Sure, we've all gotten an unwelcome fruitcake or fluorescent sweater in the mail, usually from a well-meaning and slightly out-of-touch relative. But few New England Jews could have been prepared for the surprise "gift" that recently arrived on their doorsteps courtesy of Georgia-based messianic former businessman Sid Roth. His tome, They Thought for Themselves: Ten Amazing Jews, has been sent to Jewish households and those affiliated with Jewish organizations — roughly 100,000 people total. The book urges Jews to embrace Jesus and "think for themselves." According to Roth, the reason Jews don't believe in Jesus is simply because "many Jewish people do not really know who Jesus is, as no one has ever told them." Jews: consider yourselves enlightened.
Roth's unsolicited book comes with a letter that states he was instructed to pen the tome in a dream. In a phone conversation with the Phoenix, Roth admits that, although God told him to write the book, a list broker came in handy when deciding where to send it. The broker clearly wasn't all-seeing, however, as the book was mailed to many non-religious folks, too — me included. That's okay, says Roth, who assures me I received his book for a reason nonetheless.
They Thought for Themselves has 850,000 copies in print and was originally published in 1996 with a slightly more ominous subtitle — Daring To Confront the Forbidden. The book was re-released in November 2009, with New England targeted as the prime demographic to spread the word. In this book, Roth profiles 10 diverse Jews who found Jesus during trying circumstances, from a Holocaust survivor who forgave her tormentors to a formerly paralyzed man who learned to walk again after watching The 700 Club.
Roth, a soft-spoken man in his 70s, says he was possessed by demons as a young man until he was set free 35 years ago. The Jewish-born author spent his 20s in hot pursuit of money as an account executive at Merrill Lynch, intending to become a millionaire by 30. When this didn't happen, he took a New Age meditation course. Roth became concerned, though, after reading a book called The Bible, the Supernatural, and the Jews, which alleged that Jews who dabbled in New Age beliefs later faced the wrath of God. According to Roth, he "hit bottom" in 1972. "I'd left my wife," Roth says. "My marriage was in trouble. I cried out, 'Jesus, help!' " He says that a presence visited him in his bedroom, freeing him from what he considered demonic oppression. "I'm a logical person," says Roth. "I knew I couldn't talk to my rabbi. A psychiatrist wouldn't understand me."
After that encounter, he began to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. In 1977, Roth started a ministry called "Messianic Vision" (now known as "It's Supernatural!") and a syndicated radio broadcast, hoping to introduce his followers to the healing power of Jesus — something he laments that rabbis don't do and that even Christians are "inhibited" about. Though no doubt many recipients will have few "inhibitions" about the book meeting the same dead-end fate as Aunt Mildred's moldy fruitcake.