Jews for Jesus to Hit Streets of D.C. Evangelism Effort Stirring Debate
Byline: Julia Duin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Dozens of evangelists with Jews for Jesus will hit the streets of Washington starting next week for a monthlong campaign at Metro stops, downtown areas and college campuses aimed at the Washington area's 215,000 Jews.
More than 600 people took an evangelism-training course last month at the 10,000-member McLean Bible Church to prepare for the "Behold Your God" campaign. The blitz also will involve radio and newspaper ads.
"We want to make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to Jewish people in the Washington area," said Stephen Katz, Washington director of Jews for Jesus. "We want to ask them: Is He our Messiah or not?"
Jewish leaders are retaliating with counterevangelism workshops and countermissionary efforts on downtown streets, college campuses and Jewish nursing homes.
"The best defense against Jews for Jesus is education," said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington. "What they are preaching is certainly not Judaism and certainly not Christianity."
The "Behold Your God" campaign in Washington, part of a five-year effort to reach 66 cities around the world - each with a Jewish population of more than 25,000, runs Aug. 18 to Sept. 18. It will overlap the High Holy Days, the holiest part of the Jewish year beginning Sept. 15.
It also will be the largest evangelistic effort in Washington in the 31-year history of the San Francisco-based Jews for Jesus, targeting the nation's sixth-largest Jewish community.
"It's high time our people take an objective look at whether Jesus is the Messiah," Mr. Katz said. "They usually ignore the issue or just believe what their rabbi says. We say, 'Talk with us. There's a real discussion here. There's a family feud. There's been one for 2,000 years.' "
McLean Bible Church, home to 150 to 200 Jews who have converted to Christianity, will be the hub of the evangelistic effort. Seventy-five of these converted Jews attended an evangelistic workshop in the spring to prepare for the campaign, said senior pastor the Rev. Lon Solomon, who grew up in a Conservative Jewish household.
"My goal is 1 million pieces of literature handed out in four weeks," Mr. Solomon said. "I'd like to see 500 Jews and Gentiles alike pray and ask Jesus into their life."
"I love doing this," said Mr. Solomon, the former chaplain of Jews for Jesus' yearly evangelism campaigns in New York and a veteran street evangelist. "There's never been anything like this in Washington."
Ten other churches, including several local congregations of "Messianic" Jews who have converted to Christianity, will contact potential believers reached by the campaign. Three board members of Jews for Jesus, including Mr. Solomon, will be part of the campaign, but the organization is not releasing information on where it plans to hand out literature. …