Thursday, June 14, 2007

Messianic Jews

About two years ago, I was asked by two Jewish friends about Christian or messianic Jews. Below are a few excerpts from "Messianic Jews Find Fertile Ground in the Bible Belt" in a recent edition of the Jewish Daily Forward.
"There really is a debate, and a very lively one, within the messianic world about the fundamental nature of messianic Judaism," said Richard Nichol, who has led Congregation Ruach Israel in Needham, Mass., for a quarter-century and is a board member of Hashivenu ("Return Us"), a group founded around the year 2000 to promote greater "Jewishness" in the messianic movement.


Although exact numbers are hard to come by, one Philadelphia-based umbrella group, the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, estimates that there is currently a total of roughly 300 self-described Jewish messianic congregations in the United States, with upward of 30,000 adherents. According to religious leaders contacted by the Forward, the Atlanta area has six messianic congregations, up from one a decade ago, while Tampa, Fla., which had none 12 years ago, now has three.

It is a trend alarming to Jewish communal leaders.

"There is a pragmatic, serious interest in that part of Christianity that continues to believe in proselytizing to promote messianic Judaism," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. "So they've come up with this gimmick: If you can establish that you can be both [Christian and Jewish], then why not accept Jesus and be Jewish?"

"You can’t be both," Foxman added. "That's nonsense."

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, founder of a counter-missionary group called Jews for Judaism, said that in his experience, the messianic movement includes many Jews who are sincere, but leaders and Christian organizations that have a missionary agenda nonetheless support it.


Whatever the politics over the future direction of messianic Judaism may be, movement leaders say that the American South is particularly fertile ground for expansion. "In the Bible belt, you have many Christians who love Israel, so we attract more gentiles [to our services], plus there are a lot more intermarried couples down here than there would be in the Northeast," said Derek Leman, religious leader of Atlanta’s Tikvat David Messianic Synagogue. ...
Rabbi Kravitz remarks seems like a non sequitur, why wouldn't "leaders and Christian organizations" support a movement that includes many "sincere" Jews? As for the "Christians who love Israel," Christian Zionism is a heretical doctrine. See also "The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism."

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