I was recently made aware of a website known as half-jewish.net, the home page for the Half-Jewish Network.
I like the idea of the site and I expected to find some useful material. I’m sure it is a site that helps many people. But I was disturbed by two things I found there: one on the part of the Half-Jewish Network and the other on the part of so-called “Messianic Jews” who have used the site.
The Half-Jewish Network is a social networking hub for adult children of a Jewish mother or father regardless of whether they identify as Christians, Jews, secular, members of other faiths, “both,” or even “undecided.” It would appear that the Half-Jewish Network is welcoming to any and all.
Yet there are tarnish marks on the shiny silver of the Half-Jewish Network’s policy of inclusion. There is one group that is all but unwelcome. That group is Messianic Jews.
Sources tell me the problem began when people calling themselves “Messianic Jews” and/or “Jews for Jesus” came on to the site and were rude and patronizing toward others. From the information I received it sounds like some of these so-called Messianic Jews had theologies quite unfriendly to Judaism.
Those of us who have been in the Messianic Jewish movement know exactly how embarrassing it can be to have people out there calling themselves “Messianic Jews” and to have them represent us in public venues. There are a lot of scary beliefs, a lot of anti-rabbinic and anti-Judaic beliefs among these groups. The fact is the majority of people who might label themselves as Messianic Jews on the internet are either Christians with a love for Torah (but not necessarily love for Jews) or Jewish Christians with no love for or knowledge about Judaism. The mature voices among us are few in comparison.
So it occurs to alarmingly few people to let someone know they are not “Messianic Jewish” if they reject Judaism. We could only wish such people would change their moniker to something else, maybe Jewish Christian, for example.
I gave all of that background to preface some serious problems I have with the way the Half-Jewish Network has decided to respond to Messianic Judaism. The half-jewish.net site has a letter to and description of Messianic Judaism that I believe is half-truth and a bit less than tolerant. I have contacted the organization and asked for some balance and have been refused.
You can see the letter to Messianic Jews on half-jewish.net at: http://half-jewish.net/messianicjews.html
Half-Jewish.net Uses Guilt by Association
There are several troubling generalizations and out-dated ideas in the letter to Messianic Jews. For example, they include together groups and movements that are very diverse (Jews for Jesus based in San Francisco and the Messianic Jewish congregational movement, for example).
More specifically, they find something outrageous on a Messianic Jewish website somewhere and give the impression that such elements are commonplace. The example chosen in the article is a Messianic website which posts the Hebrew text of the Apostles’ Creed. This is allegedly an example of how we Messianic Jews are trying to fool people by disguising Christian teachings as Jewish teachings and possibly misleading unwary Jews.
Half-Jewish.net Does Not Acknowledge Mature Messianic Judaism
You will find no mention of Messianic Jews who understand and practice Judaism on half-jewish.net. There is no reference to the dozens of websites which are faithful exponents of Jewish life and tradition. The letter about Messianic Jews makes no reference to several recent trends in Messianic Judaism. We now have a serious seminaries forming such as the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute (mjti.org). We now have a rabbinical council (ourrabbis.org) and a denomination in Messianic Judaism that is characterized by a serious approach to Judaism (umjc.net), as opposed to Christianity dressed up Jewish-style.
The omission of mature Messianic Jewish institutions on half-jewish.net is all the more troubling because the site goes out of its way to mention and be welcoming to virtually all other groups.
For example, the Half-Jewish Network welcomes those who choose to follow the Christian side of their heritage. Yet the idea that a Jewish person might remain Jewish and follow Jesus is regarded as “spiritual deception.”
On the one hand, the Half-Jewish Network is friendly to Jews who convert to Christianity. On the other, they say:
Any Jew acknowledging Christ as their Saviour automatically becomes a meshumad, an apostate from Judaism, and must do teshuvah (repentance) to return to Judaism, including giving up all Christian beliefs.
As a statement of what some Jewish denominations believe and practice, this statement is perfectly true. Yet the irony of a site open to Jewish converts to Christianity excluding Messianic Jews as apostates is readily apparent.
The Half-Jewish Network is a place for adult children of a Jewish mother or father. It would be a good idea for Messianic Jews who actually understand Judaism and who fit those criteria to get involved. Perhaps over time mature Messianic Half-Jews can erase the misperceptions that color us due to the aggressive proselytizing and rude, patronizing speech exhibited in the past by some individuals who give our movement a bad name.
In the meantime, I plan to offer some correctives in future posts to some of the half-truths on half-jewish.net
Derek… I’ve seen this letter before on that site (while researching matrilineal/patrilineal descent) – that’s one nasty-worded letter towards Messianic Jews, singling them out as a group.
It’s plain to see that as a site which calls itself “Half-Jewish” (and not half-Gentile, or half-Christian, half-whatever), it struggles very hard to be accepted as more “Jewish” than not. To that end, by railroading Messianic Jews – fully knowing that they are despised and rejected by the bulk of the Jewish community – half-jewish.net attempts to be more acceptable in the eyes of the mainstream (at least the liberal part of) Judaism.
At the same time, I agree with you that the accusations are at least in part justified – especially when it comes to groups that are essentially Christian in nature, reject Torah and represent mainstream Christianity as the new “true” Judaism.