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First and foremost, groups such as these often usurp Jewish terminology and practices. On the surface, the claim is that they do this because they are "completed Jews". For example:
Why do they do this? Recall that such groups consider both the Tanach and the Christian Gospel as the word of G-d. In the Christian Gospel, I Corinthians 9:20, it says: "To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from G-d's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I have become weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." [New International Version]
In other words, theyre trying to sell Christianity in the guise of Judaism.
Christians believe that through faith in Jesus a person is saved. The Christian has the perspective that this is such a singularly important thing, above all and any other thing in life--or, for that matter, in death--that any regard or concern for others (which is a fundamental part of his commitment to and love for G-d) that he persuade others to at the very least Hence, there is a strong emphasis to save people by bringing others to Christianity. For many of them, messianic synagogues are the answer. This allows, in their words, "Jews to become Christians while still remaining Jews and cherishing their Jewish ancestry. Swedish Americans cherish their Swedish ancestry. Chinese Americans treasure their Chinese ancestry. Hebrew Americans ought to cherish their Hebrew ancestry and remain strongly Jewish.". Missionaries proclaim, "I am a Jew. I go to synagogue. I invite you to my synagogue. It meets on Friday evening." They then make those to attend those "synagogues" feel right at home. But recall their mission statements: their goal is to bring the Jew to Christianity.
Note that it is not just Jews that feel the practices of these groups are deceptive. The following are some quotes from a FAQ on such groups by Yad Lachim (http://www.yadlachim.org/messianic/messianic.htm):
In 1977, the Board of Governors of the Long Island Council of Churches (New York) accused "Jews for Jesus" of "engaging in subterfuge and dishonesty," and of "mixing religious symbols in ways that distort their essential meaning." "Jews for Jesus" filed a suit in a State Supreme Court in Manhattan against a 600-member Council. The Rev. Jack Alford, the executive director of the Council, said the suit "proves the point we were making about their tactics." He added: "The mentality of 'Jews for Jesus' is the kind of mentality that has been spawn in some fascist and communist countries." Eventually, the lawsuit was rejected by court. (The New York Times, July 2, 1977)
In the summer of 1987 in Washington D.C. (USA), there was held an Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington. Partaking in the conference were representatives of various Protestant churches, Roman-Catholics, together with Moslems and representatives of Jewish organizations. The Conference concluded with an official statement (published in "Interfaith Connector" Vol. 8, No. 2) which stated:
We condemn proselytizing efforts which delegitimize the faith tradition of the person whose conversion is being sought. Such tactics go beyond the bounds of appropriate and ethically based religious outreach.
Examples of such practices are those common among groups that have adopted the label of Hebrew Christianity, Messianic Judaism, or Jews for Jesus. These groups specifically target Jews for conversion to their version of Christianity, making claim that in accepting Jesus as the savior/messiah, a Jews 'fulfills' his/her faith. Furthermore, by celebrating Jewish festivals, worshipping on the Jewish Shabbat, appropriating Jewish symbols, rituals and prayers in their churches, and, sometimes, even calling their leaders 'Rabbi', the seek to win over, often by deception, many Jews who are sincerely looking for a path back to their ancestral heritage.
Deceptive proselytizing is practiced on the most vulnerable of populations - residents of hospitals and old aged homes, confused youth, college students away from home. These proselytizing techniques are tantamount to coerced conversions and should be condemned."
The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.
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Daniel P. Faigin <email@example.com>