The Chosen People Ministries, one of the largest evangelical groups in the United States which focuses on proselytising among Jews, has launched a $300,000 (£190k) "witnessing" drive in an effort to convince Jewish people to accept Jesus as their Messiah.
The new campaign, which is based in Los Angeles, features thousands of billboards, online ads and radio and TV commercials encouraging people to watch a half-hour online documentary entitled "The Mysterious Prophecy of Isaiah 53".
The Chosen People Ministries (CPM) produced the film in partnership with Day of Discovery, a Christian TV programme. According to CPM president Mitch Glaser, over 2,500 people have watched the documentary online.
The CPM February newsletter states that the purpose of the new campaign is to share the Isaiah 53 passage with Jewish people "in hope that they may come to know the Lord". Evangelical Christians have interpreted the Old Testament passage Isaiah 53 as a prophecy of the coming of Jesus. Jewish theologians, however, have dismissed this interpretation.
CPM is also encouraging Christians to send a free copy of its book, Isaiah 53 Explained, to Jews. The book purportedly shows how to have "a soul-satisfying relationship with God" and reveals "the surprising key that makes this relationship possible". Over 1000 people have requested the book, according to CPM.
A Los Angeles-based group called Jews for Judaism, which fights proselytising campaigns directed at Jews through educational initiatives and counselling, has launched a counter-campaign. It is backed by the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, the Board of Rabbis and Builders of Jewish Education. A dedicated website and social network campaign has been set up to debunk the evangelical interpretation of Isaiah 53 and to encourage people to report any "suspicious" activity to Jews for Judaism.
Los Angles was chosen as a base for the CPM campaign because it has the second largest Jewish population in the United States.
The CPM's headquarters are in New York, however, and in 2010, the group bought a 11,000 sq ft former Jewish funeral home in the heavily Orthodox area of Midwood, to be used for Jewish-style Christian worship services. The purchase sparked outrage among Jewish residents and leaders in Brooklyn.