1 Ellul 5759
Dear Rabbi Orlofsky:
I am currently attending college in New York City, and on an almost daily basis find myself confronted by missionaries from Jews for Jesus outside of subway stations and hanging around other busy streetcorners. I am certainly not worried about my own hashkafa, and for the most part, all they do is shove fliers in my face. But nevertheless they get my blood pressure skyrocketing, and I wish that I could somehow negate their work. Once I asked a missionary to give me all of his brochures (so that I could secretly deposit them in the nearest waste receptacle), but he looked appalled and spat out a decisive “NO.” It breaks my heart to think that vulnerable, uneducated Jews are falling prey to these Chot’im U’Machtim. Please advise as to whether I can or should do anything to respond to this threat to our people, or whether I should merely ignore it and just daven that their pamphlets should self-destruct within two seconds of distribution.
Thank you for your time.
Rachel S. Salamon
Bnot Torah Institute 5757
For some reason, nothing interesting ever happens to me. I have never won the lottery, never met a ghost (unlike some of my students) and never confronted a missionary. Never. They never knocked on my door, approached me in the street or called me on the phone. I have never seen them on the street. So anything I say on this subject is hearsay (I hope not heresy).
First of all, the missionaries themselves are not very knowledgeable and certainly not open-minded or intellectually honest. They don’t want a debate – they want to convert people. If you argue with them, you will go in circles. People observing the debate will seldom be impressed by you quoting Matthew or (lihavdil) Issaiah because they don’t know anything about either one and care even less.
From what I understand, the most effective methods involve making them look foolish or stripping off their mask of apparent love. Asking questions like “If I don’t believe in Jesus will I burn in Hell? That doesn’t sound like too much love”. Or “If Hitler accepted Jesus into his heart before he died is Hitler in heaven? And the six million Jews who died saying “Shema Yisroel” are in Hell? Well then I’d rather be in Hell than in Heaven with you and Hitler”. Then there’s “If Christianity teaches love why is there so much violence among Christians? Why don’t you preach to your own people first?”
I heard a story from Rabbi Yossie Abrams when he was learning in yeshiva in Israel. It was during KEY 73, a major movement to convert Jews in 1973. He told how an anti-missionary person had come down to the yeshiva to arm the yeshiva guys in case they confront missionaries. They were supposed to say, “Do you really believe all this New Testament garbage? If they said yes, obviously, they would quote them the verse from the New Testament that said, “If someone asks you for the shirt off your back, give it to him.” Do you really believe that? If so give me your shirt! The fellow said he did this to a missionary once and walked off with all his clothes.
Needless to say, the guys in the yeshiva were inspired and they all went off in search of missionaries. All the guys who set off that day came back to yeshiva with new watches that they had gotten from missionaries. The only one without a watch was poor Rabbi Abrams. So he sat out to find a missionary, but there were none to be found. Finally, he saw a fellow with a sign that read “YOU DON’T NEED MOSES”. Rabbi Abrams checked to make sure the guy had a nice watch, and sat next to this guy on the bus. He finally turned to him and asked “Do you really believe all this New Testament garbage?” The fellow looked at him strangely and replied “No”. “So what’s with the sign?” Rabbi Abrams asked. “It reads YOU DON’T NEED MOSES”. The fellow turned the sign around. The other side said “EGGED TOURS CAN LEAD YOU TO THE PROMISED LAND”. He never got a watch.
Having said all of this, I don’t suggest that average yeshiva guys and seminary girls strike up conversations with missionaries. They are trained to get their point across and they will lie, mislead, make up quotes, claim as proof Rashi’s and gemaras that don’t exist (but sound like they could) and anything else that works. My advice is that this area should be left to the experts and if you meet someone who is involved, get him in contact with a group like “Jews for Judaism”.
And remember – tefilla is the best weapon in our arsenal. Hang in there.