The following is Part 2 of our series on Chosen People Ministries in Israel. We recommend you read Part 1, a missionary alert concerning CPM's targeting of Israelis, including children.
CPM's stepped-up activity and plans to launch an Isaiah 53 media blitz here in Israel should be cause for concern. While it's clear from the original Hebrew text of Isaiah 53 that the “suffering servant" refers to the Jewish people, Christian missionaries use the same passage as a proof-text to convert unlearned Jews.
Chosen People Ministries has literally painted the town(s) red across North America with their message of a suffering jesus. Now with their book, materials and billboards translated into Hebrew and Russian, they are coming to Israel.
JewishIsrael contacted Jews for Judaism offices in Canada and the US East Coast to get their take on Chosen People Ministries. Rabbi Michael Skobac, Education Director of the Toronto Branch of Jews for Judaism confirmed our sense of an upsurge in activity:
"I believe that Chosen People Ministries have ambitions to move to the #1 spot ahead of Jews for Jesus. They have undertaken a number of new initiatives and are becoming increasingly active. This includes their new missionary centers in Brooklyn and Toronto, their ongoing Isaiah 53 campaigns, their new "To the Jew First" campaign and the debates they've sponsored with Dr. Michael Brown and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach."
Jews for Judaism's Baltimore branch has been monitoring and responding to missionary activity on America's East Coast. We asked their director Ruthie Guggenheim for a brief assessment of Chosen People Ministries (which has its headquarters in New York).
"Chosen People Ministries is one of the most aggressive, predatory groups around. With an annual budget of 12 million dollars, they have the capacity to do great damage in Israel. The Isaiah 53 Campaign, which targeted Jewish communities across the United States in 2011-2012, was unprecedented in the scope of their outreach. They sent hundreds-of-thousands of their Isaiah 53 evangelizing books to homes with children and young adults, hoping to influence their beliefs. We know of their personnel and leaders infiltrating numerous Jewish organizations and groups with the goal of gaining access to the community and seeking legitimacy as an "authentic arm" of Judaism. We must do whatever is possible to raise the alarm about their increased activities in Israel.
As their president Mitch Glaser proclaims, 'The Lord has given us the privilege of becoming His hands, His feet and His voice in Israel in a way that we never thought possible...we now have an enormous opportunity to bring the message of the Gospel - in both Word and deed - to needy Israelis.’ It is time we all took these groups very seriously and understand that their goal is the ultimate spiritual destruction of the Jewish people and our 3,000 year old faith."
How to respond?
We don't recommend engaging, encouraging or debating Christian missionaries, but those who want to educate themselves and prepare answers to educate the Jewish community on the dangers of this missionary campaign should review the many articles and materials at Jewishisaiah53.com.
That site was launched two years ago by counter-missionary professionals from across the globe in direct response to Chosen People Ministries. Articles, commentaries and recordings by leading Jewish scholars, rabbis, and counselors in the counter-missionary field are featured at Jewish Isaiah 53. The currently featured professionals are (in alphabetical order): Rabbi Eli Cohen, Rabbi Stuart Federow, Asher Norman, Rabbi Moshe Shulman, Rabbi Tovia Singer, Rabbi Michael Skobac, Penina Taylor, and Uri Yosef.
Counter-missionary professional Gerald Sigal has a verse by verse response to missionaries at Isaiah53truth.net. Rabbi Michael Skobac thoroughly addresses the issue as to why the “suffering servant” is Israel and not jesus in this video lecture made available on YouTube 9 months ago.
Proselytizing in the Jewish state is highly provocative and it should not be deemed a "religious freedom". It is nothing less than a betrayal of Judaism to adopt definitions of democracy and freedom which enable Christianity or other foreign belief systems to be spread without restraint to the Jewish people in the state of Israel. And it is certainly not "church persecution" if the Israeli government, media outlets and municipal authorities choose to protect our children, uphold the integrity of the Jewish state and respect the sensitivities of the Jewish people by simply saying "no" to Chosen People Ministries.
We hope Jewish community leaders and government officials will use foresight and wisdom, and take a civil and firm approach in order to pre-empt possible disturbances. As we've seen time and time again, missionary organizations see counter-missionary street protests as a PR opportunity to further their cause. It would be prudent for the public to use the proper channels and insist that missionary activity in Israel be curbed.
Who Supports CPM?
Former missionary, turned Orthodox Torah scholar, Gavriel Sanders, makes it clear in this video that organizations such as Chosen People Ministries get their funding from many of the very same "Christian Zionist" sources which support pro-Israel causes:
"The pocket that gives 50 cents to support Jewish causes in Israel, that same pocket gives 3 dollars to support missionary causes to convert Jewish souls."
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has been used as a poster boy of sorts for Chosen People Ministries as he regularly debates missionary extraordinaire Dr. Michael Brown on Christian television and at other venues.
CDs of the debates are sold by the missionary organization and choice video excerpts are disseminated widely online.
Sadly, Boteach does not have the upper hand in these debates. Boteach's name has repeatedly been used by CPM to promote their Isaiah 53 campaign.
Very recently, Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Daniel Lapin(“America’s Rabbi”) took the stage with CPM's messianic Christian "rabbi" Neal Surasky to open the National Day of Prayer which took place May 2nd, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Rabbi Lapin's remarks were followed by "rabbi" Surasky's explanation of and blowing of the shofar:
"Tekiah gedola, the great blast is actually a reminiscent tone of a time yet to come. For we know in the new covenant scripture, when yeshua hamashaich –jesus the messiah –returns, he will be heralded with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the sound of the shofar."
Rabbi Lapin regularly appears on Christian missionary television and speaks at evangelical events. He disregards the widely accepted halacha forbidding participation in interfaith and Christian prayer events. But we would have expected that even he would have drawn the line with someone like CPM's Surasky, whose very raison d'etre is to convert Jews.
And speaking of a disgrace…
While much of Israeli and Diaspora Jewry (and the world media) watches, with fascination and disgust, the embarrassing battle of the sexes taking place at the Kotel between some extremely unorthodox women and extreme ultra-Orthodox men, there is a desecration more deplorable and abominable going-down at that holy site. It may be time for all Jews to call a truce between themselves and turn their attention to the mild-mannered missionary leaders from Chosen People Ministries who regularly and comfortably use Judaism's holy site as a backdrop to express their dreams of luring Jewish men, women and children away from their faith and from the One G-d of Israel.