Elchanan Poupko

Messianists Must Desist Religious Genocide

Dennis and Dean Johnson of Moorhead, Minn. blow shofars to begin their Messianic Judaism services. Credit: Carrie Snyder / The Forum

A confession: as a teacher and a rabbi, I end up searching for — and finding — many of the materials I use, online. A Dvar Torah, a source sheet, a good joke, a relevant video to show in class, and so on. One day, I noticed something odd. Often enough, when searching with for key Jewish and Orthodox terms such as Dvar Torah, Shul, Niggun, etc., the results that I found were Christian. Well, not totally. The content was Christian, yet the keywords and external presentation were completely orthodox. I then stumbled on how widespread the phenomena of Messianic Ministries to use cunning, deceptive, misleading, and misrepresenting techniques to attract those who are looking for Jewish content. What I saw in front of my eyes was an attempt at religious genocide. An effort to overrun whatever is left of members of the Jewish faith. Sure, messianic congregations will argue they are a form of Judaism.  Islamic radicals do the same when forcing conversion on Christians, arguing Islam does recognize Jesus. It is religious genocide, that’s all it is.

Then came more. I had people reaching out to me through social media. Wishing me a Shabbat Shalom, then welcoming me to see more information about “Yeshua”, their Judaized old-new version for Jesus which is easier to market to a Jewish crow.

All this came as a shock to me. I have many Christian friends and have great respect for them. It was less than a month ago that I got to see Cardinal Timothy Dolin, the archbishop of New York and hear from him good wishes for the upcoming Passover. One side of my family being from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the other from Vancouver Island in Canada, highlighted to me how Jews and Christians could be close neighbors. I had only positive experiences from my previous interactions with Christians. This is why Messianic congregations shocked me so much. Their blatant breach of the modern unspoken norm of not openly trying to proselytize members of another community was so different than anything I have seen with other Christians.

Sure, I was aware of Christian missionaries. My wife went to medical school with many lovely Evangelical Christians who hoped that the positive example they set would inspire others to become Christian. I respect their dedication and commitment to what they believe in. This was nothing like the ruthlessly conniving and deceptive messages I see broadcasted regularly out of messianic congregations. Seeing Messianic Churches name themselves “synagogues,” or even a “conservative synagogue,” and other highly deceptive methods.

Of course, we should all respect others’ right to worship as they wish. We should not welcome deception, blurring of lines, faux marketing, cross-use and misuse of cultural terms to mislead others about who is what, and the obsession with aggressively changing the religion of others.

I found a humorous caption of the deception used by messianic congregations when looking for Messianic congregations in my area. I came across the website of a messianic congregation, which is right near where I live. In their description of their staff, you will find something like this:” Rabbi Blank, President, Maharat Sarah Blank, Secretary/Treasurer, Reb Blank, Vice President.”

The use of Rabbi was not surprising. The Maharat—a term coined not long ago by the open orthodox movement—was what took me by surprise. Topped off just by the use of “Reb,” a more Yeshivish, took the deception to a whole new level.

I imagine that when king David states in Psalms:” From Your precepts, I shall gain understanding; therefore, I hate all ways of falsehood. And that “I hate falsehood, and I abominate [it], I love Your Torah.” (Psalms 119), he meant it.

A gruesome manifestation of deception used against the Jewish community surfaced not long ago in Chicago:

“A few months ago, a couple got involved in the Chicago Jewish community. Rivkah Weber and David Costello started attending an Orthodox synagogue in the West Ridge neighborhood. They looked and acted like Orthodox Jews: Weber covered her hair and wore long skirts, while Costello sported sidelocks and a kippah. The latter took a job at a kosher supermarket.

But on Wednesday, warnings started spreading on Jewish Facebook groups in Chicago, and beyond saying the couple, the parents of two children were actually Christian missionaries.”

Religious genocide is a crime. Religious genocide against the most ancient people in the world is unforgivable. Messianic communities should look to their neighboring Protestant, Catholic– and other religious denominations– who learned though centuries of bloodshed, we are all better off just respecting each other’s faith. We don’t need to compete. No one should try and annihilate other religions through deceptive measures. We should all respect each other’s differences, embrace our own identities, and would together with towards common goals. Pitting religious communities against each other, actively working to weaken and deceive other communities sews distrust and weakens all communities. Messianic communities should be as free to worship as they wish as anyone is. Using highly deceptive means as bait to attract traditional Jews is just another form of religious genocide. It must stop.


About the Author
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko is a New England based eleventh-generation rabbi, teacher, and author. He has written Sacred Days on the Jewish Holidays, Poupko on the Parsha, and hundreds of articles published in five languages. He is the president of EITAN--The American Israeli Jewish Network.
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