Thursday, October 19, 2017

Messianic Jews - minorities in the Jewish state

By: David Lee
Produced and Edited by: Sarah Wagner



Messianic Jews - minorities in the Jewish state



In the United States, Christians, Muslims, and Jews have shown the ability to share a common identity as an American. In Israel, having Jewish familial roots is the only direct passage to citizenship. Messianic Jews – Jews who unconventionally believe in Jesus – share in the Jewish heritage, but have been an outlier within the Jewish establishment for decades.


Jew, but not Jewish

“Basically, the only group of Jewish people who can show clear Jewish heritage but not permitted to immigrate to Israel,” said Jamie Cohen, a founder of the Israeli law office Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh.

“They’re either rejected out of hand by one of the Jewish [immigration] agencies or there’s no movement [in the application process],” said Cohen.
He and his partners assist individuals or families who get “stuck” in their immigration to Israel.

The Israeli statute called the Law of Return allows any person with a Jewish father or grandfather to immigrate to Israel. However, there is another law that terminates Jewish citizenship if one makes conversion from Judaism to another religion. Messianic Jews usually end up “stuck” between these two laws.

“Our lawyers set up meetings with the ministry [of immigration] and we throw petitions, and if we can’t get a satisfactory answer from the ministry we take it to the high courts,” said Cohen.
Precedentsin the Israeli Supreme Court have shown a reluctance to side with Messianic Jews in cases ranging from immigration to marriage – what Cohen calls “gross injustice.”


Messianic Jews in today’s Israel

Photo Courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons
Idan Pinhas is a Messianic Jew who grew up in a traditional Jewish family in Israel. As a manager of a museum in the Old City of Jerusalem, he attends an Anglican church in the same area.

“My dad became a Christian when I was young; my mom divorced him for that,” said Pinhas.
He describes the divisions in his family as a typical consequence for Orthodox Jews who have converted to Christianity.

“You do get some pressure from the family. They don’t want to talk to you, they don’t want to invite you to family events,” said Pinhas.

He also mentioned situations where people would slap, spit, or curse at Messianic Jews advocating their faith in the streets. Yet, the injustices that Cohen mentioned are more extensive.
MessianicJewish houses of worship are picketed or blockaded by ultra-orthodox communities, and police are reluctant to intervene,” said Cohen. “When you try to bring a case against [the offenders], the police won’t cooperate even if the Messianic Jews were hurt,” continued Cohen.


Pinhas emphasized that groups like Yad L’Achim meddled with the Ministry of Interior – which handles immigration to Israel – to discourage the population of Messianic Jews in Israel.
“These [Orthodox Jewish] parties basically have a monopoly over the Ministry of Interior,” said Pinhas. “These non-governmental groups inform the ministry about Messianic groups in Israel, and the ministry takes action,” continued Pinhas.

Yad L’Achim refused to comment, but another orthodox group shared its counter-missionary work. 


The Preservation Movement

“It’s an educational organization that starts with children and schools,” said Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz, the American Liaison for Lev L’Achim.
Meaning “Heart to Brothers,” Lev L’Achim has the goal of transferring Jewish children in secular schools to religious schools that teach the Torah – the Hebrew bible. Other objectives include preventing intermarriage and “saving” Jews from missionary work and assimilation to non-Jewish groups.

“I do not believe every Jewish person has the right to choose their own religion,” said Malinowitz. “I don’t think God left it up to us to decide if we should follow the rules and guidelines found in the Torah and the Bible,” continued Malinowitz.
Outreach Judaism – founded by Rabbi Tovia Singer – works outside of Israel and, also, has its focus on discrediting the Messianic movement.   

“What the Messianic movement is doing is keeping superficial traditions and customs that are not biblical, but are very visible and striking,” said Singer. “So, they jettisoned the core tenant of the Jewish faith and they’re lighting Hanukkah candles and wearing a kippah.”
Likewise, Messianic Jews have become a controversy in that their existence brought out a fundamental question about Jews: can you be Jewish without the Jewish religion?
“Israel walks a very strange line: Israel is a democracy – it has a justice on the Supreme Court who is Arabic; but, it is a Jewish state. So, it’s a very difficult balancing act,” said Singer.


Can you be Christian, and a Jew?

Professor David Randolph, the Director of Messianic Jewish Studies at the King’s University, explained why Messianic Jews would want to keep their Jewish identity even when they abandoned the Jewish faith.
Israeli people praying at the Western Wall.  Photo Courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons

“In the New Testament [of the Bible], Jesus, his apostles, and his first followers were Jews; Jesus’ ministry was almost entirely in the land of Israel,” said Randolph.
Centuries later, Jesus’ movement of replacing the Jewish doctrine for the Christian counterpart made Jews the minority and the non-Jews the overwhelming majority. Here, Rudolph describes two different purposes for today’s Messianic movement: missionary purposes and an emphasis on Jews as God’s chosen people.
“The maintenance of the Jewish identity is important because of evangelism purposes – Greeks to the Greeks and the Jews to the Jews,” said Pinhas.

In addition to orthodox groups accusing the Messianic movement to be a deceptive Christian cult, the political status quo of Israel also does not make life easier for Messianic Jews.
“I hate to say it, but to battle with the religious establishment – especially this establishment which tends to be ultra-orthodox – you’re just not going to win [cases for Messianic Jews],” said Cohen.


Still, ordinary citizens like Pinhas have seen changes throughout their time in Israel, which they hope will bring a different Israel.  “The people have changed so the court decisions might have to change as well; and there is a strong pool in our society to go against [further discrimination],” said Pinhas.

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