JAGUAR OF TROY
Go Ahead And Try
ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ
SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
hen the Southern Bap-
fist convention recent-
ly adopted a resolution
calling for a major
campaign to convert the Jews,
the frightened reaction of some
Jews made me think I was in
Spain at the time of the Inqui-
sition. As a committed Jew, my
response to the Baptist an-
nouncement was "go ahead and
try." I have no fear of conversion
efforts by any church — so long
as they do not have the power
of the state behind them.
The Jewish fear of conversion
campaigns is understandable,
in light of the long history of
forced conversions by churches
that had the power of the state,
the law and the army behind
them. The Crusades, the Inqui-
sition, the campaign by Martin
Luther were all examples of at-
tempts to convert by the sword
or by the threat of state-imposed
Even when threats of physi-
cal violence were not used, state
laws that discriminated against
Jews often were the impetus be-
Benjamin Disraeli could not
have become the prime minister
of England if he had remained a
Jew, since the law of England re-
quired officials to be Christian.
Today in America, there are
no state-imposed reasons for con-
version. Our Constitution forbids
any religious tests for office. Our
laws bar discrimination on the
basis of religion. Our high wall
of separation between church
and state prohibits the state from
helping any church to secure con-
So what do Jews have to fear?
We can just say no. If a Baptist
can persuade a Jew that his sal-
vation is in Jesus, so be it. If a
Jew can persuade a Baptist to
convert to Judaism, so be it.
That is the American way. Are
we, as Jews, so insecure in the
power of our ideas, our faith and
our God that we are afraid of a
little healthy competition?
Jews today do have a prob-
lem, but it does not come from
other religions trying to convert
us. It comes instead from our
children choosing to abandon
their religious heritage, not in
favor of some other religion, but
in favor of general assimilation.
We have failed to educate our
children to appreciate their her-
itage. Our enemies are not
Christians seeking to convert
us, but rather our own lethar-
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