BUENOS AIRES, Aug. 24 (JTA) — The three-day celebration in one of Buenos Aires’ most popular parks last weekend was touted as an international festival of Jewish music and dance.
But, as Argentine Jewish leaders made perfectly clear, the event, attended by 30,000 people, was actually sponsored by “messianic Jews” who want to persuade Jews to accept Jesus.
Argentine Jewish leaders protested the event, which marked a rare appearance by “messianic Jews” in Argentina, where they are less visible than elsewhere in the world such as the United States and Eastern Europe.
“These so-called messianic Jews who use Jewish symbols are actually a group of Christian missionaries, who are very active in the United States, whose aim is to attract misinformed Jews to convert them,” stated a news release issued by the AMIA Jewish Community Center.
“We respect religious freedom, but we want to state that these self-proclaimed ‘Messianic Jews’ are not part of the Jewish community and their event does not receive the backing of any Jewish institution in the country.”
The Argentine Jewish community protested the event, asking a judge to block the festival, but he refused to do so. The judge did, however, order event organizers to take down neon menorahs and a Star of David, but left the sign advertising the event.
Jewish leaders sent out e-mails and took out newspaper advertisements. Outside the stadium, fliers were posted and a truck with speakers informed possible attendees about the true nature of the event
“Beware!!! Don’t let yourself be fooled by these people who are financed by powerful groups in order to convert you to Christianity. In 2,000 years, they haven’t been able to do it by force, and now they try like this,” read one of the flyers.
Nearby a man in a bullhorn invited passersby to disregard the leaflets and attend the free event.
“Our mothers are Jewish, and that makes us Jews,” Scott Sekulow told local reporters. “We have a right to carry out this festival.”
Inside the Luna Park, beneath a sign that read “Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah,” “messianic Rabbi” Jonathan Bernis entertained the throngs with tales from Exodus — with the help of a translator and strobe lights.
With music playing and dancers performing on stage, an announcer invited the crowds to a dance floor, which was promptly filled. But it is not clear how many Jews attended the event.