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Jews for Bejesus

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Taking up the cudgel for Jews for Jesus was chief counsel Spencer Scheer, who has accused Silver of twisting the Fifth Commandment, "Honor they father and thy mother," to attack his organization.

"You bend over backwards to distort the Ten Commandments by equating a belief in Jesus with a rejection of the parent [Judaism], when this commandment is clearly meant to apply to the relationship between an individual and his parents," Scheer wrote to Silver. "This apparently is not your outlook... Under your view of the religion, Jews who consider the Gospel message, or who believe in the Gospel message, should not be allowed to freely express this opinion and cannot remain members of the Jewish faith or community."

Scheer concluded: "If you are concerned with Edith Rapp's best interests, and not in trying to intimidate JFJ, then I hope you will consider the extreme pain that you would visit on the whole Rapp family by pitting one against the other and forcing Ms. Rapp to recant what is obviously a true story."

For Staver, the issue is even simpler. "Three-fourths of Silver's debate is superfluous and has no business being in court," he says.

For his part, Bruce Rapp, reached by phone at his home in New York, simply wishes the entire thing would go away. "It's a family issue" is all he'll say about it now.

Whatever happens in court, the emotional pain produced by the dispute still hangs in the air like a heavy perfume.

Rapp left a message on his stepmother's machine telling her he wanted to talk. He thought this was one whole big misunderstanding. But Edie didn't return the call.

"I figured if he had something to say, he would call me again and then I'd talk to him," she says, "but he never called me back."

Edie sighs. Sitting in her kitchen under a sign that reads "God Bless the Rapp House," she dabs at her eyes with a tissue.

"I wish Marty was still alive," she says. "He'd know what to do about all of this."

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Rebecca Meiser

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