"Cancer didn't kick me and I didn't kick the bucket"—a blog entry, September 10, 2009. Moishe Rosen died May 19 in San Francisco of prostate cancer at 78, leaving behind a wife, two daughters, a controversial parachurch organization, and more than a bucketful of quips.
As the founder of Jews for Jesus, Rosen was the most colorful Jewish evangelist of the twentieth century—perhaps since the apostle Paul. Even before he founded Jews for Jesus in 1969, he demonstrated his own unique form of confrontational evangelism that often riled Christians and Jews alike. "Friendship evangelism," he once said, "is no evangelism at all."
Born in 1932, Rosen grew up in an Orthodox—though not particularly religious—home: "My Jewishness is something that I took for granted. I grew up in Denver, Colorado, in a neighborhood where most of the people were Jewish. If you walked into the grocery store, or the shoemaker, or the barber, you expected to hear Yiddish."
He and Ceil Starr, still teenagers, married in an Orthodox synagogue but were determined that they would not keep a kosher home. They would be "modern American Jews." But through an extraordinary set of circumstances, they both became Christians some three years later. Ceil converted after befriending a Christian woman; Rosen was not pleased and began studying the New Testament in order to prove her wrong—a process that led to his own conversion. He later enrolled at Northeastern Bible College in New Jersey and would go on to become an ordained Baptist minister, though he quickly discovered he was not by nature an evangelist.
Rosen's first street-preaching assignment was on an isolated traffic island: "I had written my speech on school notebook paper, and I read ...