9 Russian Jews Baptized
NEW YORK - Christian missionaries have recruited
127 Russian Jewish children to attend a Baptist summer camp
and at least nine of the Jewish campers have already been baptized,
Jewish officials say.
parents of at least one camper have already refused to honor
a pledge they made to have their son undergo a ritual circumcision,
maintaining that he is now a Christian.
Baptist missionaries lured the Russian Jews to the camp - located
in Ashford, Conn. - by charging their parents $5 a week for
Russian-speaking missionaries lurk around the boardwalk in
the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn and even knock on doors
of Jewish residents in the area in the search of Russian Jews
interested in sending their children to the Baptist camp, said
one Jewish official.
Meir Okunov, chairman of the Friends of Refugees of Eastern
Europe, said his group first learned of the camp’s activities
when a Russian Jew failed to bring his son for a scheduled ritual
circumcision. The Russian told Okunov that his son won’t
need a circumcision anymore because he has been baptized and
is being raised as a Christian.
The camp has been identified as Camp Evangelical Baptist. The
baptism of Russian Jews was performed during a ceremony earlier
Jewish officials investigating the camp said the Russian Jews
have been targeted by several missionary groups for conversion
to Christianity. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the
Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, said the Russian
Baptist movement and the Russian Orthodox Church have been involved
in the missionary effort to the Jews. In addition, he said,
the American Board of Missions to the Jews have supported the
What aids the missionary attempt to convert Russian Jews are
the immigrants’ lack of knowledge and interest in their
religion. In the Soviet Union, the teaching and practice of
Judaism is essentially forbidden.
official familiar with the missionary effort said he feared
that reporting the extremely low price of the Baptist camp might
induce other Russian Jews to enroll their children.
The camp reportedly offers a full range of sporting activities
with 30-minute “Bible lessons” in the morning and
evening. A caller to the camp was told that sending Jewish children
to a Baptist camp did not pose a dilemma because there are 127
Jews already enrolled in the facility.
Negotiations have started to counteract the missionary effort,
but no action against the camp has yet been reported by Jewish
officials. One Jewish official said the Federation of Jewish
Philanthropies of New York is considering offering its summer
camps to Russian Jewish youngsters at the same price offered
by the Baptist camp.
A spokesman for FREE said his group is working to “infuse
the spirit of Yiddishkeit into Russian Jews, particularly in
the case of one-parent families and other borderline situations
that make them susceptible to missionary offers.”
Missionaries themselves acknowledge the success of FREE’s activists in pulling Jews out of the their clutches
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