Got news? Jews for Jesus founder dies

The passing of Moishe Rosen wasn't earth-shattering, but this was certainly news worthy of coverage on more obit pages than that of The Washington Post. As I've followed Google News for a widening catalog of obituaries about the Jews for Jesus founder, who died Wednesday after a protracted battle with cancer, the only real change has been the increase in coverage from sectarian media outlets. CBN did their story, and the Jewish Chronicle another.

But no mention from the San Francisco Chronicle, despite the fact that Jews for Jesus was based in San Francisco and Rosen died there. And, as of yet, nothing else, except for this bio from the Orland Sentinel's religion blog and this brief AP report.

So let's take a look at the WaPo story:

Jews for Jesus, founded in 1973, is the largest and most visible part of the Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Christian movement, which holds that Jews can recognize Jesus as the messiah and still retain a Jewish identity. The group has offices in 11 countries, including Israel, and employs more than 100 missionaries worldwide.

Mr. Rosen said he modeled his evangelical efforts on Vietnam War protests he saw while living in the San Francisco area. Jews for Jesus spread its ideas via street theater performances and printed pamphlets with catchy titles such as "On the First Day of Christmas My Rabbi Gave to Me . . . " and "Jesus Made Me Kosher."

Adherents handed out millions of copies on street corners and college campuses and at shopping malls and airports.

"[W]e must believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus in order to be saved," Mr. Rosen wrote in a statement posted online at the time of his death. "There are no shortcuts."

The next line mentions how Rosen's message angered Jewish leaders, and plenty of members of the American Jewish community. I can certainly understand that. I've long been uncomfortable with Jews for Jesus -- partly because they thought that I was going to be their mole on The Jewish Journal's staff but mostly because I think that they mislead many Jews about the cost of following Christ.

The Washington Post's Emma Brown does a good job mentioning that perspective but not getting hung up on it. After a quote, she quickly returns to Rosen's life in an obit that leaves little to criticize. I would have liked to have seen discussion of how Jews for Jesus differ from Messianic Jews -- in short, significantly -- and maybe a bit more about some of the group's legal battles -- they got to both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Israel. And Brown's obit wasn't as thorough as the one from the Baptist Press, which was written by the BP's editor. But who could expect it to be?

I would, however, expect a few other daily newspapers to wake up to Rosen's death.

PHOTO: Rosen as a Jews for Jesus council meeting last June, via Flickr.

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