DALLAS?In the last 20 years, more than half of all marriages involving Jewish people have been with non-Jews. “That means that Jewish people are unexpectedly turning up in American environments where they are encountering Christians up close and personal?sometimes as family members,” stated Tuvya Zaretsky, director of the Los Angeles branch of Jews for Jesus.
Zaretsky sees this challenging family situation as an opportunity for Christians to share the good news of Jesus Christ with Jewish people.
At a June 13-17 class in Dallas on “Principles of Jewish Evangelism,” Zaretsky will help participants meet the cross-cultural challenge between Gentiles and Jews. “Intermarriages are opening a shaft of gospel light to a people who have heretofore been in spiritual blindness,” he added. “There is hope and communication tools for those who are ready to learn how to do it.”
The weeklong class is one of two courses the Pasche Institute for Jewish Studies at Criswell College is offering this summer. A July 11-15 study taught by Arnold Fruchtenbaum will address the “Theology of Israel.”
“American Jewish Gen-Xers are post-modern and predisposed to reject the message of Christ,” Zaretsky said. “The lessons from Jewish evangelism will uniquely equip ordinary Christians, pastors, mission and youth workers to minister spiritual truth to a people who are open in a remarkable way at this time.”
Zaretsky was raised in Northern California where he attended Hebrew school and was bar mitzvah. During that ceremony, he read from Isaiah 6:1-8 where the prophet had dedicated himself to God saying, “Hineni?here am I.” Zaretsky recalled that he wanted to say, “Hineni,” too, but was acutely aware that he had no personal relationship with God.
Disenchanted with religion, he began a search for truth during the late 1960s and was encouraged by a Christian friend to pray that God would reveal himself. “I started reading the Bible and found that because of Jesus, I could finally say, ‘Hineni?here am I,’ to God.”
In advising Christians who are married to Jews, Zaretsky said they understand no one is ever convinced of the gospel through conflict. “However, the Jewish reaction to the gospel is one of fierce cultural opposition.” He said many Christians assume that this is the end of the discussion, when it is often the starting point.
“Some Christians fear that initial reaction and so avoid gospel communication with Jewish people,” Zaretsky stated. “However, the Jewish religion, Judaism, operates from a survival mode. We can help Christians understand the basis for that core Jewish value and how to engage it in a manner that is informed and considerate. It is a uniquely strong response, but not an insurmountable barrier,” he insisted, adding that the course next month will teach how to do that.
Zaretsky received both a bachelor and master of arts degree from University of Redlands in Southern California. He graduated from the Fuller School of World Missions with a master’s degree in missiology concentrating in Jewish evangelism. His dissertation addressed, “The Challenges of Jewish-Gentile Couples: A Pre-Evangelistic Ethnographic Study.”
Zaretsky finds it is helpful to establish a set of terms to use in discussing the subject of Jewish evangelism. “There are at least seven ways to use the term ‘t1:country-region w:st=”on”>Israel,'” he noted. “We make a clear distinction between Jewish people, Jewish ethnicity and Jewish culture. Knowing the difference makes it easier to understand how to approach Jewish people with the gospel.”
“With no other hope of eternal life or the forgiveness of sin available to Jewish people apart from Jesus Christ,” Zaretsky said, “we should learn how to reach them in a manner that is culturally sensitive and biblically true.”