TORONTO (Jul. 10)
A Canadian Hillel rabbi has asserted that the success of the Jews for Jesus movement in converting Jews to Christianity has been greatly exaggerated. Rabbi Melvin Granatstein, Hillel rabbi at Winnipeg University and Manitoba University, asserted that, in a study made recently in Toronto, “only six Jewish kids” had been found to have been converted, rather than the hundreds that had been generally supposed.
Rabbi Granatstein also told the Canadian Jewish News that the Jews for Jesus movement had an “obvious stake” in exaggerating their claims of conversion of Jewish youth but that they had been unwittingly abetted by Jewish fund-raising organizations. The rabbi was guest speaker at a Torah Weekend sponsored by Young Israel of Ottawa and he made his comments about campus conversions during a Sunday morning breakfast address.
He said that even though a number of Jewish organizations, which were not named in the Canadian Jewish News report, knew that the number of converts was “significantly smaller” than has been generally publicized, those organizations had not made an effort to inform the Jewish community because the fear of mass conversions of Jewish students has been “largely responsible” for an increase in contributions to Jewish groups,
He argued that the “real danger” for campus Jewry came, not from the Jesus movement, although it is having success with small numbers of Jewish students, but from the Eastern religions and disciplines which, he said, appeal to the “inward search” which college students are undertaking. He described this. “inward search” as part of the “residue” of the drug culture of the middle 60s. He said that even though experimentation with drugs is no longer a major problem among Jewish college students, the introspection and search for self-knowledge which accompanied the drug culture persisted.
Rabbi Granatstein reiterated a widely-held view that Jewish students were turning away from Judaism because their experiences with their faith was based not on its ideals and principles but on the upper middle-class practices of their parents, which he said were often “hypocritical and materialistic.” He contended that synagogues must stress introspection and self-examination, as well as a return to “fundamental Torah principles” if they want to stem the flow of Jewish students he said were leaving, “in principle and in fact,” the religion of their ancestors.