Confessions of a Jews for Jesus defector
By Ellen Kamentsky
Heidi was a master at handling me and her contacts (the people we
"ministered" to). She'd slide into their lives, identify why they
refused to accept Jesus and try to turn them into believers. I would
duplicate her efforts. I would learn how to manipulate people too.
Most of the manipulation took place on visits. Visits were the meat
of our ministry. We lived for the one-on-one confrontations and prayed
for conversions. A large part of training was learning the dynamics
of these encounters.
We called the visits "interviews." There were in-person interviews,
phone visits, drop-ins, and bird-dog visits (arranged by another believer).
The initial interview served to qualify contacts and provide opportunities
for witnessing. Like chiropractors building a practice, we needed
a constant stream of clients.
Each contact was labeled and filed away. Last name first, first name
last, address, phone number, date, and origin of the contact all went
on an index card. "Saved" people got blue cards; those heading to
Hell got yellow. I always hesitated changing cards after a conversion;
I could never be sure that the commitment would stick, and I hated
losing UJ (unbelieving Jew) contacts because finding Jewish people
to witness to was difficult.
People were categorized as lonely, angry, hostile, selling (trying
to get me to buy something else), open, or curious. Usually people
who where hostile or selling were not visited very often. Lonely people
were shown how God could meet their needs. Angry people were encouraged
to uncover the roots of their hostility. Curious people were pushed
into being open, and open people were pushed into believing in Jesus.
During my first months of training I accompanied Heidi on at least
six UJ and two JB (Jewish believer) visits each week. I said little
and noted Heidi's tone of voice, body language, and mannerisms. Watching
Heidi was fascinating. She hacked away at belief systems using the
Christian Bible like a Samurai with a sword.
I learned how to plan and prepare for visits, how to set goals, use
Scripture, challenge a contact, cultivate other contacts, and follow
up on visits. There was a list of procedures to obey. Adhering to
them was imperative. These were God's rules. Most contacts thought
that we were just paying a friendly visit, but we had a mission to
A large percentage of the people we saw were elderly. Elders were
an obvious target because they were easy to influence, often home,
plentiful, and lonely. They'd tolerate my harangue in exchange for
an hour of companionship - many had no other visitors.
Sometimes I went door to door in nursing homes. No one ever stopped
me. The authorities probably thought I was someone's granddaughter;
they were happy to have someone visit.
Before entering a room, I'd check the door for a name. "Hi Mrs. __________
[Stein, Goldsmith, Abramowitz], my name's Ellen," I'd say. "Sometimes
I visit people here. I was wondering if you'd like a little company?"
The residents usually accepted my invitation. On the first visit they
did most of the talking. They discussed their children, their illness,
their dead spouse. I'd steer the conversation to spiritual matters.
"What do you think about God? How were you brought up? Conservative,
Reform, Orthodox?" Like a skilled talk show host, I'd warm them up
and unleash my true agenda.
"What do you think about the Messiah?" I'd ask. "What would you think
if I told you I thought Jesus was the Mashiach?" Usually this startled
them, but I knew not to push too far; I wanted to secure another visit.
One of my first visits with Heidi was to see a woman named Sarah.
She was very sick and had just returned from the hospital armed with
an arsenal of pills. In her condition, I'm surprised she even let
We parked in front of her house and paused to discuss tactics and
pray. "Jesus, please open Sarah's heart," Heidi pleaded.
Heidi and I got out of the car, walked to the front door, and rang
the bell. Sarah’s husband Sid answered the door. A pair of bouncing,
barking poodles, and the fragrance of fried fish and pet food greeted
us. I held my nose and tried to dodge the poodles who were starting
Sarah showed us seats and the conversation started.
“How was the hospital?” Heidi asked, enunciating every word so that
Sarah, who was hard of hearing, would understand.
“Oh, my sons are fine,” Sarah replied.
“No, I said how was your stay at the hospital?”
“Oh, I’m very sick. The doctors keep giving me medicine, but nothing
seems to help.”
“God wants to help you,” Heidi said.
“I know about God. I’ve prayed, but I still feel sick.”
“Sarah,” Heidi said, moving closer, trying to capture the old woman’s
attention. “Jesus wants to help you so you will never be sick again.”
“Please, I don’t want to hear about Jesus again,” Sarah said.
“Sarah, remember what I have been telling you about God and Jesus?”
“Yes, I know what you have said.”
“Have you thought about asking Jesus for help?”
“No, Jesus is not for me,” she said. “I have my God.”
“But Jesus is the only way for you to get better,” Heidi said, picking
up her Christian Bible and reading a story about how Jesus healed
people at Gennesaret.
“Jesus can heal your body, but more important he wants to forgive
you so you can go to heaven.”
Sarah squirmed in her seat and looked away. She didn’t want to hear
“I’m feeling nauseated,” she said. “I’ve asked God to take away my
dizziness, but nothing has happened. I feel so sick sometimes I just
want to die.”
“Maybe God is keeping you here for a reason,” Heidi said. “Maybe God
is giving you a chance to accept Jesus.”
We left with Heidi’s questions and poodle barks ringing in the air.
I don’t remember seeing her again. She was too closed to justify another
visit even though she would have benefitted from a friendly call.
But we were commissioned to convert, not comfort. We moved on.
Although we preached to all of our contacts, there were some people
we liked more than others. I tolerated UJs who served stale cake and
coffee resembling witches brew. I listened to widows repeat, “What
you need is a nice Jewish boy” like a mantra and suffered through
lectures entitled “Why You Should See the Rabbi.” Jesus loved them;
I’d endure them.
Jan was not one of these cases. Heidi and I quickly grew fond of her.
A Gentile believer, from a church which Heidi attended, passed on
Jan’s name. The first visit was only a phone call away. Heidi spoke
with Jan and made a date to meet at Denny’s Restaurant.
When we arrived at the restaurant, Jan was already there. Heidi and
I ordered coffee; Jan stuffed her incredibly cute kid with French
Heidi treated Jan very differently than she had Sarah. She admired
Jan’s outfit and remarked at how adorable her son was. Since this
was a contact visit, Jan did 90% of the talking. Heidi’s agenda was
simple; she wanted to qualify Jan to see how interested she was in
Jesus. If Jan was open, Heidi would propose a Bible study.
The plan worked and within three weeks the three of us were engaged
in a study. The situation was a great learning experience for me.
Heidi made the operation look easy. She lead Jan through Y’shua (a
book of prophecies written by Moishe Rosen). Jan accepted most of
what Heidi showed her in the Christian Bible. Her life was difficult.
She was a single, unemployed mom, living with two kids in a housing
Jan was looking for help. What she needed was a secure job and day
care. What she wanted was a terrific guy to marry, love, and provide
for her and her children. These real solutions would take work. In
the interim Jesus would do. But would Jesus really solve her dilemmas?
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