Israeli rabbis remain hesitant to accept Christian support

Wednesday, March 13, 2013 |  Israel Today Staff

These days there is no shortage of Christians worldwide who wish to support the Jewish state in any number or ways. But often these Christians hit a brick wall when the Israelis they seek to support are religious Jews wary of Christian aid.

The hesitation is understandable given the centuries of Christian persecution of the Jews that preceded modern times. That so many Christians now openly profess unconditional love for the Jews "smells fishy" to some.

A number of rabbis have followed the logic that these Christians must simply be implementing a new tactic with the same old goal - to convert Jews to Christianity.

Earlier this month, the religious publication HaShabbat B'Netanya reported that the Jewish Orthodox-run Central Charity Bank had refused a donation of 100,000 shekels (about $27,000 USD) from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews because it considers the organization to be a front for "missionary activity."

Other rabbis insist a distinction must be made between those Christians who seek to "convert" Jews and those expressing truly unconditional love.

Writing in another religious publication, Mazav HaRuach, Rabbi Sha'ar Yashuv Cohen explained, "We need to make sure that our friendship with [Evangelical Christians] does not, heaven forbid, become an activity that promotes conversion. This is no simple problem, and we are looking for ways to set clear boundaries between friendship with Israel and the desire to convert Jews to Christianity. This is the narrow road we must try to walk on."

[Special thanks to the Caspar Center for pointing out the above reports]

Rabbis like Cohen recognize that Jews and Christians share a common Bible-based faith, and that makes Christians natural allies of the Jews and Israel.

Nevertheless, the one thing the Jews have fiercely guarded over the centuries is a sense of community centered on their faith, and many fear that by accepting the "Christian faith" they would be leaving that community. And so, many Israeli Jews, particularly those more in tune with their faith-based history, are wary of getting too cozy with Christians.

That is one of the reasons for the push in recent years among many Israeli Messianic organizations to forge a new Messianic identity that is fully Jewish in nature. Indeed, some Messianic leaders argue that faith in Yeshua (Jesus) was a purely Jewish practice in its origin, and those elements that have made modern Christianity appear to be a foreign faith are, in fact, foreign to Judaism.

Unfortunately, that problem goes both ways, and modern Judaism has in a reactionary way swept away many traditional and biblical elements that would more closely tie it to faith in Yeshua as Messiah.

The ongoing effort to forge a new Messianic Jewish identity in Israel aims to bridge the gaps.

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