Amish Celebrate Thanksgiving (and Hanukkah) in Holy Land

Preacher Leads Holiday Mission Trip to Israel

keshet

By Nathan Jeffay

Published November 28, 2013, issue of December 13, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

The Amish on the trip represent a very small strain from within their movement. The majority of Amish wouldn’t travel to Israel because, apart from anything, they wouldn’t step foot on an airplane, while the visitors take a more liberal view towards technology. The Hanukkah mission also represents a theological departure from the mainstream: The visitors come from communities that have increased their emphasis on studying the Hebrew Bible, which they say convinced them to shun the “replacement theology” on which they were raised — namely the belief that God rejected the Jews when Christianity emerged.

Standing in the Western Wall Plaza after praying with his group using the traditional German liturgy, 35-year-old Steve King recalled how his 50-strong commune in Pennsylvania increased Bible study and adopted positive views towards Jews seven years ago. Before then, he said, “We were in a sense told not to read the Bible too much [because] it’s not a good thing.”

The response of the Amish establishment to this reassessment of technology, scripture and Jews has been varied. In states where Amish are relatively progressive, such as Ohio, there have been no punitive measures. In stricter areas, such as Pennsylvania, people have been excommunicated — and Girod is one of them, although he still lives what he says is a faithful Amish life. Roy Yoder, by virtue of the fact that he hails from Ohio, isn’t excommunicated — and is free to associate with Girod because Ohio Amish only observe Ohio excommunications.

The birth of a philo-Semitic strain among the Amish can be traced back to 1981, the year when Girod believes that the “power of his holy spirit came upon [him]” and led him to explore relations with Jews. However, its translation to action was a long time coming. The first Amish trip to Israel took place in 2010 and the second was last year. But the trips have still not led to the establishment of any relationships between Amish and Jewish communities in the U.S.

For many who have taken part in previous trips, the Hanukkah mission was the most poignant one so far. Following the West’s agreement to an interim nuclear deal with Iran, they feel that their commitment to stand up for Jews with greater devotion than they did during the Holocaust has suddenly taken on real relevance.

Roy Yoder said that the group — which is united in opposition to the deal — was praying with extra devotion during the trip for “the president’s eyes to open to see the blessing that we have had when we stood with Israel.” Barack Obama should, he said, be guided by Israel on the Iranian threat and act in accordance with whatever its wishes are.

Lots of participants recounted how they came to love Jews and Israel by becoming more engaged with the Hebrew Bible, but some recounted more personal circumstances.

In addition to the four Amish communities represented there was a community from each of the other main movements within Anabaptism — Mennonites and Hutterites.

Matthew Weaver directs a Mennonite ministry in Ohio and acknowledged that he is breaking the mold of Mennonite ministries, which often oppose Israel and support Palestinians — just “for pity’s sake,” he said disparagingly.

Christian theology has often used family motifs to explain God’s relationship with Israel, which sinned by rejecting Jesus and therefore became disinherited and replaced in the “Father’s” affections by the Christians. Weaver, however, said that his experiences as a father of 13 challenge this analogy. “Six years ago my wife and I adopted five children and we have eight children theologically,” he said. “I started thinking ‘what if my biological children would turn their back on me.’ Regardless of that I would still love them.” Making the connection with “replacement theology” he said: “There’s no way the adopted children would replace them.”

Contact Nathan Jeffay at jeffay@forward.com


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!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • 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.