Havurah http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah Tue, 31 May 2016 23:50:26 -0700 en-gb A Portrait of Messianic Jews http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n04/a-portrait-of-messianic-jews http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n04/a-portrait-of-messianic-jews

Someone once perceptively said, “Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off.”

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 04 Thu, 01 Jan 2015 14:46:24 -0800
Missouri, Math, and Messiah: A Jewish Statistician’s Story http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n04/missouri-math-and-messiah-a-jewish-statistician-s-story http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n04/missouri-math-and-messiah-a-jewish-statistician-s-story

Beverly Jamison was the lead statistical researcher for our survey. She is 100% the mathematician, and since behind every statistic there lies a story, she agreed to tell hers for Havurah.

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 04 Thu, 01 Jan 2015 13:54:00 -0800
A Profile of North American Messianic Jews http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n04/a-profile-of-north-american-messianic-jews http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n04/a-profile-of-north-american-messianic-jews

A Profile of North American Messianic Jews
A study conducted by Jews for Jesus
by Andrew Barron and Beverly Jamison
10/11/2014

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 04 Thu, 01 Jan 2015 13:54:04 -0800
Bulletin Board http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n04/bulletin-board http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n04/bulletin-board

100% of Our Readers Get to Hear About...

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 04 Thu, 01 Jan 2015 13:54:06 -0800
Israeli Traveler Ministry: An Intentional Missions Response to Contemporary Israeli Culture http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n03/israeli-traveler-ministry-an-intentional-missions-response-to-contemporary-israeli-culture http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n03/israeli-traveler-ministry-an-intentional-missions-response-to-contemporary-israeli-culture

Each year 30,000–40,000 Israelis travel the world as a rite of passage. Many are uniquely open to considering the Messianic claims of Jesus.

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 03 Thu, 11 Sep 2014 13:54:54 -0700
Havurah Round Table http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n03/havurah-round-table http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n03/havurah-round-table

Interviews with people who minister to Israeli trekkers in South/Central America and elsewhere.

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 03 Thu, 11 Sep 2014 20:44:20 -0700
Movie Review: Flipping Out http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n03/movie-review-flipping-out http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n03/movie-review-flipping-out

Review of a 2008 documentary about Israelis who travel to India, get involved with the drug scene, and "flip out."

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 03 Wed, 24 Sep 2014 21:15:15 -0700
Bulletin Board http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n03/bulletin-board http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n03/bulletin-board

Trek your way to these opportunities:

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 03 Wed, 24 Sep 2014 21:09:09 -0700
English Translation of hodu.co.il Article http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n03/english-translation-of-hodu-co-il-article http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n03/english-translation-of-hodu-co-il-article

Media coverage of "India Night," an exhibition by Jews for Jesus staff in Tel Aviv, Israel, about their travels in India.

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 03 Thu, 11 Sep 2014 20:55:35 -0700
The Suffering of Jesus and the Suffering of Israel A Reflection on Isaiah 53 http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/the-suffering-of-jesus-and-the-suffering-of-israel-a-reflection-on-isaiah-53 http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/the-suffering-of-jesus-and-the-suffering-of-israel-a-reflection-on-isaiah-53

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:10-11)

Perhaps no text in the Hebrew Scriptures is as contentiously debated between Jews and Christians as Isaiah 53.[ 1 ] Who is God's servant who is mentioned there? The debate over this passage has produced a litany of polemical arguments. Christians use it as as evidence of Jesus' role as the Jewish Messiah, and Jewish scholars argue fervently that it refers to the nation of Israel. Christians read Isaiah's gripping depiction of undue suffering and see Jesus on the cross, atoning for the sins of mankind. Jewish readers see an equally gripping depiction of the undue suffering of Israel in diaspora at the hands of the Gentiles. Christians see their Messiah, while Jewish people see their family tree.

A while back, a friend of mine, who also happens to be the director of Jews for Judaism Australia, posted this question on Facebook: "If it became clear to you that Jesus was not and could not be the fulfillment of Isaiah 53, would that automatically bring you to give up your belief in Jesus as your messiah?" In less than three days, that 34-word post prompted 476 comments, equivalent to 68 pages of discussion!

Most responses didn't really engage with the question but were simple rhetoric from Christians to prove that Isaiah 53 is about the Messiah. The Christian rhetoric prompted Jewish rhetoric, and the cycle repeated itself over and over.

A Bit of History

The debate over Isaiah 53 is intense, but it isn't a new one. In 248 a.d., the Christian church father Origen recorded the earliest example of such debate in his seminal work Contra Celsum:

Now I remember that, on one occasion, at a disputation held with certain Jews, who were reckoned wise men, I quoted these prophecies; to which my Jewish opponent replied, that these predictions bore reference to the whole people, regarded as one individual, and as being in a state of dispersion and suffering, in order that many proselytes might be gained, on account of the dispersion of the Jews among numerous heathen nations.[ 2 ]

Origen gives no indication that the debate convinced his Jewish audience about the Messiahship of Jesus. But I find it interesting to note, from this nearly 1800-year-old source, that the connection between Isaiah 53 and the suffering of the Jewish people in dispersion was already fixed firmly in Jewish minds.

Perhaps this makes sense, since Origen wrote just 112 years after the traumatic end of the Bar Kokhba revolt, in which 580,000 Jewish men, women, and children were slain,[ 3 ] and the majority of surviving Jews were expelled from Judea. After all, Isaiah 53 is a vivid depiction of unjust suffering, and certainly the Jewish people had suffered unjustly only recently .

Ironically, debates over Isaiah 53 have been used at different times as vehicles for anti-Semitism, most famously at the Disputation of Barcelona. This public debate occurred in 1263 between Rabbi Nachmanides and a Jewish convert to Catholicism named Pablo Christiani. Despite a good showing from Nachmanides, he was afterwards exiled from Spain by the Dominican Order (which had organized the debate), which claimed that Nachmanides had blasphemed against Christianity.

Beyond Polemics?

Perhaps the conversation about Isaiah 53 is so turbulent because it's been approached as polemic since the time of the early church. A polemic by definition is "a strong verbal or written attack on someone or something." Polemics don't engage topics holistically. They don't appreciate the different facets of complex issues, and they don't seek conversation. Instead, polemical arguments reduce issues to one-sided, black-and-white rhetoric.

Our conversations about Isaiah 53 might be better aided by abandoning our polemics and engaging in dialogue—dialogue that not only recognizes Jesus as the suffering servant-Messiah that he is, but also recognizes and appreciates the suffering of our own people as connected to the passage. Perhaps we shouldn't approach Isaiah 53 as an either/or but as a both/and: the Suffering Servant is both the nation of Israel, and the Messiah. (For a theological elaboration of this idea, see the accompanying article.)

Is this a legitimate reading of Isaiah 53? Compare Matthew's usage of Hosea 11:1, "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son." Matthew uses this verse to refer to Jesus' early life in Egypt, writing that "this was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, 'Out of Egypt I called my son' " (Matthew 2:15). No one argues that Matthew's use of the verse negates the fact that Hosea originally referred to the nation of Israel. Jesus is God's son who was called out of Egypt and Israel is God's son who was called out of Egypt: one is a type or prefigurement of the other.

Could the suffering of Israel be a type of the suffering of Jesus—or vice-versa? This topic has been explored through the amazing works of many Jewish artists such as Marc Chagall, Mark Antokolsky, and Moses Jacob Ezekiel, to name just a few. The Jewish Museum in New York recently had an exhibit titled "Chagall: Love, War, and Exile," which included an essay by New York University art history professor Kenneth E. Silver.[ 4 ] Silver noted that Chagall "could demonstrate not only to Jews but also—perhaps primarily—to Gentiles that what was being done to modern Jews had a direct parallel in the fate of Jesus, cruelly misunderstood and executed for his outsider status."[ 5 ] And further, "Perhaps more than anything else, it was the image of Jesus Christ as a Man of Sorrows—a sufferer—that made him the exemplary Jew."

I find Chagall's work fascinating because he mixes images of Jesus' suffering and Jewish suffering, both of which connect with traditional understandings of Isaiah 53. And yet, given the historically conflicting interpretations of this passage, it's startling to see them juxtaposed.

I've found it incredibly helpful in my evangelistic work to allow these two seemingly contradictory interpretations to collide and yet coexist. We need to recognize that the topic of Jewish suffering is emotionally volatile. In claiming Isaiah 53's fulfillment in the suffering of Yeshua, we must not undermine or devalue the real and painful truth of Jewish suffering throughout the ages.

Furthermore, acknowledging both interpretations is the historically honest thing to do. One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Luke 24 because it captures the doubts, misgivings, and belief—or lack of belief—of Jesus' disciples immediately after the resurrection. Within the chapter, this passage occurs immediately following the narrative about the disciples on the road to Emmaus:

Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:44-47)

It wasn't until Jesus "opened their minds to understand the Scriptures" that they understood the need for the Messiah to suffer and die. Even his first disciples didn't understand or accept his suffering until Jesus explained it to them (see also Matthew 16:21-23). How does this square with our insistence that Isaiah 53 clearly and irrefutably refers to the sufferings of the Messiah and only to that?

Yet Isaiah 53 is a compelling passage for Jewish seekers who are looking for answers, as demonstrated through the many testimonies of Jewish people who were convinced and convicted by the description of God's Suffering Servant. Jesus himself claimed to fulfill verse 12 of Isaiah 53: "For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' For what is written about me has its fulfillment" (Luke 22:37; similarly, Matthew and 1 Peter speak of Jesus in relation to the passage and there are many other allusions to Isaiah 53 in the New Testament). This fulfillment was indeed intended by God, the divine author who inspired the words of Isaiah. Nevertheless, the notion that Isaiah 53 so clearly points to Jesus to the exclusion of the Jewish people is in my view incorrect.

Moving Forward

So how should we approach Isaiah 53 in witnessing to our Jewish friends and family?

First, I recommend we begin with honest discussion regarding the history of its interpretation, moving away from polemics and towards meaningful dialogue. Perhaps you've already talked about Isaiah 53 with friends or family. Try revisiting the passage with a different approach. Go through the chapter verse by verse, admitting freely where the suffering of Israel can be seen in the passage, while continuing to point out where Jesus' suffering can also be seen. Look for the similarities between Jewish suffering and Jesus' suffering instead of looking only for the differences.

Second, when we claim, with scriptural warrant, that Isaiah 53 is fulfilled in the suffering of Yeshua, we must not do so in a way that undermines or devalues the real and painful truth of Jewish suffering throughout the ages.

Third, we need to pray that God will "open their minds to understand the Scriptures," just as he did for Yeshua's own disciples. We must recognize that no one will grasp the truth unless God first opens their minds.

Finally, we need to approach this passage as Philip did in Acts 8:35: "Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus." Philip began with Isaiah 53 because that was the topic at hand, but he didn't end there. Instead he followed Jesus' example from Luke 24:27, "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). Isaiah 53 must live within its whole context: we can't use it as a isolated "prooftext," nor should we.

For past related articles, see www.jewsforjesus.org/publications/havurah/v11-n02


[ 1 ] The passage is actually Isaiah 52:13–53:12, but for convenience is often referred to simply as "Isaiah 53."

[ 2 ] www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf04.vi.ix.i.lvi.html

[ 3 ] According to the Roman historian Cassius Dio; http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/69*.html

[ 4 ] www.thejewishmuseum.org/exhibitions/chagall-love-war-exile

[ 5 ] www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/marc-chagalls-jesus-paintings-focus-of-jewish-museum-exhibit/2014/01/17/b56e3738-7fb7-11e3-97d3-b9925ce2c57b_story.html

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 02 Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:55:07 -0700
To whom does the Prophet Refer? http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/to-whom-the-prophet-refer http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/to-whom-the-prophet-refer

Aaron Trank's conclusions may surprise some. But what does the text itself say? There are in fact valid reasons to see applications of Isaiah 53 to Israel as well as to the Messiah.

First, Isaiah often identifies the servant as Israel, yet in some way as apart from Israel. In Isaiah 41:8, 44:1, 44:21, 45:4 and 49:3 the servant is specifically called Israel. Yet the servant is also given a task to Israel (Isaiah 49:5, 49:6). Many scholars see a kind of progession whereby the servant becomes a single individual, representing the entire nation, by the time we reach the fourth Servant Song, Isaiah 53.

Yet that is not the end of the story. Consider this diagram:

The left arrow is "before Yeshua." Israel was called to be God's Servant yet failed due to her sin. The servant-Messiah, symbolized by the Roman execution-stake in the middle, comes forth from Israel as the exemplary Israelite who not only fulfills the Servant's mission but atones for Israel. In that way the Messiah enables the nation, or at least the believing remnant within it, to continue to act as God's Servant, alongside believing Gentiles—represented by the arrow placed "after Yeshua." As Aaron points out in his article, it was not transparently clear to the disciples, nor to the Ethiopian eunuch, as to whom the passage referred. To say that Isaiah 53 is both/and is not to fudge on the meaning of the text but rather to show how closely Messiah and his people are related.

Second, consider 1 Peter 2:21-25, which cites Isaiah 53 not as a prophecy but as an exemplar. "To this you were called, because Messiah suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth" (vv. 21-22). Jesus may be the Ultimate Servant, but this side of the cross his followers are also to pick up the role of Servant which God always intended his people to have. In the case of 1 Peter, imitating the servanthood of Yeshua means enduring suffering. Could it be that just as the Jewish people remain the people of God, their historical suffering is a reminder of the call of the Servant?

Third, notice that Isaiah 52:15 encapsulates the idea that the servant is meant to bring God's message to the entire world. In Romans 15:20-21, Paul applies that verse to his own ministry. "It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Messiah was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation. Rather, as it is written: 'Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.' " Israel's original mission was to make God known to the world. Believers are quick to point out that Israel failed due to her sin. And yet in some ways she continued to carry out the task of proclamation, such as in the scribal preservation of the Old Testament scripture through the ages. The very existence of Israel proclaims the God of Israel. Depending on the source, it was either Frederick II of Prussia, Disraeli, Bismarck or Pascal who, when asked for proof of God's existence, responded, "The Jews, Your Majesty!"

Thus there is good reason not to exclude Israel from Isaiah 53. Israel did not die an atoning death for the world, nor was Israel sinless. Yet Peter could apply Isaiah 53 to first-century followers of Yeshua without implying that their suffering had atoning value. In the context of Scripture as a whole, Jesus the servant-Messiah will enable Israel the servant-nation to continue to fulfill her mission (expanded now to include Gentiles as well), even as in some ways she has continued to do so. Perhaps suffering has been a part of that; perhaps Jewish artists who link the sufferings of Israel to those of Jesus were on to something profound. Israel does not save, nor does the church, but the Messiah who suffers in solidarity with his people does.

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 02 Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:55:03 -0700
The Innocent Victim http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/the-innocent-victim http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/the-innocent-victim

For Jews in some parts of the world, suffering has been an especially intimate part of life.Havurah asked three Jewish believers, from Eastern Europe, France, and Israel, to reflect on Jesus and Jewish suffering.

Judit believes in the existence of sin. She's certainly seen enough of it to be convinced.

As a child, she escaped Nazi Germany on one of the final Kindertransports. Today, if she closes her eyes, she can see the growling faces and hear the catcalls of peasant children who pelted her with curses and stones as the train passed through the local villages on its journey out.

In England, she survived the Blitz. After the war, she married a nice Jewish man who gave her two sons and then died suddenly, leaving her to fend on her own for herself and her family. She remembers that not many fellow Jews in the UK were quick to help her because she was, after all, a German Jew, and we all know about them. "Scratch a German Jew deep enough, and you uncover, well . . . a German."

Judit made her way to Canada where she miraculously found the mother who had abandoned her to the Kindertransport. But her mother had built a new life for herself, and it didn't include a reunion with a grown child who had children of her own.

The next stop was America, where she married a kindhearted widower who could never love any woman except his deceased first wife. Judit spent the next fifty years in a loveless marriage, haunted by another wife's ghost.

So Judit believes in the existence of sin. She also believes in God, and she clings fervently to the belief that He will punish the wicked and vindicate the righteous.

The only problem is, Judit counts herself as one of the righteous because of all the evil that others have done to her. Her definition of sin is simple: sin is what she's endured all her life at the hands of sinful people. With no real coaxing, she'll tell you not only about her past that's genuinely sorrowful. She'll also tell you how, despite everything else, she's always done nothing but good to everyone, no matter how much suffering they've brought into her life. Absent from her thinking is the notion that she might be guilty of any wrongdoing of her own.

Judit is a genuine victim. The problem is, she's not an innocent victim, and neither is anyone else. Are the evils that she has endured God's punishment for her sins? No. Evil is the consequence of a world that's exploding with sin, and all of us are hit by the shrapnel. But our victimization notwithstanding, all of us are guilty of our own sin. All of us are responsible for the sufferings that the Messiah bore on our behalf. There is only one innocent victim, and his name is Yeshua. "He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth" (Isaiah 53:9).

We need to repent of our sins that caused his suffering. But often, the more we've been victimized, the easier it is to be blinded to that truth. What can tear away the veil of that particular form of spiritual blindness? Only two things: the proclamation of the gospel, and a conviction of personal sin brought about by God's Holy Spirit. I live and labor for that day.

I live and labor for another day—the day when God will pour out His convicting Spirit upon the inhabitants of Berlin, Budapest and Warsaw; of Munich, Nuremberg, Krakow, Bucharest and Prague. I look and labor for the day when God will convict the inhabitants of the cities throughout Central and Eastern Europe where so many of us died. And when that day arrives, we'll rush in—not with words of condemnation, but with words of grace and hope, with the message that Jesus the Jewish Messiah forgives and rescues all of us not-so-innocent victims from the judgment that that we deserve because of the sufferings we've heaped upon him.


Avi Snyder is the European Director of Jews for Jesus.

*Portrait by Lajos Tihanyi (1885–1938), Woman in Red with Green Background

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 02 Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:55:10 -0700
Ruth Gottlieb: A Poignant Life. Paris: Juifs pour Jésus. 45 mins. In French with English subtitles http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/ruth-gottlieb-a-poignant-life-paris-juifs-pour-jesus-45-mins-in-french-with-english-subtitles http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/ruth-gottlieb-a-poignant-life-paris-juifs-pour-jesus-45-mins-in-french-with-english-subtitles

Ruth Gottlieb does not seem to be significantly different from any other octogenarian one might meet—other than her remarkable sharpness of mind. But then she begins to tell her story, one of sorrow upon sorrow. From the loss of nearly all her loved ones to the horrors of the Holocaust, Ruth has seen more suffering in her life than most of us can begin to imagine.

Interviewed at her home in France in 2013, Ruth details her life during and after the rise of Hitler. Born in Berlin in 1925, she was sixteen when her parents were deported to a concentration camp. After a year on the run as part of a resistance group, she and her compatriots were captured in Italy by German soldiers. Among those seized was Ruth's husband, Aaron Gottlieb, to whom she had been married for only eleven months. Aaron was executed immediately, while Ruth was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she remained for many months, ill and starving, until the camp was liberated. As she relates these incidents, Ruth's tone is noticeably matter-of-fact and her demeanor, detached. Clearly, these memories are too painful to engage on an emotional level.

Ruth goes on to describe her life after the war. She moved to Paris and fell in love with a Sephardic man; they were planning a future together when he suddenly died of an embolism. Later, in Israel, she married Paul Sandelbaum. They had a happy life until Ruth's older daughter Myriam died unexpectedly. A few months later, due in part to the shock of Myriam's death, Paul also died.

By this time in the interview, Ruth's tone is no longer detached or distant. Her grief is apparent in the way she averts her eyes as she speaks, in the long silences as she remembers the loss of so many whom she loved.

Yet Ruth's story is about more than pain; it's about hope.

In the final part of the film, Ruth recounts how she and her remaining daughter, Judith, embarked on a search for truth. Moving to France, they explored everything from crystal-gazing to hypnosis to Buddhism, each looking for something to fill the void in their souls.

One day, as Ruth was walking along a seaside promenade near her home, she overheard some friends speaking about religion. One of these friends, a Christian, invited Ruth into the conversation and told her about Jesus. Ruth, still fully engaged in her search for truth, was intrigued.

Over the coming months, as she continued to converse with her friend and to read the Bible (including the New Testament), she came to realize that she had found the truth she had been searching for. She learned that it was possible for her to make a commitment to Jesus and yet remain fully Jewish.

Though suffering had been the hallmark of the first sixty years of Ruth's life, when she speaks about Jesus, there is no trace of regret. Her eyes light up and her voice is strong and confident, full of gratitude. To see that even after a life filled with the most anguishing sorrows, God can restore joy and peace through relationship with himself—this is nothing short of a miracle. Ruth's story is certain to be an encouragement to all who hear it. For those who wish to share the good news of Jesus with others in their life, particularly those who object to faith on the basis of the suffering in the world, this film might be a good starting point for conversation. After all, if Ruth Gottlieb can believe in God's love and redemption, then perhaps even the most hardened among us can find faith.

Order the DVD

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 02 Mon, 21 Apr 2014 20:04:42 -0700
Bulletin Board http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/bulletin-board http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/bulletin-board

Check out this summer's opportunities—

To participate or for more information, contact: mal@jewsforjesus.org

The Americas

  1. New York City Campaign: June 29–July 26 — http://j4j.co/nyswc
  2. Brazil World Cup Outreach: June 13–July 12
  3. Halutzim (ages 16-18): July 13–26 — www.halutzim.com

Europe Campaigns

  1. Moscow (June 1–14)
  2. Berlin (July 3–19)
  3. Budapest (July 24–August 9)

Israel

  • Massah (June 8–August 12). http://j4j.co/massah

PLUS:

  1. Jewish evangelism training @ Moody Bible Institute, June ___.  http://j4j.co/moodyjes
  2. Camp Gilgal East, Midwest, and West, June through August. Three tiers in each camp, ages 8–17/18.
    Details, dates and registration at www.campgilgal.com.
  3. The new Blue Mosaic evangelistic music team begins mid-June!
    Contact Jeff Millenson at jeff.millenson@jewsforjesus.org
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Havurah Volume 17 Number 02 Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:55:26 -0700
Jesus and Jewish Suffering: an Israeli Perspective http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/jesus-and-jewish-suffering-an-israeli-perspective http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/jesus-and-jewish-suffering-an-israeli-perspective

Suffering is international and cross-cultural. It is something that unites all human beings, because we all experience it at one point or another. Therefore, suffering is not specifically Jewish—although in Jewish history there has been a great deal of suffering.

My country, Israel, was birthed from the pain of one of humanity's greatest experiences of suffering, the Holocaust. Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, said: "The Jewish question persists wherever Jews live in appreciable numbers. Wherever it does not exist, it is brought in together with Jewish immigrants. We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution."[ 1 ]

Today, Jewish suffering continues, both in the diaspora with the resurgence of anti-Semitism, and even in Israel, the Jewish homeland, where we are always ready for, even expecting, war—not just against our external neighbors but also internally against terrorism.

Maybe it is ironic that most Jewish people in Israel do not feel compassion over Jesus' suffering, even though they know how painful suffering can be. For the most part I find non-believing Israelis to almost feel comfort in the knowledge that Jesus suffered. It is an attitude of, "I am glad that Jesus suffered, because we have suffered in his name—therefore he deserved to suffer."

This statement comes from ignorance, yet it also has some truth in it. John Stott, in his wonderful book The Cross of Christ,writes these words:

It is wonderful that we may share in Christ's sufferings; it is more wonderful still that he shares in ours. Truly his name is "Emmanuel," "God with us." But his "sympathy" is not limited to his suffering with his covenant people. Did Jesus not say that in ministering to the hungry and thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the prisoner, we would be ministering to him, indicating that he identified himself with all needy and suffering people?[ 2 ]

Yes, Jewish people have suffered in the name of Jesus. But the most amazing thing is that God came in the incarnation as Jesus, and chose to suffer and ultimately die for us. Our people have endured suffering. And Jesus' suffering was endured for us, and in spite of us.


Dan Sered is the Israel Director of Jews for Jesus.


[ 1 ] Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State, various editions.

[ 2 ] John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove: IL, InterVarsity Press, 2012), p. 326.

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 02 Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:55:17 -0700
Jesus and Jewish Suffering: a Perspective from Paris http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/jesus-and-jewish-suffering-a-perspective-from-paris http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/jesus-and-jewish-suffering-a-perspective-from-paris

If one were to give a hard and honest look at the heritage of Israel's heroes, one would be forced to concede that it is not a triumphant past. Moses, at his apogee, came down from a holy mountain experience only to be "welcomed" by collective and unmitigated disloyalty in the shadow of the infamous golden calf. David, when he was anointed king of Israel, subsequently became the nation's most wanted outlaw—a fugitive and a mercenary. The prophets' popularity (or lack thereof) is well known, even to the most casual of Bible readers. According to tradition, Isaiah died by being torn in half. Jeremiah's tears still stain the pages of Scripture in his famous Lamentations, no matter the edition or translation. According to Yeshua, there was in fact a psycho-spiritual accumulation of suffering from the first tzaddik (righteous person) to the last, culminating in his own generation.[ 1 ]

Would it not then stand to reason that the Messiah, the epitome of prophetic hope and the greatest of prophets, would suffer in proportion to, and in honor of, all those that heralded his coming? It is a well-known Talmudic understanding that God's shekinah (presence) accompanies Israel in its diasporic meanderings, partaking of the woes of God's people. How much more should the Messiah, as the consummate representative of Israel, understand Jewish suffering from without as well as from within. Therefore, Isaiah's vision of the Suffering Servant is timeless and portrays a model not only of biblical sorrow, but of Jewish pain throughout the ages.

As Dan Sered points out in an accompanying article, there is no exception to suffering. Pain reaches everyone, from the highest to the lowest strata of society; it respects neither customs nor language barriers. According to writer Cormac McCarthy in his screenplay for the film The Counselor:

"Grief transcends value. . . . you cannot buy anything with grief because grief is worthless."[ 2 ]

McCarthy is philosophizing on the tragic consequences of our own stupid mistakes: we are our own greatest undoing. Most, if not all of us, suffer the fate we have unwittingly designed for ourselves. Many of the greatest tragedies in literature have plots built around this very theme.

Very few suffer completely innocently—or simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet this has been the situation of the Jewish people. As Sholem Aleichem's character Tevye the Dairyman put it, regarding the situation of the Jewish people, "God I know, I know. We are your chosen people. But, once in a while, can't you choose someone else?"

We Jews are always "in the wrong place at the wrong time." This is the history of anti-Semitism. Sholem Aleichem was able to comment with humor and artistry on the many examples of frustrated grief among nineteenth-century Eastern European Jewry during the pogroms. But the next chapter in human history (and specifically Jewish history) would leave no room for such artful expressions of grief.

The culmination and crossroads of this new experience of human suffering was the Holocaust, or Shoah. The Shoah birthed a new dimension to the already multi-dimensional experience of Jewish suffering. It did so, ironically, by diminishing the already limited value of "grief" (McCarthy). In the Shoah, Jews no longer had any value as human beings. They were transformed into things. Nazi persecution set Jewish genocide above other kinds by declaring the Jew a non-entity. Jewish people no longer had souls, hearts or intrinsic human value. So they were recycled into grease, gold and other raw materials.

For the first time since the Enlightenment, diabolic evil had quantitative value. Leon Uris discovered this during his two years of research on the time that intervened between the Holocaust and the foundation of the State of Israel. In Uris' novel Exodus, Ari Ben Canaan says to Kitty Fremont: "Jewish flesh is cheap, lady. It's cheaper than beef. It is cheaper, even, than herring!"

As one reads the New Testament, one is confronted with the tragic nature of its protagonists, beginning with the Messiah and continuing with his disciples. The sweetest man, the champion of the weak and disenfranchised, is the one who suffers the most. Richard Wurmbrand was a Romanian-born Jewish believer in Jesus who survived the Holocaust, only to be locked in a Communist prison where he was tortured for fifteen years. His first reaction to reading the story of Jesus was realizing that Jesus died during Passover. He reflects,

"Chad Gaya is a poem sung by every generation of Jews for thousands of years on every passover. After Jesus' death on the cross, Mary knew when she sang the song . . . everyone gets a punishment for what they have done, but there is only one who was completely innocent (the little kid) who gave his life for everyone of us and that such a sacrificial death will end in resurrection."[ 3 ]

Perhaps Jesus' most famous teaching is found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7). At the crux of this exposition on suffering and piety is the curious statement, "Whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matthew 5:22).

Finding a reasonable equivalent translation for the Aramaic word raca[ 4 ] has been difficult. Many translations leave it as is; according to some Bible dictionaries, the term raca simply means "nothing" or "emptiness." Yet, says Jesus, every soul has infinite value. And according to what James calls the "royal law,"[ 5 ] Yeshua teaches that one should love one's neighbor as oneself. Holocaust survivors are among the very few among the billions of humanity who have actually experienced the nullifying experience of raca, this "nothingness" or "emptiness." Yet Jesus counted himself among those "worthless" few, according to Isaiah chapter 53—and also according to Philippians, where we read that "Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself . . ." (Philippians 2:6-7).

Yeshua became a raca in his suffering as the representative par excellence of the Jewish people. But it was not meaningless. Yeshua willingly suffered to bring us salvation.

All people suffer. Why should this be? This is usually a question directed toward the heavens. However, I would like to challenge you to ask yourself the same question. Many Jewish believers in Jesus identify as Jews, yet in all the claims to Jewish identity I have seen in the Messianic Jewish world, very few include Jewish suffering or the experience of real anti-Semitism. Beyond the issues of ordinary pain and anti-Jewish xenophobia, those of us who are disciples of Yeshua should ask, "Does my suffering contribute to God's plans?" Do I suffer for the sake of others, so that others might bring their suffering to the cross? If not, am I really a disciple? Am I really a Jew?"


Joshua Turnil directs the Paris branch of Jews for Jesus.

[ 1 ] Matthew 23:34-36.

[ 2 ] First original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy, The Counselor, Jan 2012.

[ 3 ] Richard Wurmbrand, No Other God, p. 19.

[ 4 ] Raca is used in the midrash to describe the wasted multitudes destroyed by the deluge. The Talmud quotes a woman using raca of a violent attacker. See Elie Munk, La Voix de la Thora, La Genèse (Paris: Fondation Odette S. Levy, 1976), p. 70.

[ 5 ] James 2:8.

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 02 Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:55:26 -0700
Marc Chagall and Jesus http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/marc-chagall-and-jesus http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n02/marc-chagall-and-jesus

Marc Chagall's extensive repertoire of artwork, in which Jesus and the crucifixion is the central subject, assuredly begs the question: "What's a nice Jewish boy like you doing painting a nice Jewish boy like him?" The artist's preoccupation with Jesus as a symbol of Jewish suffering and deliverance provides much fuel for discussion from both Jewish and Christian art critics. But can either side definitively claim Chagall as its "own"?

It's important to remember that Chagall grew up in Europe in a bewildering, disturbing atmosphere of anti-Jewish sentiment and change. The Hasidic background of his youth provided a rich source for painting Jewish culture and tradition onto the "canvas" of a new and challenging political scene in which being Jewish was a crime. Chagall combined mystery, allegory and history with religious thought and symbols both Jewish and Christian. It is often difficult to know where each of these genres begins and another leaves off, so cleverly does the artist entwine them. Any attempt to unravel one entanglement only leads to another.

"For me, Christ has always symbolized the true type of the Jewish martyr. That is how I understood him in 1908 when I used this figure for the first time," Chagall said. "It was under the influence of the pogroms. Then I painted and drew him in pictures about ghettos, surrounded by Jewish troubles, by Jewish mothers, running terrified with little children in their arms." [ 1 ]

There, the artist has said it himself: Jesus is a type of Jewish martyr. Not the Jewish martyr, but just one. The crucifixion as a motif depicting suffering—not solely salvific—pre-dates Chagall and even pre-dates the Christian era. The Greeks were known to incorporate crucifixion as a symbol of punishment into their artwork. So which is it—punishment or salvation?

Perhaps the simplest answer is that in Chagall's work, it is neither, and it is both. For him, the Jews were being punished simply for being Jews; Jesus was punished simply for being Jewish. And as a salvation motif, crucifixion in Chagall's work can be understood as both a hope and a means of relating to the greater culture of Europe at that time. It could be a universal symbol for Jewish people to hang on to; knowing that the Christian savior claimed to have risen from the dead, perhaps the Jews' fate will be to also rise from the ashes of European anti-Semitism.

Perhaps the best answer to the "punishment or salvation" question is not a comfortable one, for it is a mixed view, and is not definitive. After all, the artist's world is imaginative, and to criticize, malign or even attempt to define why Chagall painted Jesus on the cross would beckon us to do the same with other artists such as Picasso, who depicted women as the angular planes of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.[ 2 ] Picasso had his muse (sometimes muses); Jesus might have been Chagall's source of inspiration that spoke to a continued Jewish presence in the world, an end to persecution, and comfort for endless suffering and persecution.

Was Jesus Chagall's personal savior? On canvas, yes. Past that, we cannot be sure. But most likely, that is not what that artist wanted us to think about. He was too busy painting flying goats, flying harps and flying roosters for us to catch.

Melissa Moskowitz serves in the Young Adult Ministry of Jews for Jesus and is part of the Arts Events and Outreach team at the New York City branch. She is currently pursuing her M.A. in Art History at Brooklyn College.


For related articles, see www.jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/v09-n06/


[ 1 ] www.americamagazine.org/chagalls-mirror

[ 2 ] http://bit.ly/avignon741

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 02 Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:55:15 -0700
Israeli-Palestinian Reconciliation: Does Politics Trump Unity? http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n01/israeli-palestinian-reconciliation-does-politics-trump-unity http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n01/israeli-palestinian-reconciliation-does-politics-trump-unity

Several issues ago in Havurah we addressed the topic of unity within the Messianic movement, namely reconciliation between Jewish believers in Jesus who are pursuing God in various ways from different corners of the Messianic community.

The pursuit of Messianic unity and reconciliation resonates with our hearts and brings to mind the Jewish folk song taken directly from Psalm 133, "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" Our reconciliation doesn't necessitate conformity, but it must embrace diversity and a commitment to maintaining relationships with those we disagree with. The driving force of this reconciliation unto unity is rooted in scripture:

  • Jesus' command to his disciples to love each other (John 15:12);
  • Paul's instruction to the church in Ephesus regarding unity (Ephesians 4:1-6);
  • Peter's exhortation to the scattered Jewish believers to maintain unity (1 Peter 3:8).

The command for unity in the church is not bound by racial, socio-economic, or political borders. But how do we have unity with those whose ideologies are seemingly irreconcilable with our own? How can we be obedient to scripture's instruction to "keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3)?

This is a hard question to answer in light of the two competing political nationalisms that hit close to home for many Jewish believers around the world, as well as for many Arab Christians throughout the Middle East: Zionism and Palestinian Nationalism.

I've wrestled long and hard with this topic. While I don't claim to have the answers, I do trust that the path I've walked has brought me to solid footing. Let me begin by telling my story.


Volunteering in Israel

Growing up in Sacramento, I attended the private Jewish school in town for several formative years. During that time I learned many things, not the least of which was to have a deep love and longing for Israel, even into adulthood. In 2006, amidst the war between Israel and Lebanon, I finally had the opportunity to go there.

Sar-El is the national project for volunteers for Israel. In the summer of 2006 they were putting out a desperate plea for overseas volunteers to serve in Israel on the army bases. They needed help to pack rations, cook and clean, and support the logistics teams so that more soldiers could be sent to the front lines to fight Hezbollah in Lebanon.

I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and my best friend and I flew to Israel on just a few days' notice to serve. I was living my Zionist dream, serving alongside Israeli soldiers in an un-air-conditioned warehouse working non-stop fourteen-hour days.

As reports from the front lines filtered in, some of the other American volunteers reacted strongly. Once, one of the men in our group yelled in response to the news, "Why doesn't Israel just nuke Lebanon? If you got rid of the Arabs, Israel wouldn't have all these problems!" The commanding officer in the room shook his head in disgust and replied, "Don't ever say that! The people of Lebanon are victims of Hezbollah. We don't want to kill Arabs, we just want peace." As I listened to this dialogue I felt ashamed because up until that moment I had made no differentiation between the Lebanese people and the Hezbollah agents.

The ceasefire was signed a few days later and we were moved to another army base to help with cleanup. At this new base we met several Bedouin and Druze soldiers serving in the Israeli army. My curiosity was piqued; I didn't know that Arabs could do that! I flew home from Israel a few days later with my assumptions unmoored. Maybe my view of Israel was too simplistic.

A few years later I was back in Israel again, this time serving as a leader on the Jews for Jesus' Massah program, which is our short-term evangelism and discipleship missions program for college-age Jewish believers. And I had my assumptions challenged even further.

We took the Massah team to meet with Salim Munayer, an Arab believer who runs a reconciliation ministry called Musalaha, and in this meeting Salim shared his family narrative. The story Salim told was one I had heard from other Palestinian Arabs before, but which I had always dismissed up until that moment.

His story went back several generations as he told of his family's property and business that flourished long before Jews began returning to the area to reclaim the land. He spoke of his own childhood, growing up hearing conflicting narratives of recent history at home and at school. He told of his journey to faith in Jesus and his change of heart from resentment toward Jewish people to a passion for reconciliation.

Salim's stories stood in contrast to what I had been taught about the history of the modern state of Israel. But I couldn't simply dismiss them this time, because I was hearing them from a fellow believer and Christian leader. My heart wrestled with the idea that the history I had been taught wasn't necessarily 100% accurate, and I realized that my conclusions were based on very limited information.


Cognitive Dissonance

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the discomfort that a person experiences when holding two or more apparently conflicting ideas, beliefs, or values simultaneously. Cognitive dissonance is generated when information is received that conflicts with what someone has believed up until that time. People are motivated to reduce their resulting mental discomfort by reconciling their opposing ideas, beliefs, or values. This is the natural human response to paradox, and it can take at least four forms:

  • when our behavior doesn't match our standards, we rationalize;
  • when our experience doesn't match our expectations, we find someone to blame;
  • when our minds can't grasp the complexity of a difficult situation, we use reductionistic thinking to validate our own perspectives;
  • or we attempt to reconcile the internal conflict in a healthy way

We see examples in history of how certain events generated cognitive dissonance in those involved. In the slaughter of men, women, and children during the Crusades, the claim to be following Jesus conflicted with the behavior of massacring other people, leading to reductionist thinking and rationalizing behavior. The forced conversions and torture during the Spanish Inquisition conflicted with the right goal of guaranteeing orthodoxy in the church. We can even see how cognitive dissonance was generated in Hitler's "Final Solution." Cognitive dissonance often leads people to devalue and even demonize others.

As I wrestled with Salim's story, I realized that my perspective on the Israel/Palestine issue was driven by cognitive dissonance. While as a believer, I was taught to love all people, at the same time I had allowed my heart to fill with distrust for Arabs in general, and even hatred for anyone claiming the Palestinian label. I'm happy to say that I repented of my distrust and hatred before the Lord as soon as the error of my way was made known to me.

But my repentance didn't resolve my cognitive dissonance regarding the Israel/Palestine issue. I now believe we must accept the inevitability of cognitive dissonance, yet hold firmly to love for the body of Messiah. This is the very thing that Jesus said would cause the world to know that we are his disciples! Love for one another: across racial, socio-economic, and political divides! Messiah's command to unity is not optional; we must be obedient to the command to unity: even unity between Jewish and Palestinian Christians.

If we are convinced that Jesus's call to love his church extends across the Israeli/Palestinian divide, where do we begin? Here are a few thoughts I hope you'll find helpful.


Affirm the Right to Self-Identify

Self-identification has always been important to me, as it has for every Jew for Jesus who has struggled for the right to identify as a Jewish person. In fact, I don't think I've ever met a Messianic Jew who hasn't had to fight for his or her identity! The labels we claim are important to our identity. Even though Paul's statement in Galatians 3:28 ("there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Jesus") is often quoted to undermine personal identity, Paul's intent was to root our identity first and foremost in Messiah, not to erase racial, gender, national, or socio-economic distinctions. Hence, we are free to maintain our Jewish identity and culture as long as our identification doesn't interfere with our unity with the body of Messiah.

Because of my background, it hurts my heart when people undermine the personal identity of others—even if I don't like the way people choose to self-identify. History only moves forward: as culture develops and changes we must face these changes with honest reflection. The past cannot be undone! There are Arabs (both Christian and non-Christian) who choose to self-identify as Palestinians, just as there are Christians of Jewish origin who choose to self-identify as Messianic Jews. As a member of one minority group whose self-label is challenged by the majority, I choose to affirm the self-identification of individuals in other minority groups even when (or perhaps especially when) I don't understand the emotional weight that their identity holds in their hearts.

You might ask, "Doesn't affirmation of Palestinian identity promote the cause of Palestinian nationalism?" I'm not sure if it does or not! My rationale is based on principle, not on pragmatics. How can I affirm Palestinian identity while also believing in the future restoration of national Israel under the Messiah? By refusing to allow personal cognitive dissonance on this issue of the land of Israel, the Jewish people, and the Palestinian people to fuel any reductionist thinking. I hold firm to Jesus himself, knowing that he will make all things new and will reconcile all things to himself when he comes again. Until then I know that I don't know, and that's okay.


Affirm Israel's Existence and God's Heart for Justice Simultaneously

The nation of Israel never existed in a vacuum of ethnic uniformity: even when Moses led the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt they were accompanied by God-fearing gentiles. We see God's heart for all mankind in his command to the leaders of Israel regarding how foreigners and sojourners were to be treated: "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt" (Exodus 22:21). We also see God's heart for all mankind in the construction of the temple. Solomon grasped the greater vision and even exclaimed when the temple was dedicated:

As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel ... when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place ... (2 Chronicles 6:32-33)

We should care about the Palestinians living as neighbors to Israeli Jews because God cares about them. We should be concerned for their well-being because God cares. Let our love for Israel never cause us to slip into reductionist thinking! Israel has a right to exist: as a people and as a sovereign nation, but Israel will be held accountable before God for her treatment of Palestinians. We must develop thinking that affirms Israel's existence while affirming the need for justice and equality for Palestinians


Pray for the Church in the Middle East

Never has the Biblical command of Psalm 122:6 been more relevant: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." We've probably heard this passage quoted so many times that it might seem trite for me to bring it up here. But I think it is very appropriate since we must pray not only that Jerusalem would have peace from her enemies, but that Jerusalem would have peace from within. Jerusalem is a city of diversity but the diversity is so fragmented that even the Old City is broken into quarters!

It is a dishonor to the name of Messiah that this secular division across racial and geopolitical boundaries also occurs within the body of Messiah in that region. If our hearts harbor hate, then I pray for conviction. If our hearts have already been seeded with love, then I pray that those seeds will sprout.

Let me leave you with this thought. If the apostle Paul were alive today and he were writing to the churches in the Middle East, I think he would reiterate his words given to us in Ephesians 4:3-6:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Amen.

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 01 Tue, 21 Jan 2014 19:42:28 -0800
Havurah Round Table http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n01/havurah-round-table http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n01/havurah-round-table

Havurah posed the following urgent questions to four individuals—three Jewish, one (Galen Peterson) gentile. All four have been involved in dialoguing with those whose positions on crucial issues sometimes differ greatly from their own, especially regarding Israel and the Middle East. Here are the questions; Havurah welcomes your feedback on their responses (havurah@jewsforjesus.org or facebook.com/HavurahMag).


How should we be involved with other believers in Jesus who disagree with us or have an opposing agenda? Is there a take-away value from being involved in this way?

Lisa Loden:
As followers of the Messiah, we are in relationship with every other individual who follows him. This is a spiritual reality, unveiled at the cross as a new creation imperative for all of God's people. The meaning of Messiah's body is a corporate life in which all are brought together in unity so as to express, in this world, the living reality of God's love for the world. Involvement with other believers is not optional, it is mandatory. Our relationship is one of blood and is therefore unconditional. We must be involved with one another regardless of differences and even opposing agendas. Ultimately, the agenda that's definitive is the love of Messiah that constrains us to love one another. All other agendas are secondary and, regardless of how heartfelt or important we may consider them to be, to allow them to hinder or derail relationship with one another is a great evil. I realize this is a radical view, nonetheless, I am convinced it is the only possible biblical view. Given the context of intractable conflict in Israel/Palestine, living out this commitment is not simple. However, to not do so would deny both the beauty and power of the gospel of Yeshua. He came to those who did not receive him. By refusing or making fellowship conditional, we deprive ourselves of the richness of the body of Christ, especially in terms of how we understand scripture. We also are deprived of the joy of walking together as brothers and sisters in Messiah if we limit involvement with one another.

Justin Kron:
Differing and opposing points of view among followers of Jesus is nothing new.  You don't have to read very far into the story of the early Church to see that disagreements happen (e.g., the council at Jerusalem), and sometimes we need to accept that we will not always agree to travel down the same road together, as was the case for Paul and Barnabas.  But the Bible is quite clear that "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18).  And as it relates to our brothers and sisters who have organized the Christ at the Checkpoint conference on the premise of challenging Evangelicals "to help resolve the conflicts in Israel-Palestine by engaging with the teachings of Jesus," my hope is that there would be room for us to find points of constructive agreement and understanding on this issue in the midst of our differing theological and political perspectives.

Galen Peterson:
Christians have a mandate toward active engagement with others, whether it is reaching out to unbelievers with the Gospel or seeking out a fellow believer when there is some kind of dispute between the two of you as Jesus taught in Matthew 5:24. This latter mandate especially has relevance in the present-day dispute between Jewish and Palestinian believers. There needs to be an environment for such issues to be addressed. So Christians with a heart for Israel must be engaged in the public exchange of ideas. Conferences provide an opportunity for people with an opposing view to hear your position on a topic, and God can use that. But the problem with public conferences is the issue of authority. Christian leaders can lend credence to groups with opposing views just by attaching their name to the event. And this opens the door to manipulation, such as drafting resolutions bearing the name of the conference without regard to dissenting voices. It has been my experience working in the Israeli-Palestinian context that direct contact with others in less formal settings can often be more beneficial, like one-on-one conversations in which you build a relationship and confront issues privately in a considerate way.

Richard Harvey:
We are told to love our enemies, and Yeshua said "blessed are the peace-makers". That means we have no alternative but to meet with, hear the concerns of, and pray with those who are our brothers and sisters in the Messiah, even though we are divided politically and socially. Otherwise we allow ourselves to become factionalised, and squeezed into the pattern of the world. If Yeshua truly reconciles us to God in one new humanity, we have to live out and model his reconciling love in obedience to him.


We are also vying for the hearts and minds of Western evangelicals on these issues. How do you seek to encourage evangelical Christians to support the issues that are front and center for you (Israel, Palestinians, justice, etc.) in a balanced way that does not neglect concern for the other side?

Lisa Loden:
We encourage evangelical Christians to keep an open heart to all of the peoples of this region regardless of race or religion. We challenge them to intentionally expose themselves to the stories, situations, and views of both sides, to become good listeners, and not be quick to volunteer their own views of the conflict. More specifically, we encourage evangelicals to seek out what God is doing in the midst of the intractable Israel/Palestinian conflict. For those who take the time to look carefully, it is evident that God is working on both sides and between the two communities. There are injustices perpetrated by both sides. No one is innocent and all are victims. The situation is complex and does not yield itself to easy categorization. To maintain a biblical stance in the midst of injustice, insecurity, fear, and conflict requires courage and a willingness to be vulnerable enough to embrace the pain of all sides and yet remain rooted in the cross.

Justin Kron:
As a follower of Jesus from a Jewish background who has a very strong connection to the historical narrative of the Jewish people, I believe that the Jewish people deserve the right, by God's divine grace, and by the declaration of the international community in 1947, to live and govern in the land that they have a 3500 year historical connection to.  At the same time, I think people who share that conviction need to understand that the Jewish people aren't the only ones who have a historical and personal connection to that land; so do many Arabs whose families have lived for generations in the territory that is now Israel or currently occupied by Israel.  We cannot ignore or desensitize ourselves to the hardships or the issues that arise for either the Jews or Arabs who live in the crossfire of the spiritual and geopolitical conflicts unfolding there by simply conveying that it is a conflict that won't get resolved until Jesus returns.  While that is true, as it is with every conflict in this world, we must remember that we have a responsibility to advocate for peace and justice in the meantime, and sometimes that necessitates questioning policies and practices within both governments that appear to create unnecessary hardships for people or exasperates the conflict, as well as bringing attention to fallacies and half-truths that whitewash a particular side within the conflict.  If anything, I would suggest that followers of Jesus come at this issue with a lot more humility and a lot less hubris, and not neglect to actively support the believers living there who are engaged in proclaiming and living out the Good News in both word and deed, as faith in Jesus remains the only eternal solution to the people in that region, as it is with the people in any region of our world.

Galen Peterson:
Balance is an elusive term when it comes to human beings. We all have our biases and convictions. And we live in a world that is dominated by advocacy. Our American political system today is all about advocating for your position exclusively, and this often results in stalemates. The same is true in the Israeli-Palestinian context where you usually hear positions supporting one side alone. And even declarations to the contrary, like being "Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine" are rarely true in reality. It can be a mantra that veils actual intentions, like we have witnessed in the past few years. Some might say that the solution to conferences that advocate for one side is to sponsor equivalent events advocating for the "other side." I have found that the most balanced thing we can do is to talk about Jesus and what he has done for all of us, regardless of the forum, because the only hope for peace and reconciliation in this world is through the reconciliation we have with God through the transforming power of the cross.

Richard Harvey:
My presentation at "Christ at the Checkpoint" is a plea for Israelis, Palestinians and all believers to become involved in process of reconciliation. My paper, presentation and powerpoint are available on my website. There I map out the nature of the conflict and how I as a Messianic Jew see my responsibility. It will be different for each person, depending on their role, involvement and understanding of the conflict.

I would ask believers to pray for, care for and do all they can to seek the peace and welfare of both Israeli and Palestinian.


(The following question also appeared in the print edition of Havurah)

Some in the Messianic Jewish community have reacted negatively to the involvement of other Jewish believers in such conferences as "Christ at the Checkpoint". How do you respond to such reactions and still encourage unity among believers?

Lisa Loden:
There have been two "Christ at the Checkpoint" conferences thus far. The first was attended by one Messianic Jew and the second had five Messianic attendees who had permission from the Israeli military to attend the conference. My husband and I were two of the five. Our reasons for attending the conference were two-fold. First, we wanted to see and hear for ourselves before we came to any conclusions or adopted any positions about the conference and its content. Second, we had been personally invited by our Palestinian brothers with whom we already were in relationship. To refuse their invitation would have been to reject their hospitality and to cause them to be wounded.

Prior to and following the conference reactions from within the Messianic community were exceptionally strong. For us, it was a matter of following the clear teaching of the scripture that we are one body, albeit at times disjointed and even fragmented. Facing the censure of the community was not pleasant as strong public statements were made condemning the conference and those from the Messianic community who attended. We chose not to relate or respond to any of the accusations and vilifying comments. On an individual, personal level, we were able to explain the reasons for our attendance and could speak knowledgably about the tone and content of the conference. We highlighted the blessing that comes in walking together regardless of our differences.

Justin Kron:
First of all, I would like to believe that Jewish followers of Jesus can humble themselves enough to think that we can actually learn from people who don't see the world or God's Word exactly the way we see it, but yet be confident enough to share what God has revealed to us no matter what context we step foot in.  To me, this is following the example of Jesus and is in alignment with his teaching to be in the world but not of it. 

Sometimes we are called to step foot into the "lion's den" and trust that God will use us to reveal more of who he is and what he's up to, to those around us.  Completely disengaging from others that we don't see eye-to-eye with paves the way to further polarization on the issues and potentially very destructive outcomes.  Constructive and lasting change most often occurs in the context of loving relationships—not through public statements demonizing or decrying the other—and I applaud those within the Jewish believing community who have attempted to build conciliatory bridges with our brothers and sisters who are in or closely associated with the Palestinian Christian community.  My hope is that they would do the same with us.

Galen Peterson:
Emotions are easily aroused when you have protracted disputes marked by inflammatory rhetoric and disagreements at every turn. Leaders need to hear the voice of people from their own community, for there is a collective sense of wisdom in the body of Christ. But there is also a need for trust when a godly man or woman believes with conviction that God is calling him or her to a certain action. They deserve a measure of grace in that regard. Whether or not God would call them to return for a subsequent participation is a separate issue.

Clearly there is a price to pay when it comes to peace and reconciliation. After all, Jesus paid the ultimate price as "the mediator of the New Covenant" (Heb. 12:24).

Richard Harvey:
Yeshua prayed for those who made themselves his enemies, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do". We have to love our enemies and forgive them, whether they are Jewish, Palestinian or whatever. Surely the surpassing love of Yeshua should bring us into reconciliation, forgiveness and restoration of relationships. Of course we have to respect one another's views, and agree to disagree where we have not yet reached agreement. But this should not mean we stigmatize those with different views.

I would add that I hope that the Messianic movement has the maturity to engage with the real issues of justice, peace and conflict resolution in the light of the Messiah's reconciling love and God's faithfulness to his people Israel, rather than personalize and politicize the activity of those on both sides who are seeking reconciliation. I have discovered that we in the Messianic movement still have a lot to learn.


Lisa Loden cofounded Messianic congregation Beit Asaph in Netanya and serves as Head of the Department of Leadership Development and Forgiveness Studies at Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Justin Kron is the founding director of eXperience Israel, a young adult spiritual pilgrimage program of Chosen People Ministries. Justin serves on the leadership advisory council of the North Shore campus of Willow Creek Community Church in Northfield, IL and coordinates the Kesher Forum, an inter-denominational learning community on topics related to the Jewish roots of Christianity and Jewish-Christian relations.

Galen Peterson is the Executive Director of American Remnant Mission. ARM's ministry goal is "to lead Jewish people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus the Messiah through evangelism and discipleship, and equipping Christians to witness to their Jewish neighbors."

Richard Harvey is a Senior Researcher with Jews for Jesus. He was previously Academic Dean at All Nations College, UK, and past President of the International Messianic Jewish Alliance. His PhD dissertation has been published as Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology: A Constructive Approach (Authentic Media, 2009).


And you can respond as well, on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HavurahMag. Make your voice heard!

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 01 Wed, 29 Jan 2014 20:53:35 -0800
Review: Through My Enemy's Eyes http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n01/review-through-my-enemy-s-eyes http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n01/review-through-my-enemy-s-eyes

As its title suggests, Through My Enemy's Eyes: Envisioning Reconciliation in Israel-Palestine, promotes empathy as the virtue necessary for peace. Called to love their enemy by their Messiah, Israeli Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians are best suited to this task. The authors, Salim J. Munayer and Lisa Loden, a Palestinian Christian and an Israeli Messianic Jew, respectively, embody this effort to trade hostility for forgiveness.

The authors begin with a concise history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, arguing that injustices were committed by both sides. Ironically, Israelis and Palestinians have much in common: both groups feel persecuted, desire a safe homeland, and feel abandoned and betrayed by Western nations.

Munayer and Loden next examine how communal narratives perpetuate conflict. Such narratives are not unbiased, but rather selective, mythological retellings of historical events. The authors present both Israeli and Palestinian versions of the history of the region. Both versions are accurate in certain respects, while distorting the truth in others. Israeli accounts of Israel's independence, for instance, typically fail to mention the thousands of Palestinians who were forced from their homes, while Palestinian narratives often neglect the ongoing presence of Jews in the Land in the centuries after the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D. One key to reconciliation, then, is to be open to the corrective vision of another's narrative. And beyond their separate narratives, Messianic Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Christians share a larger narrative of redemption and inclusion in the people of God.

After their insightful discussion of history and narrative, the authors sketch the contours of Palestinian Christianity and Israeli Messianic Judaism. Palestinian Christians, whose theology varies from evangelical Protestant to Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic forms, feel as passionate a connection to the Land as do many Jewish people. They take great pride in calling the ground on which their Messiah walked their home. For centuries, they have worked hard to maintain an identity that is both Arab and Christian in a land that was long ruled by Muslims.

Israeli Messianic Jews see themselves, both physically and spiritually, as direct descendants of Jesus' first disciples. Some follow Torah as closely as possible, while others believe this to be unnecessary. Most, however, embrace Zionism in both its religious and political forms. Most Israeli Messianic Jews welcome the opportunity to serve in Israel's Defense Force, but Palestinian Christians tend to be pacifists.

Because of its apparent connection to Zionism, Palestinian Christians often downplay the Old Testament in favor of focusing on Jesus' teachings. Perceiving themselves as oppressed by a more powerful nation (Israel), Palestinian Christians see their own situation reflected in Jesus' first-century context, in which the Romans controlled Judea.

Munayer and Loden then explore theological obstacles to reconciliation. Palestinian Christians conceive of themselves as chosen people insofar as they are members of the multi-ethnic, transnational body of believers, whereas Messianic Jews retain a view of the Jewish people as uniquely chosen by God. The authors argue that God's choosing of the Jewish people does not imply their superiority, but rather reveals the unconditional love which God extends to all humanity in Jesus. While Palestinian Christians see themselves as stewards of holy sites like Bethlehem and Nazareth, Messianic Jews believe it is God's will that they inhabit the Land.

The most pivotal issue revolves around justice: Palestinian Christians seek liberation from Israel's control; focusing on the eschatological promise of their return to the Land, many Messianic Jews neglect biblical demands for justice for the oppressed (Palestinians). The authors argue that truly biblical justice is both retributive and restorative; it both punishes sin and shows mercy to the vulnerable.

If theological differences divide, then a shared theology of reconciliation can unite—because Jesus reconciled humanity with God. His incarnation united human nature and divine nature. His crucifixion atoned for sin and tore down the barrier between Jew and Gentile. His resurrection conquered death, enabling believers to experience new life in the Spirit. As Jesus suffered for the sins of humanity, so Messianic Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Christians must be willing to suffer for each other. By founding their identity on Jesus, they can cultivate the empathy necessary for reconciliation.


Josh Cohen is a Jewish believer in Jesus, pursuing his PhD in English at Emory University.

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 01 Wed, 29 Jan 2014 15:50:09 -0800
Bulletin Board http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n01/bulletin-board http://whodoesitspeakof.com/~jfjprod/publications/havurah/v17-n01/bulletin-board

Reconcile Yourself to These!

Camp Gilgal Wonderful Winter Weekend. It's like summer camp without the mosquitoes!

Southern California, Jan. 31–Feb. 2, 2014
Northern California, Feb. 14–16, 2014

And now's the time to consider:
New York City Summer Witnessing Campaign, June 29–July 26, 2014

Massah, June 8–August 13, 2014
World Cup Outreach in Brazil, June 13–July 12, 2014

Find more details at www.jewsforjesus.org/join

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Havurah Volume 17 Number 01 Tue, 21 Jan 2014 19:31:11 -0800