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ADL blasts ‘religious fraud’

 
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Etzion Neuer, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s New Jersey office, first heard about messianic Jew Sid Roth’s book, “They Thought for Themselves,” when he received a call from this newspaper.

“Josh Lipowsky called after hearing from a reader who received the book,” said Neuer. “Over the next several weeks, I began to get calls — like lights on a map going off from all different parts of the state.”

“In every case, people were [both] taken aback that they received it directly and offended by the material,” he said, describing “what appears to be a fairly wide campaign to target Jews for so-called messianic organizations.”

The book profiles 10 Jews — from Holocaust survivors to media executives — who, writes Roth on his Website, “defied the status quo and thought for themselves,” finding Jesus and “changing their lives for the better.” Video testimonials from these individuals appear on the Website as well.

With calls coming from “concerned members of the Jewish community, including rabbis … most of the concern has focused on the direct targeting of individuals,” said Neuer.

According to a March 11 article on the Website matsav.com, many residents in Lakewood — which has a large Orthodox community — “were astonished” to find the book, self-described as a “gift,” in their mailbox. While many disposed of it immediately, according to the article, “[s]everal Lakewood residents related to [the Website] that because the book appeared harmless, they did not immediately realize its content and aim and did not immediately dispose of it.”

Indeed, said Neuer, he is not as worried about those who call him as about those who do not realize that the book is a “fraud.”

“Most thinking people will be able to recognize the source of the book [and Roth’s] attempt to proselytize and to deceive Jews into thinking that this is an extension of Judaism,” said Neuer. “The people who call ADL already recognize the book for what it is. I’m more concerned about those who take it seriously.”

For the most part, said Neuer, people have been calling his office looking for guidance, questioning how their names came to appear on Roth’s list and if they can request that their names be removed. According to Roth’s Website, he acquired the names from “list brokers and supporters.”

The ADL is preparing a memo for rabbis and federations addressing the issue, said Neuer, noting that, technically, Roth’s methods do not constitute “legal fraud,” since selling mailing lists is a common policy in direct marketing. He added, however, that Roth’s activities constitute “religious fraud.”

Roth is a former account executive for Merrill Lynch who, by his own account, became disenchanted with Judaism in 1972. Raised in a traditional Jewish home, in 1977 he started a ministry called Messianic Vision as well as a nationally syndicated radio program with the same name. He also hosts a television program called “It’s Supernatural.”

“Roth says that he was inspired to write the book because of a dream,” said Neuer, adding that both “the book and the campaign are incredibly offensive. Generally speaking, the very premise of Roth’s religious underpinnings is that Jews and Judaism are incomplete, and this campaign to convert Jews away from their faith [is] an affront and disrespectful to Judaism’s teachings.”

Teaneck resident Eli Rosenfeld, chief executive officer of Joseph Jacobs advertising agency received the book at home about four weeks ago.

“It was before Purim,” said Rosenfeld. “It was in a plain white envelope and my wife brought it in.”

Rosenfeld, who notified The Jewish Standard, said, “I thumbed through it and realized that something was off. My wife asked if I had ordered it. I hadn’t.”

Noting that he is not angry but simply concerned, Rosenfeld said that “there are always people who will read it not knowing what it is.”

He pointed out that messianic Judaism is rejected both by Jews and Christians.

“It’s a dangerous idea, attempting to confuse people and not be forthright. It’s different from the problem of Christian groups proselytizing [directly] and asking Jews to convert. This is done in an underhanded manner [saying] you can remain Jewish and still believe in Jesus. That is why it is so troublesome.”

Rosenfeld said he was also troubled that someone was willing to spend the sum required to print and distribute so many copies of the book.

“When you see that type of resource, you get scared about their next step to target our community,” he said, recalling an incident, 10 years ago, when his company was “duped” into a media buy for a movie that turned out to be a messianic Jewish film.

Under the headline “Missionaries dupe Jewish newspapers across country,” a Jewish Telegraphic agency story at the time reported that 80 American Jewish newspapers ended up printing a “fairly innocuous” ad for a film called “The Rabbi,” showing a man in a yarmulke praying at the Western Wall. What the ad — which ran in The Jewish Standard but not in its sister publication, the Jewish Community News — did not say was that the film was about “a self-described ‘Messianic Jew’ who gradually convinces his Orthodox family that he did not abandon Judaism when he took ‘Yeshua’ into his heart.”

While Roth calls his book “an offer of love, it is really a prescription for intolerance,” said the ADL’s Neuer. And while it is difficult to monitor the effects of such a book, he added, “at least in some cases it works” — especially among more vulnerable groups such as “the young, elderly, or spiritually vulnerable. It deliberately mixes religious symbols and distorts the essential meaning of [the two] religions.”

“It’s fraud,” said Neuer, “the deliberate blurring of lines between religions. He’s a snake oil salesman. The introductory video on his Website comes across as an infomercial — it treats religion like a hand blender.”

 
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Stay tuned for the return of comments

Ben posted 03 Jul 2010 at 11:19 PM

Sid Roth is the real deal, just look on his website before judging, this article is making him out to be some evil man with wicked intentions - for what though? what will he gain? he already has resources, you’re being deceived if you think this guy is a snake oil salesman, what salesman gives his products away free?

He is not evil, but just the opposite, don’t be deceived and see the people who are interviewed on his show, then take a look at those peoples websites and see the miracles that they are performing in Jesus’ name, if Jesus is not Lord, how could those who have been transformed by him perform miracles?  Just youtube and google a few people like bill johnson, jason westerfield, heidi baker, disney land miracles etc and you will see real deal miracles taking place through the power of the messiah Jesus, the one all jews have been wating for - he’s here for you and the answers you;‘ve been waiting for - God bless.

 

Laughing with Joan

I made Joan Rivers laugh.

Of course she made me laugh, like she did to millions of others through her decades-long, often unfiltered, and ever-funny career, but yes, I made Joan Rivers laugh.

At the time, I was working at the celebrity-obsessed New York Post, and as the features writer for its women’s section, I had reason to ring up the raspy-voiced, Brooklyn-born blonde for a quickie. I had to grab a quote for some story that I was writing. As I recall, the conversation had turned to food, a favorite subject of the Jewish woman on my end of the phone, and, apparently, of that Jewish woman on the other end as well. Joan told me that she just adored the creamed spinach served at the legendary Brooklyn restaurant, Peter Luger’s — a must-have accompaniment to its famous and robust steaks. Joan told me she would dine there with a hairdresser-to-the-stars, the late Kenneth Battelle. (She kept her physique petite with this practice: She never ate anything after 3 p.m. If she did find herself dining with someone, she popped Altoids to keep her mouth busy.)

 

Cookin’ it up!

Tales of a Teaneck kitchen prodigy

How did 12-year-old Eitan Bernath of Teaneck come to be on the Food Network’s popular cooking show “Chopped”?

“He’s always been curious and he likes science,” said his mother, Sabrina Bernath. “He thinks it’s cool to mix flavors and watch things rise. He also likes to make people happy,” she added, pointing out that he had just brought his friends a freshly baked batch of cinnabuns.

For Eitan, a student at Yavneh Academy in Paramus, cooking is more than just a hobby. Struggling for the right word, the fledgling chef — whose website, cookwithchefeitan.com, will launch this week — described his relationship with the culinary arts as a “passion.”

 

Policies are the best policy

Teaneck synagogue forum addresses child sexual abuse

Does your synagogue have policies in place to protect children from sexual abuse? Do your children’s schools and camps?

Such policies, Dr. Shira Berkovits told a meeting in Teaneck on Sunday night, can make a difference to children’s safety.

Dr. Berkovits is a consultant for the Department of Synagogue Services at the Orthodox Union, and she is developing a guide to preventing child sexual abuse in synagogues. She was speaking at Teaneck’s Congregation Rinat Yisrael, as part of a panel on preventing child sexual abuse co-sponsored by three other Teaneck Orthodox congregations: Netivot Shalom, Keter Torah, and Lubavitch of Bergen County.

 

RECENTLYADDED

Pascrell, Paul face off

Dr. Dierdre Paul, a 49-year-old Montclair State University professor, faces an uphill battle against Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., the 77-year-old nine-term Democratic incumbent in New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District.

In a candidate’s forum Monday night at the Community Baptist Church in Englewood, sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the Bergen County chapter of the NAACP, Dr. Paul said that she has not been a Republican for very long.

In fact, in 2008 she had been the Englewood chair of the Obama campaign. “No one hoped more than me that the president would succeed,” she said. “Even as late as 2012 I tried to maintain that hope and faith in the Democratic party. Instead, it was the African American base masking the same old Democratic policies.

“We have a failed war on poverty, a failed war on drugs,” she continued. “Why does the Democratic establishment feel they only need to show up in election time? People are hurting now.”

Mr. Pascrell opened by saying that his “first objective in Congress is to keep us safe. I solemnly swear to each one of you that I will keep us safe against foreign enemies and any domestic enemies who want to take advantage of us.”

 

RCA responds to scandal

Englewood rabbi to head committee looking into conversion process

Shmuel Goldin, the senior rabbi at Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, has agreed to chair a new committee the Rabbinical Council of America is convening to review its conversion process.

Rabbi Goldin also is the RCA’s immediate past president.

The committee includes 11 members; six are RCA-member rabbis and five are women. Two of the women are converts, one is a yoetzet halacha — an advisor in Jewish law — and one is a psychotherapist.

The committee has been established in response to the arrest of one of the RCA’s members, Rabbi Dr. Barry Freundel of Kesher Israel: The Georgetown Synagogue, in Washington, D.C. (Rabbi Freundel’s RCA membership has been suspended in response to the arrest, and he has been suspended from his job, without pay.) The shul arguably is the most prestigious Orthodox synagogue in the nation’s capital, and Rabbi Freundel’s arrest, for videoing some of his conversion candidates with a camera hidden inside a clock radio as they stripped for the mikvah, has been profoundly disturbing, both within the Kesher community and outside it.

 

Hearing, helping each other

Support groups for people with mood disorders to open in Paramus

A person who has a mood disorder has a chronic, manageable condition.

She is not lazy, not immoral, not self-indulgent. She is not suffering from some embarrassing unmentionable syndrome. She is just one of a large number of people whose body chemistry plunges her into the black hole of depression, or is one of the smaller but not insignificant group of people who swing between that hole and a fierce but unsustainable elation that takes them up into the blue sky until they crash again.

There is a stigma attached to having a mood disorder, though, that makes it hard to address, to attack, to subdue, to co-exist with.

Dena Cohen of Teaneck, a writer, editor, and social activist who writes under her maiden name, Dena Croog, knows this territory well. An op ed contributor to this newspaper, she introduced it to our readers on February 13, when her column, “I have bipolar disorder,” was printed and almost immediately went viral.

 
 
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