This is a guest post by Akiva
A couple of weeks ago, CiF raised some hairs with the question “Should religions compete?”
The prompt begins: “Almost all monotheisms are missionary religions. It is not enough to worship one God: it must be the right one, and in the right way.”
To translate the vague ‘Guardian-speak’, “almost all” must mean “two out of three”. Judaism, the original monotheism, is not a missionary religion. The question posed by CIF only applies to Islam and Christianity.
CiF claims otherwise: “Jews may not proselytise much in the outside world but they are happy to convert each other.”
This is just plain silly. A Jew is anyone with a Jewish mother. A Jew cannot convert to be any more or less of a Jew. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew, regardless of race, color, creed, or national origin. Regardless of whether they go to shul on Shabbat or only Yom Kippur or spend Yom Kippur playing soccer, a Jew is always a Jew.
As for the claim of Jews proselytizing to non Jews – you can read the Guardians “not much” as “never”. Unlike the other two monotheisms, Jews do not believe that everyone needs to be Jewish “get to heaven”. While this CiF piece insinuates otherwise, Jewish law and tradition is clear that non-Jews can be righteous, have a relationship with our common Creator, and be rewarded. Indeed, when a non-Jew comes to convert the typical first reaction is to talk him out of it. When Shlomo (Solomon) built the Temple in Jerusalem, he opened it to all. The prophet Isaiah referred to the Temple as a “house for all nations”. Sadly, the site of the Temple today is a house only for Muslims, who forbid other faiths from praying there, and have destroyed much of the archaeological heritage of the site with construction.
There are Jewish organizations (such as Chabad and Aish) that do seek out non-observant Jews to inform them of their heritage and encourage spiritual growth. They are not seeking converts – as there is no conversion required. They are combating the widespread ignorance of our 3000+ year old tradition among many modern and secular Jews. Their motivation is out of love for their fellow Jew. Unlike the others, the goal of Judaism is not to unite everyone under the banner of Judaism for the glory of heaven. Rather, we desire that everyone should have a meaningful relationship with The Almighty.