Friday, October 22, 2021

The High Level of Sophisticated Deception

'Michael Isaacson' before and after (JC) ...hard to believe it's the same guy.
To say that it’s shocking is an understatement. That someone can so fake his Judaism let alone a Charedi version of it is beyond belief. This is not how it used to be. Evangelical missionaries to the Jews were relatively easy to spot - if one was an observant Jew. But things have changed. As the JC reports

A father and son practising as Orthodox rabbis in America have been accused by anti-missionary investigators of being secret evangelical Christians.

The claims over Michael and Calev Isaacson — who have changed their family name from Dawson — would cause disastrous halachic problems for the Jewish community if true.

Sacred rituals performed by the two men include writing holy scrolls, washing the dead, and conducting weddings, divorces and even conversions.

Investigators allege neither man is Jewish, making any rituals in which they took part invalid.

They are suspected of being a “sleeper cell” of evangelical Christians who may ultimately attempt to make aliyah and embed themselves within Israeli society.

The Isaacsons have been accepted and welcomed in a number of Orthodox Jewish communities in locations across the US. 

The degree of attention paid to detail that such a ruse would require is so enormous that it  would seem an impossible feat to carry out. But carry it out they did. And doing in so they caused some major damage.

There is no reason to say that this is a false accusation and that they have been unfairly characterized as messianic Jews. And to believe they are who they appear to be: devoutly religious and knowledgeable Jews demonstrated by the way they live their lives.

On the other hand, they had to learn Hebrew well enough to study religious texts and Daven as do those of us that were raised in religious homes. To become a Sofer as Michael did, requires not only graphic arts talent, but knowledge about the intricate laws with respect to writing a Sifrei STaM - religious documents - such as a Sefer Torah, Tefilin, or Mezuzos – which he apparently did flawlessly but are nonetheless invalid.  That he and his wife were invited multiple times into the home of an Orthodox teacher who never questioned their authenticity tells you just how good their ruse was.  

Isaacson admits that he believes that his god is Moshiach. But he claims that he  never tried to convince any Jew of that and actually opposes Christian missionaries that try. He says his entire goal was to live as a Jew because he believes that is the truth. That he has not abandoned his messianic beliefs does not, he says, detract from his sincere commitment to Judaism.

The problem with his story is that he has deliberately lied about his Jewish origins. And when he was somehow caught, he simply moved out of the community he was in at the time and set up shop elsewhere under the same guise. That deception gives lie to all of his other claims.  That he hasn’t yet tried to convince anyone about his messianic beliefs (if that is even true) may just mean he was waiting for the right opportunity to do so.

Let me hasten to add that I still believe that the vast majority of Evangelical Christians and their religious leaders are not out to convert the Jews. Not that they wouldn’t like us to convert. Of course they would. But that is not why they support Israel and the Jewish people. They do so simply because the bible tells them to. They actually believe the many times in the Torah (their old testament) where it says that those who bless the Jewish people will themselves be blessed. And they believe the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people as bible says it does.

Back to the issue at hand. There are a small number of Evangelicals who do believe it is their mission to convert us. They are willing to go to extreme lengths to accomplish that by learning how to convincingly live a lie and then actually live it. That is incredible.

But my incredulity over this not even the main point. The point is there are Evangelical Christians that are capable of doing so convincingly and do so. Which makes it impossible to always know what’s real and what isn’t. A lot of damage has already been done. And there will likely be more people like the Isaacsons in the future. 

Just to cite a couple of examples of the damage already done. One is the fact that Isaacson was involved in Gitin – religious divorce documents that ended up being invalid. Which can easily mean that there are Orthodox Jewish women who relied on those documents to remarry and have had children while unknowingly still being married to their first husbands. Their children would be Mamzerim and unable to get married themselves some day. Who knows how man divorced women there are like this that he was responsible for!  And who knows how many religious documents he wrote being used by religious Jews that are invalid! Including at least one Sefer Torah.

How many people are there like this? I have no clue. But I also know that he is not the first. The question remains, though, how can we protect ourselves from this kind of thing? I certainly do not have the answer.