The Orlando Holy Land experience park has drawn mixed reviews, and accusations that its creator, the Rev. Marvin Rosenthal, has misused Jewish symbols in an attempt to fuse Judaism and Christianity.
Rosenthal was raised Jewish, but converted to Christianity as a teen-ager and became a Baptist minister. The park emphasizes the Jewish roots of Christianity and the importance of the Hebrew Bible for Christians.
That's fine, the park's opponents say. But they disapprove of the park's use of ritual and symbols that are well known in Judaism, but unused in Christianity. For example, the Old Scroll Shop gift store sells souvenir menorahs and shofars, which Jews use in the celebrations of Hanukkah and Yom Kippur.
Eric Geboff, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, said, “There's only one reason he's putting Jewish ritual and symbols out there, and that's to make Jews more comfortable with what he's doing, and ultimately convert Jews to Christianity.”
Greg Halteman, a spokesman for the park, replied, “We've been unfairly labeled as trying to target Jews. We make it clear in everything we do that this is a Christian facility.”
Mark Drogin, director and co-founder of the Catholic group Remnant of Israel, said, “It's good to bring in the Shema and the shofar and the menorah. The Pope has repeatedly said that we need to know the Old Testament. We need to know Judaism. It's not being taught.” Drogin and his wife, who were raised Jewish and married by a rabbi, converted to the Catholic faith.
Drogin pointed out that Jesus quoted the Shema in response to the scribe's question in Mark 12:28, “Which commandment is the first of all?”
He added, “Jesus was not a meteor that came out of the sky. He was a person born in a family, in a town, in a culture, and in an environment; and all of that was Jewish.”
— Eve Tushnet