May 18 – 2011

Caspari Center Media Review – May 18, 2011

During the week covered by this review, we received 4 articles on the following subjects:

Messianic Jews

Attitudes towards Christianity and Jesus

This week’s Review focused on the Jewish fight against Messianic Judaism and Christianity alike.

Messianic Jews

Index HaEmek ve-ha-Galil, April 29; Sha’ah Tova, May 12, 2011

Ran Yerushalami in Index HaEmek ve-ha-Galil (April 29), in an article entitled “The Wars of the Jews” – an apparent reference to Josephus’ book of the same name, an account of the Jewish war against Rome – added Messianic Jews to the list of groups within Judaism against whom Judaism itself set out to fight: “Messianic Jews are a well-known phenomenon – a group of people who call themselves Jewish but are Christians and believe that Yeshu walks amongst us.’” Interviewing Fatchiya Nerya, a Yad L’Achim worker, the latter claimed that Messianic Jews operate divergently from modern Christianity, which “weaves a web around Jews” in financial or emotional distress. “‘Messianic Jews work in a different way. They work in two directions. One is that they blur to a certain extent in their everyday reality their Christian aspects and create the impression that they are in fact Jews – just Jews who believe in ‘that man’ and try and join the worlds [this world and the world to come] … They pray [in synagogue], they lay phylacteries, they say kiddush, they celebrate the festivals, they sound like national-religious Zionists, they serve in the army, they present themselves as very, very Jewish – everything is thought out down to the last detail. People shouldn’t lie to Jews and give the impression that they continue to be Jewish at the very moment they’re having them on’ … The war is difficult for both sides, and those committed to the belief that they are truly Jews and not Christians in disguise recount that as such they are exposed to all sorts of violence. A. is the manager of a missionary website and the leader of a local group of Messianic Jews. ‘Messianic Judaism is not an organization but a stream of Jews who believe in Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel promised in the biblical prophecies,’ he says, adding that they turn to all sectors without distinction and that most of their work is charity and donations to congregations. Despite this, he is intimidated. ‘I personally experienced a Haredi Jew, one of the heads of the Yad L’Achim volunteers, hacked into my email and other of my accounts and began to talk with people in my name. He stole my identity, just like in the movies … and the icing on the cake, he left a death threat on my email, making sure to let me know precisely who he is and in whose name he’s coming.’ According to him, this is only one incident of many. Conversely, Yad L’Achim collects evidence from people who have been attacked by Messianic Jews, as well as evidence from people who joined and returned to Judaism with stories about strange ceremonies and cult characteristics. So why is it so bad to be a Messianic Jew? According to Nerya, the key problem is that they identify themselves to the public whom they are trying to persuade to join them as Messianic Jews and not as Christians. ‘There’s a law in Israel that says that everyone has to state what the product being sold is. “Judaism” is a very clearly-defined entity, which doesn’t include Christianity. In the clearest definitions that exist, Christianity is not Judaism. It’s idolatry. But in the meantime, Jews are fighting Jews for Judaism – Messianics, Orthodox. The main thing is that Judaism wins.’”

A second article, in Sha’ah Tova (May 12) related to Yad L’Achim’s revelation of a missionary newsletter: “’There are people who suffer from depression and insecurity. We treat them, and gently bring them to Christianity … Dear donors, we can ease the distress and lead people to Christianity.’ This astounding confession, signed by two missionaries who operate in Israel, Sonya and Charles Reichenbrach, comes from an internal memo of the ‘Rea-Israel’ cult that was sent to donors in Switzerland. It was obtained by Yad L’Achim and is further proof that missionaries prey on the weakest sectors of society, taking advantage of distress to bring Jews to Christianity. The memo lists the missionaries’ target groups as ‘single mothers, widows, orphans, Holocaust survivors, needy people of all sorts,’ and details the kinds of activities they use to lure them. ‘We distribute meals and approach people, praying with them and referring them to the Messianic rehabilitation center … the need for a community center has become more urgent and during the week many meetings are held.’ One paragraph in the document relates to how the missionaries keep unsuspecting Jews from figuring out what they’re up to. The missionaries are careful to refer themselves as a ‘community’ or ‘congregation’ rather than as a church, and they refer to ‘J’ as Yeshua. The memo goes on to offer potential donors a tour of Israel that includes meetings with ‘the director of clinical rehabilitation, the director of a soup kitchen that distributes 25,000 free meals to children and adults, and other surprises.’ If this weren’t bad enough, the detailed document describes the methods the missionaries employ among various target audiences: for the blind, missionary material is printed in Braille; for the deaf, a group of missionaries has been trained in sign language, and for the brain-damaged, some missionaries have undergone special training to learn how to communicate. The missionaries boast of the many Jews they have converted to Christianity, G-d forbid, in recent years through these deceitful practices, despite the daily, determined battle waged by Yad L’Achim against the cults. Yad L’Achim chairman Harav Shalom Dov Lifschitz said this week: ‘It is astonishing to see how the missionaries struggle over every Jewish soul, from every sector, even the weakest, in order to get him to convert out of his religion to Christianity, G-d forbid. We must learn from our enemies; we must fight with all our strength and not give up on any Jew who could fall, G-d forbid, into the arms of the missionaries.’ Rav Lifschitz added that our response must be, in addition to shock and prayers on behalf of these victimized Jews, intensive lobbying for Knesset legislation that will effectively ban missionary activity in Israel.” [Editor’s note: this translation was taken from the official Yad L’Achim site.]

Attitudes towards Christianity and Jesus

Kol BaRama, May 13; Jerusalem Post, May 5, 2011

According to the Jerusalem Post (May 5), “All sides declared victory Wednesday in the dispute over the Jerusalem Municipality’s support of concerts due to take place in churches next month … Last week, the haredi and national-religious deputy mayors demanded of Mayor Nir Barkat that the city withdraw its support of the event, following which the mayor met with Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Places Shmuel Rabinowitz on the topic … ‘The city should not support events that are contrary to Jewish law,’ [Deputy Mayor Yossi] Deitch continued. ‘Rabinowitz explained to Mayor Nir Barkat the halachic prohibition to enter churches. If an individual chooses to enter a church, that is their right. But the municipality should not be a funding and encouraging element’ … It was only at the end of March that the municipality was at odds with its haredi and religious members over the Jerusalem Old City flavors festival, which included non-kosher eateries in the Christian and Muslim quarters. At the end of the day, the supervision over the kosher booths was heightened, nonkosher establishments were clearly marked as such, and no beer was sold in the Jewish Quarter. Regarding the church music, the city said that there would be no change whatsoever in the plans … ‘It is no secret that united Jerusalem is home to Jews, Christians and Muslims. The city of Jerusalem and the Israeli government are committed to act with sensitivity and take into account all of the populations, publics, visitors and tourists in the city,’ the municipality continued. ‘It should be noted that cultural events in churches took place during the terms of previous mayors Olmert and Lupoliansky. Not promoting the Christian and Muslim sectors of the city would bring to claims from around the world that the Israeli government and the municipality do not care about all the city’s citizens … The municipality agreed … to examine the issue of the presence of the city’s logo on the publications for the church events that have yet to be issued, this is of course without impairing the essence of the events,’ the announcement ended. Sources close to the event predicted that Barkat would decide to not remove the city’s logo.”

An article in Kol BaRama (May 13) looked at the work of Dr. Liora Ravid, a secular biblical scholar, as published in her latest book, The Bible is True (Hebrew). Although her expertise is the apocryphal Book of Jubilees – the number 1 bestseller during the Second Temple period – in this volume Ravid seeks to demonstrate that the Bible is a reliable source. In relating why King David is one of her favorite biblical characters, she states that people can identify with the things he did on the grounds that they are things which happen every day. “‘For example: the New Testament describes Yeshu as a figure free from all blemish. That’s not the type of figure a person can identify with. David, even with his unique character, is part of something that you can recognize in your own society.”