Rabbis Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein on Denying That Your Are Proselytizing is Patronizing and False

G-d, the Deity, has just made it easier to explain the case against GOD, the cable television company that has come under fire in Israel. While people have not been able to reach agreement on who speaks for the former, there is no question that it is Ward Simpson, its CEO, who speaks for the latter.

Divine Providence has arranged that Mr. Simpson, in trying to take his case to Christian Post readers, spoke the words that precisely show that the Israeli law that prohibits proselytizing to minors should apply to GOD TV’s programming: “The goal is not converting Jews to Christianity. It is helping them recognize Jesus as their Messiah without renouncing their Jewish identity or calling.” If Mr. Simpson truly believes that, then he knows nothing about Jews and Judaism. What for Mr. Simpson is an attractive synthesis is, for Jews, a contradiction in terms. Anyone in Israel who did not think that he was proselytizing for another faith now knows better.

To understand what is wrong with Mr. Simpson’s argument, let’s reverse our roles. I drive up to his church, and set up shop near his front door with a few of my friends. As churchgoers pass us walking into the building, we try to engage them in conversation. “Let’s all worship G-d together, the right way!” A few people courteously ask us to leave, finding it offensive that we are preaching against Christianity so close to a Christian house of worship. In wide-eyed disbelief, we respond, “Against Christianity? Furthest thing from our minds! We just want you to drop your belief in the Trinity! We want all our friends to remain good, church-going Christians.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is Director for Interfaith Relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, then understand that so does “messianic Judaism” to us. And that means that Simpson’s Hebrew-language Shelanu station is proselytizing – if not for Christianity, then definitely against Judaism.

We hear grumbling, though, in the background. Isn’t GOD TV’s Israel regional director correct that “It will be a sad day if the only democracy in the Middle East prevents the freedom of speech of Messianic Jews in Israel?” Shouldn’t they be free to proselytize if they want?  Well, maybe not so much.

Simpson himself shows why this is not so inappropriate. “To exercise the right of free speech here without any regard for that history or the Jewish sensitivities against missionizing would be a callous misuse of that right.”

Let’s look, then, at some of that history. The simple fact is that eight hundred years of getting preached to left Jews with a certain distaste for the process. Beginning in the 13th century, Jews were forced by the Church to listen to conversionary sermons. Since the Church officially rejected forced conversions, it needed another way to coerce Jews to convert in large numbers other than burning them at the stake. The workaround was to stop short of forcing Jews on pain of death to accept baptism – although plenty of that took place nonetheless – and instead merely forced Jews to listen to long harangues that demonstrated the falsity of Judaism and the truth of Christianity. Instead of decreasing with the Enlightenment (like so many other medieval church features), forced attendance of conversionary sermons picked up steam in Rome in the modern period, and only came to an end in 1847.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Rabbis Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein