Dear Reverend Taylor

by Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

(Response to a letter from a Minister regarding his concerns about the approach of fundamentalist missionaries to the Jewish community.)

August 28, 2003

David K. Taylor, PhD
124 Franklin Court
Flemington, NJ 8822

Dear Rev. Taylor:

I write in response to your letter of 21 August

While I appreciate your interest in the subject of missionaries as they relate to Jews, I must say that I don't share your concern about their approach.

Simply, unlike Islam and Christianity which have traditionally viewed themselves as universal Faiths, i.e., the one true faith all humanity must embrace, Judaism allows for the expression of many paths toward our G‑d. Jews have always understood that the non-Jew sees his Faith as the new Judaism or, in the case of Islam, the more proper and refined Judaism. Our major concern was and is that our "neighbor's" zeal to proselytize the non-believer, which in most cases meant the Jews among them, didn't pour over into physical attack. Sadly history bears out the reality that for many centuries Jews were persecuted and slaughtered in the name of both the cross and crescent, albeit far less so at the hands of the later.

Main-line Churches, beginning with the Roman Catholic Church have, in recent decades, admitted their cruelty to the Jew and bestowed upon Judaism a new credibility. No longer the "Christ killers" the Jews are now the harbingers of the Old Covenant which many main-line Christian theologians now state retains, even after the advent of Christianity, a sanctity. My experience however, is that many members of these self-same Churches if pushed to the wall will tell you that the Jews are responsible for the Crucifixion. (Witness the current uproar over Mel Gibson's new film.) Here in Chicago, I personally watched our own Cardinal George, an articulate and charming individual., attempt to explain to a Catholic why the Church no longer places the sin of deicide at the door of the Jewish People. He wasn't that successful as he was attempting to undo the almost 2,000 year indoctrination of Catholics found in the mass regarding the "perfidious Jew." Interestingly these very same Churches, when it comes to the one issue most important to the Jewish People and here I refer to the State of Israel, tend to be neutral at best or more often than not pro-Palestinian and pro-Arab. The more fundamentalist elements, while affirming the Jewish sin of deicide and forcefully reaching out to "save" Jewish souls nevertheless, because of their fundamentalist view of Scripture, tend to be extremely pro-Israel. They make a Jewish Zionist blush with shame at their zealousness in fighting for Israel's right to exist and prosper. Without the tremendous influence of the Fundamentalist Christian Churches here in the United States I doubt that our government would be as supportive of Israel as it is. I'm sure you are aware of the State Department's long standing pro-Arab posture an issue that has vexed the White House and Congress since the moment President Truman recognized the then fledgling Jewish State.

As a matter of practicality, and Jews must be ever the pragmatists in a world that for most of our People's long history has been hostile toward us, the State of Israel has maintained cordial relationships with the American Fundamentalist Churches and their leadership knowing full well of their unstinting support of political Zionism and the Jewish State. Frankly, in a society that seems "hell bent" on eradicating any form of G‑d's presence in the public arena, in a society in which the moral and ethical principles taught to us in Scripture are trod upon at every turn, I find myself more and more in partnership with the Fundamentalist community.

Should Christians mount aggressive efforts aimed at bringing Jews to Christ? For me that is an internal matter for Christians to debate. My article, which was posted on my Congregation's web site, makes the point that the Jewish community's task is to educate its own community imbuing it with an understanding of our religion and aiding Jews in making their personal commitment to religious practice. Complaining that others, motivated by their own personal Faith, are trying to "save my soul" is a pointless endeavor. We Jews must concentrate upon being Jewish.

I would very much enjoy meeting with you when you visit Chicago. Please give me a call. My home number is 773-271-3402.

Respectfully,

Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz