How the modern Messianic Jewish Movement was launched

A bar mitzvah in the early days of Beth Messiah Congregation

Before 1970 there were attempts to produce a Jewish expression of faith in Yeshua, and we can be thankful for such attempts. There was Edward Brotsky, the Jewish Baptist in Toronto and later Philadelphia, and others. But it was shortly before 1970 that a Jewish Evangelist, Manny Brotman, anointed by the Spirt in Evangelism, and with great passion, was able in his preaching and witness to win many Jewish people to Yeshua and fostered the idea of Messianic Jewish congregations.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, the Chernoff family began to entertain such ideas. Marty Chernoff, who had been a Baptist missionary and had been “baptised in the Spirit” and saw a vision to build a congregation on the basis of the idea of “Messianic Judaism” as the key term. There was an outpouring of the Spirit on the young people, which they describe as waves and waves of the Spirit upon them. The was much Holy Spirit laughter. Then there was Joe Finklestein, in Philadelphia, a chemist, who attracted Jewish young people to his home, and the same power of the Spirit was experienced. They called his group “the fink zoo.” They and Herb Links, a Presbyterian Jewish leader, connected to what was happening in Cincinnati. They began to influence the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America, later renamed the Messianic Jewish Alliance.

Unbeknownst to them, a two young Assemblies of God ministers, Ray Gannon and Phil Goble, experienced a mighty anointing of the Spirit in evangelism and saw scores of Jewish people come to know Yeshua. They planted Temple Beth Immanuel, and it soon had 150 people, very large in those days. (Today this congregation still exists and is known as Ahavat Tzioni). David Stern, who later became famous for his Jewish New Testament and Commentary, was its Cantor. He was a Professor of Economics at UCLA and also later taught at Fuller Seminary.

I also came to know these people in the early 1970s. But in 1972 when I started, I was still running form a bad experience in the Charismatic world. (see my book Dynamics of Spiritual Deception on this). Through scholarship, I came to believe that Jews who are called to faith in Yeshua were called to identity and live as Jews. This was so very early, 1972-1974. Then Manny Brotman had his sharing seminars in Washington, D. C. (1973). Paul Liberman and Sid Roth began Beth Messiah Congregation. Shortly after, Manny became the first Rabbi. And by 1976 through spiritual healing ministry at Adat HaTikvah, the new name of my congregation in Chicago, I was pulled back to the charismatic orientation I later would become the leader of Beth Messiah Synagogue near Washington, D. C. in January 1978. The following summer we would immerse 26 Jews in the name of Yeshua.

This is why the Chernoff family speaks about the Messianic Jewish Movement as the Jewish revival. It was a supernatural move of the Holy Spirit that tracked with the Jesus movement of those days.

Now as we debate the issues of the Jewish percentages on Messianic Jewish Diaspora congregations (not our problem here in Israel-we have different problems), we have to ask why there were no major questions about Jewish numbers or percentages in those days. We had a wonderful Jewish percentage and a wonderful minority of Gentiles who were called to the movement. The reason was that we were in the middle of a Holy Spirit power thing that was winning Jewish people left and right. That took care of the demographics.

Today we spend much time on theological debate and questions of authenticity. I have been involved in this and worked hard, even to writing several books on such issues. But in the beginning we did not have so much theology, and so much Rabbinic understanding or orientation, but there was power and effectiveness.

Acts 2 at Shavuot (Pentecost) is the template for the move of God among the Jewish people and Acts 13-15 applies the same Holy Spirit power to the mission to the Gentiles. So I am convinced that the problems of the Messianic Jewish movement in the Diaspora (and in Israel as well, but in different ways) will not be solved by getting the rules right for Jews and Gentiles. These things will not fall into proper order until we have a new outpouring of the Spirit for the successful reaching of our people. When thousands of our people come to Yeshua in our movement in the Diaspora and then thousands more in Israel, through a mighty outpouring of the Spirit, our perspective on all these things will be different. We will have the wonderful and massive challenge of disciple making.

The origins of a successful movement often tell us about the founding principles that must be recovered to see this success continue into the future in new generations. The Messianic Jewish Movement began as a mighty move of the Spirit, it was a fully charismatic movement, and nothing else will enable us to solve the problems we face today. I would advise that we spend much more energy praying and seeking God for such an outpouring than debating the issues. And everyone who knows me knows I am theologically oriented!! But this is my view after almost 45 years in this thing!!

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Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.