While the Messianic Jewish movement—i.e. Jews converted to Christianity while keeping their Jewish identity and some Jewish practices—has only existed in Germany since 1995, it numbers now some 40 groups with about 1,000 members, reports Stefanie Pfister in the German monthly Materialdienst der EZW (July).
The appearance of Messianic Judaism is linked to the revival of Jewish life in Germany following the immigration of Russian Jews. More than 198,000 of them migrated to Germany between 1993 and 2006, but a number of them actually had Jewish descent only from their fathers’ side, which does not make them Jews from a traditional Jewish viewpoint, thus making their integration into Jewish religious life difficult. This and other reasons explain why only half of the “Jewish” immigrants actually belong to a Jewish congregation.
The first Messianic Jewish groups in Germany were established by people who had already become Messianic believers in the former Soviet Union (FSU) in the early 1990s after interacting with evangelicals. Fifty-five to 75 percent of those attending Messianic services are of Jewish descent, and other immigrants from the FSU make a significant percentage of the rest, reports Pfister, who in 2008 published a doctoral thesis on the movement (in German). These services take place on Shabbat and have a strong Jewish flavor (including menorah, Israeli flags, shofar, kippa and tallit).
Most services are celebrated in Russian, but leaders of the movement see this as a transitory stage, before moving to German and expanding—something that will be needed even more due to the slowing down of Jewish immigration from Russia to Germany. The movement is not homogeneous: some of the groups are independent, while others are connected to various Jewish or Israel-oriented evangelical groups.
(Materialdienst der Evangelischen Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen, Auguststrasse 80, 10117 Berlin, Germany, http://www.ezw-berlin.de)