible verses on a website, I was convinced that Jesus is the saviour and Messiah.

“I felt a tremendous sense of the presence of God. Marvellously God has strengthened and reinforced family relationships.”

Last updated: 4:49pm, June 23 2008