We Must Welcome

Call me an equal opportunity offender.

Perhaps it is because of my experience and history in Messianic Judaism that I see myself as a bridge between the Jewish and non-Jewish members of Messianic Judaism. In the last few days I argued that Gentiles in Messianic Judaism need to:

(a) Hear and understand the concerns of the Jewish Yeshua-followers in MJ.

(b) Know that Messianic Judaism is a Jewish movement whose original and continuing purpose is the renewal and restoration of the people of Israel in Yeshua.

Now, I am going to share my view of the other side.

(a) It is not some kind of accident that Messianic Judaism has drawn a large number of Gentiles; it is the purpose of God and it is prophetic and biblical. (Some of my colleagues are ready to argue with me here, but they will not find me an easy opponent to dismiss).

(b) Though the presence of a large quorum of non-Jews in MJ makes us vulnerable to ridicule by mainstream Jewish communities, we must have an open table as per Yeshua and the apostles. Mainstream Judaism must learn from Yeshua, the Messiah, and sometimes the MJ community must stand on a principle.

Why Can’t All the Gentiles Stay in Churches?
We should not blame at all the Jewish members of MJ who feel that Gentiles should just stay in churches. The presence of a large Gentile quorum has weakened MJ through bad theology. It is a fact. It has caused us to lose our way and focus on the minors.

But through personal experience and many close friendships, I can attest that God has called many Gentiles to come alongside the Jewish people and to be part of Israel’s restoration in Yeshua. While we abhor anti-Christian sentiment and we denounce those who wrongly call Christians pagans or assert that lack of Sabbath observance and dietary restriction in the Church is somehow wrong, we also recognize that some Gentiles are not called to the Gentile congregation of Messiah.

Many non-Jews have their heart firmly planted with Israel, in the national life of Israel, in the celebrations and remembrances, and these do not wish to return to the life of churches where (rightly so) these celebrations and remembrances are omitted.

Why Don’t All the Gentiles in MJ Convert?
First of all, I think many could and should. Unfortunately, bad theology holds sway in this area. Some think conversion is invalid because it in some way violates Galatians (but that was about conversion in order to be accepted by God). Others think conversion is invalid because Gentiles in Messiah are already in some sense “Jewish” or “members of Israel.” These “Gentile Israelites” need to get their theology straight, to quit overlooking the distinctions made again and again in the Torah, writings, prophets, and apostles.

That said, if the anti-conversion lobby would wake up and smell the olive oil, many Gentiles in MJ are already living as converts but refuse to have a ceremony. They are “shacking up” with Israel. They are suggesting that they simply can be part of Israel without accountability to leaders and without recognition from the Jewish community.

Second of all, however, conversion is not for everyone and conversion is not the only way Gentiles could participate in Messianic Judaism. Is it possible that God has called some Gentiles, as Gentiles, to walk alongside Jewish followers of Yeshua and be part of the goals of this movement? I not only think so, I know so.

A day is probably coming when we need to say that leadership in MJ should be made up of Jewish members only. Those who wish to be part of us and not convert will need to accept their role as fellow members, but not leaders, among us. (Note: At the present time, I do not think we should be quick to enforce this rule in communities which have had non-Jewish leadership — a transition is needed that respects existing leadership structures).

But the “resident aliens” or “sojourners” or “gerei toshav” among us are a blessing and should be welcomed. (Yes, some will object that a “resident alien” is something that happens in the land only, but those who live among us in the diaspora may also be regarded as “resident aliens”).

Where is it in the Tradition that Gentiles Will Be With Jews?
Why not start with Isaiah 2? The nations (Gentiles) stream to Jerusalem to learn Torah.

OBJECTION #1: This is about the age to come, so don’t apply it now.
RESPONSE #1: Yeshua’s teaching again and again is to make happen now the reality of what will be then in the kingdom. Anyone who says that Gentiles must wait until the age to come to take hold of the blessing of kingdom living is arguing against Yeshua.

OBJECTION #2: But the apostles made it clear Gentiles can remain Gentiles and need not keep all of the Torah.
RESPONSE #2: Very true. And so the idea of Gentile obligation to all of the Torah is wrong-headed. The idea that Gentiles are obligated to keep all of Israel’s commandments is bad interpretation of Torah and bad interpretation of the New Testament. But the fact that Gentiles are not obligated is not the same thing as saying Gentiles are not invited.

OBJECTION #3: Then why didn’t the apostles invite Gentiles to Torah and to the Jewish congregation of Messiah?
RESPONSE #3: The New Testament does not cover every issue. It famously does not address in full the needs of the Jewish congregation of Messiah. Most of the New Testament consists of the apostles teaching for the Gentile congregation of Messiah. If we were to insist on following only what we find specific license for in the New Testament, we would be like the denomination known as the Church of Christ and not Messianic Judaism.

OBJECTION #4: But Jewish tradition in a number of places says it is offensive for non-Jews to keep Torah beyond certain universal commands.
RESPONSE #4: First of all, Jewish tradition is multivalent, filled with opposing viewpoints and many options. Tradition does not speak with once voice. So there is room for us to find precedents in the tradition that are welcoming to non-Jews. Second of all, we can examine the reasons and issues for the tradition that some areas of Gentile participation is offensive. The offense can be avoided by some judicious innovation (e.g., blessings that do not involve a Gentile assuming Jewish identity, refraining from laying tefillin, and more). Third of all, we have an open-table commandment from the apostles and our inclusion of Gentiles beyond the inclusion found in mainstream Judaism may just be prophetic obedience which the rest of the Jewish community should learn from.

The Bottom Line
Messianic Judaism is experiencing a partial realization of the Kingdom of God. That includes Gentiles grabbing our tzit-tzit (Zech 8:23). That includes Gentiles streaming to Mt Zion to learn Torah (Isa 2:2). That includes Gentiles who will make their home with Israel (Ezek 47:22).

The task for our generation is to:

(a) Work toward the goal of Messianic Judaism, which is the restoration and renewal of the people of Israel in Yeshua (a restatement of the mission of Messianic Jewish Theological Institute, “Teaching and Living a Vision of Jewish Life Renewed in Yeshua”).

(b) Better define roles and identities within our movement which will result in many people converting, others finding their place as sojourners among us, and a shift over the next generation to Jewish leadership.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Gentiles, messianic, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism. Bookmark the permalink.

96 Responses to We Must Welcome

  1. Derek, good article – I think we can all agree that the presence of Gentiles within Israel is a historic reality and that we are called to be the light to the nations. I have Gentile friends in my own synagogue who have been nothing but understanding and supportive of what we are trying to accomplish as a community of Jews and for Jews.

    With that said, I feel that by having to accommodate the overwhelmingly non-Jewish majority over the last two decades, many with theologies AND goals greatly diverging from that of mainstream MJ, Messianic Judaism’s has effectively lost its focus and raison detre – to be a spiritual home for Jews, to address Messianic Jewish spiritual and communal needs, to support Jewish continuity and prevent rampant assimilation and intermarriage, to reach to Jews with Messiah. How can a Messianic Jewish community keep focus on Jewish needs AND (VERY IMPORTANTLY) be relevant to the Jewish community it suppose to be reaching, how can it call itself “Jewish” if it’s 90% (or more) non-Jewish in makeup (and often non-Jewish in much of the leadership as well)?

    How will conversion help us? I am not sure they will. First of all, I do not feel that the bulk of Messianic Judaism is ready for it – we do not have much control over the standards for conversions across the spectrum that covers many diverse groups. Messianic Judaism is very lacking, halachicly speaking. I’ve come to respect the people in the “beit din” under whose auspices YOUR family underwent conversion. I am not sure how stringent their standards are (or how personally observant the members of that beit din are themselves!), but at least they are dedicated to building Jewish Messianic Judaism, respectful of Torah and halakha, and are not turning out converts by their thousands (and their conversion program seems arduous and lengthy – which is how it should be). Before you can start offering conversions with Messianic Judaism, you have to “convert” the Messianic Jewish leadership at large to an all new way of thinking (from my experience, most of the current leadership, including the very upper echelons, are very slack about halacha and are very poorly versed in both tradition and Torah from the Jewish point of view).

    I am sure you are aware that there are already many Messianic groups, most Jewish in name only, which have been offering their own conversions for years and already had many of the members “converted”. To put it plainly, I trust those groups as far as I can throw them, I will not accept their conversions, will not allow these “converts” to make aliyahs or into leadership.

    In summary, let’s keep welcoming Gentiles – and I think that with their being a majority in our movement we already have. However, it’s high noon to shift our focus on shoring up our Jewish numbers and be more welcoming to Jews.

  2. ckinbar says:

    I have only one argument: Why can’t legitimately speak of ourselves as a Jewish Movement if our membership has a small and decreasing percentage of Jews. The issue is just as much the absence of Jews as the presence of Gentiles. So instead of talking about the large number of Gentiles, how about the small percentage of Jews in most Messianic Congregations?

    There are Messianic congregations with only 1 or 2 Jewish members and quite a few that are under 10% Jewish. The typical Messianic congregation has 20-30% Jewish membership. Very few are over 50%. (I say these things on the basis of discussions with their leaders and/or personal experience with the congregation.)

    I have had Twilight Zone discussions with leaders who think that a group is Jewish if there is only 1 Jewish member and they do Jewish things. Those who have at least ten Jews have a different rationale–a minyan of Jews makes the congregation Jewish. Of course, outside our movement no one thinks that way.

    I AM NOT AWARE OF ANYONE WHO CLAIMS THAT THE MOVEMENT, AS A WHOLE, IS MAJORITY JEWISH.

    It this business of using the word “Jewish” when we aren’t that opens us to LEGITIMATE RIDICULE by Jews (and by Christians, BTW)–not the presence of Gentiles!If we were to call ourselves “Messianic” and not claim a communal or congregational Jewish identity, ridicule from the Jewish community would not be forthcoming.

    Our movement is no longer a Jewish movement. We are struggling to regain a Jewish identity. Your suggestions move us in the opposite direction.

    • Ovadia says:

      If we are ever a Jewish movement, in demographics and orientation, then it would make sense to talk about welcoming a minority of non-Jews as cherished guests of our communities who could support us as non-Jews, or to convert non-Jews to Judaism under our auspices on anything but a minuscule scale.

      However, as it stands right now, this is a non-Jewish movement with a sprinkling of Jews, and partial-Jews, so to talk about non-Jews “living in the gates of the Jewish people” makes no sense if the gates are theirs.

    • Dan Benzvi says:

      Halleluyah Carl,

      How long are you reading my posts in blogsphare? LOL! I am telling this to them for years. And your chastisment of Derek just made my day….

      • Dan, I am not sure what are you so happy about? It is very sad that we have gotten to this point and our leadership has dropped the ball. However, today there are some of us who have the vision and ARE working on either salvaging the movement or starting anew, from scratch if need be, to really make it a spiritual home for Jewish followers of Messiah it was suppose to be all along, relevant to our Jewish community and on brotherly terms with the Gentile/Christian community.

  3. acitizenusa says:

    I am firmly pressed upon by God to support and pray for Israel and the Jewish people and if you take a look at my blog, you will find the evidence to backup my statement.

    I do not in anyway feel led to convert. God did not intend for me to have a Jewish heritage but a Norweigan-Scot heritage instead. I do however understand the ‘desire’ of Gentiles to convert to Judaism but do not support it.

    God bless Israel!

  4. judahgabriel says:

    Well, I appreciate you at least looking at the other side of things.

    Taking a step back, while I recognize the importance of preserving Jewish identity (as opposed to being absorbed via Christian assimilation), I must ask a larger question: it is right for Jewish followers of Yeshua to meet separately from gentiles followers of Yeshua? Or, to put it another way, this model of having Jews over here and gentiles over there, is it a Scriptural model, one the apostles would approve of?

    I understand that being ridiculed by other Jews is painful. (“You’re not really Jewish, with so many gentile members! Hahah!”) At the same time, we’re not the same as those who ridicule us. We’re not the same as other Judaisms. We have something different and unique: our trusting in the Messiah who made gentiles first-class citizens in God’s kingdom, made gentiles in equal standing before the God of Israel.

    Given that awesome act from heaven, carried out by the Messiah himself, of course we’re going to have many gentiles. That’s not something to be ashamed of. It ought to be something we celebrate: that so many gentiles have come to the God of Israel through Messiah. Isn’t that a greater, weightier goal than “we must be 100% Jewish so that we’re not ridiculed by the Jewish world”?

  5. ckinbar says:

    Having read this post again, I wonder how many people think that because you work part-time for MJTI you represent or our views. As you know, agreement with our theology is not necessary for your MJTI job. I wish you would point out these things when you post material that you know could be inflammatory.

    Having read your post again, I feel compelled to say that your views do not represent MJTI. Not “may not,” but “do not.”

    Carl Kinbar
    Vice-President, MJTI

  6. I must ask a larger question: it is right for Jewish followers of Yeshua to meet separately from gentiles followers of Yeshua?

    Judah, with all due respect, that question is a mute point. We are an overwhelmingly Gentile movement already – no one is meeting “separately from gentiles followers of Yeshua”. Even if we once again become a Jewish majority, G-d willing, in our movement, Gentiles would still be present. However, by upholding Christianity as legitimate instead of illegitimate movement of G-d among the Gentiles, we acknowledge that Gentiles can and should rightly have their own communities and their own Yeshua-faith expressions – without being subtly assimilated into being “Jewish.”

    Also, meeting together does not necessary HAVE TO mean that everyone should be meeting in a Judaic worship setting or be part of a Jewish community – we could just as well be meeting during special and regular table-sharing fellowships (just like early MJs did) or other settings that create unity, yet preserve Jewish/Gentile distinctiveness in the Body.

    The better question should be – when will we stop alienating Jews or choose to be irrelevant to our Jewish community?!

    • judahgabriel says:

      Maybe where I differ, Gene, is I see Yeshua faith as a Judaism. Christianity isn’t evil or any such nonsense, but it does have some bad theologies, and it certainly isn’t a Judaism.

      Is it possible to be a Judaism with a gentile majority? Ha. Because that’s the end result of my line of thinking:

      1. Yeshua faith is a Judaism.
      2. Messiah made gentiles first-class citizens of God’s kingdom, members of the commonwealth of Israel.
      3. There are more gentiles than Jews in the world.
      4. Messiah faith will naturally have more gentiles than Jews.
      5. Messianic Judaism will have more gentiles than Jews.

      I realize that doesn’t address Jewish assimilation issues, but I believe in the basic truth of the above.

      p.s. I think you meant a “moot” point. Points don’t have sound, so they can’t be muted. (I know you’re a non-native English speaker, I’m just having fun. :-))

      • Judah, the presence of some bad theologies is not an automatic disqualifies. Otherwise, Messianic Judaism and Judaism at large should both be disqualified. Yes, you and I will disagree on Christianity role in redemption of Gentiles – I absolutely view it as G-d’s plan to reach Gentiles with the Good News, in spite of its all too human failings. It fostered indigenous Gentile faith-expressions. While it sprang out of Judaism, it’s not Judaism, because G-d is not interested in making Gentiles into Jews. I also very much doubt that the apostles considered “congregations/churches of the Gentiles” (as they referred to them) as Judaism.

        Oh, thanks for the correction Judah. I knew that, but my brain slipped. However, I feel somewhat vindicated, because one can be the most native of English speakers and even write for a living, and make the very same mistake, as the following example clearly shows (see bottom of this article, the sentence under the “Obvious choice” heading on BBC’s site: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/rugby_union/international/3050657.stm)

      • Also, in Galatians 1:14, Shaul is referring to Ioudaismos (Judaism) as being the religion he excelled in above his peers. The whole context of him speaking to Gentiles about “religion of the Jews” and it almost precludes his non-Jewish audience from thinking that they TOO are now part of “Ioudaismos.” (Actually, I would go so far as to say that the whole book of Galatians precludes such thinking).

      • judahgabriel says:

        I agree that Christianity has been used by God as a redemptive measure to reach gentiles.

        Nonetheless, I view Yeshua faith as intrinsically a Judaism. I don’t think the apostles viewed Yeshua faith as a new religion.

        You disagree. OK. Again, clarity over agreement.

      • judahgabriel :
        Yeshua faith as intrinsically a Judaism. I don’t think the apostles viewed Yeshua faith as a new religion.

        Judah – no, Yeshua did not start a new religion for Jews. However, he did do something new – he opened the door to Gentiles to enter the covenant G-d made with Israel WITHOUT requiring that they become Jews, to live as Jews, to take on Jewish rituals and observances, without circumcision. If he didn’t require them to become Jews and live as Jews, he didn’t require them to be in Judaism – but rather, to be in Him directly and be coheirs with those who are in Judaism (Jews). He gave Gentiles freedom to be themselves and not worship only in Jerusalem, but where they are – as long as it is in spirit and truth.

        I prefer clarity as well.

      • Jeruz says:

        Great points Judah, it is funny to think about, but if all the Gentiles in the world took on Judaism, it would be a gentile dominated religion, of course this is a bit of misnomer, because according to rabbinic Judaism, if a gentile takes on Judaism they become a Jew… Tricky tricky!

        Basically you could say that Judaism believes Gentiles should keep Torah, but only if they convert… So the issue here is not whether gentiles should keep Torah, but how one is converted to covenant with God, and thus now part of Israel.

        Anyways, like you said, and I said in another post, Yeshua did not offer two different religions, one for gentiles and one for Jews… He offered Judaism to all, who would believe in Him… Anyone who offers this concept of two religions, cannot adequately defend it in the Apostolic scriptures…

        Anyways, I like your post, keep up the good responses.

  7. tnnonline says:

    Derek and his family need to ask themselves it is tactful and tasteful for their “conversion” to be discussed in such an open and direct way, so soon after they have gone through it. Would it not be appropriate for them to wait at least a year or so, to reflect upon the changes it has caused for them and their perspective of Messianic issues? Or is drawing attention and controversy to it really what they want by posts like this?

  8. Well, ain’t I just the darnedest fool?

    Derek

  9. karenbatsarah says:

    Hi Derek,
    May I ask, was your conversion through The Jerusalem Council or another Messianic Jewish authority? If so, isn’t true that those in main stream Judaism would not count this as a valid conversion? And if not, and your conversion was through a traditional Rabbinical Court, wouldn’t that involve denying your faith in Yeshua as Messiah? The reason I ask, is that this has been a question I have felt deeply in my heart for years. I am in leadership in my synagogue (I serve on the Board and lead praise and worship) and I have always had a deep conviction about making a formal and public alliance with Israel and the Jewish people. When I ask the question about Jewish conversion in my synagogue, I hear a resounding NO, even from the Jewish believers. I have always felt that what makes MJ so beautiful is that fact that Jew and Gentile can worship together with Yeshua being what brings the Gentile in – not a conversion done by man. I have told many a non-believing Jewish person that I am the one who converted, not my Jewish brothers and sisters who believe in Yeshua. But still, deep inside me, there is a desire to make that internal conversion an outward act. But I know, from personal experience, that even the Jewish believers I know, don’t accept converts as “Jews”. And that makes me sad. What are your thoughts?

    Karen

    • “But I know, from personal experience, that even the Jewish believers I know, don’t accept converts as “Jews”. And that makes me sad. What are your thoughts?”

      This is common not only among Jewish BELIEVERS, but among most other Jews as well (including Orthodox Jews, who while considering converts as Jews in every way often oppose intermarriage of their children with converts). This is because besides religion, there’s a strong ethnic, cultural and historic element to Jewish identity that connects you to another person. This must not be understated – I have this myself, always had.

      Which means that it’s hard for a Jewish person to overcome that in regards to a newcomer who underwent a religious conversion (and many Jews do not even accept conversions from some other group to begin with!!!), but wasn’t born Jewish. Think of it like “adoption” into another family with grown kids of its own already in it.

      • Karen, I have similar hang ups to those described by Gene. We have a very healthy instinct to protect our people from outside intrusion. So while it’s been difficult for me to wrestle with the conversion issue on a macro level, on a personal level I’ve come to accept and acknowledge several individual converts as Jews.

        That acceptance has been facilitated by personal relationships nurtured over time, and my ability to observe the conversion process as my friends go through it. It’s been made clear to me that my friends who are “Jewish by choice” fully understand what it is they are taking onto their own shoulders, and have undeniably chosen to throw their lot in with the Jewish people and have committed to raising Jewish families. They have respected the boundaries we place around our community, and lived humbly as insider/outsiders for several years while pursuing the process. And just as significantly, they have continued making choices post-conversion that affirm their commitment to our people. (E.g.: marrying a Jewish person, getting involved in Jewish organizations and causes, observing the mitzvot, raising Jewish children, etc.)

        Anecdotally, it’s much easier for us to accept a convert when the conversion coincides with marriage to a Jewish person. In these cases, we take it as a firm commitment to resist assimilation, to build a Jewish home, and to raise Jewish kids. And that’s something to celebrate!

  10. Ovadia says:

    Side-note: The plural of “ger toshav” is “gerei toshav” not “ger toshavim”.

  11. I suppose the conversion of gentiles is viewed as a “thinning out” of the Jewish culture from some comments I see. I am Native American, specifically Ottawa Indian, and have been to my fair share of pow-wows. Now I am only 34, but for as long as I can remember, there have always been those “blonde haired- blue-eyed” Indians who dress up in all the traditional garb and dance at the pow-wows. Of course, they had a grand mother or somebody who was an native, so they are justified in expressing their heritage. There are many mixed feelings on this, but I would say as a whole, there isn’t a problem with it. There are some snickers of course, maybe a crude joke between friends about the white guy trying to act indian. It is funny, the wise old timers never (to my knowledge anyways) seemed to scoff at them. They are accepted as fellow brothers. Since this phenomenon is much older than I, I cannot speak for what happened before I could form an opinion for myself. Perhaps thing were different.
    Not quite sure how to tie this in with this discussion as I am not proficient at discourse at the level of skill I see here, but I see some parallels.

    • Trouble Maker, perhaps the old timers don’t give them a hard time because they’re pleased to see that despite their Anglo appearance, these descendants of Ottawan people still hold Ottawan values.

      We feel the same way. If the majority of a person’s ancestors are not Jewish, but their entire maternal line is, we don’t care what they look like if they’re bothering to show up to synagogue in the morning. It demonstrates to us that they’re still invested in us and will transmit our values to a new generation.

      BTW, I love talking about this identity stuff with Native Americans. Seems you’re the only people who really “get it.” We are, simultaneously, a people, a faith, and a land. That’s super scandalous in Western society, but it’s impossible to separate any of those three elements from us without destroying something essential about us.

  12. wordmachine says:

    I’m replying late to this post late but wanted to remind all of you about Romans 2:28-29 about being inwardly and spiritually Jewish(if I’m interpreting that verse right). I don’t think I’ve ever run into a verse in the Bible where Yeshua announces to a lot people that He’s Jewish, but I may have just not run across any verses about that yet. I get the impression that people noticed His Jewishness without Him having to tell any or many people that He was Jewish. I don’t think I know many people (besides younger people) that don’t know about Yeshua’s Jewishness. So, after reading that verse I don’t see why both groups should not be accepted in MJ worship.

    • “I’m replying late to this post late but wanted to remind all of you about Romans 2:28-29 about being inwardly and spiritually Jewish(if I’m interpreting that verse right).”

      wordmachine, are you interpreting Romans 2:28-29 to mean that as long as one is a true believer in the G-d of Israel, one can be a Gentile birth but he’s really a Jew “inwardly and spiritually”?

      • wordmachine says:

        I interpret it to mean that if a Jew or Gentile has a true conversion experience when they become a Yeshua follower they will start becoming Jewish inwardly, because their minds will start becoming more like Yeshua’s.

  13. Dan Benzvi says:

    Gene Shlomovich :Dan, I am not sure what are you so happy about? It is very sad that we have gotten to this point and our leadership has dropped the ball. However, today there are some of us who have the vision and ARE working on either salvaging the movement or starting anew, from scratch if need be, to really make it a spiritual home for Jewish followers of Messiah it was suppose to be all along, relevant to our Jewish community and on brotherly terms with the Gentile/Christian community.

    Gene,

    Maybe the leaders did not drop the ball? Maybe they are starting to come to their senses? You can start a new as many movements that you like but anytime you stray from Scriptures, your movement will be doomed. This is what Messianic Judaism UJMC style is facing right now. I really hate to say, I told you so….

    • “anytime you stray from Scriptures…”

      Dan, the only obvious area where Messianic Jewish Movement may have strayed from scripture is in not stemming the promotion of Torah observance and Jewish-identity appropriation among its Gentile members. I am sure that this error was committed early on, when Torah observance had little relevance to anyone in MJM (including the leadership), and the Gentile membership was a much smaller demographic threat. Had UMJC, for example, laid out a solid Jewish foundation with clear Jewish identity and Torah applicability to non-Jews, instead of trying to be all things to all people, being politically correct and afraid to take a financial hit, if it focused on building up the Jewish core of the MJM and threw out all the “Christianity is pagan” / “One-Law” subversives early on – we may not be here today thinking of how to remedy this situation. It lost the focus of why it was created in the first place – to be a spiritual home for Messianic Jews. Once it regains the focus, yes, its membership will shrink, but it will regain its soul.

      “your movement will be doomed.”

      I guess you don’t view yourself as part of the Jewish movement. Oh well.

  14. Dan Benzvi says:

    No, Gene, I do not view myself as part of a Jewish movement, not at all. I view myself a part of Yeshua’s movement, can you understand the difference? Jeiwsh movement? There is where Messianic Judaism UMJC style made the error…In Yeshua’s movement there is no Jew or Greek…Read the scriptures….

    • “In Yeshua’s movement there is no Jew or Greek”

      Fine, in that case we’ll invite all the Greeks to be part of our movement:) But if you not a Brit or a German, sorry!:)

      Dan, it also says a little further in that verse that there’s no longer male or female in Yeshua. Why don’t you feel that differences between men and women have been erased as well? Do you frequent women conferences, clubs, retreats, bathrooms? Do you feel you should be free to wear dresses or lipstick (I know, that used to violate Torah – but, remember – women and men are no longer different in Yeshua, right – so it should be OK?)

      • Dan Benzvi says:

        So Gentiles in MJ congregations can eat pork now? Boy, you guys came a long way…LOL!

      • “So Gentiles in MJ congregations can eat pork now?”

        Sure they MAY (and can) and not only now – they always could and will always be able to. However, out of respect to the Jewish congregation they attend/visit they should indulge in this food in their homes and not bring it with them inside congregational facilities.

    • “I view myself a part of Yeshua’s movement”

      Dan, what a coincidence! I view myself as a part of Yeshua’s movement, Messianic Jewish Movement views itself as a part of Yeshua’s movement, UMJC views itself as part of Yeshua’s movement, MJTI views itself as a part Yeshua’s movement, Christianity views itself as part of Yeshua’s movement (or as THE Yeshua movement).

  15. jennbrooke says:

    To those that have expressed dissent, I completely understand the dismay over people claiming that all Christians are really Jews and should therefore flood into Messianic Jewish Synagogues and become Torah observant. It’s just not Biblical. I also completely understand the dismay over Jewish-flavored Gentile dominant houses of worship, *especially* some of the fringe groups that actually are strange form of supercessionism, themselves, and although probably well-meaning, do contribute to some of the misconceptions about Messianic Judaism, both in the general public, and for non-Messianic Jews.

    I also very much get the hesitancy to just open the gates and start converting people left and right, without arduous and rigorous examination, because that has, can and will lead to problems for the Messianic Jewish faith. Basically it does diminish the focus, which I agree, should be ISRAEL and the Jewish people and their restoration.

    However, with all that being said, I am disheartened by what seems to be what I an overall distaste and dismay for Gentile inclusion in Messianic Synagogues. It almost sounds like “You can come, you can observe, you can worship, but you will never be one of us, because it makes us look less ‘Jewish.'” It’s almost as though some feel their very presence chafes and cheapens the movement. One of the things that is standing out is the comments regarding “dillution” and “ridicule” as though the primary problem whether or not allowing limited conversions would still pose a problem to seeming “Jewish enough” or “authentically Jewish” to outsiders. At some point, what “other people think” can’t be the determining factor in how the movement decides to approach the issue.

    Maybe that’s not what’s being said, and if I’m misunderstanding, I apologize, but that’s how it’s coming across to me.

    It really is kind of a Catch-22. The fewer Jews in a Messianic Synagogue less likely it is that non-Messianic Jews will be open to hearing what is being shared. They’ll believe it’s just another group of Gentiles playing “Jew” (“Christianity in Jewish drag” is how I’ve heard one Jew put it) and trying to mislead Jews into converting to a Jewish-flavored Christianity. And the more wary of Messianic Judaism people are, the less likely Jews are to embrace Yeshua and the congregations will likely remain mostly Gentile in makeup. However, I’m not sure the answer to that is to try to actively dissuade Gentiles from joining the synagogue, forbid even limited conversion for those who have gone through a rigorous conversion and examination process. After all, while we all have a mission to share Yeshua with the entire world (To the Jew first, and also the Greek), it is ultimately the Holy Spirit that speaks to the heart and draws us nigh, so the synagogues can look as “authentically Jewish” as possible, but unless the Spirit is working in the hearts of non-believers, it won’t matter.

    The Bible doesn’t forbid conversion (it just didn’t require it), so, in my mind, neither should the UMJC, or any other governing body. I think the best thing would be to come up with a rigorous conversion and examination process for those who truly feel God’s call to identify with the Jewish people, which would discourage those who are not serious about it.

    Just as a personal application, my husband is in the process of confirming what we suspect, that he is a descendant of Jews from Kaifeng China (probably just 2-3 generations back). We’ve talked and read, and prayed over it, and have decided that if we confirm that he truly is of Jewish ancestry, particularly of a population that has been struggling to maintain Jewish identity for over 1,000 years, that God would want us to raise our two young children in the Jewish faith, as Jewish believers in Yeshua. However, because the ancestry would be on his father’s side, and because he wasn’t raised Jewish (he was raised Christian) we would still be considered Gentiles, barring a conversion process. And I get that, and I respect that. BUT, in light of that, it breaks my heart to read some of the comments and feel like although we might be “welcome” to attend a Messianic Synagogue, that we would not *truly* be welcome, or encouraged to convert so we can raise our children in the faith of their ancestors, because it might “dillute” a congregation, or make them seem less “Jewish” to outsiders, or feed into the “ridicule” of Messianic Judaism.

    • Jennbrooke, every community establishes the standards to live by. Messianic Jewish movement has been torn apart by people seeking completely different goals. It has lost its focus, its reason for existence. Instead of being a home for Jewish people who have found or are looking for their Messiah, instead of teaching Jewish people about Yeshua and allowing them to live as Jews, it has become one gigantic Hebrew Roots movement and a movement to judaize and convert Gentiles into Jews. We are not attracting Jewish people to our congregations, but instead many disaffected or curious Gentiles have come to view us as an alternative to churches. By being complacent and lukewarm we have done a great disservice to the future generations of Jewish followers of Yeshua and our children. We are also ruining our relationship with our Christian brothers by presenting Messianic Judaism and Torah observance as “pure” religion for Jew and Gentile alike.

      Besides all that, we all must be comfortable to live in the skin that G-d gave us. Conversions are generally discouraged in Judaism, and Apostle Shaul admonishes us to each be comfortable being who G-d created us to be, whether we are Jews or Gentiles (1 Cor 7:18).

      • jennbrooke says:

        And I agree with almost all of what you said. The loss of focus is a big problem, and needs to be recognized and addressed, as does the trend towards a “gigantic Hebrew Roots movement” and push to convert Gentiles (which I would argue is FAR different than individual families feeling a strong God-given leading to convert). However, again, I don’t think you can throw the baby out with the bathwater. I don’t think the answer is to *forbid* conversion. I think the problems can be addressed effectively without going to extremes.

        Yes, we need to be comfortable in the skin G-d gave us. Amen to that, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t call *some* to conversion, and especially (but not limited to) those with Jewish ancestry. Conversions being discouraged (which I would agree with) is not the same as a blanket condemnation of the practice.

        Guard the gate, yes, but don’t lock it.

      • “Guard the gate, yes, but don’t lock it.”

        That’s the standard practice of Judaism. The only problem is Messianic Movement/Judaism is not anywhere close to being ready. Only when we have a MUCH larger proportion of Jews (majority even – one can dream!) vs Gentiles AND our leadership is all Jewish AND we are solidly based in Judaism with Yeshua (instead of being a Jewish Pentecostal Church with little to no regard to halacha, largely eenon-observant even at leadership level, generally lacking a standard of Jewish idenity), only then we can safely discuss practical implication of implementing conversions.

    • Jenn, are you and your husband considering conversion? Is your rabbi a member of the MJRC? If so, I’d encourage you to schedule an appointment with him and discuss:

      1) the process itself,
      2) the pros and cons of conversion,
      3) your unique family situation and goals for your children, and
      4) your prospective candidacy for conversion.

      If you and your rabbi decide to move forward, it’s going to be arduous, and for very good reasons.

      But until you’ve had that delicate conversation, there’s not much to say about whether conversion is good/bad/biblical/un-biblical/for you/not for you/ridiculous/unnecessary/essential, etc.

      • jennbrooke says:

        It’s all contingent on what we find out about my husband’s heritage, via the DNA test. We’re expecting the results in late May, early June.

        If he is of Jewish ancestry (which would be through the people in Kaifeng), yes, we would very, very much like to begin to raise our children to honor and recognize that heritage, with the thought of eventual conversion (however long that process would take) so that they (as well as we) could fully participate in the life of the synagogue, and in turn raise THEIR children to recognize and honor that heritage as Jews.

        We are not currently attending a synagogue. The closest Messianic Synagogue is 2+ hours in any direction, so right now we have no synagogue or rabbi we’re consulting with. My parents/family are from Richmond, so I have a feeling we’d be contacting Jamie Cowan at Tikvat Israel to discuss with him our particular situation, his thoughts on what he thinks we should do, and whether or not we’d be able to be involved in the life of the congregation even being so far away. If there is an ancestral heritage (which, honestly, could be as little as 2-3 generations removed), we’d at the VERY least like to begin attending synagogue on the holy days, but open to more, as the rabbi would suggest. To my knowledge, Tikvat does not offer conversion as an option.

        You’re right – at this stage, it’s rather soon to be making any definite plans or decisions. It’s all kind of up in the air right now. We’re more in the “what if” and doing lots and lots of reading and praying and learning about what the Messianic Jewish movement is about (and as importantly, what it is NOT about). I guess I was more disheartened to feel like the idea would just be completely off limits or taboo, regardless of our situation.

        Thanks for putting it in better perspective for me, Monique!

      • jennbrooke says:

        I’d also like to clarify, we are not looking for a connection SO we can attend a synagogue. The possibility of a connection was brought to our attention, and after beginning the process of figuring out if there was a connection, the question came up, “What if there is? What would/should that mean, if anything.” That was when we began to learn what we could about Messianic Judaism.

      • Jenn, I know it’s easy to draw conclusions based on snippets that you read on blogs, but I really think this is worth a one-on-one conversation with an MJRC rabbi. (Rabbi Cowen is a member of the MJRC) And I wouldn’t wait for the results of a DNA test to pursue that conversation.

        What if the DNA test comes back and reveals that your husband has a Jewish ancestor (or two or three or fifty)? The reality is that he’s been disconnected from the Jewish people for at least two generations. Additionally, you’re still figuring out your level of interest in raising Jewish kids, even though you are not Jewish yourself.

        And what if the DNA test reveals nothing conclusive at all? What are you to think of yourselves and what do you say to your children and your children’s children?

        It’s good to talk with a rabbi about these things now.

      • jennbrooke says:

        Hmmmm…I guess our thought was, if Alvin isn’t really connected to the Jewish people, we’re really not inclined to make a change – beyond some of the things I’ve learned about changing the way we view Scripture and what it says about Israel and Jewish believers.

        We started looking at Messianic Judaism, *not* because we were already thinking of switching to Messianic Judaism at the time, but primarily because of the question of, “Ok, what if we find there IS Jewish ancestry. Does it mean nothing? Does it mean something?” We determined that IF there is ancestry, we had a responsibility, one we take seriously, to do what we could to raise our kids with that knowledge and in the Jewish faith, but in Yeshua. Messianic Judaism is *the* way to do that, in our minds.

        But if there’s no connection, or we just can’t tell, we probably wouldn’t pursue Messianic Judaism, because we wouldn’t feel the call was there, at least not for us, as an individual family. That’s why we haven’t talked to a rabbi yet.

        For what it’s worth, I’m not having any trouble figuring out my level of interest in raising our kids in the Jewish faith (even though I’m not Jewish), IF they are indeed of Jewish ancestry. If my husband, and therefore our children, are of Jewish ancestry, my level of interest in raising them to be/become Jewish is 100%, because of my commitment to my husband, and also because my mom raised me with a love of Jewish people and the Jewish roots of our faith (although our church growing up was sadly QUITE secessionist in it’s teaching). No qualms on my part.

        If it’s inconclusive, or negative, we’ll probably just raise our kids with a healthy, non-supercessionist love for the Jewish people/Israel, and try to educate the people in our church about some of the easy ways that supercessionism can creep into thought, and become entrenched in our theology. In short, we’d be ambassadors, as much as possible, but not necessarily feel lead to join the movement officially.

        So, after that long-winded (sorry!) and thorough response, do you still think we should try to talk to Rabbi Cowan, or just wait? I really do want to know what you think. :-)

      • Jennbrooke…

        My recommendation is for your family to be and live as G-d created you to be. Do not pursue conversion. May G-d bless you whatever you choose.

      • Jenn, my advice is to undertake a decision this weighty with the wisdom of a leader in the Messianic Jewish community who has guided other families in your shoes through similar situations. An objective party helps you to understand the long-term ramifications of your decisions, and with great clarity.

  16. Thank you, Jennbrooke. Like fresh air are your words.

    Derek Leman

  17. karenbatsarah says:

    Firstly, let me say that my original question was to Derek, asking where his conversion took place. He hasn’t answered me, so I cannot continue that thread.

    Secondly, I can see all the points made here, and I am thankful for everyone’s openness and willingness to share what is so close to their hearts. I “get” these hangups that are being discussed but I guess what I am asking is, if not accepted, even after, conversion, what is the gentile role? And please do not tell me it’s the Church. I clearly do not belong there. There are hundreds, if not thousands of believing Jews in churches as well, who don’t feel that they belong in a synagogue. Why?

    I was called out of the church 15 years ago, before I even knew MJ existed. I was confused, but knew that G-d had a plan for me. After years of praying, reading my Scriptures, reading books and asking questions, I found out about MJ and began to understand. When I went to my parents to tell them that I was going to synagogue, my father told me that he’d known, since I was a little girl, that I would one day end up in a synagogue. He also knew G-d had placed a call on me. This isn’t a case of catching wind of this way-cool new movement that allowed me to explore the Jewish roots of my faith, jumping in for few months and then going home. G-d spoke to my heart, I had questions the Church couldn’t answer, and decided to break free from doing what I was told my whole life, and explore things on my own. And now I am home.

    So now I find a place where Jewish people welcomed me, have taught me, and most importantly to me, loved me and have invited me to worship along-side of them. I am Torah Observant – to the best of my ability, and this is deepening every single day. I have learned Hebrew and I read from the Torah. As a musician and singer, I have completely changed my way of worship, and leading worship in a Jewish context. I had years of contemporary Christian music background, but it has no place where I am now, communally. I am one of our synagogue’s biggest proponents in keeping it JEWISH. We are not a church. Our family has made many life-style changes and have walked a Jewish path by choice. I have been laughed at, had friends turn away from me, and am challenged nearly every single day because I am not Jewish and people just don’t get it. By Jews and non-Jews alike. The reason isn’t because I really want to be Jewish. Nor is it because I love the Jewishness of my faith, which I do. It’s because I am being obedient to a call that G-d placed on my life years ago. That’s what’s important to me.

    All that being said, perhaps just as it is difficult for some Jewish people to accept the gentiles into this movement, as converts or not, I would challenge that it is partly because they simply cannot understand what it’s like to not be Jewish, yet called into a Jewish lifestyle. The only reason I would consider conversion is to make a public and official stand, to my community, that I throw my lot in 100% with the Jewish people and Israel. But anyone who knows me, already knows that. So therein, the conversion would serve only to make me feel better, and I guess that’s not really grounds to do it. And knowing that Jewish people would not accept me, as a Jew, it would seem futile. It certainly wouldn’t be to show G-d anything He doesn’t already know – He’s the one who put that love there to begin with. The Jewish people who do know me, do accept me. Not as a Jew, but as a woman who loves G-d with all her heart, loves my Messiah Yeshua, and loves the Jewish people. And I will continue to worship from a Jewish context, from a Jewish mindset and heart. If the movement so-called “restructures” to exclude gentiles, we will continue our walk, even if we have to do it from our own home. I am not comfortable connecting to a church body as my community.

    Just remember, one day, we will all be together, Jew and gentile, with Him. Wouldn’t it be nice if we couldn’t find a way to work this out here, too?

    Shalom and thanks.
    Karen

  18. Gene #32:

    I want to make sure you understand, Jennbrooke is not one of the people who would draw MJ away from its mission of working for the restoration of the people of Israel in Yeshua.

    I just want to make sure those of you who are concerned about conversions, that they may cause our mission to be derailed, understand that there are Gentiles out of step with what MJ is about and there are Gentiles who are in step.

    Derek

    • Derek, yes – of course. I know such Gentiles personally and some are in my own synagogue. In my experience, however, they are also minority (but I thank G-d for them – we couldn’t have done it without them at this stage.) On the other hand, MJs who are serious about Messianic Judaism are a minority within a minority. That’s why we need to shore up our outreach to Jews, within the movement and outside of it.

  19. Dan Benzvi says:

    Karen,

    Sorry, but as long that you are not married to a Jew you are excluded from MJ congregations Dauermann’s style….Ask Derek, he will explain….

    • Dan, for the millionth time – it’s not about excluding Gentiles, but rather, it is (or should be) about including Jews. The reason being is that Gentiles do not NEED to be part of synagogues (messianic or not) – there are thousands upon thousands of fine, welcoming, Yeshua-loving churches to accommodate them and their spiritual needs. Not so for the Jews – there are very few options for them (and most of them as far from desirable). Jews MUST be part of synagogue, it’s their deep spiritual need as Jews to worship with Jews and as Jews – it’s their heritage and that of their children. Those Gentiles who understand that, they are most certainly welcomed to participate in renewal of Israel.

      • Dan Benzvi says:

        >.it’s not about excluding Gentiles…<
        You coul'd have fooled me…..

        Kinzer brings up the marriage example in his book, to bodies, husband and wife make one flesh…How does it work in real life Gene, when you want the husband and wife to live in two separate houses? How, Gene?

      • Dan, why are you not part of some mega church, Dan – if you REALLY wanted to be with your wife (Gentile Church), wouldn’t you go where most of them worship G-d as Gentiles instead of divorcing them like you did and instead of living in a relationship where the wife pretends to be the husband? You know what they makes people who choose that kind of lifestyle:)

      • karenbatsarah says:

        Gene, I don’t agree with Dan, but come on, “most of them worship G-d as Gentiles”? What do you mean by that? I, and many other Gentiles, worship G-d the way the Torah instructs us to.

        I am ALL FOR more Jews in MJ. But to imply that too many Gentiles is the problem, is not accurate. It’s a lack of Jewish participation. Many believing Jewish people don’t embrace their own heritage. We’ve even had Jewish people leave our synagogue because they think it’s TOO JEWISH. You should be doing more to motivate Jewish people to identify with who they are and to be a part and take leadership rather than focus on the fact that there are too many Gentiles. Maybe the Gentiles are provoking the Jews to jealousy, just as Scripture says? But I don’t see the solution being to remove the Gentiles once the Jewish people engage. We are the One New Man, are we not?

        I am so blessed that my synagogue is over 60% Jewish. Our board is 70% Jewish. Our service is 100% Jewish. And I thank G-d that we don’t have these rumblings and discord.

  20. Dan Benzvi says:

    Gene Shlomovich :“So Gentiles in MJ congregations can eat pork now?”
    Sure they MAY (and can) and not only now – they always could and will always be able to. However, out of respect to the Jewish congregation they attend/visit they should indulge in this food in their homes and not bring it with them inside congregational facilities.

    Hello, Gene, they are the majority, or have you forgotten? matbe the nominal # of jews should have respect for the majority Gentiles?

    You see, even logistically you guys do not make much sense….

    • “Hello, Gene, they are the majority, or have you forgotten? matbe the nominal # of jews should have respect for the majority Gentiles?”

      I guess that the crux of the problem we are resolving to fix by bringing in more Jews. You just gave up on the Jews, Dan.

  21. jennbrooke says:

    So, Gene, what *would* you say to someone who has discovered they have Jewish ancestry, and feels that they should raise their children to embrace that heritage? “Too bad?” That’s certainly what it sounds like you’re saying, albeit more politely. Because, honestly, they’re not going to be able to embrace that heritage while they’re being told they cannot fully participate in synagogue life (studying/observing Torah, participating in Jewish life) as Gentiles, barring full conversion, which you’re saying should not be an option. It’s like saying their heritage doesn’t count or matter and cannot be embraced…at least, not really. The best they can do is sort of observe and look in from the outside, and feel torn between two worlds. Something inside says they don’t belong in the church, they certainly can’t join a non-Messianic synagogue, they don’t want to join one of the weird fringe all-Gentile churches (and just add to the existing problem, not to mention sit under dubious teaching) and now the Messianic synagogues also say that they don’t really belong there either. Sort of like early Messianic Jews who were torn between synagogue and church in the 1st century.

    Apart from questions of heritage, then there are families like Derek’s where they have felt a call of God on their heart and soul to join themselves to Israel and fully committing themselves to MJ and to the restoration of Israel (NOT creating a Christian “Hebrew Roots” movement), who spend years and years to that end, showing themselves faithful both to God’s call on their life and to building up synagogues where the Jewish faith is authentically expressed, only to basically be told, “Yeah, you snuck in there, but if it was up to us, you wouldn’t have been allowed to convert.” I know no one has uttered those words, but how is that NOT the message being conveyed?

    Again, I totally understand the concerns, and they are very VALID concerns, but can’t there be a solution that discourages shallow conversion and professions without alienating those who would be faithful adherents? At what point does outward appearances and the opinions of men trump God’s moving in people’s hearts and families?

    • “So, Gene, what *would* you say to someone who has discovered they have Jewish ancestry”

      In almost ALL cases I’ve come across, those claiming to have discovered “Jewish ancestry” have little to no proof. In fact, in not a single case that I’ve personally encountered (and I’ve encountered MANY) have the proofs went beyond “Jewish-sounding” surname (and in MOST of those cases, even that wasn’t the case) or something they found online.

      Also, when there are legitimate proofs of verifiable Jewish ancestry (like great-grandfather/mother was an actual provable Jew), I am more than willing to lend a sympathetic ear (even if these people are not Jewish halacikly). Unfortunately, frantically looking for Jews in one’s tree has become a fashionable fad within Messianic Movement. I’ve even had people tell me that G-d just plain told them that they had Jewish ancestry, no proof needed!

      “Apart from questions of heritage, then there are families like Derek’s ”

      G-d bless Derek. He knows how I feel when it comes to people like him.

      “Again, I totally understand the concerns, and they are very VALID concerns, but can’t there be a solution that discourages shallow conversion and professions without alienating those who would be faithful adherents?:

      Yes, there must be a solution, I agree, for these types of individuals. I do not want to discourage these sincere people. That’s why I’ve softened my opposition to ALL conversions within MJ, in part thanks to Derek (but I have never opposed conversions within say, Orthodox Judaism – because they have clear standards – we don’t). I still think that before the standards are established and Messianic Jewish leadership itself abides by them in their own personal lives (sadly, most of our leadership is hardly observant, even if they profess to uphold Torah), Messianic Jewish conversions are very suspect. Who controls the standards within MJ, who respects the halacha? Who is allowed to perform conversions? At what point do we reject a conversion as non-halachic? With so few Jews in our movement, is that even a good idea?

      “At what point does outward appearances and the opinions of men trump God’s moving in people’s hearts and families?”

      Jennbrooke, this IS about hearts and families. But shouldn’t Messianic Judaism reach out to Jews first, and to Gentile second (scripturally speaking)? At the same time, we care about how Jewish community views us, because even if they reject us because of Yeshua, we are still Yeshua’s witnesses to them and they observe us very carefully.

      • jennbrooke says:

        Is a DNA test done by a company owned by a non-Messianic Jews good enough for you? LOL

        I understand your concern, and I have seen exactly what you’re talking about (the earlier parallels someone made to Native American ancestry appropriate). People wanting Jewish roots because it seems cool, or is a fad. And it’s a problem.

        However, in our case, we did NOT go looking for this as a way to get into Messianic Judaism. We didn’t decide we wanted to be Jewish and then go look for proof. Honestly who would even suspect a 1st Generation American Chinese man might be part Jewish? LOL Chao is not a Chinese sounding name. The possibility was brought to our attention through a series of what some would call coincidences but others would call God moving. Once the possibility was brought to our attention, we couldn’t not look into it – especially in light of the history of the Jews of Kaifeng. And the more we researched and prayed and considered what it could mean, the more we became convinced of the importance of raising our children with an observant Jewish heritage, if there is ancestry there. The Jews at Kaifeng are a dying breed, so to speak. We don’t want to be part of that dying out, if we’re part of that heritage.

        As for me, during our wedding, I spoke the words “For wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God.” and I meant it, whether his people were only Chinese, or anything else. So, if my husband is of Jewish ancestry and feels lead to raise our family as observant Jews, then I am 100% behind him all the way.

        If you’re interested I can share more with you privately (so as not to take this off track). And we still don’t know – we’re waiting for the results. There’s no family tree to consult. Alvin’s grandparents are all dead, and with them the genealogy, sadly, but there are more than a couple reasons to suspect that the test may well come back with the result of Jewish ancestry and a connection to the Kaifeng kehilla.

        To me, if the UMJC is concerned about who is doing the conversions and how, and I would say RIGHTLY so – then they are the ones who need to set the standards, and require it of all UMJC congregations. It’s really the best way.

        I completely agree about reaching out to Jews first, but reaching out to the Gentiles second doesn’t have to mean what your suggesting. Jews are watching, you’re right, and we all need to be cognizant of that, and I definitely share your hope and vision of MJ synagogues that are predominantly Jewish-born. That should be all of our hope – after all this is primarily about the restoration of the Jewish people. BUT if while they are watching, they see congregations rejecting converts when they, themselves would accept converts, is that the right message? Would it really convince them of how Jewish MJ congregations are? Is that REALLY the goal? If a Jew doesn’t embrace Yeshua, I don’t think it will be because of fully adherent Gentiles in a congregation, and if it is, then they weren’t really embracing Yeshua.

      • karenbatsarah says:

        Just for the record, I have absolutely no Jewish geneology whatsoever (as far as I know – my mother was adopted , so I have no idea.) But I worship the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and a Jewish man lives in my heart :)

  22. jennbrooke says:

    How are Jews being “excluded” Gene?

    • By not creating an environment where Jews can be part of a Jewish community, by not having a Jewish leadership, by not creating a place where Jewish children stand a greater change growing up with Jewish friends and marrying someone Jewish. By presenting ourselves to the outside Jewish community as a Gentile movement with very few actual Jews in it.

      • jennbrooke says:

        As someone else pointed out, that’s less a result of including Gentiles and more of a problem of not enough Jews not embracing Yeshua. Like I said in another post, if the difference between accepting Yeshua and non accepting Yeshua is based primarily upon how many Gentiles (or Jewish converts) are in attendance, there are larger spiritual issues at play.

        And honestly, if someone has GENUINELY converted to Judaism and is living completely as a Jew, then I don’t know why they wouldn’t be considered part of the community. If someone grows up with a child of converted parents, who are raising them as an observant Jew, wouldn’t they be part of the community? Would they be less desirable to grow up with or marry?

  23. jennbrooke says:

    And here’s the thing that really gets me about all of this. If we didn’t believe in Yeshua, we could attend our local synagogue, eventually become members, and be allowed to work towards/through the conversion process. Maybe there would be some that would not accept us as fully Jewish, but we’d be allowed to join in, convert and not only that, but be *expected* to raise our family as Jewish and fully participate in the synagogue.

    And yet, we believe in Yeshua, and so, would want to join ourselves to a synagogue that is not merely a “Hebrew Roots” congregation, but an actual, full-fledged Messianic Jewish synagogue, which for us would likely involved driving 2+ hours to the nearest true Messianic Synagogue, only to be told our participation would be limited, possibly indefinitely. Why? Because of some notion that for every Gentile that joins a MJ synagogue a Jew is somehow excluded from joining? Because it might make the Synagogue look less “Jewish” to outsiders?

    Does anyone see that as odd?

    • judahgabriel says:

      Preach it, Jenn. :-)

      Like Derek said, your comments are a breath of fresh air.

      • For the record, both Judah and Dan believe that Gentiles are OBLIGATED to live as Jews and obey all the same laws as Jews, and in fact they believe that ALL believing Gentiles are now Israelites. Neither is part of mainstream Messianic Movement. Hardly unbiased supporters of Gentiles within mainstream Messianic Judaism.

    • karenbatsarah says:

      I agree, 100% Jenn. There are Gentiles who want to follow through with the calling on their hearts. And somehow, I feel penalized because not enough Jewish people showed up. That’s really sad.

    • Jennbrooke – mainstream traditional synagogues have two things going for them:

      1. They are actually Jewish (most MJ places hardly qualify as Jewish – and many have hardly any Jews in them to even make a minyan). Having a Jewish-born Baptist-educated “rabbi” that never had an actual Jewish education and a 90% Gentile congregation is not an environment where one is qualified to conduct conversions to Judaism. (Disagree?)

      2. Mainstream synagogues (at least those streams of Judaism which respect Torah) have halachic conversion standards. Messianic Judaism by in large has NOT halachic standards. In fact, any Joe Shmoe can call himself a rabbi and do a conversion. In fact, many have done just that – and they are not even Jewish themselves in many cases.

      3. There were periods of time in many Jewish communities where conversions to Judaism were suspended for lengths of time because of special circumstances that would impact the Jewish community in a negative way (such as Gentiles tempted to convert to qualify for Jewish charity or Gentile community violent opposition, among other reasons.)

      • jennbrooke says:

        1. I fully agree

        2. The UMJC and other governing authorities that these synagogues belong to should set the standards, and requirements and oversee or approve conversions. I agree that a non-Jew should not be overseeing a conversion.

        3. Ok, but I’m not totally sure those circumstances you describe are parallel, even though I do share your concerns.

    • wordmachine says:

      Jennbrooke, I feel your pain, especially about the participation part.

  24. Looking at the population of this country, I would think outside of large cities, it would be difficult for a MJ congregation to have a substantial amount of Jews.

    As a non-Jew who does not buy into replacement theory, I have few options for worship.

    I understand the unhealthy reasons some non-Jewish people seek conversion.

    I also see some comments are getting a bit personal, and I don’t think that will solve anything.

  25. Dan Benzvi says:

    Gene Shlomovich :For the record, both Judah and Dan believe that Gentiles are OBLIGATED to live as Jews and obey all the same laws as Jews, and in fact they believe that ALL believing Gentiles are now Israelites. Neither is part of mainstream Messianic Movement. Hardly unbiased supporters of Gentiles within mainstream Messianic Judaism.

    For the record, Gene is a messianic Jew who believs that Acts 15 should be now…De-ja-vu all over again….

    • “For the record, Gene is a messianic Jew who believs that Acts 15 should be now…De-ja-vu all over again….”

      Dan, thank you for acknowledging that – I do believe and uphold the principals found in Acts 15, and so should you.

  26. jennbrooke says:

    Dan, for what it’s worth, while I disagree with Gene’s proposed solution to the issues facing the Messianic Judaism, I think there’s nothing wrong with re-visiting what Scripture says about the life of the body of believers, whether it be Acts 15 or any other passage. So if Gene wants to revisit Acts 15, then good! The question is apparently still alive and asking for an answer, and that’s as good a passage as any to address the issues.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with Gene and Acts 15 when it maintains that Gentile believers are NOT required to live as observant Jews. I’m sure some might choose to be observant of their own volition, and I guess that’s between them and God, but it’s NOT mandatory for Gentile believers. And I also agree with Gene that there ARE distinctions in the body of Yeshua concerning Jew and Gentile. We’re one in Christ, but we have differing responsibilities and calls. “Neither Jew nor Greek” no more erases distinctions in calling and roles in the body of Yeshua than “Neither male nor female” erases the distinctions in calling and roles of our genders.

    What we’re debating now is the finer points of what that is to look like.

    Either way, I think we need to try to keep this in the realm of civil debate and refrain from taking personal jabs at one another.

    • Dan Benzvi says:

      Jenn,

      The problem is that Acts 15 does not make the claims you are posting. Maybe you can explain what do you mean by observant Jews? Do you mean Torah observant or rabbinic observant? I also agree with Gene that there ARE distinction in the body of Yeshua. (read my other posts in detail).

      So, I would like to ask you if you can provide a list of Torah mitzvot that specifically target Gentiles, and another list that specifically trget Jews, can you?

  27. jennbrooke says:

    Actually, I’d like to amend that. Not only is there nothing WRONG with revisiting Acts 15, as many times as it takes, it’s precisely one of the places we SHOULD go in Scripture.

  28. Dan Benzvi says:

    Gene Shlomovich :Dan, why are you not part of some mega church, Dan – if you REALLY wanted to be with your wife (Gentile Church), wouldn’t you go where most of them worship G-d as Gentiles instead of divorcing them like you did and instead of living in a relationship where the wife pretends to be the husband? You know what they makes people who choose that kind of lifestyle:)

    OK Gene, now can you answer my questions, or you are more comfortable in preaching and living in fantasy? Please answer, how can Kinzer’s model work in reality?

  29. Dan Benzvi:

    Just saying with bravado that Acts 15 doesn’t mean distinction between Jews and Gentiles doesn’t make it true. Your position on Acts 15 is not only minority and not only runs counter to the intention of the text, but it gets sillier each time you repeat it.

    Bully someone else, somewhere else. Your comments on this blog have always been rude, mean, and pointless.

    Derek Leman

  30. tandi119 says:

    Derek,

    Enjoyed following this important and worthwhile and very interesting discussion through all of these comments until I got to yours here at the bottom (#73). Prompted me to log in and comment.

    Funny, I thought the rudest, meanest comments were not Dan’s, but Kinbar’s and McKee’s towards you! That is, until you won the award for rudest comment just now with your nastiness towards Dan Benzvi.

    I hope you are not banning Dan from your blog. Banishing others sometimes has a boomerang effect. “Judge not, lest ye be judged”…..as rude, mean, silly, and pointless.

    Your public relations value to your employer may be wearing thin.

    Just my observation.

    • tandi119, I thought that neither Kinbar nor McKee were rude to Derek. Straightforward and honest – yes, mean-spirited or abusive – heck no. Neither was Derek’s response to Dan nasty – it was honest. In fact, Derek, to his credit and example to other commenters, myself included, rarely gets personal in his comments. Let’s face the truth – Dan, on the other hand, gets carried away with his abusive tone and crude remarks on a regular basis. You know it and I know it, everyone here and elsewhere does. But because you happen to agree with Dan’s theology – it doesn’t bother you (but it really should), so you let it slide.

      • Dan Benzvi says:

        Look who is talking…..(Falling off the chair laughing…)

      • Dan, seriously – be yourself, just be a bit nicer, and everyone will be nicer to you and take you more seriously. I see that you just told the Paul the anti-missionary guy to “shut up” (on another blog, in Hebrew) – you see what I mean?

  31. “Public relations wearing thin”? Really? I would think with the personal jabs going on, Derek has the right to control who comments on HIS blog to keep things productive. There are many issues to work out, but when comments hit below the belt, we no longer are working to solve them, but work to crack back at the next guy.

    If Derek does decide to ban someone, it’s his prerogative. I am sure he would only do so for a healthier environment on his personal blog. There are plenty other places on the web to get nasty.

  32. Dan Benzvi says:

    Never been banned before on any blog. Too hot for you in the kitchen Derek? I guess you are still smarting over your CARM experience, right? Instead of showing me where I am wrong on Acts 15, you belittle, OH, well…

    I will do you the favore and go play in my sandbox……

    • Dan, I don’t think Derek has banned you – obviously you are still typing away. If he does ever ban you, there are many other blogs out there for you to vent your anger at UMJC/MJTI/Kinzer/Dauermann – not the end of the world:)

  33. ckinbar says:

    Derek,

    Tandi119 is absolutely correct–my comment was rude. It should have been expressed gently and privately. I can’t erase the offense, but please forgive me.

    I suspect that readers “Messianic Jewish Musings” will agree with me that it is the premier MJ blog, unequaled in quality and consistency over a number of years. I can only hope that more men and women with your integrity and passion for Yeshua will follow your example in the blogosphere. For the record, MJTI has never seen your blog as PR (and I doubt that you see it that way!). You are not only free to express your own ideas, but should feel encouraged to do so.

    Carl Kinbar

  34. Dan Benzvi says:

    I will take Carl’s example and also apologize. I guess you guys don’t understand the Sabra in me…It is very hard when one tries to engage on Scriptural and theologocal basis, but all one gets is preaching and chastising…

    sorry if I offended anyone.

    • Dan, we all get this way here and there. Blog arguments bring out the best and often the worst in us. Everyone here engages in preaching an chastising on occasion, including you. I wonder if we would even talk this way to each other in a face to face meeting – I highly doubt it.

  35. hobbitfromtheshire says:

    WOW!! I am exhausted from reading all of this, and, somewhat dismayed by some comments by Jewish brothers/sisters, and, encouraged by others. As a non-jew, whom has embraced Torah observance to as much as I possibly can, from observing Shabbos, the dietary laws, the moed, the prayers, and the list goes on, I totally understand why the Jewish believers in Yeshua have this “fear/concern”, because, once the 12 Talmidim had passed away, and more gentiles came into the sect of “The Way”, then MJ started to become “mixed and white washed.

    I feel that part of the problem has been that there were not enough Messianic Jewish people to be leaders, and sadly, as HaShem took the veil off of the gentile eyes to understand that “we had inherited lies”, what were we supposed to do, not practice what we were learning because we had no one Jewish to lead us? Were we to stay cloistered in our homes, studying on our own and lonely with no community We could not return to the church because we would no longer be accepted by them, and we could no longer tolerate the things they “mis-taught” about Torah and Y’shua “doing away with it”, but, we could not go to the Synagogue either and hope for community because even though we would be allowed to “attend” services, we would tolerated only to a certain degree and never accepted as a part of the community.

    It is extremely difficult being in our situation, and when I say “our”, I mean the non-jews that “get it” it, being this controversy. We are no longer accepted by “main stream judaism and not accepted by mainstream judaism, and now, in some instances, not accepted in MJ. We are, as, the Jews discounted the Sabbatrians in the 1800’s, as “bats”. Just as a bat is neither a bird nor a mouse, but something in between, so too, it is with us, the non-Jew embracing and living out Torah.

    I come from a small congregation in Saskatchewan. We have no Messianic Jews in our congregation. Does that mean then, that we should not be a congregation because we do not have a Messianic Jew to take over the leadership. Our Elders are devout, righteous men and lead as as best as they can because if they did not, we would have nothing. We understand the link between “the people, the land, and the Scriptures of Israel”.

    I understand that HaShem made me a gentile. If He had wanted me to be Jewish, I would have been born Jewish, although many of my Jewish friends ask me, “are you sure you are not Jewish”? I am not trying to be “Jewish”. I, from my study of Torah, cannot see that there is any other way to worship the G-D of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. However, if I were married to a Jewish man, I would convert without denying Yeshua, so that our children could be Jewish.

    Truly, I understand the argument and concern but it also grieves me greatly and causes me to have a heaviness of heart.

    May Messiah come quickly and set us all on the right path.

    May HE who makes peace in HIS highest heavens, make peace upon us, and, upon all Israel. Amaine..

    • karenbatsarah says:

      Hobbit, I share you heart and its heaviness. I am continually praying that G-d will give us all direction – Jew and non-Jew. As for now, I know that I am right with Him. It’s not important if Christians support me, that my old friends and family understand me, that Jewish people, believers or not, accept me. What’s important is that I remain obedient and in love with Him. The rest shall pass away.

      Karen

  36. Dan Benzvi says:

    How many Jewish leaders in the Messianic Judaism movement are fit to be leaders?

    How many of them are eating pork? How many of them don’t keep the Shabbat? How many of them have no knowledge of Hebrew? Is being Jewish guarantees one to be a good leader?

  37. jennbrooke says:

    Monique@yinonblog :
    Jenn, my advice is to undertake a decision this weighty with the wisdom of a leader in the Messianic Jewish community who has guided other families in your shoes through similar situations. An objective party helps you to understand the long-term ramifications of your decisions, and with great clarity.

    Thanks, Monique. I sent Rabbi Cowen an e-mail on Monday and hopefully we’ll hear back from him soon about setting up a meeting to discuss things.

    Thanks for the input! You’re absolutely right, that this needs to be discussed with the person we’d most likely be sitting under, if we started attending a MJ synagogue.

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