Counter-missionary reactions to Rabbi Riskin article

In reaction to "the Messianic Movement", an article by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin which appeared in the August 2010 edition of the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition, Jewish Israel contacted a number of known personalities in the field of counter-missionary work and asked them their opinion.
(For backround, see related post "Are Messianics Missionaries?" with Penina Taylor's reaction) .

Professor Uri Yosef of the Virtual Yeshiva.com

As much as I respect Rabbi Riskin, I cannot help but feel that he is simply unaware ofthe true goal of the messianic movement when he states that,

“It is easy to say the Messianic community is a monolith and they all wish to bring the Gospel to every Jew. The truth is many just want to practice their faith in private and have no active agenda in missionizing other Jews. However there is a minority who use deceptive proselytizing practices to win Jewish converts.”

All one has to do is go the the web-sites of the major organizations within the messianic movement and read their "About Us" or "Statement of Faith" pages to realize what their main goal is.
Here is a quote from the "Build" section in the MJAA page "Restoration of Israel inAction" (emphasis is mine):
"Never before has the Jewish population been more ready to hear the Good News of Yeshua. The harvest is great, and the leaders are in great need of support. The spiritual and physical restoration of Israel needs a stable network of partners to support the prophetic end-time work."

Similarly, in their "Statement of Faith", the Messianic Bureau International declares the following (emphasis is mine):
"The final plan for the Israel of G-d is to bring the remnant of the faithful Jewish people, and the remnant of those believers who were formerly Gentiles, but recovered from the world by faith, back together and united into one holy people under one Shepherd, namely Yeshua, the Messiah, thus completing the tearing down of the wall of partition. This is a necessary part of the restoration of all things spoken by the prophets. Hosea 1-2, John 17, Romans 9:26, Ephesians 2, Acts 3:21."

One can find similar statements on the web-sites of the other major organizations within the messianic movement.
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Rabbi Stuart Federow of WhatJewsBelieve.org

Rabbi Riskin contradicts himself. At the beginning of his article he states, "If a Jew believes in Jesus as divine and savior, he has taken himself out of Judaism and is in error." However he then states later in his article, "...there is a minority who use deceptive proselytizing practices to win jewish converts." If these messianics are not all using deceptive practices, why then do they not call themselves what they are -- Christians? The reason they do not call themselves 'Christians' is that, in opposition to what Rabbi Pliskin stated at the beginning of his article, they wish to appear that they have not, in fact, left Judaism. This is the basis of their missionary technique. That technique is to make it appear that one can, in fact, be Jewish and Christian at the same time, in spite of what Rabbi Riskin writes, that they are "out of Judaism and in error." It is the basis of their proselytizing technique, and it is deceptive. Inherently, if one continues to call himself a 'messianic Jew,' then one is, by definition, using a deceptive proselytizing practice.

We Jews cannot make the same mistake that Christians make about us. Not all Jews are alike, and not all Christians are alike either. When the Jewish community works together with Evangelical Christians, we know that we are working with a group of Christians who wish to proselytize us, but who have set aside, for now, their missionary agenda. They are open and up front with this, as one can read on their web sites. Messianic "Jews" are not so open and honest. They hide behind Jewish appearances like a wolf in Jewish clothing and they explicitly do so as a fulfillment of their own Christian scriptures, "And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews....I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." 1 Corinthians 9:20-22.

We can, and must, partner with Christians. But not all Christians are alike, and we can and must pick and choose with which Christians we will partner. The Christians who call themselves "Messianic 'Jews'" only wish to be our partners to proselytize us, and they should be shunned.
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Mark Powers of Magen League

In his article in the Jerusalem Post – Christian Edition, Rabbi Riskin attempts to explain the “Messianic” movement and what he perceives their relationship with the Jewish Community should be. Rabbi Riskin acknowledges that belief in Jesus as “divine and savior” is incompatible with Judaism, and a Jew who accepts this belief has removed themselves from Judaism and the Jewish Community. I believe, however, that Rabbi Riskin’s assessment of the nature of this movement is incorrect.

As American Director of MAGEN, the Counter Missionary Organization, I have spent approximately 30 years studying this movement, and working to counter their efforts to evangelize the Jewish Community. While I agree with Rabbi Riskin that the “Messianic” community is not monolithic, there are certain areas where this movement, which is made up of over 1000 different groups, is in agreement. They all agree that the Christian scriptures are the Word of G-d, and they unanimously agree that the Jewish people need to be evangelized. In this effort, the overwhelming majority of these groups engage in what can only be “described as deceptive proselytizing practices”.

It is at the very least naïve to believe that the leopard has changed its spots after 2000 years. It is, however, irresponsible to ignore the clear facts that have been presented in publications like the Jerusalem Post in the past and which have not changed. Groups such as Bridges for Peace, which presents itself as a non-proselytizing entity, have repeatedly been caught red-handed attempting to convert Jews. The International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem features converted Jews at their Friday night programs in Jerusalem and at their Festival every year at Sukkot. I would hope that Rabbi Riskin wouldn’t consider Christian Friends of Israel, also located in Jerusalem, as friends, because of their proselytizing endeavors. Each of these groups will clearly indicate that one can remain a Jew and believe in Jesus, and that it is the most Jewish thing in the world to do so. I would hope that Rabbi Riskin would acknowledge this as deceptive.

Religious conversations between Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians are not new, contrary to what Rabbi Riskin indicates. Christians have been forcing or attempting to force Jews into these “conversations” for hundreds, if not thousands of years. What is new is that Orthodox Jews are now enthusiastically engaging in these “conversations.” In many cases, I fear that the Jewish Community is not sufficiently educated or discerning enough to recognize the deceptive tactics that the Evangelicals have developed in their efforts to convert Jews, of which this is one. Particularly when they see leaders in the Jewish Community entering into the “partnership” with the Evangelicals that Rabbi Riskin mentions.

I am certain beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Rabbi Riskin’s intentions are pure in his acknowledged pioneering efforts of partnership with Evangelicals. However, I would hope that Rabbi Riskin, and others involved in this partnership from the Jewish perspective will neither ignore or dismiss the information on these groups that those of us in the Counter-Missionary field can make available to them. I also sincerely hope that some will not be blinded or willing to ignore this clear and present danger to our community because of the staggering sums of money that Evangelicals are throwing around, or chose to push this threat aside because “both our faith communities are challenged by radical Islam on the one side and secular materialistic culture on the other.”

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