Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Re: “We Jews will Never convert”

I belong to a group on Facebook called “We Jews will Never convert”. I think the title is self explanatory. At some point I also became an administrator of this group, being fairly new to Facebook I am not really sure how this came about, but I didn’t decline; in fact I found myself flattered and proud. I have posted on the page a few times and think it is a good place for people to vent their frustration at the bombardment of opinions, unsolicited of course, about people who “offer” a new religion to Jewish people. And sometimes the sheer harassment of it all.

Generally speaking I am a live and let live kind of person. I try to act in a way that I think is an appropriate, though I am not perfect. And I try to act with patience and understanding, or so I think.

In my previous location, I used to belong to an all woman’s gym. The owner, a talkative and charming woman asked me what I was doing for Easter. “Nothing,” I told her, “I’m Jewish.” She was Greek Orthodox and seemed not only respectful but genuinely interested. I told her a little bit about Passover. She asked the obvious, “So Passover is like your Easter?” Nope. We talked about varying things as the other women talked about different traditions. She asked me again the next week. “Still Jewish,” I answered from the stationary bike. “Sorry, I forgot.” she answered, and then asked me some more questions. One of the women who hadn’t been in our last few conversations identified herself a x-tian and exclaimed, “Oh you haven’t heard of our lord” you know who. Yes, thought, of course being Jewish is just a case of being horribly misinformed, you ignorant jerk. I didn’t have to answer because the owner reprimanded her for me.

Since I have moved here I have had more door to door salesman than I ever remember. It is a small town with an even smaller Jewish population and lots and lot of evangelicals. The Rabbi no longer participates in the ministry meetings because his suggestion to pray exclusively to G-d so that he could participate in good conscience was answered with a resounding, “no”.

One of our door to door salesmen was guy that came to the door dressed like a character on TV playing a southern preacher. He had a white shirt and kept adjusting the top of his pants and running his hands around the inside of his belt. He came, he said, to give us ‘some inspiration’ in a world that was lacking it and kept lifting the ‘bible’ in his right hand as though it was a weight or maybe to remind us it was there. At first I used my stand by opening for such occasions. (The fact that I have developed a standby opening should have been sounding an alarm in my head.) “This is the Rabbi’s house,” I told him and gestured toward the synagogue. He hesitated but only for a moment. Then he told me he wanted to read something to me from the book of Daniel. As he opened his mouth I interrupted, “We read the bible. The Torah, a different portion every week,” I told him. He looked a little confused and opened the book again. The a piece of glass fell from the storm door and hit him in the foot. You can think of this a coincidence if you want to…

I had a girl of about thirteen with an even smaller girl in tow come to the door to offer an invitation to a local churches picnic-a drive for new membership. When I told the little girl at the door that we were Jewish she said, “That’s alright, we’re inviting anyone.” Thanks. I showed her the door frame and told her she should skip the homes with a mezuzah, indicating that the Jewish people considered it a grave sin to try to convert them. Did it work? I can’t know. But at least she learned that this is the Rabbi’s house and she should be sure to tell the church not to leave those incessant bible study fliers.

And as if those fliers aren’t enough. We have started to receive mail. One letter was addressed to temple, synagogues, churches and so on, so it is clear that it wasn’t a mistake that we received it. It was a long rant in newsletter form about anti-gentilism, which it alleged was rampant in our country. I gave it to the Rabbi.

This morning I opened a letter intended for my husband. (He told me to as he didn’t recognize the name in the return address.) Inside was a series of letters from a man (though he is not a congregant, we know is father) to his ill aunt with a handwritten note atop stating just that, no other explanation. For some reason this man felt the need to send copies of this six page diatribe to the RABBI’S HOUSE. Before I set out to explain the letters, I have to tell you that parts of them were unintelligible, however one theme seemed to be that the aunt, while not x-tain, could still possibly go to heaven. There were also a lot of “scripture” quotes and references to lakes of fire, Buddha, Karma, the church and so on. But significant mentions of the Jewish people were also made: Such as if someone could come into to heaven without becoming a x-tain then everyone would worship like the Jews do (?) Also, that while Sodom and Gomorra were destroyed for their sins, their sins were not as bad as the Jews (?). And so on.

Are these the only instances? Of course not, just recent ones. A woman whose husband knows my husband suggested over dinner that they are just doing what they think is right, and that I should try to be more understanding of that. Okay, maybe the first time. Though I don’t understand why someone would think one religion’s doctrines and traditions trump the rights of another. Oh wait, yes I do. And that’s the point.


  1. Several years ago one of my neighbors tried engaged me in missionary conversation. When I mentioned the documentary hypothesis, she became flustered. Then when I explained that reading Friedman was just one way of approaching the text, whereas Rashi's commentary was a good of seeing it from a different angle, she become really disturbed. How did she resolve scriptural contradictions? She didn't. And neither should a proper Christian! Since then she has not spoken to me, and it is evident that she believes I am unholy. I have not disabused her of that notion.
    I also tend to use my Calvinist family heritage to sternly disapprove of all missionary types I meet - we may not have been "frumme Kalvinistim" in several generations, but we are still sternly disapproving. Albeit selectively.

  2. People even within the same sects of the same religion disagree about the Wellhausen hypothesis-I'm not familiar with your reference to Friedman, not enough info-Happily, familiar with Rashi though!