Hanukkah today: The battle against assimilation

Interview: Rabbi says missionaries in Israel perpetuate the problem of the Hellenists, offering alternatives to spirituality.

Shimon Cohen,

Christians in Jerusalem's Old City (illustrative)
Christians in Jerusalem's Old City (illustrative)
Hadas Parush/Flash90

Hanukkah is not only a holiday about perseverance, Zionism, and Jewish independence, but also about the Jews' struggle against Hellenism. 

To understand where the fight against assimilation stands today, Arutz Sheva spoke to Rabbi Shmuel Lifschitz of anti-assimilation group Yad L'Achim to shed light on the issue. 

"This is a familiar phenomenon in history," Lifschitz began. "Christianity, since its establishment, seeks to convert Jews. They see this as very important, as an important ideal, and invest a lot of resources and money in it."

"The methods were varied throughout history," he explained, noting that tactics have changed from the forced conversions of the Middle Ages to "highly sophisticated" movements such as so-called "Messianic Judaism" and Jews for Jesus. 

"It's not just a matter of subtly switching beliefs, but there's practices which are similar in order to attract Jews," he said. "They created dozens of communities which organize various activities. They also conduct home visits and stand at intersections."

"They teach Jews and Christians how to become missionaries... they seize the innocent and unaffiliated Jew and offer a spirituality of their own," he continued. "They take audiences looking for spirituality and offer them their own spirituality, or claim that Judaism hid many things to stimulate their curiosity." 

The greatest struggle from within Israel is the fact that the state still allows these groups to have intensive and ongoing contacts with youth, soldiers, and populations in need, he lamented - this, despite a law outlawing missionary contact with minors. 

"This law was passed partly due to the activities of Yad L'Achim, and is not enforced by the judiciary," he said. "Moreover, it is very light law. It forbids conversion only for money or benefits, and missionaries take advantage of this."

"For example, soup kitchens cover their associations with missionary groups through the cover of boxes of rice and canned goods. The authorities ignore it."

"The link is not so clear, but we know that for those who need and receive food, missionary organizations become their friend, and it all begins with a bag of sugar." 

Some organizations have even gone so far as to build synagogues and write Torah scrolls, disguising themselves as a small, but new, sect of Judaism. 

"The goal is to impersonate Judaism and mislead the Jewish public," he said. 

The problem, he said, is that Israel as a Jewish state cannot both ban other faiths from imitating Judaism and uphold the religious freedom for which it stands. 

"What would have happened in the Muslim world if I would set up a large organization whose purpose is to convert to Judaism religion?" he wondered. "It would lead to a world war." 




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