On the Founder of Jews for Jesus

My review of Called to Controversy: The Unlikely Story of Moishe Rosen and the Founding of Jews for Jesus is up at the Forward. Here’s the first bit:

Before he founded Jews for Jesus, Moishe (at the time, Martin) Rosen took business classes and sold fishing rods. Taking employment at a sporting goods store rather than at his father’s junkyard was Rosen’s first rejection of his ancestral legacy, his first apostasy. But his sales career — later he also sold cameras and cemetery plots — foreshadowed something beyond a simple conversion to Christianity. According to a new biography by his daughter, Ruth Rosen, the famous evangelist never really left sales.

The business classes Rosen took at the Emily Griffith Opportunity School, a technical school in Denver, seem to have influenced his career as a “fisher of men” far more than his theological education at Northeastern Bible Institute did. Certainly, he was never much of a religious thinker. Rosen converted at age 21 after his young wife found Jesus, because he couldn’t convincingly refute the missionary pamphlets she brought home. His was a simple faith: Rosen saw every lucky turn as a gift from God. God gave him used winter coats, a $5 refund check, a tip-off about tire trouble and complimentary obstetric care for his wife. But Rosen didn’t talk much about the reverse problem: undeserved suffering. And he shrugged off biblical criticism as easily as he did theodicy. Liberal ideas, he explained, just “didn’t speak to me.” Richard Harvey, a Jews for Jesus missionary who became an academic theologian, is quoted as ruing the lack of a coherent “Moishe Rosen messianic Jewish theology.”

Read the rest here.

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