A wave of anti-Semitism that has drawn responses from government leaders and Jewish groups presents what the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship’s (SBMF) president calls a “powerful opportunity” for Christians to share the love of Christ with Jewish neighbors.
Organizations focused on Jewish evangelism “are getting together,” SBMF president Ric Worshill told Baptist Press (BP), “and they’re trying to find ways to encourage the local church and the local communities to actually let the Jewish people know that [anti-Semitic] conduct is not accepted.”
The uptick in anti-Semitism should remind followers of Jesus that “Satan is active in the world,” Worshill said.
Through March 9, there have been 148 bomb threats against Jewish institutions this year in 37 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). An ADL spokesman told BP the organization has no reports of bomb threats from 2016 and that this year’s total represents a marked increase.
The first quarter of 2017 has also seen desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis, according to media reports.
The threats against Jewish communities prompted all 100 U.S. senators to sign a March 7 letter urging the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to take “swift action” regarding “the deeply troubling anonymous bomb threats made against” Jewish organizations.
“We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of [Jewish community centers], many of which are institutions in their communities,” the senators wrote.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said prior to receiving the letter that the Department of Homeland Security would “heighten our outreach and support” to Jewish communities, according to The Washington Post.
Authorities arrested 31-year-old former journalist Juan Thompson in St. Louis March 3 and accused him of making at least eight threats to Jewish organizations, The Post reported.
Worshill said it appears “Jewish people are a little more concerned about Christians” now than they have been in the recent past. “They don’t know who to trust … and they don’t know who is against them.”
To dispel Jewish fears, local churches should contact synagogues and Jewish community centers in their areas, said Worshill, who served on Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee President Frank S. Page’s Multi-Ethnic Advisory Council.
“Send them a letter. Tell them you’re supportive and that you’re against this type of conduct,” Worshill said. “Tell them that this is not the way Christ would have us” to act.
Making “positive,” empathetic connections with “people in crisis” often leads to openness to a gospel witness, Worshill said.
Susan Perlman, associate executive director of Jews for Jesus, suggested ways “Christians can come alongside their Jewish neighbors and coworkers and show their support and care during this time”:
- Express personal concern and pray “for God’s protection over them and His comfort at this time.”
- Write letters to the editors of local media outlets.
- Make special effort to convey care following anti-Semitic incidents.
Pastors in particular should befriend rabbis, Perlman told BP in written comments, and place open letters of support for the Jewish community in local newspapers. Such letters should be signed by church members and “include a passage from scripture which emphasizes God’s love for the Jewish people.”
“While there’s a lot of fear in the Jewish community today, the church can take heart that our message of peace in Messiah will bring comfort to those who are fearful,” Perlman said.
Worshill urged Southern Baptists to remind their communities of more than a dozen resolutions adopted by the SBC over the years condemning anti-Semitism and supporting the Jewish people.
Most recently, a 2016 resolution “on prayer and support for Israel” “thankfully remember[ed] that we are indebted to the Jewish people, who gave us much of our Bible and our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah.”
In the resolution, SBC messengers committed to pray “for the salvation of Israel, for the gospel is ‘God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew’ (Romans 1:16).”
A 2008 resolution “in celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary” “call[ed] upon world leaders to renounce the growing tide of anti-Semitism.”
In 2003, SBC messengers “denounce[d] all forms of anti-Semitism as contrary to the teachings of our Messiah and an assault on the revelation of Holy Scripture.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)