THE MISSIONARY MENACE
by Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Laureate
The Jewish community is only now becoming aware of a
danger lying in wait for its young people, or, at least,
certain elements among them. It seems that missionaries are
displaying zeal as well as ingenuity in their efforts to
attract young Jews in order to convert them.
As always, the fashion began in the United States, and it
has not yet run its course. These "Jews for Jesus" are to be
found everywhere, but especially on university campuses. On
Long Island, as in the Middle West, their centers throb with
activity. Their hunters of souls are successful more often
than we think. Also the percentage of Jews joining the
"moonies" is very high. The same applies to other sects. The
Jew is their prime target, their preferred prey.
How do these missionaries operate? How do they set about
enticing young Jews into their net? First of all, they know
where to go. They make contact with lonely students,
bewildered ones, those starved of love, attention,
"Come with us," the soul hunters tell them, "be one of
us. After all, we are Jews like you. Better still, only by
becoming Jewish Christians or Christian Jews will you be
truly Jewish." So it is by offering to teach these students
about Judaism that the missionaries entrap them and do not
They organize festivals, ceremonies, prayer meetings.
Hundreds of Jewish students take part in their "Havdalah"
near a university campus on Long Island. To begin with, the
students go there for the same reasons they go to an
entertainment event or to a social gathering to spend a
pleasant few hours, to escape boredom, to see and do
something different. Some enjoy the evening. Others go away
To say that these methods offend me would not be strong
enough. The Jews have always opposed missionaries who
believe that salvation belongs exclusively and irrevocably
to them. When they try to tear you away from your faith and
from your people, they are doing so out of altruism, they
But I feel less revulsion for Christian missionaries than
for their Jewish accomplices. The missionaries are at least
honest. They proclaim openly that their aim is to absorb as
many Jews as possible into their church. They aim to kill
their victims' Jewishness by assimilating it. They give each
individual Jew the choice between Judaism and Christianity
always doing their best to influence that choice.
Their Jewish colleagues, however, the "Jews for Jesus",
are dishonest. They are hypocrites. They do not even have
the courage to declare frankly that they have decided to
repudiate their people and its memories.
In telling their victim that he can be Jewish and
Christian at the same time as if the history of Christianity
did not give them the lie they are laying a trap of trickery
and lies. Even more detestable, they play on their victim's
vulnerabilities. They always exploit weakness, ignorance,
and unhappiness. They offer the victim a new "family" to
replace his own, the "comradeship" he lacks, and, at the
outset, a "no obligation" religious atmosphere. Later, it is
too late to turn back. "Operation Enticement" has been
I have met despairing parents, in tears and not knowing
how to bring their children back home. I shall not soon
forget one Holocaust survivor I met, a pious Jew who came
originally from Poland. He could not understand what had
happened, asking, "Did I survive in order to fail precisely
where my ancestors triumphed? To give life to a renegade?"
He sobbed, and I was barely able to console him. Like the
other parents, he reproached himself. The reproaches were
always the same: they should have done this, said that,
realized sooner, acted differently.
If the truth be told, we are all guilty to some extent.
In leaving us, these young people are accusing us of having
let them go or, worse, of not having noticed that they were
Perhaps this is one of the effects of ecumenism, which
was welcomed a little too warmly in too many Jewish circles.
Perhaps we have not done enough to help them, to show them
the right direction in their quest for religion.
If Jewish boys and girls turn their backs on us and go
elsewhere, it means that we have not done enough to keep
Since religion interests and moves them, why have we been
unable to help them discover the beauty and richness of our
own and theirs?
Despite what their parents think, there is still time.