It is sad that Barbra Miner resorts to the old ploy of attacking the messenger and not the message. Yes, I was upset and passionate about the presence of Jews for Jesus, Messianic Jews—also known as Hebrew Christians— and other missionaries at the Celebrate Israel Festival.
But Barbra failed to share the essence of our discussion.
When I asked Barbra if she had informed the Festival officials that her group believed in Jesus, she responded that she specifically told them they believed in the “Jewish Messiah.” This deflects the real issue. I am sure Barbra knew that if she had been honest and mentioned Jesus she would never have been given a booth. To make matters worse she expects us to believe that she was not required to make a full disclosure about Jesus to the Festival staff since they did not explicitly ask about Jesus. This is disingenuous and surreptitious.
In the interest of reaching out to her, I continued my conversation with Barbra and asked her if she believed Jesus is God. But once again she avoided the question and simply responded that she believes he is the Jewish Messiah. Barbra’s method of response is right out of a Jews for Jesus training manual that encourages Hebrew Christians to intentionally avoid mentioning the controversial issue of Jesus’ divinity.
It was at this point that I asked Barbra a hypothetical question. “If I believe Hercules is God incarnate in a body, and I am wrong, what sin have I committed?” She acknowledged that it would be idolatry.
I continued, “So if you are wrong about Jesus, there are serious consequences because you would be guilty of idolatry too.”
It is illogical to claim to be a “legitimate part of the Jewish community” when every other Jewish denomination is in agreement that the basis of your theology is idolatrous. Additionally, the State of Israel does not recognize Hebrew Christians as Jewish under the Law of Return, specifically because of their belief in Jesus’ divinity.
For 2,000 years Judaism has rejected the divinity of Jesus, and recognized that such a belief places believers in the Christian camp and not the Jewish camp.
I doubt Barbra would invite Mormons (who they consider to be an idolatrous cult) to have a booth at one of her Messianic conventions, even though Mormons claim to be both Christian and descendants from the Jewish tribe of Ephraim.
The difference for the Jewish community is that Mormon’s don’t misleadingly refer to themselves as “Jewish Mormons” and masquerade as observant Jews. It is important to point out that although Hebrew Christians reject rabbinical Judaism they conveniently—and deceptively— use rabbinical rituals and texts to lend credence to their Jewishness.
There is a time and a place for everything. I believe it is wrong and disrespectful for missionaries to share their propaganda at a Jewish Israeli Festival. However, I extend a genuine and warm invitation to Barbra to join my family for a Shabbat meal to discuss our beliefs and experience the beauty, warmth and spirituality of Judaism. Many, I am pleased to say, have already accepted this offer and are thankful they discovered something meaningful they never knew existed in Judaism.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz loves God and Judaism. He is the founder of Jews for Judaism, International and welcomes sincere searchers to dialogue with him.