Ecumenism

Editorial: Joseph Suaiden

“Are you Jewish?” the common question echoed by a group of about four young men in Hasidic garb, as I attempted to enter the 14th Street- Union Square station. As I attempted to walk past quietly one jumped in front and put his arm in front of me with a glossy color business card showing the Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, the late head of the Chabad Lubavitch sect– whom some believed was the Messiah.

I attempted a quick “no,” and to swerve past. Yet my interlocutor was not finished, I noticed two of the young men had come towards me, while one continued to bother people coming down the stairs. “Well, all you need to do are follow the seven Noachide Laws.” I paused for a moment and sighed.

For those unfamiliar with the “Noachide Laws”, they came to prominence over the past few decades as the Lubavitchers attempted to deal with evangelical Protestants who had come to the conclusion that they did not believe in Jesus anymore, but believed themselves to be descendents of those “goyim” (non-Jewish) tribes that would obey the laws of the Jews insofar as was needed. The laws themselves are pretty basic (don’t kill, don’t eat an animal while it’s still alive, don’t blaspheme, et cetera). They basically put a lot of money into the idea that the Temple will be rebuilt, and that we are all going to follow their “moschiach”.

I was not amused by the pushiness of these individuals, uncommon for Hasidim, and I simply responded that I was a Christian. The young man (now in my face, which made me rather uncomfortable) responded that these laws were specifically for me. I responded back in an irritated manner that Christians have their own law, which the Jews have abandoned (perhaps that was rude but I really wanted the young man to go away). The man responded I “need to follow this too.” Amused, I pointed to the picture and said “I don’t believe in your old guy”. Defensive over what I was saying he shot back “no! we don’t believe he’s the messiah”. I thought to myself, I remember when you people did…. The man then asked if I had read the “Gamar” (known among English speakers as the “Gemara”). I responded I did not have to. He then told me that it stated that “Jesus was a Jewish bastard.” Since I am used to arguing with Protestants and Muslims, who generally don’t say something that stupid at the outset, I found an indescribable desire to punch this individual, who was now blocking my peaceful train ride. I now noticed the table they had set up, a few things for Jews, a lot of things for non-Jews, and I wondered whether they were really looking for Jews– or for Christians.

I began by pointing out simply that the text his people were using was an eighth century corrected text, which was designed to remove Christian prophecy. He would have none of it. Of course, it was the Christians who changed the text. Irritated, I responded, “I always find these annoying attitudes among Jews, very arrogant, who begin by saying the Christians are stupid, and failing that, the Christians are lying. Why should I believe you?” The young man shot back without waiting and in a programmed manner, with the crazed eyes of a cultist: “can you read Hebrew?” My initial response was going to be “who cares?” but I went with “I can read Greek” (which is only marginally true). I reiterated that “your text is a corrected text, from the eighth century”– the young man cut me off with “nothing has ever been changed in Torah”. I responded simply: “I don’t believe you.”

The young man, now frustrated, finally said “Ugh. I don’t have time for you.” Sadly, I had no time for him either. I can only imagine it would have been fun to stand behind them and say “did you know these men are here to tell Christians that Jesus is a bastard?” for an hour or two.

Of course, there’s always next week. I’m sure they didn’t give out all their materials today.

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