Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Now is time to accept the sixth branch of Judaism- Jews for Jesus!!!

Now is the time to accept the sixth branch of Judaism- Jews for Jesus!!!

My friend Mark grew up with me and shared my Conservative background. Now he is a Jew for Jesus and belongs to a Messianic synagogue. He wants to start a movement to have Messianic Judaism become recognized as an official sixth branch of Judaism. The first five are of course, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Humanist*.

Mark argues his is the fastest growing form of Judaism, thanks to inter-marriage and strength in numbers of children of the inter-married there are over 1,300 active Messianic Synagogues in the U.S.

He argues that through Jesus he feels fulfilled as a Jew. He says that as a Messianic Jew he observes the Shabat much more now than he ever did as a Conservative Jew. Why should we discriminate against him? Is he not a Jew? Don't we believe that each person has a right to express their Judaism as they see fit? He is doing so and he is following his "Rabbi".

On what grounds can you or I rebuff his desire to create an official sixth branch?

Think about it, as a liberal Jew for many years I have always heard it said that the Orthodox are intolerant for not accepting Reform and Conservative Judaism as legitimate forms of Judaism.

But once I start thinking of making standards to Judaism and saying certain beliefs fall outside of Judaism- am I really any different than the Orthodox who rejected Reform or other groups based on their standards? Am I now also intolerant?

Just like I wouldn't accept that Jew for Jesus is a true expression of authentic Judaism how can I fairly expect Orthodox Jews who have been practicing their beliefs for thousands of years to suddenly accept all the new "rules of the game" that my community is playing Judaism by. For example in my community we drive to the Temple on the Sabbath and High Holidays (which of course is making a fire on Shabbat by burning gas), accept Gays and Lesbians as legitimate lifestyles and our women are called up to the Torah to have an Aliyah. Perhaps we shouldn't label the Orthodox as "intolerant" just because they have a more restrictive definition of what Judaism is than we do.

The Conservative movement has standards as well. Conservative ideology holds that the Halacha (Jewish law) is binding in Judaism. Reform does not see Halacha as binding. Would a Conservative Jew be called intolerant if he said that Reform Judaism isn't Judaism because a true practice of Judaism must include the concept of Halacha as binding?

In fact, since Reform ideology clearly falls outside of what the Conservative movement's standards of what Judaism is would it not be more honest for the Conservative movement to state so openly?

One can readily understand that it is very insulting to Reform and Conservative Jews to hear from an Orthodox Jew who is most representative of the Judaism handed down through the ages- the type of Judaism that Jews died for- that their ideologies fall outside of Orthodox standards of what Judaism is.  One can understand that they would be insulted and would prefer to believe that the reason they are not accepted is just because of INTOLERANCE of Orthodox Jews.  That is an easier pill to swallow than to think that, what a minute, perhaps Judaism isn't a free for all.

It is a mistake to label Orthodox Jews as "intolerant" for not accepting Reform or Conservative Judaism if the reason they do not accept these movements is that the ideologies of Reform and Conservative fall outside of what their definition of Judaism is. In fact it is more honest for the Orthodox to admit that they do not accept these movements as a legitimate form of Judaism if they don't. It’s not that they are intolerant it is just that they have standards.  Just like you do. 

One thing I think we can all agree on is that it is an insult to Judaism to label it "a belief system where anyone can believe anything they want to as long as they don't believe in Jesus".

If you don't accept Messianic Judaism (Jews for Jesus) as a sixth branch of Judaism- ask yourself why not? And if you have standards- why are your standards (which doesn't accept Messianic Judaism) more correct than the Orthodox standard which traces itself back thousands of years to Sinai and doesn't accept Reform or Conservative?

Dave Neil

*Humanist Judaism, the most recent invention of the Something - hyphen- Judaism, demonstrates you don't even need to believe in G-d to be called a form of "Judaism" see This "form of Judaism" has nothing in common with the belief system found in the Torah. If you want you can also start a new version of Judaism- just make a list of things you believe- better to make it things which are popular so you can have more adherents- and call it something such as Liberal-Judaism. But don't start a new stream of Judaism if you think there is something wrong with each person making up a new branch of Judaism based on their own ideas. One obvious problem which would arise is that we would end up with as many "Judaisms" as there are Jews! (See Numbers 15:16)


  1. In short,
    It is not because the Orthodox are "intolerant" that they don't accept Reform and Conservative but rather because those movements fall outside of Orthodox's standards are.

  2. can't help it, but there is something to what he said.