Borough Park Symposium

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.

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 Simchat Yisrael Messianic Synagogue in West Haven, CT, 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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3 Responses to Borough Park Symposium

  1. Matt says:

    What a time! It was great to see you. I do not think I got to tell you how much I enjoyed your presentation (even though we don't share all the same presuppositions). "Why be Jewish?" is a pressing question that we need to be actively pursuing for the sake of ahavat yisrael.

  2. VirginiaMary says:

    This is great. How can I get involved?

  3. Rabbi Joshua says:

    Virginia-Due to its nature and purpose, and the sheer numbers of those interested in attending, the Borough Park Symposium is by invitation only.However, please pray that what is beginning among the leadership will begin to trickle down to all the lay mambers of our Movement. The papers from this years forum should be available soon. You can get more info, and read the papers from 2007 on the Borough Park website (listed in the blog). Cheers!

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