Susan Perlman knew it would not sit well with her friends and family when she told them she was leaving her traditional Jewish roots and embracing Jesus as the Messiah.
“My family was somewhat ashamed and embarrassed,” she said. “But I came to my convictions sincerely.”
Today, Perlman is the associate executive director of the controversial group Jews for Jesus, which makes Jewish evangelism its priority.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik of the Chabad Jewish Student Alliance at CSU invited Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz to speak at the Lory Student Center Thursday night about Jews for Jesus, describing the group as a “cult.”
“The very idea of a Jew for Jesus is a logical contradiction,” Gorelik said.
Perlman insists it is not.
“We are Jewish by birth and by ethnicity and by honoring Jewish traditions, but we are Christian by conviction,” Perlman said. “We are as much a cult as any standard-brand Christian campus group.”
One of Gorelik’s main complaints about Jews for Jesus is that they try to convert Jews to Christianity.
“According to Judaism, it is forbidden to proselytize,” he said.
Perlman denies the accusation.
“We think we have a wonderful message we want to share,” Perlman says. “But we’re not going to force or impose it on anybody. We want Jews and others to hear the message and decide for themselves.”
Perlman said that Jews for Jesus, an international organization, only shares ideas rather than converting others.
“Rabbi Kravitz has tried to demonize Jews for Jesus and de-legitimatize Jews for Jesus so that we don’t get a hearing at CSU or other places,” Perlman said.
Reactions to Kravitz’s talk were mixed.
“He had some interesting things to say,” said Ryan Seal, a senior computer science major. “I’d like to look into it more.”
Staff writer James Holt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.