As the classic story “Fiddler on the Roof” so beautifully portrays, the glue that kept the Jewish people together over the last 3,000 years was TRADITION. The rituals, the Hebrew calendar and Biblical holidays, the kosher food, the Rabbinical law, even clothes, separated Israel from its Gentile hosts, resulting in a phenomenal resistance to assimilation.
(Actually, those who know their Bible are aware that it is the unfailing promises of God to Abraham and his descendants that guaranteed the Jewish people’s continued existence. But obviously God used these elements.)
Most of all, the belief that Jews were God’s chosen people gave them strength to stand and battle against anti-Semitism throughout the generations and in most places where Jews were living (and that was just about everywhere!)
However, over the last two centuries, Jews slowly began to stray from their strict religious heritage, their belief in the God of Israel – especially in places like Germany before the two world wars. A strong movement of elite German Jewish intellectuals propagated the philosophy that Jews should assimilate and become thoroughly German, leaving their Jewish traditions behind. They basically became atheists, although some converted to the Catholic and Protestant religions.
Incredibly, the Nazis cared not a whit as to whether a Jew saw himself as a Jew or not. Hitler wanted every human being with Jewish blood dead - even if that person had only one Jewish grandparent.
During the 20th Century, several million Jews made their way to American shores and found more freedom and less anti-Semitism than at any other time in history. They worked hard and prospered. Their main religious institutions were Reform and Conservative – not Orthodox. Their synagogues served more as social clubs, less at focusing on religious ideology.
Today Jews in America define themselves vis-àvis Christianity – by what they are not! In a negative but powerful sense, they are Jewish because they don’t believe in “the Christian Messiah” Yeshua. Many have little or no connection to their own Jewish faith, so not believing in Yeshua is their last stand.
Their knee-jerk resistance to any public expression of Christian institutions grows out of many hundreds of years of persecution by Christianity in the Inquisition, Crusades, Pogroms and the Holocaust. They automatically fear what they perceive as majority religions.
Leading political scientist on the world Jewish community, Professor Daniel J. Elazar noted that it seems the more the Jewish people become accepted and successful in a country, the more they become insecure and feel themselves vulnerable. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) This belief system translates itself into massive Jewish support for extreme liberal values and individual rights – thus their unwavering support for the rights to abortion and homosexual lifestyles.
A DISAPPEARING PEOPLE
Ironically, the relative absence of anti-Semitism in America today, the growing acceptance to stand against any type of public religious expression, along with the increase of mixed marriages between Jews and Gentiles may ultimately be the biggest threat ever faced by Jewish people! They are simply disappearing!
The same is happening in Europe and England. In both England and the United States, intermarriage is more than 50%. When a Jew marries a non-Jew, only 30% of their children remain faithful to their Jewish heritage. It is not surprising that 54% of British Jews do not believe in God. In 1950 there were 430,000 Jews in England. Today there are 280,000, and the number would be much smaller if it were not for the large families of the Orthodox Jewish minority.
In these modern times, secular Jews who have no connection to the synagogue have few choices to “prove” they are people with a special heritage and destiny. In their unconscious struggle to remain Jewish, not believing in Yeshua as Messiah is often their most notable mark of Jewishness. What else do they have?
And that blindness, of course, is the greatest obstacle for Jewish people to receive Yeshua as God’s gift of Salvation for their lives. They have been indoctrinated for centuries that a Jew cannot be a Jew and believe in Yeshua.
It is as if a person claimed that he is a Muslim Christian. To born-again Christians, that would be impossible because it is against foundational Christian beliefs. To Jews, it is unacceptable and impossible to be a Jewish Christian.
APOSTLE PAUL: JEWS SHOULD REMAIN JEWS
Some Christians might be surprised that the Apostle Paul taught that a Jew should not become a non-Jew, but remain as a part of his Jewish people.
"...as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the congregations. Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised."(I Corinthians 7:17-18)
Paul was simply saying that if someone is born a Jew, he is to remain a Jew. Even though Paul as a Jew was called to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, he never called on Jews to forsake their Jewishness when they came to faith in Messiah Yeshua.
Yet today, the Jewish population is dwindling, especially in countries where there is little or no persecution. Only in Israel is the number of Jewish people steadily increasing. And because Israelis are far more sure of who they are than Jews scattered around the world, they are much more open to the Good News of their Jewish Messiah Yeshua. They are not nearly as concerned at becoming non-Jewish as their brothers and sisters outside of Israel.
AN URGENT SIGN OF MESSIAH’S SOON RETURN
This diminishing population of the descendants of Abraham, I believe, is yet another sign of the soon coming of the Lord. It is also a sign of the importance of the Gospel getting out as evil powers continue to attempt the total destruction – in so many different ways – of the Jewish people. God has promised that as long as the sun, moon and stars exist, “Then the descendants of Israel also will not cease from being a nation from before me forever.”
Again, the Bible repeats God’s promise:
“If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the descendants of Israel for all that they have done…”(Jeremiah 31:36-37)
Israel can’t disappear. The Jewish people can’t melt away into the nations as the Hittites, the Amalekites, the Philistines and the Canaanites did. Where would the returning King of the Jews make His dwelling place in Jerusalem? In the Mosque of Omar?
The Jewish people and the nation of Israel will not totally disappear - by assimilation or by a nuclear bomb from Iran. However, as we know from past history, much harm can come to the Chosen People, until they turn back to the truths of the prophets and the apostles who have pointed the way of salvation through Messiah Yeshua alone.
Therefore, it is the duty of every Messianic Jew and born-again Christian to do all in their power to bring the Jewish people to the knowledge of their Messiah and to an acute awareness of the importance of their Jewish heritage, especially as believers.
Statistics for this article taken from Wikipedia.org and other sources. There are differences in various censuses, therefore we have taken mainstream numbers.
In the early 1970s, a significant number of Jews committed their lives to Yeshua and came to the conviction that they should call themselves Messianic Jews rather than Christians. There were several reasons for this. One was the history of institutional Christianity and its impact on the Jewish people. From a Jewish perspective, Christianity was a movement of semi-paganism, oppression and anti-Semitism. We wanted to project ourselves in such a way that the Jewish people would take another look at Yeshua without the barriers of their pre-formed perceptions of Christianity. In addition, we really wanted to promote the truth that Jews who come to faith in Yeshua are still called to identify and live as part of the Jewish people. Romans 11:29 states that the Jewish people are the subjects of an irrevocable election and calling from God. Romans 11:1,5 identifies Jewish believers in Yeshua as the saved remnant of Israel.
I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not!... Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
We wanted our people to see that embracing Yeshua does not mean betraying and abandoning our Jewish heritage. If we do not live as part of our people, we are not showing ourselves as the saved remnant that sanctifies the whole (Romans 11:16). Planting Messianic Jewish congregations was considered a central part of the vision. We also saw Jewish believers in Yeshua living and identifying as Jews as a key to ushering in the last days and the catalyst towards all Israel being saved. Some of us also understood how important it was at the same time to live out the truth that we are one with the Body of believers as a whole. This was somewhat controversial since we were the only movement that professed oneness with the Body of the Messiah that did not use the word Christian as our self-designation.
The history of the last 35 years has been one of great gains in the Messianic Jewish movement; hundreds of congregations have been planted in the United States, hundreds more in Europe, Russia, and Ukraine and about a hundred in Israel along with scattered congregations in South America, Africa, and Australia. All these grew from a mere handful of congregations before 1975.
The Present Situation
Now it is 2009 and we still find that the great majority of Jewish believers in Yeshua are in Christian churches and identify themselves as Christians. In addition, this great majority is not living a Jewish life and is often strongly resistant to the Messianic Jewish call. They and their children are assimilating into the Gentile world and do not strengthen the saved remnant of Israel, but are instead weakening the numbers of the Jewish people. It is likely that later generations may not identify as Jews in any way.
On one occasion I spoke to a Jewish missions leader who recommended church membership to Jewish Yeshua-believers. He was totally blind to the diminishing of Israel/Jewry that was taking place. Assimilation was not a problem for him. I pointed out to him that if it were not for assimilation, there would be hundreds of millions of Jews today. Wars and pogroms alone where many were killed cannot explain the demographics. We are a small number of only 13 million according to mainstream Jewish statistics. Messianic Jews who count children of Jewish fathers add many millions to these figures, but it is still a small number in world population terms.
Are we willing to lose what may amount to hundreds of thousands of Jews in churches who are assimilating? (There are of course exceptions, and there are some examples of Jews in churches committed to Jewish life.) Is there a mission to them, something that can be done to recover them and their children to be part of our people?
Some are Threatened by the Message of Jewish Calling
The message of Jewish calling proclaimed by Messianic Jews is a threat to assimilating Jewish Christians who perceive it as a message that rejects their experience and commitment to the Christian churches. Pastors are also threatened; they think that if their Jewish members accept this message, they will lose them. Many of these Jewish Christians have had a positive experience in the churches. They enjoy and appreciate the Christian heritage, much of which is worthy to be appreciated! In addition, many were won to Yeshua through the powerful witness of Christian friends. Modern Jews have many more contacts with Christians than with Messianic Jews. If these Christians display the reality of Yeshua in their lives, it is natural that these Jews follow them to their churches.
A very few Messianic Jews have been so greatly pained by this process that they want to exhort Christians not to win Jews to Yeshua. They say that only Messianic Jews should do this so that the new believers stay within the Jewish world. This is not biblically defensible. Christians are called in Romans 11 to make Jewish people jealous.
The Answer: A Mega-shift in Church Leadership
I am convinced that the answer is a shift in the pastoral leadership of the churches. Church leaders must adopt a doctrinal foundation that insists that their Jewish members identify and live as Jews. This was anticipated in R. Kendall Soulen’s book, “The God of Israel and Christian Theology.” In this monumental study, Soulen approvingly quotes Jewish Orthodox theologian Michael Wyschogrod, who argues that we will not see full repentance for anti-Semitism in the churches until the pastors of the churches teach their baptized Jewish members that they are called to live Jewish lives based in the Torah (I would add, obviously as interpreted by the New Testament). Without church leaders teaching the reality of the Jewish calling, the Jewish Christians in the church will not take that call seriously.
Recently, I have been in contact with four Jewish pastors of large Christian churches who have come to the conviction that this is true. They have embraced their own Jewish identity and are now seeking to engage their Jewish Christian members to join them in creating space for Jewish identity, Jewish life patterns and celebrations while at the same time embracing the culture of Christianity for the majority of the members. One has actually planted a Messianic Jewish congregation affiliated with his church. I have been a secondary influence, but I have to give primary credit to Coach Bill McCartney and Raleigh Washington of Promise Keepers and Road to Jerusalem. As an African American Christian leader, Raleigh has been especially effective. He first points to his own identity as an African American and its importance to him. Then he notes that Jewish identity in Yeshua is more important because it is mandated in Scripture for world historic purposes.
It is far too early to judge this yet, but what might happen if it became a trend? Let us dream! What if, from such an orientation, there were more and more Jews in churches who identified as Messianic Jews and who joined together in Messianic Jewish fellowship groups connected to the churches and also connected to the Messianic Jewish synagogues? Could we even see their children returning to their Jewish calling, and some making aliyah (becoming Israeli citizens and residents)? Could some even train to be leaders in Messianic Jewish congregations? Such a change could strengthen the whole movement.
Let Us Not Abandon the Assimilating Jewish Christians!
I for one am not willing to abandon the assimilating Jewish Christians in the churches and see them lost to the Jewish people! Many are mature Christians. I am not willing to abandon the hope that there can be a shift in church leaders’ understanding. Such efforts as “Toward Jerusalem Council II,” our effort to see the churches officially align with the Messianic Jewish movement, and “Road to Jerusalem” that has similar goals (led by Coach McCartney and Raleigh Washington), could be instruments in facilitating this “Mega” shift. At any rate, a great change is needed. If so, and some of these would come to Israel, we would be much closer to that 144,000 in the land of Israel described in the Book of Revelation chapter 7. That would be a great step toward “All Israel being saved,” and “Life from the dead.”(Romans 11:25-28, 15)
Let Me Hear Your Voice Let the New Generation Fly!
By Avner Valer
I’ve written songs all my life. I adore the Hebrew language and the marvelous and complex way in which it can be used.
In my boyhood, when I was about 16 years old, our literature teacher asked us to write a song, and that’s what I did. She progressed towards my desk and took my notebook and read my song.
After some moments she looked at me with an angry expression in her eyes and rebuked me: "You have not written this song – this is a song written by Aviv Gefen!" (Aviv Gefen is the most famous singer/composer/writer in Israel). The teacher was wrong; I wrote that song by myself.
Meeting Eli I met Eli about a year and a half ago. Eli came to Tel Aviv to study at "Rimon," the best institute of it’s kind for music in Israel. Some of the most well-known musicians of today in our country (including Aviv Gefen) have come from this school. Eli came also to donate his time and musical gifts to Tiferet Yeshua congregation.
Sometimes he leads the worship at the congregation, and when he doesn’t lead, he is part of the worship team at the Sabbath services. In the past Eli produced a wonderful worship CD, and some songs on this CD are regularly played in all of the Messianic congregations in the Land.
One day, when Eli and I were on our way to play soccer, we started talking about music. I told him that I write lyrics, but that I didn’t know how to compose music. He responded, saying with delight that oftentimes he has a wonderful melody, but that sometimes he lacks the lyrics to suit the melody.
The VisionWe started sharing our visions about music, and we saw that we were both on the same page! We both desired to create songs to be played on the radio and TV stations – songs that deal with God and which would cause people who don’t yet believe in Him, to think about Him.
We both understood that in order to break into the secular market with Hebrew songs that deal with God and written by Messianics – we would need a wise strategy. (In Israel the Messianic Jews are not yet an accepted community, and sometimes they are even persecuted!)
I said, "You know what, Eli? Many times I sat at home and tried to compose lyrics to songs which we could sing at the congregation – you know – like the songs that we usually play. But each time that I tried to write that way, I ended by filling the page with gibberish.
On the other hand, I have a song in my drawer which is like one of the songs that I always write. These are love songs between a man and a woman, which actually symbolize the love of God towards us.
Work Eli read the songs and got very excited. He closed himself in a room and started to compose melodies to the songs. He surprised me with the intensity and seriousness with which he took the project. I have tried in the past to work with other artists, but we always got stuck somewhere in the middle of the project.
Eli was different. He became totally engrossed in the project, and it looked like the Holy Spirit simply anointed his hands and his soul to produce amazing melodies which bring out the essence of my lyrics clearer than if people were only reading them.
Ari & Shira It dawned on us that God had given us something unique, and once the lyrics and the melodies were composed, we turned to Ari & Shira and shared with them our vision.
They got excited immediately and checked out how they could help us. Maoz generously allowed us to use the Maoz music studio to record all the musicians (for whom Maoz also gave a financial donation). Eli was in charge of the entire production of the musicians and I greatly admire his talent, courage and initiative to make this happen.
Singer Due to the fact that the CD deals with the metaphor of love songs and that part of the songs were written for a female voice – we had to find a female singer who could sing together with Eli. One day when I was at a large national Messianic conference and was strolling around among the people, I heard someone calling: "Hi young man! Come here for a minute."
"Is it true that you write lyrics?"
"Yes, how do you know?"
"Two years ago I overheard you talking with someone, telling him that you write lyrics. My daughter is a very talented singer. She even participated in ‘Kochav Nolad’ (the Israeli ‘American Idol’) and she is looking for someone who could write lyrics for her. Come meet her!" (The girl is currently serving in the Israel Defence Forces, thus I cannot publish her name.)
I met her. She started immediately to share her vision with me, and I saw that it amazingly overlaps Eli’s and my vision. I told her about the project, and both Eli and I wanted her to work with us. This singer has a breathtakingly clear and amazingly beautiful voice, like bells. Eli recorded four songs together with her, and the remaining six songs he recorded just with his deep bass, rough, outstanding voice.
Help Thanks be to God – we are presently finalizing the recording and are ready to mix, to create the master and produce the first Messianic album of its kind in Israel.
Until this day there’s not been a singer or an artist in Israel’s secular market who came out and proclaimed loudly: "I believe that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel." Our aim is to declare the name of Yeshua and come out openly as Messianic Jews, together with production of the album.
Eli has completed recording all the musical instruments and the singers with the gracious help of Maoz. Now we are lacking about $10,000 for completion of the project and for marketing it all around the country. This sum includes mixes, mastering, and producing 5,000 discs and covers.
We ask for your help – our friends abroad – to help us make this dream a reality, and to have a part in this project, whose sole purpose is to raise up the name of Yeshua the Messiah, the King of the Jews, here in the Land of Israel. Your gift will put the Gospel out in front of the secular world in the music and arts arena, where God can use it to draw more and more Israelis to Him.
Messianic Jews: A Bold, Bright Light to the Jewish People
As told to Sarah Danor
Voted the “Student of the Year 2008” at her Israeli university and winner of an Israeli national photography competition in 2006, Ruth beautifully represents her God and her country as a professional photographer. When we asked her to be the “official photographer” for our Congregation Tiferet Yeshua, she joyfully agreed. She has recently returned from South America on another project and we asked her to tell you her story. – Ari & Shira
When a Jewish museum in Central America requested an Israeli photographer to exhibit a photo series on Jerusalem, the university’s director of photography chose me. I was born to a Jewish family in Brazil and speak Portuguese and Spanish (and Hebrew and English), and so along with my pictures, I was looking forward to communicating with the Jewish community there my love for the people and culture of Israel.
I was originally studying anthropology in Brazil when my family decided it was time to move permanently to Israel. Once here, I gained proficiency in Hebrew and changed my course of study to Digital Technology with a specialization in photography. My work in this field opened many opportunities for me, including a series for the Jewish Agency for new immigrants on Ethiopian children. And that led to my opportunity in South America.
I decided to take on the challenge and spent many days taking pictures at the Western Wall and of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. I was emotionally drawn to the men and women praying at the wall, crying out for peace, crying out for happiness, crying out for redemption and crying out for the messiah to come. I felt so fortunate, awed and humbled to know that God has already blessed me with peace, happiness, redemption and my Messiah, Yeshua.
I spent hours watching and photographing the people. At times, I even managed to hear passages from the book of Psalms from which many were praying at the wall. As I listened to those words from the scriptures, I was inspired to incorporate the Psalms into my artwork that I would be presenting at the exhibition.
On my last trip to Jerusalem for a few more pictures, I was waiting at a bus stop when suddenly a car careened in my direction at high speed and crashed into the covered bus stop shelter where I was sitting. The force of the impact demolished the bus stop, but I was unscathed.
The car’s driver, who apparently fell asleep at the wheel, was covered with blood. My first concern was to ask the driver if she was okay. As I stood up and walked toward the car, the entire structure where I had been sitting crashed to the ground.
As I returned safely home to my family I announced, “This happened because the enemy knows there is something big about to happen in the upcoming exhibition that will be a blessing to many people.” My father agreed, “Ruth, now is the time in Israel for the Messianic Jewish people to start being involved in the Jewish community’s projects too. It’s great! Go, and be a light wherever you go.”
I arrived in Central America where invitations had been sent to the Jewish community throughout that country. I was thankful that both the content of the exhibit and the events leading up to it were immersed in prayer!
Seventy-five portraits of worshippers of all kinds were interspersed with panoramic views of Jerusalem, and each picture was inscribed with a passage from the Psalms in Hebrew and Spanish.
When asked to say a few words, I declared boldly, “Every one of my photographs and every piece of my artwork is for the glory of Elohim (God). I am grateful for all who are present and believe that everyone here has one thing in common: a love for Israel and Jerusalem.”
I was elated to observe people reading the scripture verses and looking at my photographs. I approached an older man who began to speak to me. “I am Israeli and lived in Israel for 45 years,” he explained. “I have been to the Kotel (Western Wall) many times. I live here now with my wife. It is the first time I have looked at pictures of the Kotel while reading passages from the Bible. I don’t believe in the Bible, you know, but now I would like to read it.”
To my surprise, among those invited to the exhibition was a group of about 25 Jewish believers in Yeshua from a Messianic Jewish community who had been specially invited by the local Jewish community. It was a thrill to learn of the good relationship between both communities.
While visiting in the home of the director of the museum during Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), I told her that a woman named Freda had also invited me to her home. “Did you know she is a Messianic Jew?” the director asked. “Go ahead, it’s okay. She is a good person and we love her.”
When I attended the Messianic Rosh Hashanah celebration, they asked me to say a few words. I shared with them that, although I was not free to share publicly at the museum, I, too, was a believer in Yeshua. “I knew it!” Freda cried, “I knew there was something different about you!”
As the number of Messianic Jews grows, our impact through our gifts and talents will intensify in both the Jewish and Christian communities around the world. Israel will continue to be a bolder and brighter light to the Nations, fulfilling Scripture!
*Places and names are not disclosed because of aggressive harassment by anti-freedom of religion organizations in Israel which carefully comb Messianic Jewish publications.
There’s a whole generation of young people in Israel who would give anything to know why they are alive and what they are supposed to do with their lives!
And we are compelled to use every means possible to reach this generation with the life-giving truth of Yeshua, their Messiah!
We are thrilled that God is opening eyes and ears, and inspiring hearts of young, talented, believing Israeli’s all across the country. They are the hope for the supernatural awakening in Israel. Through their music, their preaching, their art, their passion for worship... they are impacting Israel with the Gospel.
God has strategically positioned us to recognize, motivate, equip, and assist this next generation of “spiritual giants in the making.” There is nothing we enjoy more than seeing young people raised, grounded, and discipled in order to fulfill their personal destiny orchestrated by God himself, for their lives.
And we are reaching out to other congregations to assist them with resources and materials to establish excellent programs for their children and youth ministry.
Today’s generation is tomorrow’s reality. We believers – above all – must draw the young people closer to Israel and to the Judaism of God – the heritage God gave to the Jews – with Messiah, King of the Jews, who is at the Center of God’s plan.
Our congregation, Tiferet Yeshua and Maoz Israel Ministries is geared toward reaching the youth – through music, training, scholarships for education, spiritual mentoring, and the internet – the surest place to find this new generation!
This month we want to help Eli and Avner finish a Messianic CD targeting the secular Israeli music industry. For 40 years, we have longed to see Messianic Jewish music on secular stations. This is the first serious attempt that we know of.
Please consider giving an additional gift to this project and also pray that God will give Eli and Avner success. There’s a whole generation of young people in Israel waiting to hear the Good News – and music is their language!
Meanwhile our congregation will continue to mentor the children and young people he has given us to pastor.
Our istandwithisrael.com fund will continue to help children and their families across the country face critical needs and seize opportunities to better themselves.
Our publishing department will continue to produce life-changing books in Hebrew for adults and children.