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Jesus and Judaism Don't Mix

Picture a person in a baseball uniform. The bat he uses is a real bat, the glove a real glove and the ball an authentic baseball. The person hits the ball, and instead of running to first base, he goes to third base, heads towards second, then first and then to home plate. This isn't baseball as we know it anymore.

This is how Mark Powers, director of Jews for Judaism, describes messianic Judaism. "Yes", he said, "they wear a kippah and tallit and yes they have a Torah. But, they don't practice Judaism. They have accepted another system."

Jews for Judaism is a national group, based in Baltimore. It uses counseling, educational programming and outreach in an effort to counter and expose evangelical Christian missionaries who use Jewish symbols, like a tallit or the Torah, to draw in unsuspecting young Jews and assure them that to embrace Jesus is to become a "fulfilled Jew."

Powers said that God has given the Jewish people guidelines on how to recognize and accept the messiah. The Jews did not reject Jesus, he said. Jesus simply did not fit those guidelines, just like many other who came before and after him claiming to be the messiah.

Among the criteria for the messiah, according to Jewish belief, is that he will come from human parents; his coming will bring world peace; and he will return the Jews to Israel where they will rebuild the Holy Temple. None of these criteria apply to Jesus, Powers noted.

All branches of Judaism agree...

All branches of Judaism agree that one cannot accept Jesus as the messiah and claim to be practicing Judaism. The two beliefs are mutually exclusive. "To say that you can accept Jesus and still practice Judaism is a deception and a lie," Powers emphasized.

But he did add that synagogue leaders could take an important lesson from the warmth and friendliness of messianic congregations.

"We've said it time and time again, that often when somebody new comes into a synagogue, they sit down in back and everybody give them these stares and these looks, but nobody says a word to them except for maybe the one guy who comes over and says, 'excuse me, but I think you're sitting in my seat.' We need to reach out to people, to new faces and make them feel warm and wanted. I guarantee you that is what the Hebrew Christians do."

Powers is concerned that the Jewish community downplays the growth of the messianic movement. He says that many Jews still consider them members of the fringe, "the wacko, the loonies, the people who are carrying other problems with them." And because of those feelings, mainline Judaism has essentially written these people off. These are people, Powers added that could be making positive contributions to the Jewish community. And that is why it is important to reach out to these people and give them an opportunity to return to Judaism.

He suggests that synagogue families team up with their new members, matching a congregation family with a new family, in much the same way that is being done with the Russian émigrés. But he also said that synagogues and religious schools have to be tougher and realistic about dealing with the messiah questions.

"It's always been shh, don't even mention the name. Shh, you don't have to know about that. Shh, it's not Jewish, so we don't even talk about it. We have to talk about it. Our children need to know about it so that when somebody comes along and says, 'have you examined the Jewish claims for Jesus?' we can answer them that there are no Jewish claims for Jesus."


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