Christian missionaries operating in Israel and abroad are distributing altered Tanachim – copies of the Hebrew bible – printed in Russian, with changes to the text aimed at leading Russian-speaking Jews towards Christianity, anti-assimilation activists warned.
According to a report by Yad L’Achim, the single-volume Russian Tanah has become the single most-used Russian-language version of the bible in Israel.
The missionary version of the Russian bible has spread in part due to the costs of printing single-volume bibles. While authentic translations of the separate sections of the Hebrew bible are common in Russian, the missionary version has come to dominate the single-volume market.
Despite the translation’s overt references to Jesus, Yad L’Achim reports that copies of the missionary version have been found in numerous synagogues in Israel, as well as in many synagogues abroad.
Rabbi Yossi Demichovski, from the Chazak Russian-language book publisher, was among the first to bring the phenomenon to light.
“A red light went off when I saw good Jews donating Tanach texts that were in fact missionary bibles masquerading as the real thing," he said.
"I understood that if this is happening even in Israel, that means that hundreds of thousands of Russian-speaking Jews will be getting their first exposure to Tanach from something representing the views of the Russian Orthodox church, chalilah [God-forbid].”
Recently, Chazak published an authentic, Russian-language Tanach in a single volume, which Yad L'Achim has used to replace copies of the missionary translation found.
The counter-missionary organization is preparing to distribute the new edition of the Russian-language Tanach to Jews who received the fake one from missionaries, and to those living in cities that have large immigrant populations and are therefore being targeted by missionaries.