Sunday, January 30, 2005

Abusive Organizations and Individual Responsibility

Some people believe that organizations cannot be abusive, only individuals. But I wonder if they are taking the phrase "abusive organization" too literally. In my mind, abusive organizations are made up of leaders in those organizations who abuse their subordinates, and these subordinates in turn often abuse *their* subordinates, all of this made possible by the corporate culture that allows or even encourages abuse and corruption. In the final analysis, I believe that organizations *can* be abusive since these organizations are made up of individuals.

Taking this to the next level, some people have said that the group of people who have contributed to the ex-jewsforjesus website and blog are themselves an "abusive organization" because their words have the potential to hurt individual employees at Jews for Jesus who might lose their jobs if donations decrease. I would have to say that this is comparing apples and oranges. The power differential that existed in JFJ and that led to abusive practices and policies and broken families and ruined lives cannot be compared to the unlikely possibility of some employee at JFJ having to find work in another company. I just don't think there is a comparison at all.

But getting back to the question of Jews for Jesus being an abusive organization. I think that individual evil and organizational culture are two separate but related issues. To affirm one is not to deny the other. Both can (and do) exist. Yes, it is true that an abusive organization cannot exist without individual evil. And yes, it is true that some of the abused in JFJ eventually became the abusers. And yes, it is true that we all have the capability for doing evil acts. But to acknowledge the abusive nature of the Jews for Jesus organization is not to deny individual responsibility. I don't think that any one of us would say that. It seems to me that an emphasis on individual responsibility to the exclusion of corporate liability is a bit of a straw man. After all, hasn't the U.S. legal system over and over again said that organizations that employ abusive individuals and allow them to continue working in that environment are culpable and liable for damages?

David Brickner says that Jews for Jesus as an organization cannot apologize for or be held accountable for the acts of individuals. Our legal system says otherwise.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Do you want to be taken over by IT?

Do you want to be taken over by IT?
One of my favorite books is A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'Engle.

In her famous book, L'Engle portrays the planet Camazotz as a place where there is complete conformity and security, but no personal freedom.

The heroine, Meg, has a little brother named Charles Wallace who is taken over by IT, the central controller of the dark planet.

In the recent Disney DVD production, Charles Wallace's eyes become red showing he is completely under IT's spell. When his sister tries to rescue him from the planet and IT, he is now only capable of hurting her and evil.

Of course, there is a happy ending, and by telling Charles Wallace she loves him, he snaps out of IT's spell, and his eyes return to normal and the evil planet also snaps out of the evil that controls it.

As I watched that scene where Meg deals with her brother who is taken over by IT, I saw a parallel with JFJ.

Once under JFJ's control, there is complete conformity and security, but no personal freedom. People we love can become evil once they are under JFJ's control. They are not the people or individuals we once knew.

They have been taken over by IT.

So if you are considering joining Jews for Jesus remember that you are putting yourself under more than just control; you will be giving up all personal freedom. You will gain complete security, but at what cost?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Violent Acts

Ruth Tucker wrote a book several years ago about Jews for Jesus. It was not an "expose" of JFJ; on the contrary, the book was commissioned by Jews for Jesus, and the final edit was done by JFJ staff. One would expect such a book to be a whitewash of the organization and its negative aspects, and for the most part, it is. It glosses over most of the problems that JFJ has had in the past and continues to have in the present. But it is surprisingly frank about how Moishe Rosen would occasionally lose his temper and become violent.

Here is a quote from the book, on pp. 33-34: "He [Moishe] certainly expected the staff to respect his authority as executive director. No one bowed down to him as a cult leader. But there are those -- some who have left and some who are still with the organization -- who say that he has the ability to intimidate and that he used it, more so in the past than today. Through the years, they recall, his displeasure sometimes cut the air like a razor-sharp knife. If he felt people were not listening, he would yell. He would glower. And there was a time or two when, in a very deliberate display of disapproval, he threw something across the room. Though he never aimed at or intended to hurt anyone, these were nonetheless intimidating experiences. This is not top-secret information, disclosed behind closed doors. According to Moishe, he intended such scenes to provide shock value to drive home hispoint. (Perhaps, but sometimes those on the receiving end were too shocked to appreciate the value)."

The following links describe similar kinds of "violent acts" perpetrated by Moishe Rosen:

Monday, January 24, 2005

Fear of being late and JFJ

Fear of being late and JFJ
JFJ did insist that being on time was necessary. I remember hearing Moishe Rosen explain that people who were late were late because they wanted to be in control. So, being late in JFJ was not permitted. In fact, you couldn't be just on time; you had to be extra early.

Being on time is not a bad thing, but JFJ took it to an extreme.

No one dared to ever be late. I don't know what the punishment for being late was since I was always early. My guess is the punishment was probably extra postcards or extra sorties or something of a similar nature. I don't want to think about what could have happened if someone was late for Postcards in Executory; the thought of being publicly humiliated is all that comes to my mind...

Now, sometimes, being late can't be controlled. Planes sometimes are late, but that did not seem to be an excuse for tardiness. Cars break down. People have accidents. Sometimes watches stop. Bumper to bumper traffic can appear out of nowhere on a busy highway. JFJ accepted no excuses.

Once, while driving to an Ingathering, because someone who a co-worker and I were required to pick up at an airport's plane came in late, we arrived late to a required Ingathering meeting. I will never forget the absolute fear and horror inside of both of us as we drove towards that Ingathering. We had no control over the plane being late and our excited passenger who was going to that Ingathering had no idea that she was the cause of fear inside both of us.

I don't remember how we were punished, but that was the only time I was ever late in fifteen years I was with Jews for Jesus.

Why I Post On Ex-Jews For Jesus

Some of our detractors like to say we are just embittered complainers or people who "can't get past it". This presents the opportunity to explain why I post to this public forum.

I am an Evangelical Christian and support missions groups that proclaim the Gospel of Jesus.

During my time at Jews for Jesus, I personally witnessed behaviors and actions that a person considering working for or being involved with them should know about.

It has been said that Jews for Jesus is a "high demand" ministry. People coming into that environment know this and voluntarily sacrifice personal freedom to do so.

However, this situation, in the hands of sinful Man lends itself to all sorts of abuse.

I have seen a person publicly humiliated by Moishe Rosen at an Ingathering for not adequately preparing for the next year's event.

I watched Moishe Rosen walk down the halls of headquarters stopping at every office and berating everyone in that office for some minor offense (interoffice envelopes stacked too high, for example).

I have heard Moishe Rosen say that a person could essentially be ruined by being "over-affirmed".

I worked with missionaries who paid to be at an Passover banquet but had to sacrificing their meal and work at the event.

I have seen the Publications Director humiliated because the pictures turned out too dark.

This is only a fraction of what I witnessed first-hand. There are many people who've worked longer and deeper into the ministry than I ever had. Their stories are often disturbing and make one wonder if this is, in fact, a CHRISTIAN ministry.

Does it continue? In the last year, two more people that I know of joined the Ex-Jews for Jesus list claiming that it was.

Does Jews For Jesus play dirty? Moishe Rosen was pleased to have a person on the CONFIDENTIAL Ex-Jews for Jesus list who would regularly forward postings.

These posting were used to get a list member in trouble with their current employer.

So, to anyone considering serving for 18 months on the Liberated Wailing Wall or moving to San Francisco to work at their headquarters, I would warn you that, in my opinion, the culture is one where you'll find that the Joy of serving the Lord is reduced to "Suffering for the sake of the Gospel". You may learn that suffering comes at the hands of fellow believers more than it does from the world.

And the shame of it is that it doesn't need to be that way. It is an ingrained culture that sees no reason to change.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Destroyed marriages, families, and JFJ

Recently I watched a movie about a big family. The parents took jobs that took them away from their children and eachother and although there was more money in the bank, their family life was no longer happy. At the end of the story, the father gave up his dream job in order to give his children all the attention they needed.

I've seen the same thing happen as a result of JFJ's control over its employees.

A father can be made to be so busy, that his wife and children never see him except in relation to ministry work.

Yes, long hours are required in many careers and ministers do sometimes put in long hours, but something seems wrong here. Why have so many marriages among those who have worked for JFJ fallen apart?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Take responsibility!

David Broder wrote a column in the Washington Post a couple of years ago, which begins thusly:

"Even in this democratic age, some organizations have clung to the hierarchical principle -- and been admired for it....."

"But organizations with clear chains of command risk their reputations when those in charge refuse to accept responsibility for things that go wrong...."

Broder's column is about the Roman Catholic Church, and about how the top level bishops refuse to take responsibility for the actions of those below them. But when I read this today I was reminded of Jews for Jesus. David Brickner, in the JFJ newsletter and in personal correspondence to some ex-staff who have written him complaining of abuses in the organization, has refused to accept blame or responsibility for anything that anyone under him has done. His constant message: "Take up your complaint with the person who offended you. I didn't personally hurt you, so I can't do anything about it."

On one level this is correct. Both the Bible and modern psychology extol the merits of going to the person who offended us instead of "triangling in" others.

But it is, in my opinion, an abdication of responsibility for the "top man" in any organization to say that nothing that was done on his watch is his responsibility if he had nothing personally to do with it.

It is refreshing to see someone like Harry Truman say "The buck stops here." It is refreshing to hear about heads of organizations who take personal responsibility for the actions of those they were in charge of, those who were in their employ or under their supervision.

It would be a big step in the right direction if David Brickner were to say, publicly or privately, that Jews for Jesus unconditionally rejects the abuse of employees and takes responsibility for any abuse that ever occurred in the organization. It would be heartwarming if David Brickner were to try to contact past employees that were shunned or otherwise treated unfairly, whether by individual supervisors or (in the case of shunning) by the entire organization, and if he were to say, "Please forgive us for these wrong actions. What can we do to make it up to you?"

But if David Brickner is continuing to run JFJ in the same way that Moishe Rosen did, then his denial of past abuse and his refusal to take responsibility for the current actions of his branch leaders or team leaders would make perfect sense.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Changing One's Name

Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, Jews for Jesus had a policy that when a new staff member came on board, he or she had to change his or her name if someone else already had that same first name. So Barry became Baruch (or Binyomin), Susan became Shoshanna, Alan became Avi, etc. The rationale for this was that it would be too confusing if two or more people had the same first name, especially in the "heat of the moment" if there was danger on the streets while handing out pamphlets. But I always thought that forcing a person to change their name was an unwelcome intrusion in people's personal lives. At some point JFJ stopped doing this, but the legacy lives on.

The CEO of the corporation that publishes Encyclopedia Britannica is an Israeli named Ilan Yeshua. It is a good thing that this person never worked for Jews for Jesus. They would have made him change his name to Ilan Y'shua. (see my next post on the Yeshua versus Y'shua debate).

Need to Recover from JFJ?

Do you need help recovering from Jews for Jesus?

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Jewish evangelism and Jews for Jesus

Some people have said that the cause of Jewish evangelism will be damaged if the Christian community learns about the abuse that took place in Jews for Jesus. But I say, Never should we allow individuals to be abused for the sake of any kind of so-called "ministry"! Itwas and continues to be a red herring to say that we can't "air the dirty laundry" because it ruins the good name of Jewish evangelism (or Messianic Judaism, or whatever the phrase du jour is). In fact, I believe that this argument may have been used by Jews for Jesus in the past to protect itself from exposure. The fact is, sometimes you must "air the dirty laundry" if you are to figure out what needs to be cleaned in hot water, what needs to be cleaned in cold water, and what needs to be discarded. In the end, truth must win out over lies, deceit, and denial.

The stories that I have heard make me sick to my stomach. I can't support an organization that condones horrific behavior such as all of us have either heard about or experienced. I can't support an organization that would cover up this behavior or try to buy the silence of those whose job it is to uproot it. I can't support an organization that would chew up and spit out individuals (especially brand new believers, who are in many ways the most vulnerable) for the sake of individual power and public image. What I can support is the efforts of those who would document these abuses and expose evil to protect future generations of unwary missionaries.

It is true that if the corruption of Jews for Jesus is exposed, some current missionaries might lose their jobs due to lost revenues due to negative publicity. I don't wish unemployment on anyone, but I would suggest that maybe it is better to lose a job than to continue in one where you mustconstantly compromise your integrity, where you are abused by your supervisors, and where you ultimately become abusive yourself. It is true that if the evils of JFJ are exposed, some missionaries might get "the JFJ story"thrown in their faces when they try to witness of their faith to others. I would rather this happen than to see any more people get damaged (emotionally,spiritually, psychologically) by the Jews for Jesus industrial complex.

A Dream

I wanted to relate a dream that I had a few years ago. I dreamed that Moishe Rosen was pursuing me. I had done something wrong in his eyes, and he wanted to confront me and punish me. By the end of the dream, I realized that he wanted to actually kill me. In my dream, Moishe was as we all know him or remember him, a big, tall, bear of a man, but there was a difference in the dream, in that he could run very, very fast. I discovered this when I tried to outrun him, and was only marginally successful. I was hiding out in a suburban neighborhood, but he found out where I was and tracked me down. Time after time I managed to elude him, but he was always on my track. I could not escape this man, who was voraciously seeking to destroy me. I finally awoke from the nightmare, never having been caught but also never having completely escaped. It was a very frightening dream.

I don't know exactly what it means, but I think that it probably relates to my fear of Moishe and the power he still wields. It is ironic, because today Moishe Rosen is a sickly old man, but for me (and for many others), the bear is still on the loose.

Core Values

I am a great believer in "core values" and mission statements for organizations. I think they reduce the essence of the organization down to a few key principles and allow staff to focus on applying those principles in everyday work. There is an excellent book called "Managing by Values" that describes how an organization can use core values to encourage and empower its employees.

You can read about the Core Values of Jews for Jesus at

The JFJ core values are, in my mind, very revealing, in that they do not include any reference (so far as I can see) to respect for individuals, the dignity of human beings, or the importance of families. Given that these values are left out of the JFJ mission statement, the fact that JFJ has had problems in the past with respecting individuals and honoring families doesn't seem inconsistent with their values. What is a little disturbing is that there apparently has been no change in the core values (which we all know were devised by Moishe Rosen) since the ascension of David Brickner several years ago. I have heard rumors that Brickner would be a "kinder, gentler" version of Rosen, but as long as the core values and mission statement remain the same, why should we expect anything different?


I was listening (during my daily commute) to a tape by management guru Peter Drucker, and something struck me about his discussion of "family" businesses. Drucker posits that many family businesses, even large, successful ones, eventually go under because they continue to practice nepotism (hiring one's relatives regardless of ability) and cronyism (hiring one's friends regardless of ability). Drucker's basic rule of thumb is this: Never hire a relative or friend unless their abilities match or exceed those of other applicants. (Of course, we all know that many companies have explicit rules against nepotism, and this principle is also grounded in the law for most government agencies).

I bring this up because someone once told me that Moishe Rosen used to say on occasion, "I love nepotism." Without knowing the abilities of his relatives who work for the firm, I'm wondering if this was another example of corruption in JFJ? I certainly don't want any discussion that this might engender to turn into personal bashing of Rosen's relatives but I *am* interested in whether or not others perceived nepotism at the firm.

On one level, nepotism is tied to the money issue. If you hire your relatives and pay them well, you have more money in your own family. You can put your kids through college on the firm's bankroll, you can send them to Israel free of charge, you can buy them a house, and you don't have to worry about their financial well-being (since they will always have a job no matter what their competency level). Nepotism also ensures family loyalty, since exposure of family secrets would mean losing one's job. I'm not saying that all or any of these things happened in JFJ. But I would not be surprised if they did, because nepotism is tied up with money, and money is tied up with power, and we all know that Jews for Jesus was (and possibly still is) on a major power trip.

Salaries at Jews for Jesus

A few years ago, a newspaper published the salary of the head of Campus Crusade for Christ. It was $65,000 per year. This made me think about how much Jews for Jesus missionaries are paid. No one outside the organization knows how much they make, except for the IRS. I wonder if it true that the salaries at J for J are way out of line for the kind of work they do? I'm especially thinking ofthe senior missionaries and the top brass.

A few years ago the director of United Way had to resign when it was learned that he was making $450,000 per year. Everyone was outraged that a non profit organization was using its money this way. But no one blinks twice when Benny Hinn or Jimmy Swaggert or any number of other ministry leaders takes in exhorbitant salaries. Would the little old ladies who are giving their dimes and quarters to J for J be upset if they learned that the executive director is making $300,000 per year? (this is my guess since I have no idea how much he makes).

A few years ago 60 Minutes came to investigate Jews for Jesus. Moishe Rosen made a big deal about the fact (?) that he opened up JFJ's books to 60 minutes, they looked them over, and then went away saying, "there's nothing here for us to report on." Were the JFJ accounts really that boring? My guess is that 60 Minutes is used to rather large salaries in the world of television, so even if Moishe was making $200,000 per year (again, my guess),that probably seemed like nothing to them. (Even though it seems like an awful lot to most of us).