The leaders of “Key 73,” the nationwide Christian evangelical campaign to call “the continent to Christ,” have given assurances to Jews that they repudiate anti-Semitism and any evangelical resort to coercion. This was reported by Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, director of the American Jewish Committee’s interreligious affairs department who has been corresponding with the “Key 73” leadership in order to convey to them the serious concerns of the American Jewish community over the multi-media evangelical drive.
Rabbi Tanenbaum made public a letter he received from Dr. Theodore Raedeke of St. Louis, executive director of “Key 73” in which he stated, “We do not wish to persecute, pressure or force Jews to believe or do anything against their will.” Dr. Raedeke insisted that “There is no anti-Semitism in either the ideology or the thrust of ‘Key 73.'”
He added, however, “We are confident that the Jews do not wish to undermine our holy faith or deprive us of our rights to propagate our faith–the privilege we enjoy in America.” Rabbi Tanenbaum said the statement was a “welcome clarification” although it does “not respond to all the questions that the Jewish community would want clarified.”
Among those questions, he said, were the implications of a nationwide evangelical campaign for the pluralistic character of America; will a campaign that views Christianity as a “substitute covenant” for that of Judaism feed negative and anti-Semitic attitudes among the people it reaches; will the emphasis on personal testifying for Christ through neighborhood door-to-door canvases and college and high school campus crusades lead to coercive pressures against Jewish individuals and others?
DIFFERENT VIEWS EXPRESSED
Jews are especially sensitive to the impact “Key 73” and similar evangelical drives such as the “Campus Crusade for Christ” may have on Jewish high school and college youth. Rabbi Tanenbaum said he hoped the repudiation of coercive measures by the “Key 73” leaders will filter down to the many evangelists on campuses.
Differing views of the threat–or lack of it–of “Key 73” to Jewish youth and Jews generally were expressed by two other New York rabbis. Rabbi Jacob J. Hecht, executive vice-president of the National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education, declared that the well-organized, heavily-financed evangelical drive “is bad news for Jews.” According to Rabbi Hecht, the target of “Key 73” is “to Christianize everyone in the United States who is not yet a Christian” and this “could not come at a less opportune time” with respect to Jewish youth which “like all youth today…are beset with many problems.”
But Rabbi Charles Sheer, the Jewish Chaplain at Columbia University, believes that Jews have “over-reacted” to “Key 73” and similar crusades. He said Jews were frightened by announcements that the evangelical drives had staffs of hundreds and $18 million in financing with which to blanket the media. But there are far more serious concerns within the Jewish fold, he declared at the Yeshiva University’s midyear conference.
“Why are we not distressed when college-age Jews who are for Judaism do not know how to live, talk and think like Jews?” he asked. “Why must ‘Paradise Lost’ introduce Jewish students to Genesis….Couldn’t this exciting awakening happen earlier and under Jewish auspices?”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.