From: Lyn Wolfrom
Subject: Messianic Yeshiva
I thought your readers might me interested in this article from the
Tampa Tribune in Tampa, FL.
"SCHOOL WILL MIX JESUS, JUDAISM"
written by Michele Bearden
This fall, the country's first residential program to train rabbis
opens in Seminole. But these won't be traditional rabbis. They are part of the
Messianic movement - Jews who believe Jesus to be the Messiah.
Supporters are elated about the "yeshiva," saying it's a
long-awaited dream. Traditional Jewish critics call it a sham, a fraud
and a wolf in sheep's clothing.
"It's deeply offensive," says the Rabbi Tovia Singer of the New
York based Outreach Judaism, an organization that deals with the
"All they're doing," Singer says, "is presenting Christianity using
a Jewish motif in order to make Christianity less offensive to Jews."
The Messianic Judaism movement began in the 1960s as some Jews said
they believed Jesus to be the Messiah promised by God. In the 1970s,
"Jews for Jesus" began popularizing the movement's beliefs.
Among them: Jews don't need to reject their religious heritage to
become Christian because Jesus was Jewish and practiced Judaism.
"We believe there is sufficient evidence that Jesus fulfilled the
Messianic prophesy," says John Fischer, yeshiva director and Messianic
rabbi of Congregation Ohr Chadash in Clearwater.
As for criticism that the movement dilutes and attempts to destroy
an already persecuted faith, Fischer says followers are committed to
"In fact, we safeguard, protect and enhance our religious beliefs,"
he says. In a study he conducted for his doctorate, he found the
observance of Jewish dietary laws and holidays increased as Jews came to
believe Jesus to be the Messiah whose appearance is prophesied in the
Bible's Old Testament.
Fischer, born to Holocaust survivors in 1949 in Budapest, Hungary,
says he came into the movement as a teen. Today, four generations of his
family are Messianic Jews.
In the early years, he says, it was lonely at times. He was "nearly
always misunderstood" by both sides.
"You associated with whomever you could find," he says.
Now he's got more company. Estimates on the number of followers
range from 150,000 to 350,000 worldwide, with about 225 Messianic
That's one of the reasons why the yeshiva is so necessary, Fischer
says. If Messianic Judaism is to continue to grow as a viable, credible
movement, "there need to be rabbis who are trained to teach, lead and
The yeshiva will be independent school under the sponsorship of St.
Petersburg Theological Seminary. A full-time student could complete the
graduate degree in less than four years. Graduates then would become
candidates for ordination, applying to one of the approved Messianic
Among the courses: Messianic Apologetics, The Gospels in Their Jewish
Context, Zionism and the State of Israel, and Messianic Jewish Theology.
One of the most frequent questions fielded by Fischer is how can a
Jew believe Jesus to be the Messiah and still be a Jew?
"Anyone who comes to our synagogue will know right away that we're
Jewish. Our lifestyle, our worship, our whole experience is grounded in
Judaism," he says simply. "We don't lose any of that in our acceptance of
As a Jew from Jerusalem, however, Rabbi Eliezer Ben-Yehuda of Temple
Emanuel in Lakeland is "very disturbed" by the prospect of any program
that promotes Messianic Judaism.
"It's total misrepresentation," he says. "The so-called Messianic
rabbis have no right calling themselves Jewish. The proper name of this
movement is Christianity."
Ben-Yehuda says he's in favor of Jews and Christians working
together in an arena of "respect and recognition" of each other's faiths.
But he says that leading Jews into believing the Bible's New Testament is
stepping into dangerous territory.
To him, that carries a clear statement that his religion is not
"From the beginning of Christianity, there has been an attempt to
evangelize Jews," he says. "They start with the carrot, and if people
don't buy into it, they end up with the inquisition and the gas chamber."
St. Petersburg attorney Mishele Schutz has been a practicing
Messianic Jew for 12 years.With this movement, religious divisions are
dropped, she says, and "we come together as one, the way it was meant to
Like Fischer, she's the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She says it
wasn't a "lightning and thunder conversion" but rather an academic
approach that led her to the faith.
While she always had a curiosity about Jesus and wondered why Jews
didn't believe him to be the Messiah, her research became more intense
after she married a Christian. Eventually, she came to the conclusion
that the New Testament was a fulfillment of the Old Testament.
But she had no desire to abandon her conservative Jewish roots.
Attending a Christian church, as some suggested, would not have given her
the opportunity to practice her Jewish rituals.
In a Messianic Jewish synagogue, she believes she has the best of
"I am Jewish. I will always be Jewish," she says. "My acceptance of
Jesus doesn't change that fact."
For more information about the Messianic movement, call (727)
726-1472. (this is the phone number for Ohr Chadash , information about the
Yeshiva can be gotten from here)