If you believe Jesus is the messiah, died for anyone else’s sins, is God’s chosen son, or any other dogma of Christian belief, you are not Jewish. You are Christian. Period.
We Jews may not like to admit it, since we prefer live and let live, but sharing the message of their faith is a basic tenet of belief for Christians. However, there are ethical and unethical ways of doing so. The self-proclaimed Jews for Jesus, Messianics, and other Christian groups that clothe their Christian beliefs in Jewish language and ritual are nothing better than wolves in sheep’s clothing, luring often-unsuspecting Jews with unscrupulous advertising and deceptive programming, like Passover Seders and Hanukkah parties. Their methods are unethical. They often prey on the emotionally vulnerable.
Unfortunately, their success is built upon the significant financial and in-kind support they receive from both evangelical churches like the Assemblies of God, dedicated to the mass conversion of Jews as part of their apocalyptic vision, and from the local mainstream churches in my area whose leadership doesn’t seem to understand why the Messianic or ‘Jew’ for Jesus form of Christianity should be as offensive to them as it is to us.
Unfortunately, the success of these groups is also built upon our own failures in the Jewish community: failures to sufficiently fund Jewish outreach to the unaffiliated; to take seriously the need to train outreach workers; our own reticence to push our enthusiasm for Jewish observance (unless you are Lubavitch) on other Jews and to go out of our way to care for those in emotional need in our community, whether from a divorce, a job loss, problems with parents, loneliness, or any number of other reasons.
Every Jew who converts to Christianity is a failure for the Jewish community. However, as much as I feel pain over Jews who convert to Christianity, it is even worse if the Jew has become a ‘Jew’ for Jesus, because such merging of beliefs is anathema to Judaism.
Since the Christianization of the Roman Empire, Jews have chosen to die rather than accept that Jesus is the messiah, the savior, or in any way different than any other child of God. They did so because we Jews believe in the unambiguous unity of God, that God hears everyone’s prayers (without the need for an intercessor), that there is no vicarious atonement, only the atonement each person seeks through asking forgiveness and doing good deeds, and that the messiah has not yet come, for the world is not yet perfect and at peace. That these groups imply that someone could be a Jew and believe otherwise (in Jesus as their personal savior) is simply a lie.
The best defense is a good offense. That is why we should give three cheers to Jackie Mason on deciding to sue Jews for Jesus and demanding truth in their advertising, let alone not using famous people in their deceptive advertising without permission.
That is also why we should be providing more support to such groups as Jews for Judaism, why each of us can and should learn more about what Judaism believes, and why each of us can and should do more to reach out to our Jewish neighbors and bring them home to an honest and true expression of their Judaism.