North America has long been cherished as a haven by those of many nations who have groaned under oppression in their native lands. Jewish people are high on the list of those who have benefited by the religious freedom and economic opportunity that have characterized North American society, particularly in the United States. They, in turn, have poured their energy and gifts into helping to shape the society and culture of North American life.
It is a sad fact that the United States has had its fair share of antisemitic organizations and personalities. In the decade leading up to World War II, there were over 100 antisemitic organizations in America, including the German American Bund and others with such exotic names as the Silver Shirts, the White Knights of the Camellia, and the so-called Christian Front. The two figures described here, however, were especially well-known and, therefore particularly destructive.
The Shameful Side of Henry Ford’s Legacy
Henry Ford (1863-1947) was not only the man that revolutionized the automobile industry through mass production and the “$5 workday” for his factory workers. He was also a virulent antisemite. Shortly after World War I, he acquired the weekly newspaper The Dearborn Independent, in which he published regular antisemitic rants. Ford was deeply opposed to World War I, and he accused “German-Jewish bankers” of instigating the war for profit. Ford also perpetuated the fabricated antisemitic falsehood called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which outlined a Jewish plan for world domination. As noted Jewish historian Jonathan D. Sarna writes,
“For ninety-one straight issues beginning on May 22, 1920, Ford’s weekly newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, purported to describe an international Jewish conspiracy based on the notorious antisemitic forgery known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
One series of Ford’s articles entitled, “The International Jew” was collected and translated into several languages and widely circulated in South America and Europe. Adolf Hitler admired Ford greatly and praised him in Mein Kampf. Hitler also kept a picture of Ford on the wall of his office in Munich, and, on the occasion of Ford’s 75th birthday, he awarded Ford the highest honor Germany could bestow on a foreigner—the Grand Cross of the German Eagle.
Although Ford eventually apologized for his statements, his hateful depictions of “The International Jew” provided fuel for other Jew-haters that emerged during the years leading up to World War II and greatly hindered efforts to render aid to persecuted European Jewry.
Father Coughlin – The Poisonous Priest
The Great Depression was a time of struggle and increasing isolation. Antisemitism in America was on the rise in the 1930s amid the unfriendly influences of a prevailing anti-immigration sentiment, an increasing anxiety about the rise of Communism and the accompanying suspicion of Jews in general for their supposed Communist leanings.
In that decade, another voice would travel over the radio waves with its message of unreasoning antisemitism. Father Charles Coughlin (1891-1979), a Catholic priest based in Detroit who was among the first to see the vast possibilities of mass media, created a weekly radio program that reached an audience as large as twelve million. A staunch foe of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, Coughlin took a page from Henry Ford and first railed against international financiers (code for Jews) and later openly denounced highly placed Jews in Roosevelt’s administration. Only ten days after Kristallnacht, the calamity of destruction levelled against the German Jews, their synagogues and businesses on November 9-10, 1938, Coughlin’s radio broadcast openly blamed the Jews.
The outbreak of World War II finally shut off Father Coughlin’s stream of antisemitic poison. Widely seen by then as a firm Nazi sympathizer, it was behind-the-scenes pressure exerted by the Roosevelt Administration that finally forced him off the air.
Sources consulted: American Judaism: A History by Jonathan D. Sarna
Antisemitism in America by Leonard Dinnerstein
Antisemitism Is Still with Us!
On April 11, 1944, Anne Frank wrote in her diary,
“ Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up until now? It is God who has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again.” 1
The term “antisemitism” was coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr, a German political activist who founded the League of Anti-Semites to counter the influence of Jewish people in German society. His hatred of Jews was founded primarily on racial, rather than religious, grounds. Today, antisemitism describes anyone who hates the Jewish people and seeks their harm on the basis of their Jewish identity. It has taken the form of religious persecution of the Jewish people (the Inquisitions, pogroms, etc.), as well as non-religious and more racially based oppression. It has resulted in the confinement of Jewish people in ghettos, and the imposition of limitations regarding education, jobs, the owning of personal property, and much more. Ultimately, this racial and government-based antisemitism resulted in the Holocaust.
Antisemitism in America Today
Antisemitism, unfortunately, also has a long history in the United States. In some instances, hatred of the Jewish people was a cultural value exported to the U.S. from Europe. Jewish people who immigrated to America were not immune from the well-developed European antisemitism that had begun to embed itself in American society, which took the form of discriminatory quotas for immigration, the workplace, and in academic institutions. In 1938, a Gallup poll determined that 50% of those responding to a broad survey admitted to having negative views of Jews.
In spite of this, America has, by and large, been friendly towards the Jewish people. Jews have flourished in America as nowhere else in what many Jewish people coined, “The Golden Land.” However, recent years have seen a slight, albeit alarming, rise in antisemitism.
Political campaign slogans, such as “With Jews We Lose,” recently became the mantra for one candidate of the extremist and racist White Guard Party, which “seeks to show White people the facts regarding the Jewish role in America’s decline as well as highlight the destructive effects that multiculturalism, diversity, and political correctness have had on this country.” 2
According to surveys completed in 2013-14 by the Anti-Defamation League and reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 9-12% of Americans have expressed antisemitic views. There is also an alarming amount of anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist activity on American campuses. In a recent video on YouTube, an experiment showed students responding better to a man flying the ISIS flag than to another individual holding an Israeli flag.3
In some cases, antisemitism taints the rhetoric of those who oppose the modern state of Israel generally or with regard to a particular policy. This conflation of a specific disagreement with Israel with the racist generalizations of antisemitism has become all too common in secular society. It has even reared its ugly head within Christian circles, as Israelis and Jews have been characterized in a harsh and unfavorable light as a people.
Abraham Foxman, national U.S. director of the Anti-Defamation League claims that “bigotry is still with us, we haven’t won that battle. We have not found an antidote, a vaccine. Until we find that vaccine, it’s going to be with us.”
The Gospel and Antisemitism
What a great opportunity we have as followers of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus! By joining our Jewish friends and family in withstanding any encroachment of antisemitism in our society, we demonstrate through our actions that we love the Jewish people. Our efforts to stand with the Jewish people against antisemitism, whenever and wherever it rises, gives concrete expression to our belief that it was God’s choice to create a people for His glory and purposes. This can only lead to a deeper and more profound witness to the Jewish people.
We encourage followers of Jesus the Messiah to speak out against antisemitism in all its forms. To quote Abraham Foxman once more, “The gas chambers in Auschwitz did not begin with bricks; they began with words, with ugly words. Because there was no one who stood up and said, ‘Don’t say that!’ I will not be silent….”4
As believers in Jesus, we must denounce antisemitism not only as racism, but also as sin and a great evil. Let’s not be silent—for the sake of the Jewish people and our Jewish Messiah.
Dear friend in the Messiah,
Shalom from New York City. I thank you for your faithful prayers and support. We are constantly amazed at the good things the Lord is doing among His chosen people!
This issue of the newsletter is all about one of my least favorite topics—antisemitism—and how it has driven Jewish people away from the Gospel. But as hard as it is to face this painful reality, there are valuable lessons to be learned that can make us more prayerful and effective ambassadors of the life-giving message of the Gospel.
Let me explain by telling you a story about a conversation I had with my grandparents. My father and I were visiting his parents at their apartment in Coney Island, Brooklyn. While we were enjoying bowls of chicken soup and matzoh balls, we were engaged in a deep theological discussion. That table was the scene of many discussions like these. My dear grandparents were trying to figure out why I believed in Jesus and not Moses or Marx.
I finally had the chance to get a word in and asked a question. I said, “Dad does not believe in God and, like Grandpa, he never attends synagogue yet he still says that he is Jewish. I, on the other hand, believe in the God of our fathers, learned Hebrew, married a Jewish girl and believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Which one of us is the better Jew?” My grandmother did not hesitate to respond. “Your father,” she replied. And I daresay she spoke for the majority of the Jewish community!
What was she really saying? My grandmother, like most Jewish people, understood that being Jewish is more a matter of community identity than religious faith and that a person could remain part of the community as long as certain lines were not crossed. However, if you did cross one of these unseen lines, you could easily cross right out of being Jewish altogether.
In the Jewish mindset, believing in Jesus is one of those lines. Once you cross over, there is no return, save the renunciation of your faith.
Unbelief in Jesus Is Part of Jewish Identity
As a minority in a predominantly Christian culture, Jewish unbelief in Jesus has become a part of our upbringing, especially in America. Jewish people like myself are raised knowing that Jesus is not for the Jews.
Therefore, your Jewish friends will be resistant to even listening to the Gospel because they fear both family and community rejection. Theological objections to Jesus are secondary! And unfortunately, evangelism is viewed as a threat and even as a form of antisemitism.
Yet, we know the Lord is able to open the hearts of Jewish people. I know this is possible from first-hand experience, as I stepped over that line in November 1970 and discovered, to my great surprise, that I was still Jewish!
The Jewish Community Views Christianity as a Threat
The Jewish community generally views Christianity as a threat because of the long history of “Christian” antisemitism. You will find out more about this in this newsletter as well as learn of the opportunities true believers have to combat this truly evil presence.
In his excellent book, Faith or Fear (1997), Eliot Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), argues that Jewish people should not fear Christians, as most evangelicals support Israel and have a concern for more traditional values. He writes,
Evangelical activities are not inherently anti-Semitic; any more than Jewish efforts to convert Christians are inherently the mark of bigotry or a deprecation of Christianity. What determines whether evangelizing is anti-Semitic is what is underlying it—and Christian attitudes toward Judaism have changed enormously in the last few decades (Abrams, p. 58-59).
And yet, the average Jewish person still feels threatened by Christianity.
This is easy to understand when viewed in light of the troubled history of Jewish-Christian relations. Solomon Grayzel, a Jewish historian with an acrid pen, writes, “The history of Judaism and Christianity is written in blood and punctuated in violence.”
Even in our secular culture, there is still an ingrained fear among Jewish people that Christianity will dominate the public sector, that the religious freedoms of the Jews will be curtailed, that the line between church and state will become blurred, and Jews will ultimately be persecuted, as was often the case in Medieval Europe.
Somehow the Church has to show the Jewish community that Jesus is “Jewish-friendly” and that Christian involvement in the public sector does not guarantee future anguish for the Jews. In fact, there is a greater similarity of values true Christians hold in common with the Jewish community—love of fellow man, the preservation of basic freedoms and even a concern for the preservation of the Jewish people. These bridges of understanding will create a climate for a more powerful and effective witness by Christians for the Lord.
Abrams addresses this issue as well, and his comments give me some hope that there might be some improvement in the days ahead. He writes,
It is unreasonable for Jews to demand of Christians that they abandon a central tenet of their faith, which calls for evangelizing—for spreading the gospel to the world. Indeed, from the Jewish perspective, Christian evangelizing has brought knowledge of the Hebrew Bible and Ten Commandments to millions never reached by Judaism. But, the rejection of Jews and Judaism that usually accompanied efforts to spread the gospel has meant disaster for the Jews. If today, Christian churches have abandoned their traditional contempt for Judaism, perhaps the wish to spread the gospel will not be attended in the future by episodes of anti-Semitic talk and activities.
What Can You Do?
The most effective way for you to remain faithful to your calling as a witness to Jewish people for the Gospel is to be honest and kind, helping your Jewish friends understand that it is your duty as a believer to share the Good News with them and that it flows from a heart of love, not out of religious contempt or superiority. You can also introduce Jewish friends who are interested in Jesus to another Messianic Jew, or take them to visit a Messianic congregation so that they understand from the start that embracing Jesus will not deprive them of their Jewish identity.
Holocaust Memorial Tour
We are getting ready for what I hope will be a very moving and meaningful trip in June. A number of Chosen People Ministries’ friends, prayer partners and supporters will be traveling to Germany and Poland on our first Chosen People Ministries Holocaust Memorial Tour. The purpose for the trip goes far beyond education and information. It is also intended to help those who support and pray for Chosen People Ministries to better understand the background behind the reasons why most Jewish people do not believe in Jesus. I am hoping that those who travel with us will better understand the resistance our missionaries and staff workers around the world face every day in their ministry among Jewish people.
By the way, although we only have a few slots left, please feel free to call 212–223–2252 and speak to Jennifer to see if there is still room for you to go on the trip. You can also visit chosenpeople.com/memorialtour for more information. I know that it is going to be life-changing because my wife and I did the same trip a couple of years ago. The trip made a huge impact on our lives — and I know it would do the same for you.
Enjoy the newsletter and remember to pray for Your Mission to the Jewish People!
Dear friend of the Jewish people,
This past August, on a warm Friday evening in Los Angeles, a prominent Jewish comic was walking with his family, dressed for Sabbath—easily identifiable as a Jewish family. As reported in the Jewish Journal, a black Mercedes SUV pulled up next to them. A young man jumped out and screamed, “I hope your children die!”
The comic’s daughters, five and ten, were understandably frightened. They immediately started crying and the eldest wailed, “I’m scared.”
This family was targeted simply because they are Jewish. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. A few months earlier, two men killed a rabbi while he was walking to synagogue on a Saturday morning in Miami. In April, a white supremacist killed three people at a Jewish community center during a shooting rampage in Overland Park, Kansas. As tensions rise in the Middle East, antisemitic incidents persist around the world in countries like Argentina, Belgium, France and Australia.
The “Longest and Deepest Hatred of Human History”
All racism is evil, but there is something different and even more insidious about antisemitism.
Hatred of the Jewish people has a long and abhorrent history with demonic roots. Edward H. Flannery writes, “Antisemitism is the longest and deepest hatred of human history.” Why has there been such widespread Jew hatred throughout history? And why have the Jewish people been singled out? The reason is theological. To put it simply, antisemitism is the most critical arena of spiritual warfare there is.
The Bible is clear: God loves both Israel and the Jewish people (Deut. 7:6-9; Jer. 31:3; Rom. 11:2, 29). Antisemitism has one cause—Satan. Israel plays a crucial role in God’s redemptive plan for the world. Therefore, Satan seeks to thwart God’s plan by concentrating his efforts on destroying the Jewish people.
During the Jewish holiday of Purim, we celebrate God’s protection of Esther and His chosen people. The story of Esther tells about a man named Haman, who plotted to eradicate the Jewish people from the Persian Empire. Haman convinced the king to pass an edict to “destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children” (Est. 3:13).
Haman is a picture of how Satan has prompted individuals throughout history to attempt to eradicate the Jewish people. Pharaoh, Antiochus IV, Herod the Great and Adolf Hitler all attempted to thwart God’s plan of redemption by killing the Jewish people. Like Haman, these men also failed in their plots because the nation of Israel is as permanent as the foundation of God’s creation (Jer. 31:35-37).
Satan’s plot became even more sinister when he began using Christianity as the vehicle to persecute the Jewish people.
While Satan has failed to destroy the Jewish people, he has not failed to drive a wedge between Israel and the Gospel as a result of the cruelty of those who have gone by the name of “Christian.” As a result, much of the Jewish world is reticent to consider the claims of Jesus as the Messiah. Those of us who have discovered life through Jesus have encountered resistance from our friends and family because they frequently view us as traitors, brainwashed by the enemy.
One More Story!
Some months ago, I had lunch with a friend at one of the restaurants inside the Empire State Building. We prayed before we ate, as we usually do, and thought nothing of it. After the meal, we paused to talk a few moments in the cavernous lobby of the building—it was teeming with people, as almost 15,000 work in the building.
All of a sudden, a man in his early 60s approached us and asked, “What do you two do for a living?” He was curious because he had seen us pray.
I told him, “I spend my time telling Jewish people about Jesus.”
He then said, “I’m Jewish!”
I said, “Great! Then I can tell you!”
He answered with half a smile and said, “I don’t believe in religion!”
I told him I was not religious either, but I believed we all needed to have a personal relationship with God through the Jewish Messiah, Jesus.
I thought he might walk away at that moment, but instead, he said, “Come up to my office, there are some things I want to show you.”
So, we followed Fred* upstairs to a little office where he sells shirts. Fred opened one of his overflowing drawers and began pulling out pictures—nice family photos of his childhood in Germany. Then, without warning, he produced a picture of a person lying in a pool of blood with a bullet wound in his head. Fred said, “This is my uncle, shot by the Nazis. I found this photo in a collection taken from the Gestapo after the war.” I also learned that Fred, unfortunately, like many other Jewish people, identified the Nazis with Christianity.
He turned to me and said, “You want me to believe in a God who allowed all of this?”
We talked further and shared the Gospel with Fred, telling him that real Christians love the Jewish people and would never tolerate such atrocities. Yet, as the conversation progressed, we learned that Fred was interested in talking with us because a born-again friend had reached out to him and shown an appreciation for his Jewishness. And there it was! The hand of God had brought Fred to us at the right moment!
You see, the only way a Jewish person is going to get beyond the Holocaust, the pogroms and the threat factor of Christianity is through our loving testimony.
Jewish prejudice towards Christianity may be alleviated one person at a time and even one church at a time. Your church can show the local Jewish community kindness. If there is some way to support Jewish concerns in your community, then do it. This will help.
But, nothing breaks down two thousand years of prejudice more effectively than love.
Does it work? If it did not, I would not be writing to you today. Somehow we must show Jewish people the difference between Jesus and the Christianity that has hurt them—one person at a time.
The spiritual antagonism against the Jewish people emanates from the enemy’s desire to prevent the return of the Messiah. But our hope is established upon a firm foundation. Despite Satan’s attempt to thwart God’s plan, we can be certain of Israel’s redemption and Jerusalem’s prominence in Jesus’ Kingdom because God’s promises are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29).
Our Chosen People Ministries staff needs your prayers and financial support more than ever before. We have seen breakthroughs in places and situations—like with Fred—that were utterly unexpected! We see these happening through our campus outreach, our Bible studies, outreach events, Messianic Centers and congregations…but, our staff needs to be encouraged and to endure. Breaking through two thousand years of “bad” history and prejudice against the Gospel is not easy…and it takes time.
Would you help me support our staff by giving to Chosen People Ministries? Without your gifts, we cannot support those on the field doing this great work among His chosen people!
Our staff is our most precious asset as a ministry and this month I hope you will give a generous gift to the Daniel Fuchs Under-Supported Missionary Fund. Our missionaries all raise their own support and a number serving in hard places like Brooklyn, Israel and Russia need your help today. Our goal this calendar year is to raise $200,000 to help them receive their salaries and ministry funds. We cannot do this without you!
Please pray for Robin, Henry, Sasha, Kirill, Rich and a half dozen others who will benefit directly from your gift. I want our staff to be concerned with the Jewish people with whom they are sharing the Gospel and not with fund raising any more than is necessary.
Thank you…SO MUCH…for your love and partnership.
P.S. We have a great book to help you share the Gospel with your Jewish friends, and for your gift of $100 or more, I will send you a copy of the training book How to Introduce Your Jewish Friends to the Messiah. And if you wish, we will also send you a copy of Isaiah 53 Explained that you can give to your Jewish friend.
Shalom. I hope you learn a lot from this volume of the Chosen People Ministries newsletter. The topic of "Modern Day Antisemitism" is critical - particularly with regard to its impact upon Jewish evangelism. This is not an easy subject, and it is one we would probably prefer to avoid, but to do so would be at our own peril. I believe that honestly addressing this issue will ultimately help the cause of Jewish evangelism.
The Upside-Down Picture in Warsaw
My desire to address this difficult topic grows out of a recent experience my wife and I had on a trip to Warsaw. We traveled to Poland to spend time with our Chosen People Ministries partners in this country, which has been so important in the life and history of the Jewish people.
We also wanted to visit the remnants of the Warsaw Ghetto; this was a sad and moving experience. As you might know, more Jewish people were killed in Poland during the Holocaust than in any other country in Europe. Before the war, there were 3.5 million Jewish people living in Poland - and now there are less than 20,000! Among the millions of Polish Jews who died in the Holocaust were thousands of Jewish believers in Jesus. My wife and I wanted to learn more about these heroes of the Holocaust who died in Auschwitz, Treblinka and in the Warsaw Ghetto itself.
While there, I had the opportunity to preach in a Polish church and even had the joy of witnessing to an elderly Polish Jewish man who had survived the war and was not yet a believer. We need to pray for Jewish evangelism in Poland, as there are still thousands of Jewish people there who need to be reached with the Gospel!
Our time in Warsaw was personally significant for my wife and me, as many of our relatives were killed in the Holocaust as well - but nothing compares to the chilling experience we had one evening when we went out to eat in downtown Warsaw with our ministry's representatives in Poland.
The meal was delightful and the service was excellent! But as we were leaving the restaurant, my eyes were drawn to a very strange sight.
There was a picture of an Orthodox Jewish man on the wall that was actually turned upside down. I asked our Polish hosts what it meant, and they told me that this was common in Poland. They said that Poles sometimes hang a picture of a Jewish person in their place of business in order to assure themselves of good financial fortune. In other words, they believed that the presence of a Jewish visage would give them better business! I was thunderstruck by the very idea of this and asked the obvious question, "Then why is the picture turned upside down?"
Their answer took my breath away. They told me that many Poles still dislike Jews and so, even though they wanted the Jewish picture for good luck, they still wanted to indicate their dislike for the Jewish people by turning the picture upside down.
I was horrified, and I hope that the Poles who practice this custom will renounce it.
The Impact of Historic "Christian" Antisemitism
My grandparents, who survived the war, came to the United States from Poland and told me that the Poles did not like the Jews. Perhaps this is true - although I also heard many stories about Poles who hid Jewish people and even about priests who lost their lives because they hid Jews during the Holocaust. And of course, the reason my wife and I were in Poland was because there are believers who today have a great love for the Jewish people.
Still, there is no denying that there is a very powerful antisemitic element that runs deep within the culture of European Catholicism and Orthodoxy. The Catholic Church has recognized this, which was one of the reasons for Vatican II and the various statements of repentance in recent years disavowing historic antisemitism. The ways in which more traditional Protestants treated the Jewish people in Eastern and Western Europe were not much better, as they inherited most of the same views as the Catholics and Orthodox.
These attitudes towards the Jewish people have profoundly impacted Jewish evangelism in both the past and present! This is true not only in Eastern Europe, but all across the globe as the Jewish response to what can be termed "Christian antisemitism" has shaped Jewish attitudes towards the Gospel.
How can almost two thousand years of ill treatment of the Jewish people by "Christians" be counteracted for the sake of the Gospel? Is it possible for Jewish people to believe in Jesus when it seems that Christianity has treated the Jewish people so harshly?
I know there is hope, because I am Jewish and I believe in Jesus! Let me offer a few suggestions on how true followers of Jesus can overcome the dark history of "Christian" antisemitism and reach Jewish people with the message of God's love through the Messiah Jesus.
Keep the Message Personal
Make sure your Jewish friend knows that you do not represent a religion, but rather a person - a Jewish person - Jesus the Messiah.
Additionally, try to communicate that following Jesus is not something you are born into, but rather a matter of personal choice - which you had to make as well. Make sure your Jewish friend knows the difference between a real born-again believer and the types of "Christians" who persecuted Jewish people. Sharing your personal testimony will be helpful.
Extend Love and Patience
The dark historical clouds that shroud the light of the Gospel from Jewish eyes can be dispelled by your love. Find ways to prove history wrong and to demonstrate that true believers in Jesus love the Jewish people. Show kindness and concern for your Jewish friends. Respect them when they explain why they cannot believe in Jesus and meet their objections with patience and understanding. Their willingness to consider the claims of Jesus may not happen quickly; time and many positive experiences may be needed to change their attitudes towards the Gospel message.
Be Sensitive to Jewish Life and Concerns
Since your Jewish friend may not expect you to understand the Jewish faith, take the opportunity to astound them with your knowledge of the Old Testament and of issues that concern the Jewish people. Express a love for Israel, send cards on the Jewish holidays, and if antisemitism erupts in one way or another in the world or in your community, tell your Jewish friend that you want to stand with them against this evil.
Do not allow this overwhelmingly negative history to keep you from sharing the Good News with your Jewish friend.
Most importantly, remember to pray that your Jewish friend will be able to overcome this obstacle through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. After all, God loves your Jewish friend even more than you do! And touching the heart of your Jewish loved one is His work, not ours…so prayer is the key to Jewish evangelism. As the Apostle Paul writes,
Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation (Romans 10:1).
Your brother - praying for your loving witness to my people!
- Jewish Evangelism in Light of a Negative History
- Ministry News Briefs - June 2013
- The Tragic Story of the Church and the Jewish People
The primary reason Jewish people today will not easily consider the possibility that Jesus is the Messiah is because of the historically negative relationship Jewish people have had with Christianity. Growing up in a Jewish home, I was sure of two things: that Christians did not like Jews, and Jesus was not the Messiah... and I knew that the two were intertwined.
Why? For many reasons!
The History of Antisemitism and Christianity
The seeds of antisemitism were sown by the antagonism of early Christian leaders toward Jews and the Jewish religion. A famous example is John "Chrysostom" (Golden-Mouth), Archbishop of Constantinople (349-ca. 407), whose stirring sermons moved many listeners. But when he turned to Jews and Judaism, his mouth was anything but golden.
He vented his ire against members of his own flock, whom he accused of "Judaizing" because they were visiting synagogues and some were trying to keep the Jewish feasts. Underlying his pastoral concerns was a deep disdain for the Jewish people. He wrote,
Do you not see that you are condemned by the testimony of what Christ and the prophets predicted and which the facts have proved? But why should this surprise me? That is the kind of people you are. From the beginning you have been shameless and obstinate, ready to fight at all times against obvious facts. (Homily V, XII, 1)
This is one example of antisemitism on the part of a "Church Father" - and there is much more! From Origen to Augustine to Luther and Calvin, harsh and negative rhetoric was often used against the Jewish people by Christian leaders. This attitude towards the chosen people reached a high point in Luther's treatise entitled, The Jews and Their Lies, where he called for the burning of Jewish religious texts and the dismantling of synagogues. In fact, in Mein Kampf, Hitler asserted that he was merely continuing what Luther started!
There is no doubt that anti-Jewish teaching by church leaders - both Catholic and Protestant - contributed greatly to the Crusades, pogroms and finally to the the Holocaust.
Statues in front of the cathedral in Strasbourg, France, depicting the triumph of the church and the blindness of Israel
This intermingling of the Church's anti-Jewish teaching and the resultant antisemitism it fostered is an almost insurmountable obstacle to Jewish evangelism by Christians today. But this dark cloud can be pierced!
I know this is true because the Lord reached me through faithful and loving Gentile Christians who showed me the difference between what I was raised to believe and what is true of believers who know the truth and have been transformed by the Gospel. As Paul wrote,
I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. (Romans 11:11)
We have the opportunity today to show our Jewish friends and neighbors that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah for all - and that His true followers love the Jewish people.
The "Oldest Hatred" Goes Global
For as long as the Jewish people have existed, their history has been punctuated by antisemitism, the world's "oldest hatred." It comes in different forms: from academic boycotts to cemetery desecration to physical violence, not to mention Holocaust denial and even murder.
Based on the latest statistics, antisemitism is at the highest level since the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism started to keep records twenty years ago. Of course, everybody remembers the Toulouse, France massacre of last March that claimed the lives of a rabbi, three students and three soldiers. There are parts of France where Jews do not dare to go out wearing a yarmulke or any visible Jewish symbol.
Antisemitism is also growing in Spain, the United Kingdom, Poland, Greece and Hungary. We have even started to see the rebirth of political antisemitism with Neo-Nazi parties in Greece and Hungary. Europe is rapidly losing its Jewish communities who, for safety reasons, are immigrating to Canada, the United States and, of course, Israel.
Antisemitism in the "Golden Land"
From the late 19th into the early 20th century, approximately three million Jewish people fled persecution in Europe for the United States -
which was known as the Goldina Medina, or "Golden Land." The 1986 animated film An American Tail depicts this journey, as Fievel Mouskewitz, a Jewish mouse, and his family flee from ferocious cats in Russia. These cats represent the Cossacks who carried out pogroms, or violent riots, against Jewish villages in Russia and Eastern Europe. The Mouskewitz family believed that living in America would alleviate their problems, but when they arrived, they discovered that cats live here too.
Even so, for the most part, America has treated the Jewish community better than any other nation in history. George Washington established a strong relationship between the United States and its Jewish citizens. Since the first American colonies, the United States has provided a place where the Jewish people have flourished.
Yet while America remains the Goldina Medina, the existence of antisemitism must not be overlooked. Just as the Mouskewitz family discovered "cats" in America, Jewish immigrants to the United States have faced notable instances of prejudice. Typically, these experiences were subtle and less pervasive than in Europe, but at times this hatred has become more overt and venomous.
Today, followers of Yeshua have a unique opportunity to reach out to the Jewish community wherever they are and express Messiah's love and compassion for the "apple of His eye" (Zechariah 2:8). Antisemitic antagonists and indifferent bystanders of yesteryear can be replaced by people who love, support, and defend the Jewish people. As one of the villagers said in Le Chambon, France, where the whole town saved over 5,000 Jews during World War II, "It was the most natural thing to do."
Loving Israel and the Jewish people should be the most natural thing to do for Christian believers who understand the biblical mandate of Genesis 12:3. Even though blessing the Jewish people [with the Gospel] might become increasingly challenging, genuine disciples of Yeshua are among the few remaining friends of Israel in a world of many foes. As such, we have no choice but to combat antisemitism.
Notable Instances of American Antisemitism
The first prominent expression of Antisemitism occurred during the Civil War, when an order drafted under General Grant expelled the Jewish people from Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi. Fortunately, President Lincoln quickly revoked this order.
As Jewish immigration to America swelled at the turn of the 20th century, so did incidents of Antisemitism. This discrimination led to the exclusion of Jewish people from social clubs, employment, and owning certain real estate.
Around this time, a young Jewish man named Leo Frank moved from Brooklyn to work as an engineer and superintendent at the National Pencil Company in Atlanta. In April 1913, Frank faced false accusations of strangling a thirteen-year-old girl at the factory. During his trial, the people portrayed Frank as part of the northern Jewish aristocracy who perpetually take advantage of the vulnerable and underprivileged. Crowds celebrated his conviction and used his caricature as a means of calling for the reestablishment of the Klu Klux Klan in 1915. An angry mob abducted Frank, hung him, and then beat his body into disfigurement. As a result, the Jewish community founded the Anti-Defamation League to fight Antisemitism.
Shortly after World War I, Henry Ford acquired the weekly newspaper The Dearborn Independent, in which he published regular anti-Semitic rants. For example, he accused Jewish people of instigating the war for profit. He blamed "German-Jewish bankers" for the war and believed that "the Jew is a threat." Ford also perpetuated an anti-Semitic lie called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which outlined a Jewish plan for world domination.
The Great Depression further fueled Antisemitism. Father Coughlin, a Catholic priest, became a prominent voice for this hatred. He created a weekly radio program with an audience as large as twelve million, and his broadcasts accused Jewish bankers of causing both the Depression and the Russian Revolution. He also publicly sympathized with Nazi Germany and Hitler's policies.
Although instances of Antisemitism in America declined in the aftermath of World War II, a few fringe groups still deny the Holocaust, claiming it was a hoax and a Jewish conspiracy. America continues to be refuge for the Jewish people, but hate still exists. The Jewish community needs believers in Messiah to lovingly stand with them and oppose anti-Jewish ideology wherever it rears its head.
Spreading Hatred in the Middle East
A strong hatred of Jews is also found in the Middle East region, as illustrated by the Arab-Israeli conflict of the last 65 years. If it were not for the global rebirth of Antisemitism, the world would have become rather immune to the xenophobic agenda of radical Islam in the Middle East, but the weed of hatred is spreading. However, Israel might still be the safest place for Jewish people to live, as the country is always well-prepared to defend its people against the daily threat of terrorism.
North America remains a haven for Jews from all over the world, but even North America is not immune to the ailment, even if takes the form of words more frequently than in deeds. Universities all over America are promoting yearly anti-Israel conferences under the banner of "Israeli Apartheid Week" on a myriad of campuses. Other organizations prefer to support the BDS movement (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel.
South America seems to have a growing Jewish community despite existing concerns about Antisemitism. Venezuela remains a major problem, where the "oldest hatred" is state-sponsored.