For decades, Messianic Jews in Israel have struggled to convince their fellow citizens that they too are Jewish, but most of their persuasions have been met with skepticism and, at times, downright hostility. Until recently.
Shortly after Yaakov Katz was named Jerusalem Post’s Editor-in-Chief, he wrote about Israel’s inclusiveness as a society that includes four main streams of Judaism. After reading the article, Terri and Eric Morey of Poriya jumped at the opportunity to pen a response to the May 13 Editor’s Notes.
“In his excellent ‘Israel’s qualitative edge’, Yaakov Katz mentioned that there are four streams of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist),” Terri wrote. “But I want to assure him that there are at least five, and that one of them is Messianic Judaism.”
The Jerusalem Post printed Terri’s letter – with no content changes – in the English-language daily that has a circulation of 50,000 and some 3 million visits a month to its website.
The newspaper titled Terri’s letter, “We are still Jews!”
For Messianics, being simultaneously Jewish and believing that Yeshua is the Messiah is not only biblical but logical. Mainstream Judaism, however, has yet to coalesce the two seemingly disparate beliefs. After centuries of Christian persecution of Jews “in the name of Christ”, and forced conversions to Christianity, a deep seated fear and suspicion of Yeshua’s followers may be understandable. The Moreys hope that this letter is a step toward changing that perception.
“I’ve been living here 33 years and I don’t remember reading anything in the secular press that would let us say who we are,” Terri told Kehila News. “Messianic Judaism should be considered the fifth branch of Judaism. They don’t think we are Jewish, but if God would put this on the front page, so to speak, if people would see the simplicity of this fact and pick up their Bibles, they’d see it’s the truth.”
Katz wrote, “We don’t ask questions regarding how Jews practice and what they believe. Israel, we contend, is the homeland for all Jews and doesn’t belong to one denomination or stream.”
When Terri read those words she knew God had answered her prayer to be able to directly counter the notion that Messianics are not Jewish in a public forum.
“Most Jews in this country,” Terri said. “accuse us of deserting them. But we haven’t stopped being Jews – and that’s what I want to communicate.”
An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Messianic Jews live in Israel – less than 1 percent of the population of Israel. But with this platform in the media recently, the Moreys hope their letter will raise awareness and answer questions about the Jewish belief that Yeshua is the Messiah.
“The more responses the Jerusalem Post gets to this, the more controversy it stirs up, the more interest people will have,” Eric said. “We encourage more people to write in and respond to that article.”
Eric desires to help Jews immigrate to Israel, even Messianic Jews who encounter obstacles due to the misperception that they aren’t Jewish.
“These are the very people that nobody is helping and many are trying to exclude,” he explained. “One of our major hopes with this letter is to overturn that misunderstanding of the truth.”
Both originally from the United States, Terri was raised a secular Jew while Eric was a non-religious Gentile. The couple separately became believers and a few years later immigrated to Israel in 1983. They settled in the Tiberias area.
Currently, the Moreys devote their time to Kehilat Poriya, a community of about 40 believers that is part of the Tents of Mercy network. Eric and Terri founded the Galilee Experience, a tourist center in Tiberias, which opened in 1991. The Moreys currently run a business producing a line of Hebraic roots calendars, an offshoot of the Galilee Experience.
Yaakov Katz’s entire article may be read here.
The Moreys’ letter (reprinted below) can also be seen here.
We’re still Jews!
May 25, 2016
In his excellent “Israel’s qualitative edge” (Editor’s Notes, May 13), Yaakov Katz mentioned that there are four streams of Judaism (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist). But I want to assure him that there are at least five, and that one of them is Messianic Judaism. There are more than 100,000 adherents in the US alone.
Certain people have concluded that when a Jewish person believes in Yeshua as the messiah, he or she is no longer Jewish. This is absolutely wrong. If you ask any Messianic Jew if he or she is Jewish, that person will say: “Of course I am. I was born Jewish and I will die Jewish. I believe in a Jewish man who fulfilled the prophecies of the Jewish messiah from the Jewish scriptures. The idea that this makes me a non-Jew is absurd!”
Let’s say that, worst case, we are wrong and Yeshua is not the Jewish messiah. So take the case of Rabbi Akiva. He proclaimed that Bar-Kochba was the Jewish messiah. Today, we know otherwise. Not only was Akiva mistaken, but his mistake brought enormous catastrophe upon the Jewish people. But do people say he was not a Jew? So how is it that a Jewish person who believes in Yeshua as the Jewish messiah, even if he or she is wrong, is no longer a Jew?
One of the more prominent streams of Judaism today is the Chabad movement. Many of its adherents believe that their late rebbe is the Jewish messiah. I believe this is wrong, but I have no doubt that these people are still Jewish.
Mr. Katz invited us, his readers, to share our thoughts, and I am glad he did this. It shows that we live in a country where freedom of belief and freedom of the press still exist.
TERRI MOREY Poriya Illit