Evangelist Billy Graham’s statement, made in reference to Jewish concerns over the Key 73 campaign, that he opposed “all forms of coercion, intimidation and proselytizing” was welcomed Friday as “a constructive contribution to interreligious understanding” by Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum, director of interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Committee.
Rabbi Tanenbaum commented at a news conference on Dr. Graham’s statement, in which the evangelist also declared that “God has always had a special relationship with the Jewish people.” The statement was issued last Thursday by Dr. Graham’s office in Atlanta. Rabbi Tanenbaum expressed confidence that the statement would encourage other Christian leaders to “make clear that Key 73 is aimed at reaching uncommitted Christians and has no intention of proselytizing the Jewish community.”
The rabbi cited Dr. Graham’s expression of his own evangelist philosophy that “I have never felt called to single out the Jews as Jews, nor to single out any other particular groups, cultural, ethnic or religious and Dr. Graham’s commitment to American pluralism “in which all religious groups are partners in society.”
EXAMPLES OF DECEPTION, INTIMIDATION
Rabbi Tanenbaum made public a 36-page survey of the impact that Key 73 had already made on relations between American Jews and Christians. He said the national dialogue over Key 73 might result in the emergence of a majority concensus of Christian leaders who are declaring, for the first time in the history of Jewish-Christian relations in the United States, a policy of opposition to proselytizing the Jewish community.
The AJ Committee survey detailed a variety of episodes of psychological harassment, deception and intimidation. At Montclair, N.J., for example, the survey said, Jewish high school students were approached to come to bible-reading classes which they found were aimed at converting them to Christianity.
A “Hanukah” celebration at the Miami Beach auditorium marking Israel’s 25th anniversary turned out to be an effort by the American Board of Missions to the Jews, linked to Key 73, to invite the audience to make “a decision for Christ.” In Boston, a Hebrew-Christian family sought membership in the Jewish community center with the avowed purpose of evangelizing Jewish families.
In reply to questions about Christian missionary-activities in Israel, Rabbi Tanenbaum said he drew a distinction between such missionaries who “deceive and manipulate” Israeli Jews and those “who are above-board and identify themselves as Christians.” He said he felt Israel would make “a terrible blunder” if it “violates the principle of religious liberty and freedom of conscience by succumbing to pressures from Jewish extremists who want to pass severe legislation to ban every form of religious activity which is not Jewish.”
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.