August 4 – 2009

Caspari Center Media Review – August 4, 2009

During the week covered by this review, we received 7 articles on the subjects of Messianic Jews and anti-missionary activities.

1 dealt with Messianic Jews
6 dealt with anti-missionary activities
This week’s Review continued to focus on attitudes towards Messianic Jews.
Messianic Jews
Jerusalem Postlite, July 30, 2009
The Jerusalem Postlite edition (July 30) carried Matthew Wagner’s story of “Serving in the IDF, ‘for the sake of God and Jesus’” reported in the Jerusalem Post (July 24).

Anti-missionary Activities
Jerusalem Post, July 28; Haaretz, June 29, July 28; HaMevaser, July 28; Makor Rishon, July 30; HaModia, July 29, 2009

The English edition of HaModia (July 29) and HaMevaser (July 28) ran the story of Yad L’Achim’s response to the Supreme Court ruling in the case of “Pnina Pie” (see previous Reviews).
In a related piece, Makor Rishon (July 30) reported that the Attorney General has joined the Ashdod rabbinate in request a special discussion of the Supreme Court ruling which ordered the rabbinate to restore the bakery’s kashrut license: “‘We are dealing with a very sensitive issue relating to the whole subject of the State-religion relationship,’ Mazuz’s request states, ‘which has ramifications for the freedom of religion of the observant community and the rabbinate. When the claim is made that the kashrut license serves as the basis for religious coercion, claims also arise regarding the infringement of the freedom of religion of those who seek to sell kosher products to the religious public.’”
An article printed in Haaretz on June 29 stated that the Ministry of Interior had refused entry to “members of two Norwegian families, serving in key roles in the musical ‘The Covenant,’ which unfolds the biblical story and is intended to be presented during the summer months on stages across the country … on fears lest they settle in the country and do not return to Norway at the end of the performances. Only the father was allowed entry, although the musical is meant also to include his wife and two children. Even the praises of the late Ehud Manor, who translated the musical, did not help the Norwegian family, Robert and Elizabeth Moran.” Robert having gained a work permit for a year, with the possibility of extending it for a further five years, it was anticipated that his family would be allowed to join him as accompanying family members. When the work permit was delivered to the Ministry of Interior, however, the latter decided that only Robert would be allowed entry to the country, and only for a matter of months: “The Ministry of Interior suspects that the Moran family is trying to settle in Israel under the pretence of art and creativity: ‘Out of consideration for the family, it was decided to allow the father to enter but without his family lest they settle here, as they did for a period not long ago. In light of these facts, we do not see any place to change the decision, which anything another State in the world would also have taken.’”
In a letter printed in Haaretz (July 28) in response to this piece, Mina Fenton, an ardent anti-missionary activist and former Jerusalem councilwoman, wrote: “‘The Covenant’ is being sponsored by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. The audience invited to the performances does not have to pay anything. We are talking about schoolchildren, soldiers, etc. … In the musical Yeshu appears as a ‘savior.’ The musical also contains a painful historical distortion: absolute silence regarding the role of Christians in the horrors of the pogroms and the Holocaust. Is a Christian covering of the biblical story and the establishment of the State of Israel current actuality? ‘The Covenant’ is part of the process of the mission. It is the stage of outreach – they speak our language, raise subjects related to us, but also to them, and thus create a dangerous partnership, and the inter-faith blurring begins to operate. They attract the public to the events of the Christian Embassy in order to win the confidence of Israelis.’”
In a full-length article in the Jerusalem Post (July 28) under the headline, “Are Christian missionaries targeting the elderly?” Rachel Geizhals reported that “A Holocaust survivor who was suffering from dementia was deceived by those hired to help her, family members said, because they claimed they converted her to their Messianic Christian religion. The two women who were hired to play music and speak with 94-year-old Sara told her daughter Goldie Maxwell weeks after Sara died that they were both Messianic Jews, that they had played and sung songs from the New Testament when Maxwell and her husband were not around, and that at the end of her life, Sara had a revelation and acknowledged Jesus as the messiah … The incidence of missionaries using subterfuge to target the elderly and other subsets within the community is not infrequent, according to anti-missionary groups. However, it is difficult to determine how widespread this phenomenon is. ‘It’s probably a lot more common than we know,’ said Penina Taylor, executive director of Shomrei Emet Institute for Counter Missionary Studies. Haredi anti-missionary organization Yad L’Achim (literally, ‘A Hand to Brethren’) does not have current data on the number of missionaries volunteering in senior facilities and homes. However, Binyamin Klugger, the head of the organization’s Jerusalem chapter, said he knows of many seniors whose aides spoke with them incessantly about Messianism … Messianic groups believe that Jesus was the messiah. Orthodox Jews maintain that the messiah has not yet come, and his arrival must be anticipated. They often view Messianic missionaries as coercive and cult-like, and they are extremely concerned that missionaries are targeting and exploiting helpless people … Dan Sered, the director of Israel’s Jews for Jesus branch, said Messianic Jews and Jews for Jesus are often thought of as interchangeable. In fact, Jews for Jesus is an organization devoted to spreading Messianism. The women whom Maxwell hired were not affiliated with Jews for Jesus, whose emissaries usually stand on the streets wearing identifying T-shirts and handing out information … ‘Your claim that in the last two weeks of her life my mother came to believe that Jesus is the messiah negates the fundamental religious beliefs she maintained and later instilled in her children,’ Maxwell said in a letter to [Adina] Higa after she discovered what transpired. ‘Her silence, and her complete helplessness, left her wide open to everyone else’s subjective interpretations of what she may or may not have be thinking,’ Maxwell wrote. ‘It enabled you to indulge your fantasy. And you have run wild with it … I felt it was much worse than an act of disrespect to her and to me. But even more, a desecration,” Maxwell said. ‘Really, the greatest possible offense to her, because she was helpless. She couldn’t have actively fought them’ … Maxwell charged [Efrat] Gerlich and Higa with a complete lack of transparency and honesty. But she has few if any options in taking legal action, because Israeli law allows the freedom to speak with others about religious views, and missionaries are permitted to proselytize as long as they do not try to work with minors or offer material incentives … Gerlich and Higa could not be reached for comment.”