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Nearly every morning this summer, I scrambled out of my Columbia University dorm room to squeeze through the swarming porthole at 116th and Broadway - the entrance to the 1 train.

One morning in June, I saw a startling change in the subway-car decor: the once proverbial Budweiser ads had all but disappeared, only to be replaced by the gleaming propaganda of Jews for Jesus. I remembered learning about this group in Hebrew school, but I never realized the magnitude of their threat toward the Jewish community.

Their eye-catching subway ads were but one piece of the organization's annual July campaign. Each summer, Jews for Jesus members sweep through New York and many other major cities, luring prospective followers into their "Behold Your God" program. They function as missionaries, converting as many people as possible into Messianic Jews - essentially, Jews who believe that Jesus Christ was the messiah.

While New York has a higher concentration of Jews for Jesus adherents, Philadelphia is certainly not exempt from this invasion. According to Hillel Director Jeremy Brochin, the missionaries systematically "blitz different cities at different times," and Philadelphia used to be a more popular region.

All over Manhattan last summer, I saw Jews for Jesus members on populated street corners, intruding upon conversations and distributing unwanted fliers. The bottomless stacks of fliers often contained comic strips, whose stories could be dangerously attractive even to small children's impressionable minds.

I recently visited the New York Jews for Jesus headquarters - under the pretense of genuine interest - in order to obtain the most honest information possible. I met with a recent college graduate whose parents were among the earlier followers of Messianic Judaism. Although she devotes her life to Jesus, she still insists that she is Jewish.

To me, this idea is ludicrous.

Today - Yom Kippur - is certainly an appropriate day to remind both Jewish and non-Jewish students alike of the dangers that such a group poses. Primarily, the theological concept of a Jew for Jesus is fundamentally unsound.

I believe that any religious group is entitled to free speech, no matter how annoying missionaries may be. However, labeling a person a "Jew for Jesus" is paradoxical and deceptive, lacking any logical meaning.

Western history and theology presents a clear "break between Judaism and Christianity, and they went different directions," Brochin said. "Jews' understanding was that Jesus could not be part of their theology."

However, the Jews for Jesus recruiter explained to me that on Yom Kippur, she atones for her sins to Jesus - to me, she is therefore not a Jew. She also displays a "misunderstanding of Jesus and a misunderstanding of Christianity," Brochin said.

According to tradition, Jews do not actively attempt to recruit followers from other faiths, and conversion is a difficult task that requires much time and dedication. The Jews for Jesus, on the other hand, are quick to accept converts without formal avowals of commitment. As I learned from the New York representative, the only prerequisite for conversion is a daily prayer that demonstrates trust and faith in Jesus.

"They're making up their own definition of what being Jewish could include," Brochin said. "It's way outside the boundaries of a historical Jewish understanding."

Yet the Jews for Jesus movement continues to lure people into its trap.

This evangelical organization attracts vulnerable young people into its cult-like dynasty, misleadingly claiming an identity that cannot exist. The prayers may be in Hebrew, but they violate principles of Judaism and are not part of the religion. Counter-organizations, such as "Jews for Judaism," are attempting to unite the Jewish community against these unwelcome imposters.

If they succeed in converting Jews to their beliefs, authentic Judiasm is in danger.

Be wary of these theological predators, who will slip their propaganda into the most unexpected places. And if one of their fliers falls into your hands, make sure to keep the comic strips away from your little brothers and sisters.

Sharon Udasin is a College senior from East Brunswick, N.J. Her e-mail address is Shed a Little Light appears on Mondays.

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