The recent Pew Research Center study on American Jews is still being mined for insights into changes among American Jewry, but one of the more overlooked findings is decreased opposition to Messianic Jews claiming a Jewish identity.
The survey found that 34 percent of American Jews think that believing Jesus is the Messiah is compatible with being Jewish; 35 percent of ultra-Orthodox Jews agreed with this view. Christianity Today magazine (January/February) notes that this finding is supported by the observations and experiences of Messianic Jews who are seeing, if not acceptance, at least less of a tendency to write them out of the Jewish community.
Russ Resnick of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations said that the markers for Jewish identity have shifted from religion to ethnicity. “The gatekeepers are still holding the line against us, but a lot of Jewish people in the larger community recognize we’re here to stay, that we’re part of the Jewish community, that we’re concerned about Jewish causes.”
Another pastor of a Messianic congregation says that faithful Jewish living has worn down opposition to Messianic Jews more than evangelism has. He adds that “more Messianic Jews have participated in the mainstream Jewish community. Many of us see ourselves as fellow travelers on a journey with God with the rest of the Jewish community, and we take a posture of humility about the reasons we believe in Yeshua.”
The article also reports that messianic Judaism as a whole is finding acceptance in the academy as well. The 16th World Congress of Jewish Studies include a first-time panel on messianic Jewish studies. Gershon Nerel, a historian of Jewish believers in Christ, said the reason organizers included the panel was not only because the topic reflects a social reality, but that it also represents a growing field of scholarly research. Although Jewish believers remain marginal (only 2 or 3 percent of Americans with a Jewish background say they are messianic), Nerel says they are also influential and difficult to ignore.
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