Jews for Jesus

views updated

Jews for Jesus

The term "Jews for Jesus" has been used since the early 1970s to designate Jews who have embraced the Christian faith yet retained their identity as Jews. The original group that formally carries the name "Jews for Jesus" was founded in 1970 in San Francisco by Moishe Rosen, a missionary of the American Board of Mission to the Jews. The new organization evangelized Jews who were influenced by the counterculture, adapting its evangelization messages and manners to the style of the new generation. Members of the group wore jeans and T-shirts, grew their hair, and embraced the musical trends of the day. Jews for Jesus also gave expression to the new emphasis in American culture on searching for one's roots and ethnicity. It advocated the idea that Jews did not have to give up their identity as Jews, but rather could rediscover themselves as Jews at the same time as they embraced Jesus as their savior. The missionary organization has used Jewish symbols, names, and expressions in its missionary literature. Jews for Jesus also has emphasized its support for the State of Israel and has called its musical band "The Liberated Wailing War." Starting out as a local group in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jews for Jesus has grown to become one of the largest missions in the nation, with branches outside America as well.

In its theology and style, Jews for Jesus has become part of a larger movement of Jewish Christians that came about in the 1970s and 1980s. Often calling themselves messianic Jews, such communities have promoted the idea that Jews who embrace Christianity should not assimilate into the Christian culture or join regular churches, but instead should retain their Jewish heritage and create their own communities. Jewish-Christian congregations differ as to the amount of Jewish tradition they choose to retain. The more "traditionalist" communities have introduced Arks and Torah scrolls into their assemblies, their members wear yarmulkes during services, and they celebrate Jewish holidays such as Chanukah and Purim. All Jewish-Christian congregations celebrate Passover, and most have chosen to conduct their prayer meetings on Friday nights or Saturday mornings. The notion that they have transcended the historical boundaries between Judaism and Christianity, overcoming old, seemingly irreconcilable differences and injuries to amalgamate the Christian faith with Jewish ethnicity, has served as a source of energy and a sense of mission for the movement's members. By the late 1990s there were more than two hundred congregations in America, as well as dozens more in Israel and throughout the Jewish world, and the movement is growing.

Jews for Jesus, and the movement of Jewish believers in Jesus in general, have advocated the faith and values of the conservative evangelical segment of Christianity. As such, they point to a great amount of adaptability by evangelical Christianity in its relation to the cultural choices of the baby boom generation. They also reflect the growing appreciation by this segment of Christianity for Jews as the object of biblical prophecies and as a nation destined to regain its old status as the Chosen People.

See alsoConversion; Ecumenical Movement; Jewish Identity; Jewish Observance; Judaism; Judeo-Christian Tradition; New Religious Movements; Practice; Proselytizing; Ritual.


Ariel, Yaakov S. "Counterculture and Mission: Jews for Jesus and the Vietnam Era Missionary Campaigns." Religion and American Culture 9, no. 2 (1999).

Feher, Shoshonah. Passing Over Easter. 1998.

Lipson, Juliene G. Jews for Jesus: An AnthropologicalStudy. 1990.

Pruter, Karl. Jewish Christians in the United States: A Bibliography. 1987.

Rausch, David A. Messianic Judaism: Its History, Theologyand Polity. 1982.

Rosen, Moishe, and William Proctor. Jews for Jesus. 1974.

Yaakov S. Ariel

About this article

Jews for Jesus

Updated About content Print Article