Neo-Hasidism is the name given to the revival of interest in Hasidic Judaism amongst non-Orthodox Jews. Neo-Hasidism is all about an unrealistic and overly-romanticised picture of Hasidic Judaism in the minds of non-Orthodox Jews. Whilst Hasidism is an expression of religious belief and joy for frummers, Neo-Hasidism often tends to be an identity marker for non-Orthodox Jews.
What I find interesting here is that much of the UMJC-MJTI-Hashivenu-style Messianic Jewish theology seems to be heavily influenced by neo-Hasidic teachers such as Shlomo Carlebach and Abraham Joshua Heschel. You can read here the UMJC praising Carlebach’s kiruv outreach, and read here the MJTI promoting Herschel quotes.
Should we really be praising Carlebach’s kiruv outreach, in the light of the serious accusations about his sexual conduct from the Awareness Center? What does this imply for the Messianic movement – that these things don’t matter? Think how we feel when Protestants glorify Martin Luther without thinking about his anti-Semitism – this may be the same way Carlebach’s alleged victims would feel to hear us quoting Carlebach.
The MJTI openly speak of “Jewish renewal in Yeshua.” Yet MJTI followers should also be aware that the concept of Jewish renewal draws not from mainstream Orthodox Judaism, but instead from the mystical philosophy of Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Reb Zalman’s ideas on Gaia consciousness, Spiritual Direction, Four Worlds Judaism and Psycho-Halakhah seem to chime strangely with the teachings of Yeshua.
In order to understand the role of Messianic Jews within the Jewish world, we need to understand the historical developments of Judaism, and how different Jewish groups relate to each other. For this reason we at RPP have produced a document called Hasidic Explosion, telling the story of the way Hasidic Judaism emerged within Eastern Europe, and how it is opposed by the misnagdim to this day.
The further you explore Judaism’s development, the more questions and the less answers you’ll have about where Messianic Jews fit in to all this.
Here are just a few:
Are our religious practices identity markers, or expressions of joy?
Are we aware of the outside influences on Messianic Judaism, and how do we protect ourselves against falling into them completely?
If, as Messianic Jews, we’re in love with Hasidic Judaism, what do we have to say to the mitnagdim?
Do we want to be a trend-setting Messianic movement, or a movement that simply follows Hasidic sects?
Finally, how are we conveying the message that the natural joy we have in Yeshua is far greater than the joy engineered by Hasidic and neo-Hasidic Judaism?