Monday night, on my way to Monkeytown in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, I stepped out of the Bedford stop to the sight of a large menorah in the back of a pickup truck. Lubavitcher Jews were mingling about asking people if they were Jewish. My response of "no" got me a "Happy New Year anway!" but those who are Jewish were offered information about improving their religious life. Or so I assume. Judaism is not exactly the most inclusive religion out there. They could have been sharing information about how to build tree houses or commit a heist for all I know. That's why I was struck by the missionary-type zeal of the group. Of course, Chasidim are kind of known for that. In any case, news came out (for me via the Christianity Today weblog) that Jews for Jesus, an evangelical Christian group devoted to converting Jews to Christianity, is suing Google for trademark infringement. Google owns blogging company Blogspot which permitted someone not affiliated with Jews for Jesus to run a blog with the same name:
"We have a right to our own name and Google has allowed the use of our name on Blogspot without our permission," said Susan Perlman, associate executive director with Jews for Jesus.
"Our reputation is at stake," Perlman told Reuters.
Apart from whatever legal ground Jews for Jesus may be on, I will be curious to see how the story progresses. Last year I worked on a story that led me to believe they might be the most reviled religious group in America.
Nearly everyone I spoke to had something negative to say about them. My orthodox Jewish friends were physically unnerved when discussing them. Some Christians tolerated them while others found them weird. A Lutheran pastor who converted from orthodox Judaism told me he couldn't stand them. Except instead of saying 'them' he used a word I'm not going to mention. In addition to his theological differences with the group, his beef was that no Jew for Jesus he met or heard of had been a practicing Jew. He felt Jews for Jesus operated under false pretense.
Obviously Jews for Jesus has its supporters, but the hostility the group engenders can sometimes bleed into coverage. Reporters should be careful to report about the group objectively. TechNewsWorld delved into the story nicely:
The blog in question is located at www.jewsforjesus.blogspot.com. Whistle Blower launched it in 2005 and began posting critical opinions of Jews for Jesus, though the site only had three entries until the evangelical organization filed its lawsuit.
"We have a very simple message," Pearlman said. "That Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and savior of the world, and we use our name to proclaim their message. We don't want someone else using it for their particular agenda."
Whistle Blower has responded to the lawsuit with a blog-based attack on the group in the form of a letter to Jews for Jesus employees.
"Hasn't your employer gone too far? Haven't they this time, for sure, brought disrepute on the name of your lord by this action? Could this be the moment of your decision?" Whistle Blower asks in his blog.
Should be interesting to watch.