Earlier this week I had the honor of attending and presenting a response paper at the second Borough Park Symposium held in Queens, NYC. The Symposium brought together the most diverse group of individuals and organizations from various countries, and across the Messianic Jewish Movement, including the UMJC, MJAA, AMC, Chosen People, Jews for Jesus, and many others.
As many of you sadly know, the Messianic Jewish Movement is very diverse and very bifurcated. Until fairly recently, many groups had very little interaction with each other (at best), or down-right hostility toward each other (at worst). What makes the Borough Park Symposium unique is that it brings together individuals from these various groups to dialogue and build relationships. Prior to the first symposium held in 2007, many of these individuals had never been in the same room together at one time. There were also many individuals present who had not been in the same room with certain other individuals for nearly 40 years!
However, recognizing the need for greater unity, various individuals began to work toward changing this situation. I for one have been greatly impacted by these two events. I must admit, prior to these two symposiums I too held various assumptions and stereotypes against a number of individuals and organizations.
The Borough Park Symposium has helped to break down many of my attitudes, and present an opportunity to actually meet some of these people and groups I had previously only known by name. It is much easier to vilify the “Other” when you have never actually met them. However, after building relationships with people, you quickly realize that “they” are really “Us.”
A number of papers were presented with various opportunities for discussion. The topic of the forum was the Nature of G-d (specifically the Deity of Yeshua). Although there were a number of views and opinions presented, the overall topic actually brought much unity. No matter what the differences were – we were all united around the fact that we were all Jews who follow Yeshua – in all its versions, stripes, and practices.
There was definitely not uniformity. But that was not the point. The point was unity with diversity – much like the subject of the forum.
Leaving the symposium I thought about Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so does one person sharpen another.” True strength is being able to look past our differences and embrace those around us. As the Torah teaches us, we are all made in the image of HaShem. As such, I hope I left the Borough Park Symposium a better person – with more friends, less judgments, and a better hope for the future of our Movement.