Embracing Conversion, Embracing Judaism

Embracing Judaism is the title of a book on converting to Judaism, one of the many books for potential converts to Judaism to read as they contemplate or prepare for conversion.

This post will seek to ask us are we ready to embrace Judaism?

Are we ready to fully see Messianic Judaism as a Judaism?

or are we content just to use the name without embracing all that this name implies.

For building a mature Messianic Judaism we need to embrace Judaism as our identity core or our “genus” as Dr. Mark Kinzer so aptly put in his booklet, The Nature of Messianic Judaism, with Messianic being our “species”. I avoided biology in high school and college but what I know of biology the genus is the main grouping with the species being a grouping or kind of the genus. For those more familiar with the arts rather than the sciences, Dr. Kinzer was clearly putting forward that Messianic Judaism in it’s authentic and mature form is a Judaism with Messianic being the type. Messianic is the adjective describing the noun Judaism.

An important and I will say a vital step in our maturation is the move toward establishing a rite of passage for the acceptance of a Judaism life for non-Jews, more commonly known in the larger Jewish world as conversion.

A Messianic Jewish conversion program is a clear acceptance of our place as a Judaism and the embracing of our identity as more than just a Jewish contextualized form of Christianity but as we truly need to be a Judaism, grounded in Jewish space that honors the Torah, respects Jewish tradition and glorifies Yeshua. This is a step that we must take if we are going to fully embrace our place as a Judaism and to fully accept our place in the destiny of the Jewish people within a recognizable Judaism.

For the detractors this is not a matter of seeking the approval of the Jewish community but to fully embrace the identity that God has given to the Jewish people to live as a Jewish community and like Judaism throughout it’s history to allow for those non-Jews with a sincere calling and drawing to cast their lot with the Jewish people to have that opportunity. It is one thing to each Shavuot to read from and study the Book of Ruth, which is Jewish custom and laud Ruth the “good Moabite” who joined with the people of Israel and grandmother of King David who said some of the most powerful words in the Bible:

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God”. (Ruth 1:16 NASB)But if this is where we leave the convert to Judaism to a revered person in the past are we not therefore not fully accepting our place as a Judaism and even worse as a “Judaism” unlike any other that does not allow the committed non-Jew to fully join with the Jewish people and embrace Judaism as their own.If we are intent on building a Messianic Judaism for the future first off we must embrace our identity as a Judaism and an important part of this identity embracing is the accepting of a rite of passage/Messianic Jewish conversion process for the few non-Jews in our midst who like Ruth share a deep calling to fully accepting Jewish life and having their commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people recognized by the Messianic Judaism community under the guidance and oversight of respected Messianic rabbis.This is something that we must do if we seek to build a mature Messianic Judaism for the future!

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10 thoughts on “Embracing Conversion, Embracing Judaism

  1. This is a sad understanding of Jewish identity. “Judaism” didn’t exist until certain Christian fathers created this idea of a religious system in an effort to draw distinctions from the increasingly gentile religion (Christianity) and the practices of the Jews. Of course, rabbinic Judaism did not exist for hundreds of years after Jesus. There wasn’t even a word in either Hebrew or Aramaic for “Judaism”, or “religion”.

    A Jew is a physical seed (descendant) of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and non-Jews cannot co-opt that identity, (although they can “Judaize” or, practice the religion) This is for good reason, as we have our OWN identity and it is vital, and HOLY! We are uniquely qualified and equipt to do our job along side, and in conjunction with, the Jews, in our own calling. Yet, too many Gentiles think they are second class and therefore their ego cannot handle being “second best”.

    This is exceedingly sad, as the world will not be repaired while men and women attempt to take each other’s identity, or Jews and Gentiles seek to switch places with each other. trust God – He doesn’t make mistakes.

    BTW: The reason people are asked if they are Jews when they enter a messianic synagogue is that this is the reason messianic synagogues exist, to nurture and build up the Jewish people! They are not there as an alternative congregational home to meet the needs of gentiles, who mostly shouldn’t be there anyway, as it is a difficult place to be (which as is proven by “Non-Jew/ non-gentile” commenter). Paul has forbidden “conversion”, and for good reason – it isn’t the right path to go down, and shouldn’t b an issue of “compassion”. I wish MJ would reconsider this practice.

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  2. PS: I forgot to add: in the days of Ruth, one did NOT have to undergo Jewish conversion. There were no formal “conversion classes”, mikvah, etc. As I understand Scripture (and willing to be corrected if I am wrong) if one chose to live by Torah, one simply joined up with the “Tribe” and lived out Torah. I know Acts 15 tells us we don’t have to be a Jew to enter into the Covenant. But as a non Jew, we’re still ostrasized in many ways. Too bad there aren’t more “Torah teaching Yeshua Believing Yeshivas”.

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  3. Thank you for this article. Mazel Tov on your 25 years of teaching!
    I am not a “Jew” according to Rabbinical Judaism (ie; my mother is not Jewish) but I recently found out I have Jewish ancestry. I am married to a “bona-fide” Jew according to halacha and the State of Israel: his Mother WAS Jewish. This “distinction” between Jews and Non Jews in Messianic Congregations SHOULDN’T be be an issue according to Rav Shaul in Ephesians. But in reality, it IS. When one enters an MJ congregation, one is inevitable asked, “So, are you Jewish?” This is a question posed out of pure curiosity, I am sure. But it does cause one to pause and reflect. I used to say, “No, I’m not Jewish, but my husband is”. Hmmmm. Unintentionally, I have always felt “second class” even though Scripture says I am not. To know it logically is little help, it’s the soul that must be dealt with. I truly wish MJ’s woudn’t ask this question of new attendees. Does it matter? It shouldn’t, but mamy times it does. I used to “‘fess up” that I was a “Gentile”. I no longer do this. I smile nicely and say “I’m grafted in”. I too can see the significance and opportunities in a “Messianic Conversion”. I know I have “a Jewish heart”. But I also know I cannot undergo a Jewish conversion, because at some point, I will be asked about “Jesus”/Yeshua. I will never deny Him before man, for He said if we do so, He’d deny us before the Father. I won’t risk incurring that wrath. So here we “non Jews” are, married to DNA Jews, and the synagogues won’t let us attend any Judaism classes unless we’re undergoing conversion. This is SO not fair, but then , YES, I know life isn’t fair. My GOOD FRIEND said he attended a Conservative Synagogue for a while, never letting on he wasn’t Jewish. That was a smart move, IMHO. Learning about Judaism with the benefit of being in a Jewish Synagogue, and learning how the Jewish mind thinks and teaches.
    Thank you for your website.
    May Adonai bless you and your ministry.

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  4. With the new covenant I feel there is very little need for conversion. I’d love to see the movement deal with the issue of it’s overwhelming gentileness first, before making conversion a priority. Heck, I’d love to see them deal with the fact that less than half of their leaders can adequately deal with a daf of gemarrah or posken on a basic halackic issue in issur v’heter. But they wont. they will never admit that wit their degrees in Jewish studies, second temple judaism et al that they still need to learn what everyone else does (even Reform) to become an actual force in the Jewish world. Until that time (if it ever happens) many of us who believe will continue to melt into our chosen stream without the benefit of regular fellowship because we’d rather be legit Jews than the illegitimate children of two groups.

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  5. Mark Kinzer and his cohorts know how to write catchy books, and have no time to read Scriptures. That is why they are creating the error of Acts 15 all over again.

    so maybe you can tell them: THERE IS NO NEED TO BECOME JEWISH IN ORDER TO ENTER THE COVENANT PEOPLE.

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  6. Can someone explain the following to me: it seems that the Law of Moshe (as given to him by HaShem) says that foreigners, even those closest to Jews by blood (Edomites) or historically (Egyptians), can enter the congregation of Israel only in their THIRD generation (meaning only their GRANDCHILDREN are eligible for full membership):

    “Do not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. Do not abhor an Egyptian, because you lived as an alien in his country. The third generation of children born to them may enter the assembly of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 23:7-8)

    How did this apply back then to foreigners (did they actually become Jews/Israelites with equal status considering that only their grandchildren were allowed in the assembly of the L-rd) and how does the above apply to those seeking to enter (through conversion) Israel today and become Jews/Israelites? (I am also of the opinion that today one can indeed convert to Judaism, but he/she will become a “proselyte” (see Acts 6:5 for one example in Brit Hadasha), but not a Jew/Israelite/Hebrew).

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  7. “This is serious business.”

    Once the conversions get really under way, will former non-Jews be required to provide a conversion certificate when transferring to another congregation so as to qualify for certain Jews-only mitzvot, or when applying to a certain Jews-only positions (like a rabbi)? Or will this be an honor system (as it is today)?

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    1. The only process of conversion that I endorse is through the Messianic Jewish Rabbinic Council (www.ourrabbis.org) that has only approved a handful of non-Jews converting to Judaism in over 7 years of work on developing a conversion process and the necessary halakhic standards that they seek to guide the new converts to walk. This process is the cure to the problem we face of ad-hoc “Jewish” status of committed non-Jews in our midst and allows for those with a demonstrated calling and extended involvement (some people 10-20 years) in the life of Messianic Judaism to fully embrace Judaism and to have this commitment acknowledged by the Messianic Judaism community.

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  8. The problem is, that unlike the mainstream Judaism, Messianic Judaism is already overwhelmingly Gentile. It’s already viewed from the outside as a 99% Gentile movement – going by numbers alone (which is not exactly true, but not too far from truth either).

    It’s already viewed as a movement where Non-Jews routinely “mascaraed” as Jews (and I have to agree, from personal congregational experience, that this is indeed the case.)

    Traditional Judaism is not in danger of being “overun” by non-Jews, so a few converts here and there never, historically speaking, represented a big problem. At other points of history, Jewish communities accepted no converts at all (Russian or Syrian communities come to mind) Neither was it very popular to convert in the first place (until the last 20 years or so, connected with rise of intermarriage and favorable view of Jews by Christians associated with Dispensationalism – who, I suspect, are the main source of converts). Gentiles didn’t have any desire to “become Jews”.

    The same can’t be said of MJ. In our congregations, besides already being a majority, many of the Gentile congregants already view themselves as “spiritual” Jews (or, if they find a Jewish-sounding name in their genealogy or get a “revelation” from G-d, as ethnic Jews).

    Many of the “rabbis” are either unconverted Gentiles themselves, or Jews of dubious credentials, with many having only Christian theological education. There’s no central conversion authority in Messianic Judaism to prevent any “Rabbi” O’Donnell from converting their whole congregations en mass (and there seems to be more “Messianic Congregations” than “Messianic JEWISH Congregations).

    Am I wrong?

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    1. I am not advocating a system whereby “Rabbi O’Donnell” or any individual leader does ad hoc conversions. This is serious business. I do endorse the work being done by the Messianic Jewish Rabbinic Council (www.ourrabbis.org) that is a group of knowledgable and respected Messianic JEWISH rabbis and other respected JEWISH lay leaders that has been working over 7 years on what a credible Messianic Jewish conversion program would be. I am opposed to people mascarading as Jews, but I am seriously supportive of a credible process for those specially called and specially vetted non-Jews that like Ruth want to join with the People of Israel to have that opportunity.

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