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Yaakov Ariel, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, says there are signs that Jewish groups have grown more accepting of Messianic Jews in recent years. Ariel notes that a recent call by a British Reform rabbi to be more accepting of the movement stirred little outcry. The World Congress of Jewish Studies, which takes place every four years in Jerusalem, featured a panel on Messianic Jews this year – something Ariel has been seeking for decades.
“It is to be expected,” Ariel said. “There are hundreds of Messianic congregations in America. They have been on the scene for years.”
The major stumbling block remains the Messianic doctrine of proselytizing. Resnik says Messianic groups try to keep a low profile in mainstream Jewish settings, but proselytizing remains a core principle. Especially irksome are bids to convert what are seen as vulnerable populations, Russian and Ethiopian Jews in particular. The Dallas group Bush addressed touts its efforts in that regard prominently on its website.
Mainstream Jewish concerns about conversion inhibit what could be a useful relationship with a movement that over the decades has accrued a good deal of credibility within the Christian world, according to Messianic Jews.
“We’re loyal Jews who have an interest in Israel,” Glaser said. “We should be viewed as allies and not opponents.”
Resnik says proselytizing should not be the determining factor for mainstream Jews in considering a relationship with Messianic Jews. The Jewish establishment also should take into account the longing for Jewish connection and community among Messianic Jews, he said.
“We feel there’s a lot we can do and a lot of engagement we can have with the wider Jewish community other than propagating our Messianic faith,” he said.