Ask the Rabbi October 2022
Rabbi Carla Freedman
October 2022 Question
What should we, as Jews, say or do, when a Christian attempts to convert us to his/her religion? (This question was posed at an Ask the Rabbi discussion during a Shabbat service recently).
October 2022 Answer
Well, first off, I would warn you not to get into any kind of discussion about Jewish beliefs versus Christian beliefs, or to attempt to rebut any statements the person might make. Jews generally don’t understand that for Christians, it is a religious duty (one might even say it is a mitzvah) to “bring the good news” to Jews and others who have not yet “seen the light.” They genuinely believe that they are doing us a great favor by sharing this information with us, and saving us from an eternity of punishment for resisting it.
So, in response to any effort to convert you, I encourage you to thank the person for thinking of you, and to say gently that you are satisfied with your religious tradition. Whatever you get as a response to this statement, just say again, thank you. Don’t try to dispute with these folks. Many of them have been taught which texts from the Hebrew Bible to use…primarily from the prophet Isaiah. Most Jews are not familiar enough with this material to argue effectively with
proselytisers, nor even to make the case that we Jews understand the texts very differently than do Christians (and these are our sacred texts!).
Instead, just stay calm and thank the person for thinking of you (which may seem counterintuitive) and walk away, or hang up the phone, or leave the room.
Do not give the other person any opening to pursue the matter.Most proselytisers will take “no” for an answer, eventually. You can get there quickest by remaining calm, being firm, and being polite. If that doesn’t work, call me. We can discuss other strategies, if necessary. But a calm demeanor, decisive answers, and polite language usually bring usually bring these conversations to an end.