Nick Howard, son of Michael Howard, the shadow Foreign Secretary, has been accused of "spiritual Nazism" because of his support of efforts to introduce Jewish undergraduates at Oxford University to Christianity.
Nick Howard, 21, who was raised as a Jew but became an evangelical Christian at the age of 15, recently helped organise a university Christian Union meeting which expressly targeted Jews. Union members were urged to bring along their Jewish friends, and kosher food was served.
Mr Howard jnr - whose father is a practising member of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John's Wood, north London - explained his mission: "As Christians it is our duty to reach Jews, who are the priority in our evangelism. It is a process of reasoning, persuading them to become Christians. Christianity is fulfilled Judaism."
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, executive director of the L'Chaim Society, a Jewish- based organisation, was so incensed by the young man's proselytising activities that he challenged him to a public debate. The motion "Was Jesus the Jewish Messiah? Is it right that young Jews away from home should be specifically targeted by 'spiritual Nazis' as prime candidates for Christianity?" will be debated in Oxford tonight.
Rabbi Boteach said: "I thought we were in the age of mutual understanding and respect, not the age of spiritual Nazism whereby one faith is promoted as being superior to another or where the adherents of an ancient people are targeted for conversion by small-minded bigots."
A memo circulated by the Christian Union after its evangelical meeting congratulated members on the number of Jews who attended. Of the 57 students present, about half were Jewish. The memo stated: "Jewish undergraduates formed a good share - and so our aim of spreading the gospel to this community is being brought to fruition ... The Jews there heard that Jesus is their Messiah: the suffering servant, high priest and ruling king, who alone can bring them to the Faith."
Mr Howard jnr, a third-year English literature undergraduate at St Catherine's College, Oxford, hit the headlines in 1995 when an article he had written for the Evening Standard explaining why he could not vote for Tony Blair was accidentally printed under the name of Bryan Gould, the former Labour shadow cabinet member.
Raised as a Jew, he turned to Christianity at Eton. He was baptised at a Christian summer camp and now describes himself as "A Jewish believer in Jesus". He explained: "Jesus himself was Jewish and all of the first Christians were Jewish." He added that he feels "much more Jewish" now that he has found Jesus. Asked whether he now observed Jewish rites, he said: "That's a tricky one. Yes, I've been along to the synagogue since becoming a Christian and we've had Passover together."
Of his latest evangelical mission, he said: "I wonder what my grandmother is going to say. She's Jewish. She will probably be very hurt."
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