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BALTIMORE JEWISH TIMES - Page 16

Skeptical Jews Endorse Sect�s Pro-Israel Video
A Christian pastor is marketing a film on Israel,
but insists he�s not looking for converts.

By Alan H. Feiler
Staff Reporter

When Pastor Kenneth W. Rawson contacts Jewish leaders about his multi-image slide and video production on Israel, he�s often greeted with skepticism.

�The Jewish Community has been burned time and time again by Christian groups and Hebrew Christian proselytizers,� said Pastor Rawson of the Bible Students Congregation of New Brunswick, N.J.  �I can understand their skepticism.  But the very fact that I�ve been able to win over the support of Jewish leaders says something about my project.�

With the assistance of local members of the loose-knit Bible Students movement, Pastor Rawson is currently marketing his 59-minute presentation, �Israel:  Appointment With Destiny,� to Baltimore synagogues, temples and Jewish communal groups.

�Israel� was first shown at the Rutgers University�s Hillel Foundation in New Brunswick in March 1990 and has already been seen by Jewish and non-Jewish groups around the nation.

Pastor Rawson, who wrote and produced �Israel,� said he decided to market the film locally after reading a BALTIMORE JEWISH TIMES article about Hebrew Christian missionaries proselytizing to Soviet immigrants.  The production, copies of which sell for $10 each, urges Jews to resist attempts to convert them, and to support Israel.

That message has gained Pastor Rawson the support of some prominent Israelis and members of the American Jewish community.

In a letter, Avner Hai Shaki, Israel�s minister of religious affairs, commended Pastor Rawson for trying to enhance world opinion about the Jewish state.

Former Soviet Refusenik Yosef Begun wrote that the production gives viewers an opportunity �to become more familiar with the development of the Jewish people, their social and intellectual ideals, aspirations and fulfillments.�

Leaders from across the Jewish religious spectrum have also applauded the production.

��Israel� is a big hit among Orthodox congregations that have viewed it,� said Rabbi Ephraim H. Sturm, executive vice president for the National Council of Young Israel, the umbrella organization for Young Israel affiliated-Orthodox synagogues.

�I like it because it encourages Jews to be more positive about Israel and it encourages aliyah,� Rabbi Sturm said in an interview.  �It shows that there�s strong feeling in the non-Jewish world that Jews have a right to that land.�

Rabbi Meyer Korbman of Temple Israel, a Conservative congregation in Union, N.J., said he was initially apprehensive when first approached by Pastor Rawson.  But he said the congregation now includes �Israel� in its teen education program.

�Pastor Rawson reinforces being loyal to your faith and not allowing oneself to be proselytized,� Rabbi Korbman said in an interview.  �There were members in the congregation who said, �Where�s the catch?  What�s in store?�  They were quite surprised that his message is just to be a good Jew.�

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