I just finished reviewing Called to Controversy: The Unlikely Story of Moishe Rosen and the Founding of Jews for Jesus by Ruth Rosen. It's an excellent biography and very moving, but also somewhat conflicted in its acknowledgement of Rosen's humanity. It struck me because I've been under leadership that seems somewhat similar to Rosen's. My review of the book is below, but at one point there were a few people who were acquainted with Jews for Jesus on the forum here, and I know Art Katz was trained by Rosen in his early years. I was wondering if anyone here knew Rosen or was acquainted with Jews for Jesus and would care to comment on some of the controversy.
Called to Controversy is a stirring, encouraging and often candid account of the life of Moishe Rosen and the founding of Jews for Jesus. The book moves from Moishe's upbringing through his journey to faith and onward to his journey of faithful and zealous service. The biography, though written by his daughter and vetted by Moishe himself before his death, presents an incredibly human being, albeit a man of both extreme strengths and extreme weaknesses. In addition to being a biography of a Jewish believer in Jesus, a missionary and a visionary, it is the biography of a movement and an organization. The life of Moishe Rosen and the birth and growth of Jews for Jesus are often inextricable. Like Rosen himself, his organization is both lauded and hated, complimented and controversial. The biography does not shy away from the reality of weaknesses, failures and issues within Moishe Rosen's life and within the organization of Jews for Jesus though it is almost certain that it does not detail them enough to satisfy the organization's critics. Instead, the biography focuses on who Moishe was, attempting to communicate and enable a discovery of the character and calling of the man himself by traveling through his history in narrative, interviews, anecdotes and frank analysis.
Ruth Rosen displays talented, balanced and empathetic writing, allowing Moishe to come off the page and speak in his own words. She allows Moishe to inspire the reader, but not at the expense of keeping his humanity front and center. Moishe Rosen was a complex man with a simple mission. Called to Controversy achieves its highest success in consistently and successfully portraying the frail humanity of Moishe Rosen with a sympathetic and respectful context and tone. Rosen was a man who inspired an entire generation of evangelists and revolutionized missions and evangelism to the Jewish people. His real zeal and passion speak for themselves. His successes are preserved in the pages of this book; however, his mistakes and shortcomings are preserved here too. We don't always seem them specified or distinctly portrayed, but they are unmistakably there. Moishe Rosen was a man who was mightily used of God in spite of his humanity and weaknesses and this biography challenges and inspires in the face of our real humanity.
In addition to the story of the man, the book uncovers a journey into discovering evangelism, missions, vision and the establishment of a work for God. It works to inform the reader of the Jewish heart and mind, while also passing on the lessons Moishe learned and passed on to others regarding how to reach the lost and be faithful in leading an organization. These lessons are well articulated, but subtly spun into the retelling of the man's life. The lessons are impacted and qualified by the controversies that surrounded Moishe's life and ministry.
In dealing with the controversies, pain and anger surrounding Jews for Jesus and Moishe Rosen, the author maintains an quiet honesty. There is a consistent subtle tension between the lines of the text: an almost apologetic tone, which seems to acknowledge, albeit not quite directly, that there were times when Moishe Rosen's leadership was toxic. There are hints and sometimes outright admissions that Rosen hurt and perhaps damaged a number of those who ministered with him. The presentation of the man presents a conflict as the reader is inspired, awed and blessed by this very human example of strong faith and indefatigable zeal, but also pained and disheartened by the indication of difficult conflicts and mistakes in ministry. It is faith in Christ that answers and resolves this humanity and Called to Controversy is very much a challenge to believe, recognize and admire what Christ can and will do in even the most flawed vessels.
I would recommend this book to those in missions, leadership or in the process of founding a work for God. It is an inspiration, a warning and a call to compassion. It is an exhortation to believe and serve a great and merciful God in the name of Jesus Christ.
My thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing a free review copy. I was not required to write a positive review, but an honest review.