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Missionary Con Artists Swindle Jewish Souls

Missionary Con Artists Swindle Jewish Souls
Missionary Con Artists Swindle Jewish Souls

By Donald Zev Uslan, Reprinted with Permission of Vision Magazine

Donald Zev Uslan, MA, MBA, LMHC, NCC, CRC is a medical and rehabilitation psychotherapist from the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, now living in Jerusalem. His specialty over a 45-year career has been working with individuals and groups with complex chronic illnesses, most of whom had been psychologically, physically, or sexually abused in childhood.


“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

Mark Twain

Recent news reports and talk shows are replete with swindlers who con and deceive innocent or hapless individuals by developing trusting relationships with their victim. 

“Fraud” is defined as the “intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right.”

“Con man” or “con artist” is short for “confidence artist.” And a swindler is “a person who uses deception to deprive someone of money or possessions.”

The English language is teeming with synonyms to describe deceivers.

Given the public’s fascination and curiosity with true and fictionalized stories of deception, one may ask: what are some psychological and psychosocial dynamics of these swindlers? What are some of the reasons people scam, deceive, and con?

While it doesn’t take a classical “mental illness” or psychological disorder to be a con artist, it’s the victims who are often left mentally scarred and traumatized.

Why do some of us become victims? And what is it that lures people and allows them to be deceived, duped, and cheated? 

In keeping with the ongoing and in-depth psychological exploration of missionaries and their Jewish victims in Israel, which Vision Magazine has given me a platform  to pursue, we will now dig further.

The deception is a “con”— enabling people to be fooled, through cheating and lying, and causing them to think they’re involved in a “great” thing.

The deceiver takes advantage of our human vulnerabilities, such as feeling alone, self-doubt, poor health, or ignorance. Often, the scammer has a unique ability to enlist the support of prominent or influential people to enhance their credibility and legitimacy. Typically, persuasive and described as “charming,” these characters lack conscience. 

They groom their victims. Swindlers are adept at manipulating our behavior and psychology. Scammers encourage the “mark” (the victim) to talk about themselves, they ask a lot of questions. They get to know and use the person’s name, all in the pursuit of building a subconscious bond with the “mark.”

They attempt to break down cognitive defenses of the victim. They tell stories and convey their own problems and vulnerabilities to build trust. They share their own faults and anxieties to establish common ground. This is part of the grooming process.

People lie to gain something or to avoid something, to maintain relationships or because something is advantageous to them.

  • Some people manipulate others due to strongly held beliefs, often to the point of delusion.
  • Some people have “fantasies” as expressed in an extreme type of lying and are motivated by acquiring something from another person. 
  • We trust people for a variety of reasons, including attractiveness, youth, similarity to ourselves, “assumed likeness”; thus, we think we know a person.
  • Our strong emotions often overcome our logical thinking. 
  • Believing in lies can be part of our need for a relationship or a sense of belonging. 
  • Our “gut instincts” can sometimes be incorrect.
  • Occasionally we trust someone because they have been recommended to us by someone we know or we have no reason to be suspect because they are like “family” – blending into our religious, cultural, or ethnic group. 

Many evangelical missionaries in Israel work covertly under a “messianic” guise and fit the quintessential profile of the fraudsters described above. They utilize many of the same techniques and psychological approaches. They are, in essence, swindlers of Jewish souls. 

The “messianic” missionaries and their evangelical mentors have obtained some degree of success in convincing and seducing vulnerable Israelis into adopting Christian beliefs. Covert and overt evangelical missionaries have permeated Israeli society and are establishing facts on the ground through “bridge-building,” “friendship evangelism,” blurring the lines between beliefs, and appropriating Jewish rituals and traditions.

They justify this strategy of professing commonality and interconnectedness by turning to Christian theological and eschatological doctrines, such as “One New Man.”

Evangelical missionaries have gained a foothold in Israel and enjoy wide-spread endorsement, cooperation and collaboration with the Israeli government, quasi-government organizations, and public sector agencies.

These “partnerships” are evidenced through the financing of health and welfare programs, the creation of lone soldier and aliya centers, theologically driven programs for volunteers in Israel’s agricultural and healthcare sectors, establishment of museums and heritage sites with both surreptitious and more blatant evangelical messages, and the upsurge of “Messianic Jewish” Christian houses of worship.

Evangelicals purchase real estate for evangelical institutions, establish Christian bible colleges and educational institutions, erect Christian representational statutes in public parks in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, place Christian media content on established networks and in social media that gives license to disseminate messages undermining fundamental Jewish beliefs and rabbinic authority, and seek out the sick in hospital waiting rooms and dental clinics to share the “good news” (the gospel).

There are multiple other seductive and predatory events, activities, and projects aimed at bringing Jews in Israel closer to Jesus.

Missionary associations with notable Israeli and Diaspora Jewish leaders, prominent politicians, and established institutions, coupled with copious amounts of financial aid to Israel and political support from the United States and Europe, gives these swindlers of souls “street cred” (legitimacy) with uninformed (naïve?) Israelis.

This is a far cry from old stereotype of the missionary handing out tracts on a street corner. It is far more sophisticated…

“Messianic Jews are assiduously attempting to, essentially, redeem Israel from its Jewishness.” — Sara Posner, Kosher Jesus: Messianic Jews in the Holy Land (The Atlantic 2012)

What is the impact on the Jewish people?

  • It is gut-wrenching to learn of family and friends who have adopted a belief in a theology that at its core runs contrary to the fundamental principles of the Jewish faith.
  • It is confounding to consider that any “member of the tribe” would exchange their life-promoting heritage to join a doctrinal system which, for an inordinate and shameful amount of its 2,000-year history, was occupied with forced conversions, expulsions, constraints, denigration, physical and spiritual assault, and slaughter of the Jewish people.
  • The impact of being manipulated comes at a great psychological and psychosocial price. Victims of fraud engage in self-blame, and often experience increased fears about well-being and become suspect of other people.
  • Victims of predatory conversionary activity and their families and communities, become “triggered,” an enduring vestige of various traumas in our culture from the Shoah, expulsion from Arab lands and Europe, growing anti-Semitism and physical terrorism.
  • There is often an assumption, sometimes correct, that victims of con men have specific traits of vulnerability such as being less well-educated, elderly, from marginal Israeli communities, bereaved or socially isolated. Carrying that “stigma” comes at a cost.
  • The impact on the families of converts to belief in Jesus in Israel is profoundly-shameful, and embarrassing – the grappling with “what did we do wrong?” rejection of – and by – a loved one.
  • Israelis are naïve to the threat of covert missionary con artists: if our political, religious, and community leaders and legal system deny or refuse to acknowledge the problem, then our citizens are left vulnerable and unprotected.
  • It’s hard to envision any normative Jewish organization in the United States encouraging discernible evangelizing Christians to become an integral part of or active participants in Jewish religious or communal life. Ironically, in Israel, adherents of messianic, evangelical, and fundamentalist Christian sects are frequently sought out and welcomed to take part in events and activities particular and sacred to Judaism. This blurring of lines causes discomfort and confusion for members of the Jewish faith and nation and shakes the very foundations of Jewishness as we know it.
  • Dependency on proselytizing, agenda-driven adherents of a foreign faith shakes-up the sense of identity and confidence of Jewish Israelis and can lead to a crisis in faith, erosion of our belief system and weakened self-image.

In summary, missionizing in Israel contributes to the various traumas already inherent in our culture and society.

The stereotype of the missionary on the street corner passing out “Believe in Jesus” pamphlets and leading Jews to the baptismal pool is inaccurate and outdated. The long-term efforts of con artist covert missionaries in Israel are to gradually gain acceptance and establish an accepted (welcome) presence and “facts on the ground.”

Assimilation à la America, and not necessarily formal conversion, is and remains a viable spiritual threat to Israelis and “One New Man” under Jesus is the current agenda and ultimate vision of the missionaries in Israel. It’s a slow and steady march towards destruction.

But perhaps the biggest scam of all is that evangelical leaders and their messianic progenies have managed to convince hundreds of millions of adherents that it’s okay, desirable, and “holy” to attempt to steal Jews away from their beliefs and their peoplehood, from their families and traditions.

A clear example of The Jew Swindler in Israel is one Ḥaim Malespin

Malespin is just one of many messianic missionaries living permanently here and working their way into the Israeli establishment. Israel welcomes them and allows them to expand both physically and spiritually.

Malespin explains here that his “Aliya Return Center” is approved by the IDF and various ministries and how everyone there is a “believer.”

Malespin is so comfortable spreading “the word” in Israel that he recently had the “ḥutzpah” to boast, in front of a US messianic congregation, that current Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s wife, Lihi, is a “believer” [in Jesus].

After hearing this on a now widely disseminated video, a British investigative journalist decided to get to the bottom of this.

Less than 48 hours to election day in Israel, Jonathan Sacerdotti of The Jewish Chronicle penned this feature article, “Israeli Prime Minister’s wife denies being secret Christian just days before election.”

This, by any definition, is an attack on the Jewish people.

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