Messianic Judaism is a movement begun to provide a spiritual home for Jewish people, intermarried couples and their children, who believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah, and wish to express their faith as Jewish people.
We as Messianic believers have reclaimed our Jewish roots and identity following the pattern set by first century believers in Yeshua. However, we are not attempting to return to the time of the second Temple. Our intention is to live faithful Jewish lives. Just like our fathers and forefathers had done. We express our belief in Yeshua in a uniquely Jewish context. We observe the seventh day as the Sabbath. We observe the Jewish Holidays and celebrate the Bar and Bat Mitzvah of our children. We consider our main locus of identity the Jewish people.
Some non-Jewish people find a spiritual home within the Messianic Jewish Movement as well. We believe that G-d has brought us together in love through the Holy One of Israel, Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).
The modern Messianic Jewish Movement had its birth in the late 1960’s. During this period in America the younger generation was beginning to assert itself. Many people were open to try new experiences. It was at this time that many Jewish people came to believe in Jesus as Messiah. Upon doing so many began to attend a variety of evangelical churches. Over time a percentage of those Jews attending the church had a calling to return to their Jewish heritage and practices. These people became the founding fathers of the Modern Messianic Jewish Congregational Movement. At that time they were called Hebrew Christians.
Some gentile Christians condemned them for “going back under the law.” Hebrew Christianity asserted that the Jewish believer had a right to maintain their Jewish heritage and identity. In 1966, under the auspices of the HCAA, the Young Hebrew Christian Youth Organization (YHCYO) was begun; in 1967, it became the Young Hebrew Christian Alliance (YHCA). It held its first separate conference in 1970 at Messiah College in Pennsylvania (in 1975, the YHCA was renamed the Young Messianic Jewish Alliance of America [YMJA]), and began to surpass the parent organization in membership and enthusiasm.
Martin Chernoff became the President of the HCAA (1971-1975), and led the group towards Messianic Judaism (his sons, Joel and David, also served as Presidents – 1979-1983 and 1983-1987, respectively). In June of 1973, a motion was made to change the name of the HCAA to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA); however, a two-thirds majority vote was necessary to effect the name change, and only 62% was received at this time. However two years later there was enough support, and in June of 1975, the name was officially changed to the MJAA. The name change was significant as more than just a “semantical expression;” it represented an evolution in the thought processes and religious and philosophical outlook toward a more fervent expression of Jewish identity.”
It is this “fervent expression of Jewish identity” that truly sets the Messianic Jew apart. By definition, he or she is “a person who was born Jewish or converted to Judaism, who is a ‘genuine believer’ in Yeshua [Jesus], and who acknowledges his or her Jewishness.” A tenet of Messianic Judaism asserts that when a Jewish person accepts a Jewish Messiah, born in a Jewish land, who was foretold by Jewish prophets in the Jewish Scriptures, such a Jew does not become a non-Jew. They become a Jew who believes Jesus (Yeshua) is the Messiah. In this context, there is then no conflict whatsoever between being “Messianic” and being “Jewish.”
The largest organization of the Messianic Movement is still the MJAA (the former HCAA), the UMJC (Union Of Messianic Jewish Congregations) is a close second. It’s estimated these two branches of Messianic Judaism represent over 100,000 Messianic Jews in the United States alone. The MJAA is headquartered in Philadelphia and the UMJC is headquartered in Albuquerque New Mexico. As more Jewish people began to attend Messianic Fellowships a need for a more permanent entity arose. Thus Messianic Jewish Congregations were birthed.
In 1975, there were only seven of these distinctively Jewish congregations in existence; a decade ago, there were only ninety. Today, there are at least five times that number across the country. Martin Chernoff founded the first successful present-day Messianic Jewish congregation in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1970; other examples include Congregation B’nai Maccabim in Chicago, once led by DR. John Fischer and Ahavat Zion Synagogue in Beverly Hills, California led by Dr. Stuart Dauermann.
Several Messianic yeshivas (Schools Of Learning) have been founded as well. MJTI Established by the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) in the summer of 2002, Messianic Jewish Theological Institute (MJTI) serves the Messianic Jewish movement by providing advanced education and training for those seeking ordination within the UMJC. In addition, there is the MJAA’s Institute for Messianic Rabbinic Training (IMRT).
Beyond the United States there are Messianic Jewish Congregations established in Europe, South America, Israel, Canada and the former Soviet Union.
What About Our Relationship With The Church Community?
We appreciate the collective wisdom, worthy values, hopes and aspirations of both our people Israel and the historic Church. While we consider ourselves to be part of the Jewish people we also consider ourselves a part of the ecclesia (Those who have been brought together from the nations in Yeshua). Thus we have an eternal bond with the Church that can never be broken. They are our brothers and we must always seek to maintain harmony together. The Church helped give birth to the modern messianic Jewish movement and we will be forever grateful.