Sunday, July 28, 2019

Jesus in the eyes of the American Jewish population in the 21st Essay

Jesus in the eyes of the American Jewish population in the 21st century - Essay Example A discussion of American Jewish attitudes towards Jesus can sensibly start with the small (but growing) sect of Judaism called Messianic Judaism which believes that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Messianic Jews claim 47,000 followers and 280 congregations worldwide by the turn of the Twenty-First century (Kaplan, 2005). The idea that Jesus was the Messiah is seen as antithetical to the vast majority of American Jews. Kaplan succinctly states the problem that they have with the Messianic adherents: Christianity, which is perceived to be incompatible with any form of Jewishness . . . .Messianic Jewish groups are thus seen as antithetical to Judaism and are completely rejected by the majority of Jews. Thus Messianic "Jews" regard themselves as a culmination of Judaism rather than a branch of Christianity. Even their very claim to being Jewish has been rejected by nearly all Jewish denominations, organizations and the State of Israel itself. This is remarkable as Jews have been consistent throughout their history in being, as a whole, a tolerant religion used to adapting to various kinds of creed within their religion. The line that cannot be crossed, as far as most Jews are concerned, is regarding Jesus as the Messiah. It would thus seem that a majority of American Jews will not regard Jesus as the Messiah in the Twentieth Century, even though their Messianic brethren would claim this as a fact. The Central Conference of American Rabbis puts the situation in context: For us in the Jewish community, anyone who claims that Jesus is their savior is no longer a Jew and is an apostate. Through that belief she has placed herself outside the Jewish community. Whether she cares to define herself as a Christian or as a 'fulfilled Jew,' 'Messianic Jew,' or any other designation is irrelevant; to us, she is clearly a Christian. (Harris-Shapiro, 1999) Some have even related Messianic Judaism with an attempt to convert Jews, which is in reality an attempt to destroy Judaism through being a wolf in sheep's clothing. Or, to mix the metaphor, Messianic Judaism is seen as a Trojan Horse within this argument, designed to topple Judaism from within. Again, it is American Jews who seem to take this argument to its most extreme conclusions: ... Except in relations with Christians, the Christ of Christianity is not a Jewish issue. There simply can be no dialogue worthy of the name unless Christians accept - nay, treasure - the fact that Jews through the two millennia of Christianity have had an agenda of their own. There can be no Jewish-Christian dialogue worthy of the name unless one Christian activity is abandoned, missions to the Jews. It must be abandoned, moreover, not as a temporary strategy but in principle, as a bi-millennial theological mistake. The cost of that mistake in Christian love and Jewish blood one hesitates to contemplate. ... A post-Holocaust Jew can still view Christian attempts to convert Jews as sincere and well intended. But even as such they are no longer acceptable: they have become attempts to do in one way what Hitler did in another. (Fackenheim, 1987) (my emphasis) The idea that Christians trying to convert Jews to their religion, which often seems to

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