Why, then, did Jews stop proselytizing gentiles?

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The cessation was imposed by Roman edicts, not rabbinic rulings. In the fourth century C.E., after the empire adopted Christianity as the state religion, Roman emperors made conversion to Judaism a criminal offense, punishable by death of both the proselytizing Jews and the convert. The code of the Roman Emperor Theodosius declared: Any person who “betakes himself to the nefarious sect of Judaism shall sustain with them the deserved punishment of death...” (Theodosius Code 116.8.1, August 13, 339). The Holy Roman Empire hoped to dismantle the Jewish mission to be “a light to the nations” and thus drive a universal faith into a parochial tribalism. Yet now, when such edicts don’t exist and some Jews make outreach a call to action, other Jews still oppose such efforts to welcome gentiles to Judaism. That is true. While many modern Jews, especially those from liberal Jewish movements, have embraced the outsider, most ultra-Orthodox Jews regard welcoming “the other” as akin to inviting ... more
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