Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – Several local Jewish people report receiving a book in the mail today promoting belief in Jesus Christ and Christianity in what appeared to be a mailing targeting Jews. Reactions from recipients range from puzzlement to resentment and anger, tinged with concern.
The book, Changed, by Tom Cantor, is an autobiography which tracks the author's personal religious evolution. The grandson of an orthodox rabbi and now owner of a business called Scantibodies Laboratories, Cantor describes feelings of guilt over his excessive sexual activity – "defilement," as he terms it – and seeks cleansing in a relationship with a woman he considers pure.
But he is disillusioned to learn that his wife has ben raped and is pregnant. Traumatized, he finds salvation in Jesus Christ, and is so happy to learn that he can do so and remain Jewish that he decides to tell the world via Changed and the U.S. Postal Service.
The book comes enclosed in a purple envelope bearing an image of the author as a child, emblazoned with the statement "Open this envelope to read the exciting journey of being changed."
The encouragement for Jews to to embrace Jesus and Christianity arrived during Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day - which runs from sunset, April 7 to nightfall, April 8.
A search on Reddit turns up discussion in several subreddits, with other recipients logging similar surprise and concern about being targeted for conversion by the sender.
"Disgusting," said one local recipient. "And feels unsafe to be profiled."
The book is routinely mailed to members of the Jewish faith around the U.S. According to a story in the Detroit Jewish News, Cantor's company purchases mailing lists to identify those in need of his Christian proselytizing.
Reviews of the book on Amazon, where it rates one-and-a-half stars, are predominantly negative. One review titled, "This book is the worst," calls it "Boring, pointless and poorly written. This book is total garbage and the way he calls his wife impure and no longer wholesome after being raped is disgusting."
Reviews on goodreads.com also dismiss it as, among other things, "horrific conversion propaganda," clumsy in its attempts at proselytizing, and delivering some truly odious, god-tier mansplaining.
"I received an unsolicited copy of this in the mail and was ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIED by what I discovered - a man parading around brandishing how terrible his life has been because his fiancé became pregnant as a result of someone raping her," wrote reader Hannah Ongman. "Zero mention of the impact on her (or any acknowledgement that she is a human being) and repeated mention of how she is 'damaged goods' and 'lost her innocence' as though she were somehow at FAULT." States Ongman, "I am genuinely in shock that this trash was published."
"I received this unsolicited book in the mail," wrote reader Marisol Torres. "I'm normally against book burnings, But in this case I'll make an exception."
"I have no clue why I was selected to receive this dumpster fire book of cringey propaganda," said reader Lilly Leo, who isn't Jewish. "I've never thrown away a book before, but there's a first time for everything I guess."
Rabbi Eliyahu Cowen, executive director at Chabad of Humboldt, said the book is insulting and assaultive of the Jewish faith.
"After skimming through it for less than a minute I could tell what garbage it was," Cowen said. "But I was really upset to find out that it was being targeted to Jewish households and affected our area."
He, like others, disposed of the unwanted appeal to adopt a different religion.
"I shredded the book and threw it away, to make sure no one else would accidently fall upon it, Cowen said. "It's pretty disgusting and very sneaking in the way it presents itself as a Jewish discovery book all the while trying to take Jews away from the most fundamental of Jewish tenets, the belief in One God, the concept of monotheism, and Divine Unity. The millions they need to spend to catch just one hapless fellow really shows how foolish their lies are."
Continued Cowen, "Jewish communities have faced many different types of attacks from Christians in the past, but we are in a different time period now. The Church has apologized for the inquisitions and crusades, and now they can take it a step further and flat out condemn this kind of proselytizing. My hope is it inspires people to go out and get a book about authentic Judaism and deepen their understanding of Jewish traditions and values."
Another recipient chose to keep the unsolicited tome, for practical reasons. "It's not something I expect to find in my mailbox in Arcata," the person said. "I have mine sitting here in case we have another toilet paper shortage."