Critics of the Messianic Movement
All mainstream Jewish denominations and organizations hold that Messianic Jews are not practicing Judaism, but Protestant Christianity. Messianic Judaism is condemned as heretical and non-Jewish by Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaism.
There are a few dissenting voices. A few within Humanistic Judaism, a small group of atheist and agnostic Jews, hold that messianic Judaism is a viable approach to Judaism, and believe such groups should be considered forms of Judaism. Examples of humanistic Jews who hold this view include Sherwin Wine and Judith Seid. One can also find a small number of religiously liberal Jews who are accepting of messianic Judaism: Reconstructionist Rabbi Carol Harris-Shapiro wrote in her book Messianic Judaism that it could be considered an authentic branch of Judaism. Reform Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok, author of Voices of Messianic Judaism: Confronting Critical Issues Facing a Maturing Movement, also regards it as a valid form of Judaism. However, their work has failed to win any acceptance among their denominations, or among the wider Jewish community, and has sparked an ongoing controversy as to whether the authors themselves have gone too far.
The relationship between the Messianic Movement and organized Christianity has been patchy, too. Many Evangelical and Pentecostal groups have welcomed the movement, but many more liberal Christians have been more critical. Some Christians, mostly liberal, feel that Messianic groups are guilty of false advertising. In 1977, for example, the Board of Governors of the Long Island Council of Churches (New York) accused Jews for Jesus of "engaging in subterfuge and dishonesty," and of "mixing religious symbols in ways that distort their essential meaning." The Jews for Jesus organization filed a lawsuit, which was ultimately rejected, against the 600-member council in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. (The New York Times, July 2, 1977). Another organization critical of the Messianic Movement is the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington. In 1997 this group, comprising liberal Christian, as well as Jewish and Moslem leaders, put out a strongly worded statement, condemning the proselytization efforts of the Messianic Movement. Most Evangelicals reject the criticism and defend evangelism among Jews.
Some Evangelicals, however, have criticized the Messianic Movement on entirely different grounds. Some consider the movement to be "too Jewish" for holding on to parts of the Old Testament that many Christians believe are not applicable today. But this criticism is not widespread in Evangelical circles.
Parallels to Baal Teshuva
These efforts to convert Jews to Christianity, and the receptiveness of some Jews to it in the past few decades, are a parallel phenomenon, although in an obviously different context, to the Baal teshuva movement that has witnessed a vigorous outreach effort by Jewish Orthodox institutions to reach out to Jews alienated from, or ignorant about, the Jewish faith.
Orthodox Jews are conscious of the fact that they are competing with the Messianic movement for the same audience. Specific organizations, such as Jews for Judaism and Outreach Judaism are devoted to keeping Jews out of any Christian movements, and particularly Messianic congregations. The widespread fascination with Hinduism and Buddhism, and a willingness to join these movements, by previously secular young Israelis and American Jews, is seen as part of the same phenomenon. What all share in common here is the fact that a "market" exists for all these efforts, which in turn is indicative of a strong receptiveness to religious and spiritual notions, and a willingness to "buy into" an alternate religious experience and a radical new way of life, leaving many secular Jews mystified by the success of religion-based outreach and recruitment.
Some Essays About Messianics by Non-Messianics
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