GW students got a new perspective on traditional religions Tuesday night.
Steven Katz, chief of station of the D.C. branch of Jews for Jesus, spoke to about 50 students in the Marvin Center Amphitheater. Katz told the students that a Jew could believe in Jesus and still be Jewish. Jews for Jesus is a group that follows Jewish traditions and believes that Jesus is the messiah. Traditionally, Jews have not recognized Jesus as their savior.
“People say that you can be a Jewish atheist, a Jewish Buddhist and a Jewish agnostic, but you can’t be a Jewish Christian,” Katz said. “But what sense would it make for (Jesus) to come along, live a Jewish life and then negate the Jewish identity?”
Katz said he thinks members of the Jewish faith misunderstand the purpose of Jews For Jesus.
“As a follower of Jesus, if I really believe Jesus is who he says he is, and then I refuse to tell Jewish people this, that is anti-Semitic … that I want everyone to go to heaven but the Jews,” Katz said. “I have become a follower of Jesus, but retained my life as a Jew. It is very possible to do.”
Five Christian student organizations co-sponsored the speaker as a part of the second annual Jesus Awareness Week. This week is a holy week for Christians, culminating with Easter on Sunday. Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected on Easter.
“We planned (Jesus Awareness Week) to tie in with Good Friday … what we are trying to do is all about Christ’s resurrection, his gift to us,” said Amir Bayati, an executive board member of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. “Christ commands us to proclaim the gospel. We aren’t out to convert anyone. In fact, we can’t convert anyone. We can only share the message.”
However, some Jewish students said they think Katz’s message was misleading and that his timing was inappropriate.
“Anyone who believes that the messiah has already come simply isn’t Jewish,” said junior Judah Ferst, a member of the Jewish Student Association. “Jews For Jesus was planned in such a way that anyone who participated in Passover didn’t even have a chance to argue their own religion at the event … I’m all about freedom of religion, but that pissed me off.”
Junior Peter Hersey, president of Hope Bible Study, said the event was not intended to compete with Passover.
Jews are celebrating the eight-day holiday of Passover, which began Monday night. The holiday commemorates the end of Jewish enslavement in Egypt and the acquisition of the 10 commandments.
“We simply want to open up dialogue,” Hersey said. “Jesus Christ came out to die for us all, Jews and gentiles. If we just targeted gentiles in our campaign, that wouldn’t make what we were doing complete.”
Jesus Awareness Week also included worship sessions throughout the week and will conclude Friday with a “Gospel X-plosion” of Christian music and dancing.
“The vision has expanded,” said senior Adam Watson of the Christian Rock Fellowship. “There has been a lot more involvement, especially from the younger students. I can really see it pulling all together.”