George W. Bush Ducks Spotlight at Jews for Jesus Gala

Messianic Jews Keep Lid on Controversial Speech

getty images

By Ron Kampeas

Published November 19, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(JTA) — George W. Bush granted Messianic Jews a brief shining moment in the spotlight last week – and then just as quickly sent them back into the shadows.

The Messianic Jewish Bible Institute in Dallas had advertised Bush as the keynote speaker at its annual fundraiser on Nov. 14, prominently featuring the former president’s appearance on its website alongside pages describing the group’s mission to bring “Jewish people into a personal relationship of faith with Yeshua the Messiah.”

But after a reporter for Mother Jones wrote about the fundraiser, any mention of the dinner disappeared from the institute’s site. Otherwise solicitous staff refused comment. Bush went ahead with the speech behind closed doors.

The turn of events is emblematic of what Messianic Jews have faced since their emergence in the 1960s: a tantalizing taste of acceptance followed by a pronounced repudiation by the mainstream Jewish community.

“I think there’s a distinction between the gatekeepers and the general community within the wider Jewish community,” said Rabbi Russ Resnik, the director of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, an association of some 70 Messianic synagogues around the country. “The gatekeepers have to be vigilant and at times overdo the vigilance. But the wider community is receiving and friendly.”

Messianic Jews embrace Jesus as the messiah but hew to Jewish traditions, observing Jewish holidays and reciting Hebrew prayers in services. Many, but by no means all, are born Jews who have come to accept Jesus and see their practices as legitimate expressions of Judaism.

Mainstream Jewish groups generally have rejected Messianic Jews, seeing them as luring Jews into Christianity under the pretense that they can maintain their Judaism even while accepting belief in Jesus.

Messianic Jewish Bible Institute officials declined several JTA requests for comment. But in a statement Monday, Jonathan Bernis, the institute’s chairman, said criticism of his group reflected an intolerance of its beliefs.

“The idea seems to be that it is somehow ‘intolerant’ for Jewish believers in Jesus to share their convictions with other Jews,” Bernis said. “The real intolerance is coming from those who apparently think that no Jewish person should ever be exposed to the claims of the most famous Jew who ever lived.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.