Santorum in Trouble for speaking to Messianic Jews

In 2010, Rick Santorum was paid $6,000 to speak to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America. Accepting the MJAA gig was called by the Washington Post “a lack of religious sensibility”.

From the political perspective of electability it is true that Santorum probably lost many Jewish votes he may have still had, but not all.

Why this should come out now in 2012 is interesting as according to Politico who broke this story, Santorum had initially failed to disclose the speaking fee he received.

This whole affair is an enlightening commentary on the prejudice that Messianic Jews have to now face in mainstream politics. It seems as if Messianic Jews are being made into political lepers, an untouchable and unrepresentable group in American politics.

The New York mag gets it wrong with their headline claiming ‘Jews for Jesus’ paid him.

msnbc coverage here

Jewish Chronicle here

Hypocrisy at Christ at the Checkpoint?

Hypocrisy at Christ at the Checkpoint, can such a thing be with a Christian conference such as this!? Well it seems so as the local organising committee has taken to task the various Messianic Jewish organisation that put out a public statement in response to CaTC last week.

In a blatant example of attempted spiritual one-upmanship  the CaTC2 local committee have accused Messianic Jewish leaders of not following principles of the New Testament.

 We were quite disappointed to read your statement, and we encourage you in the future to contact us directly (Matthew 18:15-20) in order to resolve differences rather than send a public letter to appeal for dialogue through the internet.

If CaTC were so concerned about this principle why then have they not contacted the Christian Zionists they seem to despise and castigate so much as heretics, rather than openly criticise their Christian brothers and sisters in an international conference. It seems as if the real reconciliation that needs to take place is between Christian anti-Zionists and Christian Zionists, yet CaTC is more than happy to criticise their theological enemies before contacting them face-to-face. However when the shoe is on the other foot, they complain and adopt the posture of feigned spiritual superiority.

In short CaTC have no right to complain that the International Messianic Jewish community had the temerity to challenge them in the public forum, a public forum they use themselves to routinely criticise and demonize other Christians who support Israel.

CaTC committee if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!

Gafney on Messianic Judaism Beyond the Eddie Long Debacle

Wil Gafney, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in Pennsylvania writes for the Huffington Post on Messianic Judaism Beyond the Eddie Long Debacle.

By now, many readers are aware of the sorry, sad and blasphemous spectacle of the disgraced bishop of New Birth Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA being wrapped in a Torah scroll and proclaimed “king” as a restoration ritual after he negotiated a financial settlement with at least four men who accused him of using his pastoral authority to coerce them into a sexual relationship. (If any of this is new to you, please see my previous post.) The key player in the unholy ritual, Ralph Messer, claimed to be a Messianic Jewish rabbi. His claims to s’micha, ordination in — and for that matter, membership in — any Messianic Jewish community has been vehemently rejected by the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) and the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA):

“Messer is not recognized by any major branch of Messianic Judaism and, under the standards of the UMJC and the MJAA, is not even considered part of our community, let alone a rabbi… We condemn Messer’s flagrant disrespect of the Sefer Torah in this ritual and his misrepresentation of Jewish tradition, an abuse which must stem either from ignorance or great presumption.”
These unfortunate events provide an opportunity to look at the Messianic Jewish community, sitting — uncomfortably for some — at the intersection of Judaism and Christianity. Messianic Jews are believers in Yeshua l’Natzeret — the Hebrew name of Jesus of Nazareth — as the Son of God and, they identify as Jews. The overwhelming majority of (other) Jews, whether Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal or unaffiliated, reject this identification. The tension between these two communities’ understandings of who is and is not a Jew is not unlike the tension between Mormons and the wider Christian community on who is a Christian. Each community has the right to assert its own religious identity and draw boundaries around who is included and who is excluded, even if (and when) it conflicts with another community’s self-articulation. I respect the right of each community to self-definition. I cannot say who is and who is not a Jew, because I am not a Jew. I can and do reflect on the implications of that discussion for Christians.

The question of who identifies as a Jew is complicated by, or perhaps better, enriched by, the great diversity within Judaism: There are Jewish communities in which Jews are only those whose mothers are Jews or who have undergone conversion by a specific subset of the broader Jewish community, others in which Jewish paternity or conversion in a wider circle of rabbinic authority is definitive, Jews who observe traditional halacha, ritual laws, scrupulously, religious Jews who don’t keep kosher, those whose kashrut is vegetarianism or veganism, those who use their iPhones on Shabbat and those who don’t, communities in which women are rabbis and cantors and lay-readers of Torah and those in which they are not, communities in which same-gender couples are wed and welcomed along with their children and those where they are not, and there are Jews of all hues and of all ethnicities.

The contestation of intersecting and overlapping identities between Christians and Jews is not a modern phenomenon. The early church emerged in that interstitial and fertile space. For me, Miriam — Mary — of Nazareth, mother of Yeshua, Jesus, represents this space at its most fecund. The earliest followers of Jesus, were Jews as was he, integrating his messianic claims into their own (first century proto-rabbinic) Judaism while other Jews rejected them. There would be significant overlap between the two communities for the first 800 years of the Church and a lingering somewhat permeable boundary between the communities for perhaps two more centuries. There were Gentiles who followed Christ who converted to Judaism, some who left the Church to do so. There were questions about which ancient Israelite and Jewish practices and commitments Jewish and Gentile disciples needed to follow. The issue was so important that it became the topic of the first of the great Church councils. In Acts chapter 15 there is no small matter of debate over the issue of circumcision for Christians. The elders in Jerusalem decide that it is unnecessary, however in a strong dissent the Apostle Paul has his traveling companion Timothy circumcised as an adult in the next chapter, rejecting their ruling.

The theological claims of contemporary Messianic Jews are a potent reminder to (other) contemporary Christians that Jesus of Nazareth cannot be properly understood outside of his own Jewish identity and context, which permeate the emergence and development of the Church. That context can be difficult to access because of the subsequent Western ascendency in Christianity obfuscating its Eastern, Jewish origins. In particular, the Westernized New Testament tradition intentionally obscures the Jewish context of the Christian Scriptures, for example by marginalizing the Jewish names and therefore identities of the founders of the church so that Miriam becomes “Mary,” Yeshua becomes “Jesus” and Ya’akov, Jacob, becomes “James.” This is not an issue in some Eastern Christian traditions such as the Ethiopian and Syrian Orthodox Churches, Coptic Church and Arabic-speaking Eastern and Western Rite Churches.

As I seminary professor I encourage my students and others interested in the emergence of the Church from its Jewish origins to encounter the Christian Scriptures through the scholarship of the Messianic Jewish community; David Stern’s translation of the New Testament is a good place to begin, and its name, The Complete Jewish Bible (with the Tanakh or Old Testament) engenders a new round of completing, conflicting claims and conversation.

Read article on Huffington Post here

Messianic Jewish Alliance of America Hosts Inspiration Ministries Televangelist

The Messianic Jewish Alliance of America annualy hosts a “Messiah Conference” to build bridges between Messianic Jews and Christian leaders in America.

But why is this Messiah Conference different from all other Messiah Conferences?

Continue reading

Call to blacklist Ethiopian Messianic Jews

The Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel has long been a target for radicalization by the Haredi anti-missionary movement. When the Ethiopians Jews, known as “Beta Israel”, first

Rabbi Yosef Hadane, Chief Rabbi of Ethiopian Jews in Israel

 started returning to Israel in 1984, the ultra-Orthodox demanded that they submit to an additional, rather humiliating, symbolic act because the Ethiopian circumcision was not considered sufficient. Being black has meant, in reality, that they have had to prove themselves to be authentically Jewish to the satisfaction of Ashkenazi and Sephardi Orthodox religious authorities. One easy way to prove they are Jewish enough is by expressing extreme opposition to what is known in Israel as “The Mission”, by which is meant anyone who believes that Yeshua is the Messiah irrespective of what they do for a living, be that cleaning toilets, to working in operating theatres or even to that small minority of Israeli Messianic Jews who actually do work for a Christian missionary organisation!

Orthodox anti-missionaries had threatened in 2006 to draw up a Stalinist-like blacklist of any Ethiopian Messianic Jews who engage in missionary activity. Of course every Messianic Jew is automatically considered an active missionary, therefore all will be included on the blacklist.

“We know who they are,” said, the Chief Rabbi of Rehovot’s Ethiopian community, to The Jerusalem Post. “The worst punishment imaginable for an Ethiopian is excommunication, because we are all so interdependent.” Ethiopian Jews are amongst the poorest of the poor in Israel with up to 70% of families having no incoming salary. The anti-messianics have no hesitation in using economic sanctions in a carrot and stick methodology to impose their will upon members of the Beta Israel who want to enquire into the claims of Yeshua.

In a letter to Rehovot’s Mayor Shuki Forer, Zagai warned of violent Jewish Ethiopian reaction to the missionaries if their activities are not stopped. “People here are threatening to resort to extreme measures, such as blowing up the missionary headquarters with gas tanks,” said Zagai. Consequently Bibles given to Beta Israel members in Or Yehuda were publically burnt, causing world-wide controversy and condemnation by the ADL.

Such is the hostility towards Messianic Jews that the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America was criticised in the Jerusalem Post for encouraging persecuted Ethiopian Messianic Jews stating that the MJAA’s Operation Tikva is contravening the Israeli government’s attempts over the last year to wind down official aliya operations in Ethiopia, and the project is being viewed in Jerusalem with alarm.”

The lovely people at JewishIsrael who also frantically search for religious justification for burning Bibles, have also jumped on the issue and posted a video about the growing Ethiopian Messianic Jewish community in Israel. We learn from the clip itself that 90% in the Ethiopian Messianic Jewish congregation became Messianic Jews in Israel, so as much as JewishIsrael would like to see them deported in a spiritual purge when Moshiach comes, they have no legal grounds to do so under Israeli law! However the US Department of State International Religious Freedom Report 2009, expresses continued serious concerns over the treatment of the minority Israeli Messianic Jewish community.