Don’t judge an envelope by what it says

On Monday, there was left on our doorstep a small package in a white envelope. There was no address but on the top right there was a printed image of a cancelled stamp with the Star of David and Hebrew lettering on it, below which was written “Hand delivered by IRM”. On the top right where the return address would be was the same Hebrew word in larger lettering, below which was a logo of a menorah and “ISRAEL RESTORATION MINISTRIES: Hope and Gladness for the Jewish People”.

I was puzzled because although we live in a integrated community that has people of all ethnicities and religions including a significant number of Jews, I had never before received any proselytizing material from any group, apart from the inevitable visits from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and on one occasion from two Mormon missionaries. And yet on the same day I get materials from the Christian evangelical Gospel Odyssey about their lectures, I also got this from IRM.

On opening the IRM package, I saw that it consisted of a thick booklet titled “Frequently Asked Questions by the Jewish People” and a DVD that said “The Testimony of Tom Cantor: A Message of Hope and Gladness for the Jewish People”.

In reading through the booklet, I discovered that I had been mistaken. This was not a proselytization message from Jews, it was a message aimed at Jews by an evangelical Christian group. A Google search of Tom Cantor revealed that he is a Jew who converted to Christianity back in 1970 and was now seeking to persuade fellow Jews to do the same and IRM is part of his effort. It is clearly subtly targeting Jews for conversion using phrases such as the ‘Jewish Messiah’. When I first read that, I thought he was referring to something in Jewish prophecy. I had to read through quite a bit before realizing that is was just plain old Jesus. I am not sure whether this kind of somewhat deceptive approach is effective. It seems to me that Jews who read it thinking that it was aimed at informing them about their faith would be highly annoyed to find that they had been suckered into reading a Christian evangelism pitch.

I am not sure whether this sudden upsurge in proselytization by evangelical Christians in our community is a one-off phenomenon or whether they have targeted it for a sustained effort. I am not sure if Gospel Odyssey and IRM work together or it just so happened that both their materials arrived on the same day. Maybe they use the same delivery system.

It’ll be interesting to see if there is any follow-up activity.


  1. Enkidum says

    According to fairly standard Xian doctrine, isn’t Jesus the Jewish Messiah, who I believe is mentioned in a couple of the prophetic books? So yeah, it might irritate your average Jew to be targeted this way, but I believe it’s at least appropriating real Jewish doctrine.

  2. Guess Who? says

    Jews don’t believe Jesus was The Messiah ™ because he didn’t fulfill a number of very important criteria (which escape me at the moment because I’m not Jewish and not Christian, so it’s all just kinda moot to me anyway).

    What in the world made that group think you might be Jewish, and therefore “need” to see their proselytizing?

  3. says

    While Christians may believe he’s the Jewish Messiah, the Jews don’t agree. I can totally understand why they wouldn’t be impressed by this message

  4. jamessweet says

    My wife’s uncle (who is an Orthodox Jew) had a short-lived marriage to a Christian woman, a Baptist I believe. (The woman was not only not-a-Jew, but she was also black, and the marriage took place less than a year after his wife of some 20-odd years had tragically died young of cancer — so the family was scandalized three times over. He had more work friends attend than family. Sad — but also, the marriage was doomed from the start, as they were a terrible match and it was very much a rebound-from-grief sort of thing. Blargh, anyway, that’s all another story…)

    In an apparent compromise, they had Messianic Jews (a.k.a. “Jews for Jesus”) do the ceremony. It was… weird. That’s all I can really say about it. Probably less weird for me, being an atheist gentile (and a former Mormon to boot, so I’m used to fringe religions). My wife and what family did attend were taken quite by surprise, but I wasn’t: The language in the invitation swung wildly from “take their vows under the chuppah” to “celebrate the sacrifice of our savior Jesus Christ”. It was obvious to me that some godforsaken compromise was in the works — something which would piss off everyone and satisfy nobody.

    Then there was the casting out of the devil during the reception. Oy. What a mess.

    And to Enkidum’s point: Yeah, it kinda slides reasonably well into Judaic theology — but it’s a terrible match for Jewish culture and Jewish tradition. To be honest, one of the strengths of Jewish culture (IMO) is that there’s an unspoken acknowledgement that the Messiah will always be awaited, but will never arrive. And it’s another facet of Jewish culture (though a less positive one, again IMO) that there tends to be a very strong sense of identity and of “looking out for our own”. The idea that the Messiah did indeed come, and that as a result Jews should just join up with Christians, is like double-blasphemy for most Jews. It’s just like Enkidum says: It’s a tidy fit for the theology, but it annoys the living shit out of the vast majority of Jews 😀 They don’t get many converts….

  5. Corvus illustris says

    Oh sure, it was some species of fundies. Did they cover the whole neighborhood, or were you targeted? If the latter held, somebody’s not very good at Name Ethnic Analysis or Visual Ethnic Analysis. (Back before the fundies and Romans formed their tactical alliance, the former would see me as Irish RC ripe for conversion to True Christianity; this provided fuel for merriment, as the surname was calqued into English in a previous generation. Singham could be taken for English, but Jewish??)

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    For a good laugh, check out the skeptical book, The Fakers by Danny Korem, who identifies himself as a Messianic Jew, along with Paul D. Meier. ISBN-13: 978-0800711306

  7. says

    I am not sure whether this kind of somewhat deceptive approach is effective.

    Of course it is. Billions of deluded faithful are proof that deception works.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    … “Hand delivered by IRM” …

    Doesn’t count unless it was explicitly delivered out of Egypt.

  9. CaitieCat says

    Yeah, but then it’d have to spend forty years wandering the dead-letter office, before being delivered across the street, unable to quite reach Prof. Singham’s place.

    And then it would have a big sad.

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