It's been my experience that traditional Jews often view so-called messianic Jews (who sometimes call themselves "completed" Jews) with deep suspicion or worse.
The charge against Jews who have come to believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah but who wish to retain many of their Jewish practices is that they are neither fish nor foul, which is to say (according to traditional Jews) that they should simply declare themselves converts to Christianity and be done with it.
I'm thinking about this tension today because today is the anniversary of the death of Jacob Gartenhaus, who was born a Jew but who later became a convert to the idea that Jesus is the Messiah. Gartenhaus, thus, founded the International Board of Jewish Missions in 1949 to convert Jews to Christ.
When I first heard the name of the IBJM, I was intrigued because it sounded like a group of Jews who were being evangelical by reaching out to others to convince them to become Jews, and I know that most Jews do not engage in such evangelical actions.
As a rabbi friend once told me, Jews simply tell their story and if, upon hearing it, you think you belong to that story somehow, you are welcome to consider becoming a Jew. But you won't find, for instance, Jewish televangelists and street preachers.
As I now know, I was wrong in my initial assumption about the IBJM. It exists to draw Jews into the fold of messianic Jews. And if you look on the IBJM website at its section on doctrine, you will discover that its beliefs are in deep harmony with Christians who would describe themselves as conservative or even fundamentalist theologically. That's not surprising, given Gartenhaus' connections with the Southern Baptists.
I have said here before that it's my belief as a Christian that the covenant God created with the people of Israel has never been repealed, so there is no reason for Jews to convert to Christianity to be in an eternal relationship with God. Beyond that, Christianity for nearly 2,000 years has oppressed Jews in countless ways and, until recently, actively preached a virulent anti-Judaism (see my essay on this subject under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page). And that raises the question of why any Jew would want to belong to a religion that has done its best to crush Jews for century after century.
I know Jews who have converted to Christianity and I welcome them. But, unlike messianic Jews, they now describe themselves as fully Christian and are active members of a traditional Christian denomination.
At any rate, the anniversary of Gartenhaus' death in 1984 caused me to look into the IBJM, so I share what I found with you today.
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MORE CHURCH CHANGES
It turns out that preaching Christ to anyone these days is done in different ways than it used to be. So to start the year, here's a good piece about how folks in the Emergent Church Movement are moving away from mega-churches and creating church in small, unexpected spaces. You have to be flexible these days.