What is Messianic Judaism?

“The [UMJC] envisions Messianic Judaism as a movement of Jewish congregations and groups committed to Yeshua the Messiah that embrace the covenantal responsibility of Jewish life and identity rooted in Torah, expressed in tradition, and renewed and applied in the context of the New Covenant. Messianic Jewish groups may also include those from non-Jewish backgrounds who have a confirmed call to participate fully in the life and destiny of the Jewish People. We are committed to embodying this definition in our constituent congregations and in our shared institutions.” 

--Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations 
Basic Statement on Defining Messianic Judaism
Revised July 2005

Whether Jew or non-Jew, we are just ordinary people who serve an extraordinary God who has changed our lives forever. We come from many different walks of life but we all share a unity made possible only through God's Messiah, Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth.

WHO ARE WE? WE ARE JEWS !!

We are natural descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We were raised in Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and even secular Jewish homes. For some of us, we went to Hebrew School, had Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, received Jewish education, learned Torah, etc. Especially in light of the Holocaust, which some of us lost family in, our Jewishness was driven into us, and we were impressed to never forsake it. For some of us, the Jewish community of Memphis is home, where we were raised, while others of us have moved here from different places. We all have different stories, and each of us has different experiences. But at some point in each of our lives, each one of us had a life-changing experience. We discovered the Mashiach (Messiah)! What Good News! We now understand the joy that the disciple Philip shared with Nathaniel when he said,

"We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, 
and about whom the prophets also wrote-- 
Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." (John 1:45)

For some of us, our families shut us out or were dismayed at our decision to follow Yeshua, and our Jewish community no longer considered us as members. Some of us ended up in churches, and found strength as we learned how to follow Messiah, but something was missing. As we read the New Testament, we saw where Yeshua said,

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).

The churches were kind, and we grew. But eventually many of us felt that something was missing. Where was the joy of Sabbath, the fresh-baked challah, the singing of Eliyahu haNavi? Who would Bar Mitzvah our children? How could we fit in with traditional Christianity while our longing for Jewish identity went unfulfilled? Traditional Judaism was no longer an option. Yet we did not seem to fit in traditional churches. Our longing for our roots and heritage was a deeply engrained conviction. Where could we go?

For each one of us, the Messianic Jewish synagogue has become that place for us to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, enjoy Jewish space, enjoy the Hebrew language, stand for kaddish, have Jewish weddings and burials, hear the Torah read and shofar blown, sing Adon Olam, celebrate the Jewish holidays, bar mitzvah our children, and to keep our connection to Judaism all while maintaining our Messianic distinctives. In Messianic Judaism, we seek to preserve and proclaim our Jewish heritage and values in light of the person and teachings of Yeshua the Messiah.

WHO ARE WE? WE ARE NON-JEWS !!

Some of us are not Jewish, and we come from various ethnic and religious backgrounds. For some of us, traditional Christianity was home: Christmas, Easter, communion, baptism, church choirs and Sunday School were our background. Each one of us has a different story to tell. Why do we worship on Sunday instead of the Biblical Sabbath? Why do we observe holidays that neither Messiah or the apostles knew? Why has God preserved the Jewish people? Since Yeshua said that He did not come to abolish the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17), and that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22), and Paul wrote that the Torah is “holy… righteous…good” and “spiritual” (Romans 7:12,14), why do so many Christians fear the Torah or Judaism? While many followers of Yeshua love Israel, have respect for the Jewish faith, and abhor anti-Semitism, we have also learned that some Christians express forms of Judeo-phobia and anti-Semitism.

For some of us, we studied Judaism, and found pieces that seem to complete the puzzle for us. We disagreed with the rabbis about Messiah, but so much of what we learned was so meaningful to us that we developed a love for Israel, the Jewish people, and a new respect for Jewish faith and practice. We found good news! Some of us began to share what we learned with our families, our Christian friends and people in our churches. Like the Godfearers of the 2nd Temple period (who lived according to Jewish law without formally converting to Judaism) we became caught between two worlds. Where would we go?  We desired to live a scripturally-based life, but as Gentiles.

For each of us, the Messianic Jewish synagogue has become that spiritual home and mishpocha (family). It is a place which acknowledges that the Messiah has come, yet connects us non-Jews with Jewish people by allowing us to hear the Torah, observe the Feasts of Israel, see the connections between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, and join with Israel at large by supporting Eretz Yisrael and Jewish causes at a variety of levels. In Messianic Judaism, we seek to follow Yeshua the Messiah and His teachings according to the pattern of Jewish culture and tradition.