What Does the Jewish Community Want from Jewish Followers of Jesus?
Back in April, the Jewish world was shocked to learn that a Gentile Christian couple was living in an ultra-Orthodox section of Jerusalem, claiming to be Jews, with the husband serving as a rabbi.
In response to that scandal, I wrote an article titled “As Jewish Followers of Jesus We Deplore Deceptive Techniques.” As Messianic Jews, we too were shocked to read this report. This is not who we are, and this is not how we operate.
But then another report rocked sectors of the Jewish world, especially the religious community in Israel. The anti-missionary group Yad L’Achim drew attention to Messianic Jewish leader Boaz Michael, who lives in Jerusalem and is open and unashamed about his faith in Yeshua. Boaz also believes in living a Torah-observant life and honoring Jewish tradition. How, Yad L’Achim asks, can this possibly be?
As a headline on the Israel National News website states, “‘Synagogue’ and Study Hall in Jerusalem Found to Be Used as Christian Missionary Training Centers by Missionaries Posing as Orthodox Jews.”
A Double Standard for Messianic Jews
At this point, I need to interrupt this story and ask some honest questions. What is the Jewish community asking of Messianic Jews? What are Jewish followers of Jesus supposed to do?
In the first case, you had a Gentile Christian posing as an ultra-Orthodox rabbi while privately holding to Christian beliefs, and together we said, “That is deceptive and wrong, and we reject such practices.” In the second case, you have a Messianic Jew whose website openly proclaims his belief in Yeshua and whose center in Jerusalem is unashamedly devoted to teaching and training Messianic Jews, yet he gets attacked for being open and forthright.
So which is it? Is it wrong to be deceptive? As Messianic Jews, we agree that it is. But are you now telling us that it’s wrong to be open and honest? This makes no sense.
Groups like Yad L’Achim would surely say, “Don’t play games with us, Brown. You know exactly what the issue is. These missionaries are claiming to be frum [religiously devoted] Jews. Just look at how they live.”
What’s So Evil About Being Jewish and Following Jesus?
But that’s the whole point. These Messianic Jews are telling the Jewish world, without any ambiguity whatsoever, that they believe (1) that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel; (2) that Yeshua fulfills the Torah rather than abolishes it, so in light of his teachings, they are Torah observant; and (3) that because of God’s covenant with Israel, there is much beauty in Jewish tradition, so where they do not find it contradictory to their faith in Yeshua, they honor those traditions.
What is so evil about that?
After all, when Jews come to faith in Jesus in a church setting, leaving all trace of their Jewishness behind, the anti-missionaries say, “You see! That proves it. Once a Jew believes in Jesus, he is lost to our people, and his children will no longer be raised Jewish.”
But when a Jewish follower of Jesus feels deeply drawn to his people, makes Aliyah, lives as a model citizen, keeps the biblical calendar, observes the dietary laws, and raises his children to be Jewish, he is called a dangerous deceiver. Do you see the hypocrisy of this? Do you see the double standard?
Recently One for Israel, a sabra-led Messianic Jewish outreach organization that seeks to bring Israel into the knowledge of Jesus the Messiah, received heavy criticism for a series of articles and videos strongly criticizing the Oral Law. Some even called their material anti-Semitic.
In contrast, Boaz Michael and his organization, First Fruits of Zion, honor the Oral Law and show great respect for rabbinic traditions. The Bram Center in Jerusalem, the focal point of the current controversy, carries this mission statement: “Building Torah-Based Messianic Judaism in Israel.” Their stated goal is “to communicate the message of Yeshua as the Messiah within his proper Jewish context.” What is the response of the anti-missionaries and other traditional Jews? “They are really Christians, not Jews! This is deceptive!”
First Fruits of Zion