Jews for Jesus provoked fresh controversy this week after unveiling their new UK base in the heart of London’s Jewish community in Hendon.
The group confirmed it would be opening before the end of the year after a large sign appeared on premises opposite Hendon Central Station.
The move comes just six months after the international missionary group released a video showing Christ being sent to the gas chambers in Auschwitz by a Nazi who describes him as “just another Jew” – a move branded “a cynical abuse of the Holocaust for purposes of proselytising” by the Anti-Defamation League.
Jonathan Arkush, vice-president of the Board of Deputies, said: “Any group that targets Jews for missionary activity is totally rejected by the Jewish community. Jews for Jesus is unwelcome in Hendon or anywhere else. They should pack up shop and leave.”
Adam Langleben, councillor for West Hendon ward which covers the new shop, added: “Considering the offensive video that Jews for Jesus recently produced I think many people living in and around Hendon Central will find it very insensitive and inappropriate. We live in a free country and they can do as they wish but to me it’s an inappropriate spot for their shop and very likely to cause offense.”
A statement of faith that appears on the UK branch’s website says the organisation believes that the scriptures of the “Old and New Testament are divinely inspired” and “believe that Jesus the Messiah was eternally pre-existent and is co-equal with God the Father”.
Asked if they were moving to Hendon to be provocative, Jews for Jesus UK Director Julia Pascoe said it had a base in Finchley Road for seven years until 2001, adding: “We are excited to be back in the area we felt most comfortable in for years. Do we expect opposition? We hope not – we are good neighbours and we trust those who pass by our shop will come to know that.”
She added: “Welcome or unwelcome – we are here and we are hoping to serve the local community by providing high quality Judaica items, books of a spiritual nature and a place to have a good conversation if desired. Our signage clearly states who we are and what we believe which provides an ethical framework for engaging further.”