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In accepting Yeshua, Messianic Jews generally do not celebrate Christian holy days such as Christmas and Easter, which they do not consider to be part of Biblical tradition.
A Christian pastor, the Rev. Sheppard Lawrence of Merritt Island, said he views Messianic Jews "more as Christians because of their belief in Jesus as the Messiah. But, by their own admission, they really don't fit into the mainstream of organized Christianity."
Levine, who said he has attended services at fundamentalist Christian churches but has no "direct ties" to them, counters "Yeshua clearly is the Jewish Messiah," written about in the Tenach, the Old Testament, by the Jewish prophets. In short, to Messianic Jews, the Messiah already has arrived on Earth. To traditional Jews like Margolis, that is a ridiculous notion. They believe one simply cannot believe in Jesus and be Jewish.
- Controversial Jewish sect professes faith in Jesus, The Herald, Nov. 27, 2005
They are avoided by most Jews and misunderstood by many Christians.
Though they share beliefs with both faiths, they don't belong to either.
They are Messianic Jews - Jews who believe Jesus is the Messiah.
Twenty years after Memphis's first Messianic congregation moved from a private home into a converted bungalow in East Memphis, B'rit Hadasha Messianic Jewish Synagogue is still a bit of a mystery to most.
"A lot of times we feel isolated, like we're between two worlds," says Rabbi Gary Shansky.
"Christians are hungry to hear more about us, but they don't understand why we hold on to those (Jewish) things. But the Jewish world is totally against us. They look at us as being dangerous, like a cult trying to convert Jews to Christianity."
B'rit Hadasha belongs to Tikkun Ministries International - a family of 20 or so like-minded congregations scattered throughout the United States - and to the 23-year-old Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, a supporting group for 90 congregations in the United States, Canada and elsewhere.
Messianic Jewish congregations have been accused of being Christians masquerading as Jews. "That's why we make sure that our congregations have some Jews among their members," said Evelyn Hamilton with the union in Albuquerque.
B'rit Hadasha considers itself more Jewish than not.
Fifty-five families belong, with 80 to 100 people attending weekly services, Shansky said. The congregation is about 30 percent Jewish and 70 percent non-Jewish - members with no Jewish bloodline.
"I'm Jewish by birth," Shansky says, but he doesn't advocate that those who are not call themselves Jews.
Those with non-Jewish backgrounds are called simply Messianic believers.
They follow the Jewish calendar, embrace Jewish traditions, celebrate the Jewish feasts and honor the Torah. They love and support Israel.
Their services are a mixture of English and Hebrew. They have prayer shawls and yarmulkes or skull caps. They use siddurims or Jewish prayer books. They observe the Sabbath on Saturday. And their Torah scrolls are held and protected in a huge ark.
"We feel our faith is very Jewish," Shansky says. "We seek to recapture the Jewishness of First Century believers."
He added, "The only area we differ (from other Jews) is over the birth of the Messiah, His coming and His Resurrection."
- Jews follow Jesus between worlds, GoMemphis.com, Nov. 30, 2002
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