Is Messianic Judaism in Crisis?

Today is Hoshana Rabbah – the culmination of Sukkot and preparation for the final days of Shemini Atzeretand Simchat Torah. However, I find myself troubled a bit, as my joy is not quite complete. I have been deeply troubled lately about the future of our movement, and the dire situation we currently find ourselves in.

Let me explain …

Messianic Judsaism Today

Over the last 40 or 50 years since the birth of the modern Messianic Jewish movement, we have witnessed multiplication and growth in various ways. Messianic Jewish congregations have sprung-up around the world, we attend great conferences, listen to Messianic Jewish music, support our fellow Messianic Jews in Israel, and read various Messianic Jewish publications. But will all of this be around in 50 years?

Of course aspects of it will. But how much?

Much of the energy which has propelled our Movement forward is based on events in the past out of which the modern Messianic Jewish phenomenon was birthed. Although lip service has been given toward the future, until very recently, very little has actually been done to practically prepare for the future and set a vision for what will happen after the current pioneers are gone. Add to this the huge influx of non-Jews, the higher numbers of intermarriage among Messianic Jews, and the very small numbers of young people currently being raised-up into leadership – the numbers can no longer keep up.

Slowly a crisis is building that remains largely unrecognized outside a few small circles.

A Wake-up Call

In April 2010, Dr. David Rudolph invited senior and associate leaders currently serving a UMJC congregation to participate in a demographic study. Here are some of the results of Dr. Rudolph’s findings:

  • There are no UMJC congregational leaders in their 20s.
  • The youngest UMJC congregational leader is 33 years old.
  • The UMJC has five congregational leaders in their 30s and four in their 40s.
  • The oldest UMJC congregational leader is 85 years old. He co-leads with his son who is 41 years old.
  • 83% of UMJC congregational leaders are over the age of 50.
  • Two thirds of all UMJC congregational leaders are between the age of 55 and 70.

Although this study was specifically of UMJC leaders, the results ring true across the movement. The MJAA, for example, has even fewer leaders under the age of 40.

Let me explain why this is so dire. Based on the above statistics, in the next 10 to 15 years almost every congregation will need a new leader. There are estimates that there are around 250-300 or so Messianic Jewish congregations in America today.

Of course with G-d all things are possible, but there is just absolutely no way we will have that many young leaders raised-up within the next 10 years! That is the reality.

We currently only have a handful of young leaders currently being raised-up to meet this need. Truly, the “harvest is ripe, but the workers are few.”

The age of the pioneers is over. Most of the current leadership had little if any previous experience in congregational leadership, or theological preparation, before planting their congregations. They simply found themselves responding to a need.

But times have changed. Now we have many strong and stable congregations. When the current leadership retires, you can no longer just stick someone in who is not ready. New leadership MUST be prepared. The bar has been raised. Let me give you an example:

There is a particular congregation in America currently looking for new leader. It is over 300 people, they have a beautiful historic building, with multiple staff members, and can afford to pay a great salary and benefits. But they are having trouble finding someone. You cannot just stick someone without experience and preparation into such a large and healthy congregation.

We need to raise-up and equip young leaders now for the tasks ahead.

So what are we to do?

First, we need to commit to truly being a Jewish movement for Yeshua within the greater Jewish community.

Second, we need to raise-up young leaders now! We need to identify and invest in young people with a calling to the Messianic Jewish rabbinate. If you have ever considered becoming a rabbi, do it. And if you would like to know exactly where to start, or what steps you can take, please let me know! I would be more than happy to help.

Third … Some very difficult decisions will need to be made in the future. The reality is that the need is greater than our ability. As such, a sort of triage will have to determine which congregations should be given highest priority. The priority will have to be given to vibrant congregations currently existing in cities with large Jewish populations.

This is already being discussed within the UMJC’s new K20 Program – which was created to meet the need of raising-up new leaders, and working with existing congregations.

Lastly, all of this requires funding. Help support the work of those that you believe have a vision for the future and are putting their money where their mouth is. Examples could include the UMJC’s K20 ProgramMJTI, or the MJRC.

The harvest is ripe, but the workers are indeed very few. So I ask you … do you have a vision for the future? And if not now, when? By then, I hope it will not be too late.

About Rabbi Joshua

I'm a Rabbi, writer, thinker, mountain biker, father and husband ... not necessarily in that order. According to my wife, however, I'm just a big nerd. I have degrees in dead languages and ancient stuff. I have studied in various Jewish institutions, including an Orthodox yeshiva in Europe. I get in trouble for making friends with perfect strangers, and for standing on chairs to sing during Shabbos dinner. In addition to being the Senior Rabbi of Beth Emunah Messianic Synagogue in Agoura Hills, CA, I write regularly for several publications and speak widely in congregations and conferences. My wife is a Southern-fried Jewish Beltway bandit and a smokin' hot human rights attorney... and please don’t take offense if I dump Tabasco sauce on your cooking.
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48 Responses to Is Messianic Judaism in Crisis?

  1. Sam Richardson says:

    Joshua – from my perspective, you are preaching to the choir. I was espousing these views to the senior leaders back in the very early 90's. Not much has changed in the last two decades other than they baby boomer have gotten older. Those of us who were in our 20's then have largely (meaning I can only think of *one* person in my age group who was around then and still is now) moved on due to the discouragement we received on a regular basis.I have become convinced that this is an issue of some unique character based on the general experiences and disposition of the boomer generation in general and those of that generation who founded the MJ movement of the late 20th century. To summarize what may eventually turn into paper on the culture of the boomers – they can't get over themselves.I see only two ways of implementing significant change: 1) Wait for the original guard to die off; 2) A critical core of young, educated and motivated leaders (under 40) supported by a handful of more experienced leaders launch their own initiative within the existing structure. In other words, a coup. Unfortunately, the first option is the more likely – and those upon whom we wait are not going very silently into that dark night. I hope I am 100% wrong.Sam Richardson, former MJ optimist

  2. jonroush says:

    yosh-I enjoyed our convo about this on Sunday. I've been hearing this talked about for the last 13-15 years…I am now closing in on 30 and I am wondering what it will take (movement wide) for things to change. Of course, I think that as we (hopefully) move further away from a catch all once a week service and more towards a weekly life rhythm that this could be addressed in a larger way. Perhaps we will see that born out here in our area first…

  3. Michael says:

    As a boomer, I have to ask.. what are we supposed to do??? Should we just retire at 50 and become walmart greeters because the 30s and 40s are here? Is our usefulness over because we are over 50? Some of us are just hitting our prime ministerially. Does someone want my job? I'm ready for them to start traveling. I haven't seen anyone willing to step up to the plate.

  4. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Rabbi Dr. Schiffman,Thanks for your comment. To clarify, I am not making such a claim. Rather, my point is that we simply need to identify and raise-up greater numbers of young leaders – which takes time, and who will need mentored by more experienced leaders. This will not happen overnight. It will take time. As such, no will be pushed out of a job or forced into early retirement (G-d forbid). Rather, the focus is on what we will do 10 – 15 years from now.Additionally … what are we doing to set general vision for our movement for the future. We need leaders like you to help mentor us younger leaders. And since I know you, I can also testify that you are already involved in much of this work through the UMJC, MJTI, and especially the MJRC.It's not about "get out of the way," it's about continuing to work together for the betterment of our movement.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This is not unique to the MJ Community. This has been going on for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. I urge the leaders of this community to read Generations: The History of America's Future by Neil Howe and William Strauss. It will help explain why this happens.

  6. abigail roush says:

    Great post. It is shocking to see those numbers in black and white. Woah! One of the important things for the current leaders to understand is that they aren't going to be out of a job with nothing to do. No. Their counsel and support and relationship is vital to the success of these young leaders. It's moving into a completely necessary support role, without which the MJ movement will also fizzle out. Without young leaders- we have no future. Without a strong support system built by the current leaders towards the young leaders- again, we have no future. Honoring relationships from both sides are key for a great success.

  7. Judah Gabriel Himango says:

    Gosh, rabbi. You're asking for leaders, but at the same time, making theological demands and suggesting weak congregations should be "triaged out".Basically, the way this reads to me is, "We need people who agree with the UMJC/MJTI vision for Messianic Judaism (one that largely excludes gentiles) in order to help us build a purely Jewish religion that the Jewish world will find acceptable. To accomplish this, we'll demand leaders agree with our vision, train them, then dismantle congregations that we don't agree with or we deem have no future, thus strengthening the congregations we like."This is not the New Testament model, and is precisely the harmful idea challenged in A Purposed That Angered Many.I suggest to you that it is for this reason you are having difficulty finding leaders: we young people are not interested in religion building as much as we're interested in meeting needs of regular people. When I read posts like this, I am turned off completely to your vision for Messianic Judaism.

  8. Anonymous says:

    A logical place to start, which is not too overwhelming, would be for current congregational leaders to simply be able to identify potential new leaders in their midst and encourage them in their academic and theological pursuits. Every current leader needs to be preparing or grooming some kind of future replacement, as well as a duplicate that can be sent of to another (new) congregation.

  9. Shoshana says:

    Speaking as an unaffiliated near 30-something, I've got to ask: How is being more "traditionally" Jewish (i.e. incorporating liturgy into services as discussed in a previous post) going to encourage the growth of the young population within the Messianic movement, let alone get the numbers up there as far as leadership goes? If things like "liturgy" and a "Torah observant lifestyle" don't speak to the majority of today's American Jews (who were mostly raised Reform and therefore have little to no connection with any of these things) why should they speak to young Messianic Jews? And why should this religious lifestyle inspire young people to participate in the community?In short: If people born and raised in that culture don't care…why should Messianics be any different?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Well, I'm an 'unaffiliated near 30-something' and I am 100% PRO-liturgy, PRO-Torah observant, PRO-traditionally minded Judaism. In fact, the people we know are sick of the watered down version of Judaism they find in both Messianic Judaism and in other streams of Judaism as a whole. I'm not advocating everyone go Orthodox. However, I am having trouble relating to people my age (or any age I suppose) who do not take a deep interest in Judaism – who would rather have it served up in some hip and trendy way and don't seem to want to be bothered by anything deeper than affiliation with Judaism as a religious social club. The suggestions Rabbi Brumbach has made would greatly benefit my husband and I as well as our children. Anything less, IMO, is just a cop-out. Sometimes, when someone has had to live without something or had to fight very hard to regain something, they appreciate it more- so it is with our Jewish faith and culture.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Judah- The type of Messianic Judaism you advocate completely turns ME off. Our visions just don't mesh. It's ok to disagree – but that doesn't mean those of us who have a more MJTI view have to suffer through without our needs being met or our ideas discussed and implemented. I have thought about the 2 options Sam presents and unfortunately, they seem the most realistic. And, although it is a generational issue – it's not that completely. I know others who are not in my generational category who feel the same way. Either way, this current system is not really working for us and something needs to be done.I'm very glad Rabbi Josh wrote what he did. It needs to be talked about. I don't want to waste another decade in the movement as it is currently. In fact, we have one foot out the door already… we are willing to give it another go… but for how long … I'm not quite sure.

  12. Judah Gabriel Himango says:

    Guys. Please. Look what you're proposing: coups, "triaging out" congregations, waiting for our pioneers to die, quitting altogether.This ain't the New Testament model, folks.If you want to save Messianic Judaism, focus on serving people's needs rather than religion building. What this world needs is not another Judaism. What it needs is for people to wash one another's feet.

  13. zayin says:

    First off Rabbi Yosh, Let me say I am with you 100% on this matter. Thanks for the great post and don't listen to the flack.As for some of these comments, I feel I need to address them individually.Judah Himango-True Messianic Judaism IS Jewish and should be part of broader Judaism, NOT a sect of Christianity. Anyone with an ounce of 1st century knowledge would know that is how it was and how it should be. Does that mean gentiles need to be kicked out of Messianic Judaism? In all honesty, a large portion might need to go back to the church, but for those who do want to attach, there should be guidelines in place for what they can and can't do in the space of Judaism. In rare circumstances conversion should be an option, but only after serious contemplation, interviewing the applicant etc (except in the case of intermarriage where this could be somewhat less so).One thing I have no understanding of and as a Jew could never comprehend. Why does a gentile need a bar mitzvah or to make aliyah? Are they required to keep the 613 commandments? No. Why do gentiles feel the need to be Jewish? Rav Shaul's letters were specifically addressed to these issues. If he was here today he would be saying the same thing I am sure.You stated "we young people are not interested in religion building as much as we're interested in meeting needs of regular people." Well, I and many others in the younger generations are interested in a more traditional Judaism along with meeting the needs of other Jews and any gentiles who are truly called to be a part of the movement. It seems that when gentiles hear about Messianic Judaism they say "the heck with the church, the party is over here!". That is what is not the model of the B'rit HaDasha.As for traiging out congregations… why not? Do we really need a group of 75 gentiles and 1 Jew meeting at a so called "messianic synagogue"? What a joke. Wouldn't one of the few Jewish leaders that are available be better served in places with a larger jewish community so that they can support their fellow Jew? Those 75 gentiles can easily go back to the church where they came from. That 1 Jew is the one who has the real problem with a rtaige situation and that is something that would need to be addressed.For future generations, under no circumstances should there be gentile leadership of messianic synagogues unless that person has officially converted, proved himself in a Jewish space, and undergone rabbinic training. Again, there are churches galore out there. Start a hebrew christian church if that floats your boat.

  14. zayin says:

    Shoshana-Your comment "How is being more "traditionally" Jewish (i.e. incorporating liturgy into services as discussed in a previous post) going to encourage the growth of the young population within the Messianic movement, let alone get the numbers up there as far as leadership goes?"From my experience in broader Judaism, the answer is quite a few. There is a very interesting spin happening. Christianity and Judaism's younger generations seem to be doing two very different things. Christianity seems to becoming more about love and harmony and more "hippi'ish". However in Judiam, there is a huge movement of young Jews returning to Orthodox Judaism and intense study. The great thing is they are bringing their love of meeting the needs of people with them. Why are they returning to things so many messianic leaders love to say are "rote" methods of worship? Because most of their parents were baby boomers and hippies. They are extremely tired of the peace, love, dope mentality that is free love. They are longing for structure, intellect, and the key that is missing so much in messianic Judaism, the ancient art of critical thinking and actually getting to "ask questions". They desire to return to Judaism and gain a deeper knowledge of their heritage.Many of the baby boomer generation that left Judaism, did so, because they felt it was old, tired, and dying away. Many things during Judaism of the 50's, 60's, and 70's was more of a "rote" type setting, but so was the entire older culture of the period (their parents). Judaism, however has advanced. Their leaders have learned that there is a calling and they are striving whole-heartedly to meet that challenge. They have matured into the 21st century needs of their various denominations.The only major groups I have seen screaming for things to stay as they are or be more open are from the gentiles in the congregations, not the Jews. The gentiles and the charismatic movement are literally pushing the Jews out. That is the crisis and that is the problem.On top of this as Rabbi Yosh points out, the a large percentage of the non MJTI crowd have no desire (or at least aren't) working to raise up the next generation of leaders. As baby boomers themselves who have seen this crisis mentioned to me, many baby boomers have an issue with trust. That is from several of their own mouths about their own generation. Not my words,

  15. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Judah,In all fairness you have grossly read into my post.Let's be very clear – Not once did I ever mention "weak congregations," advocate for any kind of "coup," nor use any language resembling anything about trying to "gain acceptance from the wider Jewish community." This is all baggage you are bringing into the conversation. My post is about being realistic. This is not about any of the issues you're trying to raise or read into. Rather, it is BECAUSE I care so much about my own people and our movement that I am concerned. I did not write this post for $#!+ and giggles. You can attempt to question my motives, but the truth is that the future of our movement is a big concern. And what we are currently doing has not worked. Period.

  16. Judah Gabriel Himango says:

    Hi Zayin,I get what you're saying about our faith, following the Master Yeshua, being a Judaism. Agreed!You talk about sending gentiles back to the church and dismantling congregations that have too few Jews in them. You see that as acceptable. I see that as contrary to the New Testament model.The New Testament has Jews and gentiles worshiping together.in case you missed that: The New Testament has Jews and gentiles worshiping together.Maybe you misheard, but the New Testament has Jews and gentiles worshiping together.Extra, extra, read all about it: New Testament model shows Jew and gentile worshiping together, one in Messiah!(Worth repeating!):-)Not once do we see Messiah, the disciples, Paul, or anyone else saying, "Gee, too many gentiles here! Let's get rid of them! Segregate them into their own communities, and have them start their own separate religion!"And yet that's exactly what's being proposed here.I'm here to challenge that harmful idea.This "too many gentiles" thing is a repeat in history: in the 1st century, the disciples didn't know what to do with the influx of gentiles. They resolved it not by creating 2 sub-peoples of God, but by joint fellowship and mutual submission. That's why I say God brought the gentiles into Messianic Judaism.

  17. zayin says:

    Thanks for the response.I guess my biggest concern with your ideas are this and perhaps you can clarify:1. If we have a gigantic mush of few Jews and many Gentiles in a so called Messianic Synagogue, what ends up being the role of each? Do the Jews remain Jewish and the Gentiles starting taking on Jewish roles and practices that they never were supposed too (and quite honestly is cheapening a Jewish practice)? or do the Jews end up being considered "Judaizers" because they try to practice Judaism in their Jewish space?2. Are you stating the gentile christian churches have their setup wrong and to be in the right they need to abandon and join in with Messianic Judaism? What about non-protestant denominations? Is it just assumed, like so many do assume in Protestant Christianity, "their not really "saved" and their going to hell just like the Jews."? That would be real productive.In my experience, and perhaps not on purpose, Jews end up being squashed by the large masses of gentiles trying to cram into Jewish space.My understanding of Rav Shaul is that he was telling the gentiles, "Look! You don't have to be Jewish and take up Jewish practice!"Israel has a specific calling, but the Israel referenced is the Jews. The calling of the gentiles is different. We should work together in unity, but the roles are completely different. That concept seems so difficult for many gentiles to understand and instead all I see is "That's not fair, I want your job!" That is how we end up with the embarrassing hot pink, sparkling tzit-tzit tied to the belt loops of a gentile or someone who thinks that a mezuzah is some kind of good luck charm rather than what it truly contains, a symbol of love and respect for HaShem and his mitzvot that were specifically relayed and relate to the Jewish people.In no way am I anti-gentile. I just hope that the gentiles aren't anti-Jewish by doing things such as taking up sacred Jewish practices, trying to live as Jews, be as Jews because they think it is better, etc. to be just that (besides the absolute Poser perspective). That being said, a gentile candidate for conversion is a different story.I mean really! — would some everyday white guy walk into an ancient african-american tribe and ask to become chief? They would laugh like crazy. Possibly he might could become a member after MUCH training and living with the tribe. But that takes special people and most wouldn't make the cut. Just because he wasn't officially a tribe member, that wouldn't make him any less valuable for his role in life. Why is it any different with the Jews? Why does it seem Messianic Jewish space is a free-for-all to do what one pleases? The phrase "One in Messiah" is cliche' and has just become something taken extremely out of context and something gentiles use as a free pass into practicing a pseudo-Judaism.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Judah, first off, I'm NOT in any way saying Josh is proposing a coup. However the thought has crossed MY own mind from time to time – that or leave the whole thing altogether. Josh seems to have gone out of his way to be sensitive to the needs of both the Baby Boomers and the younger generations involved. He is sticking with it when I am many times tempted to walk out.The reality is – what we have now is not working for a portion of us… and will not last too long into the future at the rate it's going. "Washing each others feet" is great… but people can be filled with love and wash each others feet while the boat they are on sinks into the water. Lots of really loving people – dead. I don't prefer that fate. I'd rather live to 'wash someone elses feet' another day. Again, your form of Messianic Judaism does not inspire me, teach me, or in any other way encourage me in the life I have chosen to live. It just fuels frustration and disappointment. If your form of Messianic Judaism works for you -great- but it doesn't work for me or for other Jewish people I know. At times, I can't even relate to the language you use. Sometimes it seems like you and I come from different religious cultures altogether. We can agree to disagree. We can even put aside our differences and relate as human beings. But our visions are so far from each other when it comes to Messianic Judaism I'm not really sure how that gap can be closed. I don't think it can. At some point people must go their separate ways. If your form of Messianic Judaism wins out, at the end of the day, then I will have to find something else. I do not desire religious competition or to eradicate an opposing view point… but I do desire to connect with other people I can relate to and who share a similar vision.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Michael (and other Boomers)I VERY much appreciate the time, effort, emotional and spiritual energy you and other Boomers have put into the movement.I don't think anyone wants to do away with you guys! In fact, we need each other – to lose one whole generation would throw the whole thing off balance. I do think we want Boomers to listen though… to see the inevitable consequences of keeping things how they are. Of all people, you guys should know…"Come gather 'round peopleWherever you roamAnd admit that the watersAround you have grownAnd accept it that soonYou'll be drenched to the bone.If your time to youIs worth savin'Then you better start swimmin'Or you'll sink like a stoneFor the times they are a-changin'." We should be able to work together on this – mutual benefit & blessing. If not, the movement will not survive.

  20. Judah Gabriel Himango says:

    All well and good, but the bottom line is the New Testament model is Jews and gentiles worshiping together.I want Messianic Judaism to start with that Scriptural premise. The details can be worked out from there.My vision for Messianic Judaism is Jew and gentile worshiping together. That vision should not turn off any students of the New Testament.—–With that said, I do applaud Rabbi Brumbach for raising real issues here. I may have been too harsh in my initial comments. He has valid points. I wanted to challenge the harmful idea that Yeshua-loving Jews and gentiles should be segregated into their own communities. I have done so. I will leave you to discussing MJTI futures. :-)Shalom.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Jew and Gentile worshiping together is not an issue. There are MANY ways they can worship together. That doesn't mean one takes over the others identity. It doesn't mean Judaism and Christianity should be erased and replaced with some kind of undefined, anti-religion … well, Religion. Cultural differences exist. Theological differences exist. And while the idea that 'love conquers all' is great… the Utopian idea doesn't quite work in practice when we are talking about differences in culture and faith. We can be unified in basic principals, we can love each other while still disagreeing… but distinction is necessary and healthy for humanity. It should not be seen as a threat. (And, BTW, it is easy for the Majority group, whether in politics or religion to say, "No need to focus on the differences, what's the big deal anyway?" When they are the ones calling the shots and the Minority groups needs aren't being met and/or their cultural identity is being taken from them.) You start with the "NT model" … seems to me, there are a lot of things left undiscussed in the NT. In fact, the way I read it, Jews did fellowship with Gentiles – but they did not seek to merge the two (or three or ten) different cultures into some hybrid religious/ cultural mush that some in the movement refer to as "The One New Man … or One in Messiah." And I have to ask – What is Messianic Judaism to you? To me, it is a JUDAISM. If it is not a JUDAISM to you, maybe you should find another name for the type of Religion you practice.

  22. Dan Benzvi says:

    Anonymous,Do you know what else is not working in practice? Messianic Judaism…Again, Messianic Judaism…. Why, there is no Jews there…While the UMJC, MJTI and the rest of the alpha-bet soups are engaging in their "mature Messianic Judaism" pipe-dream, the reality is looking at them straight in their faces. The majority of believing Jews are in the Churches, not in MJ.If MJ is not dead by now, it is on it's death bed, waiting to expire. At least the Hashivehu fuction.wake up people, God is showing you that He will not be put in the corner by some ambitious anti-scriptural group. so go engage in all kind of demographic models and watch how your pipe-dream disappear.

  23. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Judah,Again … Not once did I mention mistreating nor kicking out non-Jews from Messianic Judaism. Rather, all I am advocating for is what is healthy in all aspects of life – balance. By the way, refer to a couple posts ago to our International Sukkot Celebration, that drew together Jews AND Christians from around the world. Judah – you and I have never met. You can accuse me all you want of being anti-Gentile. But all the fruit of the work we are doing does not support your attacks. Rather, it shows when there is MUTUAL RESPECT, even greater doors can open to partner together.

  24. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Dan,"If MJ is not dead by now, it is on it's death bed, waiting to expire. At least the Hashivehu fuction."It would behoove you to stick to that which you are familiar, as your statement is actually false. Hashivenu is actually far from expiring and is one of the few organizations growing by leaps and bounds – with Jews! The Hashivenu Theological forums have continued growing and have now expanded to also include an annual forum in Israel. They also bring together not just the top scholars from within various segments of Messianic Judaism, but also top scholars from Christianity and the wider Jewish Community. Before making the claim that Hashivenu is about to "expire" you should first get your facts straight.

  25. Dan Benzvi says:

    rebyosh,Here are the right facts, What is thr ratio between Jews and Gentile within MJ UMJC style?Who is crying, advocating to eliminate Gentiles within their movement?who is advocating for exclusive jewish leadership at the time that half the leaders within the UMJC are masquerading as Jews? ( If you e-mail me I will provide you with names).And you really think that God will let it stand? MJ, UMJC style is nothing but a cult.I still admire your honesty, wanting to change things, but I wish you guys will follow Scripture once in a while, will you?

  26. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Dan,Now you are just being completely ridiculous.The UMJC is far from being a cult, and as a staff member and rabbi within the UMJC I can guarantee that the majority of its leadership is Jewish.

  27. Shoshana says:

    "If you want to save Messianic Judaism, focus on serving people's needs rather than religion building. What this world needs is not another Judaism. What it needs is for people to wash one another's feet."It defnitely was worth repeating. I'm with Judah on this one. If 5,771 years of being singled out as a people and persecuted for it has taught me anything, it is to not go around defining people based on their genetics–whether it is because you want them in or out of your group. And if interacting with liturgy and other non-Biblical, ethno-religious aspects of Judaism bring you closer to Yeshua, I have no bone to pick with you. But when you use religious tradition as a tool to weed out (or "triage") the "chosen" versus the "unchosen" based on a set of rules established by a subsect of an otherwise rather varigated ethnic group, you're not drawing any closer to G-d. In fact, you're drawing away from Him and into an eruv of your own design– one constructed to keep Him, and everyone else who might disagree with you, far, far away.I think the Rabbi made some excellent points when it comes to topics like religious community organizing. Perhaps that is the true purpose in his post and the ideology he espouses: To give proof to the fact that religion and a relationship with G-d are two different topics entirely.

  28. Judah Gabriel Himango says:

    Rabbi,I did not mean for my posts to insinuate you were anti-gentile. I apologize. I know you are not.Blessings, have a good shabbat.

  29. David says:

    I think the major difference here is that Judah's vision is one of evangelizing all peoples whereas MJ's goal is one of creating a Jewish space. Two totally different things. Judah's is nobler, but MJ's is expediant and necessary. One has to be politic. Preserving Jews from assimilation must be done when Jews are so small a minority. Yet there has to be those with the broad horizon like Judah. Both should accept that they are doing two different things, both required for the future. I've been silent from the blogs for a year. But in returning I still see the same biting at each other. I get the feeling that someone with dentures would be out of luck here. You guys go down to the bone.Shalom . . .I think.Dav

  30. Anonymous says:

    (Alan Levy, Slidell, LA)ONE PRIROITY: "If you have more than one priority, you have no priorities" (Robert Schuller). My impression is that the Messianic community has a confusion of priorities. To me, there has to be only ONE priority, the single overriding motive force that shapes everything else.I think the MJ community has had its priorities and critical concerns ALL MIXED UP!IMHO, HaShem raised up what has become know in our day as the "Messianic Movement/Community for ONE "main" reason and one only: to mediate the life and teachings and identity of Yeshua to the Jewish community. All the rest of the activities of the community fall in the category of "critical concerns", but are secondary to, and even tertiary to, the Priority. The "critical concerns should NEVER be allowed to modify, in any way, the PRIORITY. Those "critical concerns" include:(1) "making Jew and Gentile ONE in Messiah" As a Jew who was a United Methodist pastor for 20 years, I was "one in the messiah" with all the gentiles in that church. So why do you need MJ for this?(2) teaching gentiles about the Jewish roots of Christianity: this is noble, but does not require the cumbersome apparatus of a worldwide congregational/fellowship structure.(3) Reconciling Israel and the Church: this is likewise a noble goal which, as a former pastor, I support wholeheartedly. However, I believe HaShem raised up the modern MJ community to be the primary face of Yeshua to the Jewish community, not to the Church. Our primary focus should always be "reconciling" Yeshua to the synagogue, not the synagogue to the church.If, in the practice of this one PRIORITY, non-Jews are blessed by the work and even want to be a part of a MJ community, it is a wonderful thing! However, the PRIORITY itself must NEVER be modified by the wants and needs of non-Jews in the community.It would be like a ministry to people from the Deep South living in Manhattan being modified by the needs of people who grew up in the Bronx!! Chas v'shalom !!ONE PRIORITY, MANY GATES: In the practice of this one PRIORITY there will be many different approaches and nusachot (ways of worship). To think that one MJ vision will somehow "win out" is simplistic and naive. At Hebrew College in Boston my professor said, "There is no such thing as Judaism, there are only Judaisms, and some of them are diametrically opposed". Likewise, there is no such thing as "Messianic Judaism", only "Messianic Judaisms", and some of them are hugely different from one another.The Zohar teaches that the 12 tribes each have their own gate into the Holy Temple, and each tribe has their own nusachot (way of worship) based on their particular needs and character. Jews are vastly different from each other, and have vastly different worship needs and ways of doing commual life, from Temeni to Jewish Renewal, from Skver to Humanistic Judaism. Hashivenu/MJTI is not THE Messianic Jewish Way In The Mind Of God, nor is Tikkun or MJAA or any of the independent groups.The big question for all the groups is: do you have your PRIORITY straight, or are you wasting valuable MJ ministry time on secondary and tertiary issues?I would much rather be in a congregation with 10 people who are all focused on a clear priority that 200 people running around like chickens with their heads cut off because all their "priorities" are working at cross-purposes. If the MJ community will just hunker down and focus on that PRIORITY, then many of the issues raised in this blog will resolve themselves."If you have more than one priority, you have no priorities".

  31. Anonymous says:

    (Alan Levy, Slidell, La)THE ROLE OF GENTILES IN MJ COMMUNITY:In my post above I noted my belief that some of the problems of MJ life could be addressed by focusing on one PRIORITY: the single overarching purpose of the community should be bridging the gap between the life and teachings of Yeshua and the Jewish community. Other concerns have their place, but the raison d'etre that controls all other activities is the creating of a HAMISH (Jewishly homey) environment in which Jews can consider Yeshua.Currently the Church is the place the majority of Jews come to faith; however, there is a subset of Jews who will ONLY be reached by the MJ community and a HAMISH place to learn about Yeshua. It is for that subset that HaShem has raised up the MJ community in all its incarnations (and occasional hallucinations !!)ROLE OF GENTILES: In my schema of the overriding importance of the PRIORITY, the question becomes, What of non-Jews in the MJ community? ANSWER: The role of non-Jews in the MJ community is to be supportive every any way they can to help the community achieve the PRIORITY. They need to study and learn and love and work and figure out how to fit into a Jewish environment that promotes the furtherance of the PRIORITY. As one non-Jewish leader of a MJ congregation said to me, "I'm trying to hold up one of the poles on the tent so the Jews can get under". If non-Jews want to "get under" also, then Baruch HaShem!..but they were not the main reason this particular tent was erected in the first place. A small percentage of them are souls who were present at Sinai for Mattan Torah, the giving of the Torah, and they were predestined to formalize their entry into the Jewish community. The rest of the non-Jews will fulfill their calling in the MJ community as "prostelytes of the gate" and come among the Jews and find their calling in their helping to fulfill the PRIORITY and be very blessed in the process.Paul went SPECIFICALLY to gentiles in their intellectual, cultural, and social environment, so as to make the message of Yeshua more comprehensible to them. Peter went SPECIFICALLY to the Jewish community in their intellectual, cultural, and social environment, so as to make the message of Yeshua more comprehensible to them as well.The MJ community has been call to go SPECIFICALLY to the Jewish community in its current zeitgeist, and to dilute that effort is an usurpation of God's purposes for having raised up the MJ community at this time.The Hebrew "kohen" is translated into English as "priest", but it is translated into Latin as "pontifex", the root of which means "builder of bridges". Jews and non-Jews in the MJ community are called to one transcendent PRIORITY: to be co-bridge builders to span the gap between Yeshua and the Jewish community worldwide.Too much focus on other matters will lead to an inadequate, unsafe bridge which may end up collapsing.The SHELAH (R. Rabinowitz of Skolya, d.1920) noted that you can tell the character of a person by the very first word he utters when he speaks to you. So when a Jewish person who needs MJ's messages comes among us, he or she will decide in the first 10-20 seconds whether they are in a truly HAMISH environment or in an fundamentalist-evangelical-charismatic church with a little gefilte fish on its breath.I can guarantee you that MY relatives would take less than 20 seconds to make this decision.Focusing on the PRIORTY will keep us on the track of creating a true HAMISH environment for the subset of Jews that God has raised up the MJ community for in our days.

  32. Dan Benzvi says:

    Alan,"Hashem raised up MH community…"he must have not feeling so good that day, since He put 90% Gentiles in there….It would have been nice for all of you guys to stop telling God what you want Him to do and start listening to Him…..

  33. David says:

    @Alan LevyVery nice post, but do you think MJ as an institution is truly doing that? Or do you think it has become nothing but a congregational movement to keep Jewish believers Jewish? To bridge the gap with the Jewish community, don't you think it requires a more evangelizing attitude like Jews for Jesus, just minus much of their Church weltenchauung? Dav

  34. Anonymous says:

    (Alan Levy, Slidell, LA)DAN BENZVI:I do not understand what you are saying. How was God "not feeling good" when He put the 90% Gentiles there (assuming He did)? What does this mean? Please explain.I gave no Jew/Gentile ratios as being ideal or benchmarks. I served a congregation in New Orleans, a city (pre-Katrina) that had, perhaps, 8-10,000 Jews in it on a good day. I had come from a MJ synagogue in Boston, a city with one of the largest Jewish populations in the world.By the power of demographics, one would expect the New Orleans congregation to have relatively fewer Jews in it than one in Boston.This is neither GOOD nor BAD…just demographics.However, I DO say that even if the congregation is 99% non-Jews (perhaps in Tumbleweed, TX), that 99% has been called there to be "support staff" (along with the Jewish believers, if any) for the PRIORITY noted above. In my schema, if non-Jews (and misguided Jews) cannot fully give themselves to the PRIORITY, then they belong elsewhere. The MJ community is not their calling.You also say:"It would have been nice for all of you guys to stop telling God what you want Him to do and start listening to Him"1. All what guys? Who are you talking about? If you are talking to me personally, under the guise of "you guys" then I resent it tremendously that you, a stranger to me, would make such an unwarranted assumption about my heart's intent to "listen to God.That is overweening "chutzpah" (mindless nerviness) on your part. I have been seriously trying to "listen to God", with varying degrees of success (and some notably abject failures) since 1965. How long have you been at it?2. I was NOT trying to tell God "what to do", chas v'shalom! My posts are simply to make some suggestions as to how to further the health of the MJ community worldwide, based on my personal experience of almost 25 years in various ministry capacities in the United Methodist church and an over 15 year of association with, and some leadership roles in, the MJ community.This last line in your post was simply an "ad hominim" (against the man) argument, which is often used by those who are lacking in thoughtful constructive commentary.

  35. Anonymous says:

    (Alan Levy, Slidell, LA)DAVID: "Very nice post, but do you think MJ as an institution is truly doing that?"ALAN: I can't say much about MJ as an "institution", because the MJ community worldwide is NOT a monolith. The MJ "community" is made up of dozens of different "streams" and "schools of thoughts". Some seem to be moving rather well in the direction of the PRIORITY I noted. Others, however, strike me as completely clueless.The latter do a great deal of damage to the PRIORITY, as they are made up of inadequately-educated Jews and non- Jewish "Jew Wannabees" who dance around with Day-Glo tzitzith hanging from their belt loops, and misusing every sacred Jewish symbol they can get their hands on! I've seen the Holy Ephod made into a T-shirt and the Magen David used as a throw ON THE TABLE at a "Passover" celebration! Watch where you spill your matzah ball soup, Chanie! A "shanda fur der Yidin !! (if you don't know Yiddish, ask your local friendly Slonimer rebbe).DAVID: "Or do you think it has become nothing but a congregational movement to keep Jewish believers Jewish?"ALAN: to say that "it" has become "nothing but" this one thing, is j not accurate IMHO. There are many "streams" doing a wide variety of things, and I don't think "it" is only trying to keep Jewish believers "Jewish". I think the best of the MJ community is really trying to explore and "flesh out" what it means to live a Yeshua-based form of historic Judaism. Degrees of success vary widely, but I think the KAVANAH (heart intent) is there.However, as to "keeping Jewish believers Jewish", it doesn't do a particularly good job, but it does better than the Bulgarian Orthodox or Southern Baptist do.I feel MUCH more "Jewish" when I attend Chabad (which I've done for years) than I do in almost any MJ community I've ever been in (with one or two exceptions). The level of Yiddiskeit (Jewish learning/culture) in the overall MJ community is what the brighter 9-year-old children of Chabad sluchim (emmisaries) already know. And I'm NOT kidding…However, the Chabakniks ain't got Jesus, so the only place I can seriously study the possible union between Yiddishkeit and Yeshua-keit is the MJ community…so here I am…(ain't y'all lucky !!)DAVID: "To bridge the gap with the Jewish community, don't you think it requires a more evangelizing attitude like Jews for Jesus, just minus much of their Church weltenchauung?"ALAN: No, not in the way you formulate it here. What does "aggressive evangelizing" per J for J have to do with "bridging the gap"? While J For J has certainly advanced the Kingdom by bringing Jews to Messiah (I can't fault them for that), their approach of blasting every "unsaved" (!!!) Jew they can hunt down, in the tuchus with both barrels of the "gospel shotgun" has created HUGE gaps between the message of Yeshua and many in the Jewish community at large."Jews For Jesus" has become a curse word in the worldwide Jewish community. This is "bridging the gap?" Sorry, while I can't deny the fact that many Yidn have come to faith through J For J, for every one who has come to faith, another hundred want to throw up when they hear the name of the group.I believe the MJ community is called to share confidently our faith in Yeshua, and be ever ready to "give a reason for the hope that it within is". However, it needs to be done in a way that, even though a Jew doesn't accept the message of Yeshua on the spot, that Jew is not PERMANENTLY turned off to the besorah (gospel).

  36. abigail roush says:

    "There is a time in ministry to function as 'a player on the court' and a time to 'coach from the sidelines'. Both roles are significant. But we must be able to step back and function as coaches and let others be 'on court with the ball'." In reading over a paper on the core values of Messianic Israeli ministry that I work with, I was again struck by the simple yet deep truth in these words. There are those who think this way. Older leaders looking for more "on the court" players and who are willing to retire from the court and to coaching. Praying for more such leaders as these to arise.

  37. Anonymous says:

    "I feel MUCH more "Jewish" when I attend Chabad (which I've done for years) than I do in almost any MJ community I've ever been in (with one or two exceptions). The level of Yiddiskeit (Jewish learning/culture) in the overall MJ community is what the brighter 9-year-old children of Chabad sluchim (emmisaries) already know. And I'm NOT kidding…" I hate to say it but this is so very true. Anyone who has spent time in a more Traditional or Orthodox environment knows that the kids there are better educated than the adults within the MJ movement. kz

  38. James says:

    Are we talking about specific incarnations of Messianic Jewish organizations being here in 50 years (or when the Messiah returns, whichever comes first) or are we talking about the presence of Jews who worship Yeshua as the Messiah being here at that time?I suspect that the latter will definitely be present, but no one organization, church, or synagogue holds all the keys to faith, God, or the Messiah. Jewish people having faith in Messiah within a culturally and religiously Jewish context may not ultimately be dependent on the existence of organizations such as the UMJC, anymore than the existence of Jews on Earth has been ultimately dependent on organizations or programs.The future existence of the Jewish people and of Jews who worship Yeshua as Messiah within a Jewish framework is definitely dependent on God. Not to say that organizations shouldn't be created and supported with that goal in mind, but it's God, not people, who is the One who preserves His remnant among Israel. He always has been.

  39. Anonymous says:

    … also, of the people who come to faith via J4J, how many actually go on to live Jewish lives? NOT MANY. I don't see J4J as an example of great success in the movement. They have gotten people to pray prayers or sign pledges… most end up in Church and just see their Jewishness as an interesting side note. I am not impressed. Thinking about the organization leaves me with the same reaction as the 'other 100' Jews out there. kz

  40. David says:

    In referencing J4J my context was an evangelizing attitude, not an endorsement of their methodology, doctrines or goals.

  41. Judah Gabriel Himango says:

    > "Sorry, while I can't deny the fact that many Yidn have come to faith through J For J, for every one who has come to faith, another hundred want to throw up when they hear the name of the group."Undoubtedly the same effect the disciples had.

  42. Gene Shlomovich says:

    "Undoubtedly the same effect the disciples had."With many in the leadership, yes, but not with people in general, Judah, at least not until MUCH later (probably with beginning of "Christianity")! Acts 2:46 – "…they (the Jewish followers of Yeshua) enjoyed the favor of ALL the people (meaning, the ALL the Jewish people)."Can J4J claim that they are known for the goodness, gentleness and kindness in the Jewish community?

  43. Dan Benzvi says:

    Alan,Thank you for your "constructive commentary" which advocate "kick the Gentiles out if they don't want to be second fiddles…"Have you no shame?

  44. Anonymous says:

    (Alan Levy, Slidell, LA 10-4-10"Dan Benzvi Says: Alan…Thank you for your "constructive commentary" which advocate "kick the Gentiles out if they don't want to be second fiddles…" Have you no shame?"Dan, I don't have more time or words for this exchange between us. I'll let the other readers of this blog decide whether or not I advocate "kicking the gentiles" out.

  45. Dan Benzvi says:

    Alan,"In my schema, if non-Jews (and misguided Jews) cannot fully give themselves to the PRIORITY, then they belong elsewhere. The MJ community is not their calling."You could have fooled me……

  46. Gene Shlomovich says:

    Alan, I think your detractor missed the "misguided Jews" part when he tried to paint you as anti-Gentile. Then again, he may have been personally offended by the bracketed remark.

  47. Anonymous says:

    (Alan Levy, Slidell, LA 10-5-10)"Gene Shlomovich said…Alan, I think your detractor missed the "misguided Jews" part when he tried to paint you as anti-Gentile. Then again, he may have been personally offended by the bracketed remark."ALAN: I was not thinking of him individually at all when I made the bracketed comment. I don't know him and whether he is actually Jewish or not (by someone's standards: Reform, Ortho, whatever). I've met enough non-Jews in the MJ community who have assumed "Jewish-sounding" names that I make NO assumptions whatever about the name of someone I don't know personally. Ususally non-Jews assume names like "Yehuda Ben Othniel" to try to convey a sense of "Jewishness".That exact name was used by a gentile fellow I knew. However, it is a dead giveaway to me that they are probably not Jewish. When people have names like Manny Kravitz or Michelle Abramowitz, then I figure they probably are Jewish.My point remains: if Jew or gentile cannot commit to what my schema defines as HaShem's calling to the MJ community worldwide,the PRIORITY, then they will only muck up the MJ waters by coming in and trying to change the PRIORITY.If someone disagrees with my schema, fine. I'm not saying I got it on gold tablets from On High. It is just a reflection on my own experience in MJ congregations and from interactions with my own non-messianic Jewish family on matters of the MJ community. (Yes, we talk about it all openly)My posts are not meant to offend, but to evoke some thought and discussion about what our overall purpose is that the Church, perhaps, CANNOT fulfill.If our overarching purpose is NOT the re-establishment of the primitive Petrine ministry, then, I pray thee, what is it?

  48. zayin says:

    "I feel MUCH more "Jewish" when I attend Chabad (which I've done for years) than I do in almost any MJ community I've ever been in (with one or two exceptions). The level of Yiddiskeit (Jewish learning/culture) in the overall MJ community is what the brighter 9-year-old children of Chabad sluchim (emmisaries) already know. And I'm NOT kidding…"I hate to say it but this is so very true. Anyone who has spent time in a more Traditional or Orthodox environment knows that the kids there are better educated than the adults within the MJ movement.kz"I agree with you 100%. It is sad running into 6-7 year old's at the orthodox shul's I visit that know more about Judaism than, dare I say, 98% of those in Messianic Judaism. They live it, breath it, and those that I have personally run into love it.Add to that they can already study talmud in Native Hebrew their knowledge of Midrash is superb. The thought of MJ'ism ever reaching a point where our 6-7 year old's understand and cherish Judaism seems like a far cry away besides the few who have raised their kids to appreciate it.The 6-7 year old's in the majority of MJ'ism are really only familiar with mom and dad fighting about whether or not they are going to put a Christmas tree up.There is so much work and in so many areas! The task really is only seems daunting because people need to make a choice on how they are going to live is a family. This bs that is taught to inter-marrieds about "My husband is Jewish but G-d made me a gentile (or vice versa), so I refuse to convert or even keep a Jewish home" is pure lunacy.The leadership in the majority of Messianic Judaism needs to get their act together when it comes to simple topics like these and in their own marriages. This is just one of the reasons why I support MJTI, MJRC, etc. and the leadership that I have seen there more than any other in MJ'ism.It seems like the movement is going along at a snail's pace oblivious to the changes that can take place over a much shorter period of time. The generation that is here and now can start doing something about it. There is no need to wait another 20 years. For MJ'ism to be the least bit viable, it is going to need to happen, otherwise it doesn't have any future, I can assure you of that.The second issue is the tainted name.It is now synonymous with missionary activity and J4J. If we are going to make a viable "PMJ" that isn't focused on missionary activity (which it shouldn't be), it will need to be changed, or great efforts will need to be put forth in the Jewish Community for us to (humble) and prove ourselves as a viable stream of Judaism while retaining the name. This includes proving ourselves as an entirely separate group than J4J altogether.

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