All posts by "Messianic Jews" Doing It Wrong

About "Messianic Jews" Doing It Wrong

I blog about cultural appropriation and Jewish playacting in the Christian "Messianic Jewish" movement.

A Christian Walks Into a Bar… Mitzvah

I feel sorry for the teenager forced into the “Messianic Bar Mitzvah” ceremony in this video, taken at The Tabernacle in Branson, Missouri. The ceremony has all of the awkwardness you’d find in an actual bar mitzvah ceremony, but I doubt he received any good presents.

Stray observations:

  • “Rabbi” Jeremy Storch is a founding member of The Vagrants. He claims to have been raised in a “traditional Jewish home,” but found Jesus in the wake of a near-fatal drug overdose. Now he plays tepid Messianic praise music.
  • The congregation can’t even get the name of its most holy book right: on the projected PowerPoint, they write “Brit Ha Dasha” (“The Dasha Covenant,” I guess?) instead of “Brit Chadasha” (“The New Testament”).
  • Their Hebrew transliteration uses “ale” as a name for the divine. Now we know why Abraham named the place of the covenant Beersheba!
  • For the “Torah reading,” the teenager read aloud Numbers 2:3 and 2:9, which somehow led into a speech about how Yeshua and David are of the same spirit. The speech didn’t make much sense to me, but I hardly blame the teenager, who was likely forced into this Jewish playacting by his parents.
  • If the name “Storch” sounds familiar, it might be because Storch is also the uncle of Scott Storch, a hip-hop producer who went from superstar-dom to financial ruin in months after becoming addicted to cocaine.

The MJAA Doesn’t Know if It’s Coming or Going

Next month, the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America will hold a regional conference in Grapevine, Texas (a small suburb of Fort Worth). Here’s a screenshot of part of the conference webpage:

MJAA incompetence

Unsurprisingly, the MJAA managed to grossly screw up one of the three Hebrew words it used. Surprisingly, though, the MJAA managed to screw up the English as well.

The cited verse, Isaiah 59:20, states that “a redeemer will come to Zion.” The excerpt on the website, though, is part of Romans 11:26 stating that the deliverer will come from Zion. In other words, the MJAA not only cited the wrong Bible verse, but also cited a verse with a contradictory meaning.

But hey, at least last year’s merchandise tables appear to have been fully stocked!

“Cantor Peter Gordon” is a Convicted Brothel Operator

While many of my posts mock people in the Messianic movement, this one is dead serious.

MJTI (Messianic Jewish Theological Institute) recently began offering a two-year cantorial arts program. For $8400 plus a required internship and various administrative fees, you too can learn how to read Torah and perform other basic liturgical functions in the Messianic movement.

Let’s put aside the fact that the program is a blatant ripoff for now. Instead, let’s focus on Cantor Peter Gordon, one of the two instructors in the program. According to his biography:

Cantor Peter Gordon… has served Reform, Conservative, Reconstruction, and Traditional congregations throughout the United States. He came to faith and started serving Messianic Judaism as an adult and has served congregations in Las Vegas, Nevada and currently at Beth Emunah in Agoura Hills, California.

This is a surprising background for someone in the Messianic movement, no? Why did someone who sounds very involved with Judaism end up adopting Jesus as his savior?

Answer: Cantor Peter Gordon, formerly known as Cantor Joel Gordon, left organized Judaism in disgrace after he and his wife Alison Ginsberg pleaded guilty to running a prostitution ring in 2001.

The Awareness Center, a volunteer organization dedicated to fighting sexual abuse in Jewish communities, has collected a series of newspaper articles about Peter/Joel Gordon with all the grim details and photographic evidence that the two Gordons are in fact the same person. Oh, and Gordon worked with a couple Christian congregations in Nevada using the name “Peter Andrews” around 2010.

(For the record, a quick online search for some of the article headlines and for “Cantor Peter Gordon” confirms that the information on the site is correct.)

The articles collected at the Awareness Center further reveal that Gordon served “congregations throughout the United States” because he kept having to leave them—and this was well before the brothel allegations. For example:

At Temple Sinai in Atlanta, Rabbi Phil Kranz said of Gordon, “We knew there was a problem. He was given a few hours to pack and be out and he left in the dark of night.”

Given Peter/Joel Gordon’s history, I strongly suspect that he became a “Messianic Jew” simply because he needed a new group of people to exploit. And his super-brief incarnation as the openly Christian “Peter Andrews” raises additional questions.

If you are involved in the Messianic movement (especially with Beth Emunah or with MJTI), please be extremely careful in your interactions with Peter/Joel Gordon; don’t let his musical abilities lull you into complacency. And please do not hesitate to contact the proper authorities, including law enforcement, if something illegal or suspicious occurs. Whatever my feelings are about your movement, I sincerely do not want to see any of you exploited.

Object-ionable Markers

I abandoned this website last year after becoming occupied with other matters—among them, working on online material for a real Jewish organization. Unfortunately, I’ve recently encountered far too much Messianic Jewish/Hebraic Roots/Nazerene silliness, both online and offline, which inspired me to update the site again. Updating right before Yom Kippur is not the best time, admittedly, but better now than never.

The full name of the so-called Hebraic Roots “synagogue” in this video is Messianic Voice Ministries את-Bnai Israel, which again shows that people who have no idea how Hebrew grammar works have no business naming these organizations. In this context, “את” is merely an object marker with no meaning on its own,[*] yet this group appears to have made it a central part of their identity.

Even better, the person leading services has the non-word “את” on the front of his cap. The closest parallel in English I can think of would be a Japanese teenager—one who didn’t speak English, obviously—wearing a shirt with just a semicolon and expecting it to make sense to others.

As for the service, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a group of people who don’t realize that “את” has no meaning on its own. I do like the hanging picture they have, though, of Jesus apparently giving the Vulcan salute (47:30).

G’mar chatima tova, and may everyone have an easy fast.

[*] “את” can also mean “you (feminine)”, of course. Or “spade.” So you can say that I’m calling a spade a, uh… never mind. I thought I had a good joke there, but didn’t.

Edit: Thanks to Michael Miller for pointing out that there’s more to the “את” thing than meets the eye. Apparently, there’s a popular idea in Messianic circles that it’s a reference to the alpha and the omega in the New Testament. The idea is still nonsense, but it does explain why this congregation is so fond of “את”.

The Crazy Factor

Nicole Czarnecki, the person in this video, claims to be Jewish after she decided that her great-great-grandparents on her father’s side were crypto-Jews. As a “Messianic Jew,” she has uploaded numerous YouTube videos attacking “non-Messianic Jews,” including this recent video in which she explains that they actually worship the pagan gods described in Amos.

The video itself is rather boring, I admit, although you do get to hear her butcher the Hebrew names for Isaiah and Jonathan. I find the video interesting nonetheless because it illustrates the weird blend of philosemitism and antisemitism you find in some parts of the Messianic movement. She clearly dislikes Jews, yet desperately wants to be one.

Making a Real Messer Things

If you’re a megachurch pastor accused of molesting teenage boys, one would think that you’d stay out of the spotlight for a while after you settle with the accusers. If you’re Bishop Eddie Long, though, you decide instead to let Ralph Messer, a self-proclaimed Messianic “rabbi,” wrap you in something that he claims is a Holocaust Torah. And then you let the God-awful ceremony be filmed so that you horrify everyone, Jew and non-Jew alike.

As you can imagine, other so-called “Messianic Jews” have scrambled to distance themselves from Messer—and, in doing so, prove that the No True Scotsman fallacy is alive and well. From an Associated Press article about the scandal:

Messianic Jews believe that Jesus Christ, or Yeshua, is the Messiah, putting them at odds with traditional Jewish theology. Most Jews consider the faith to be a form of evangelical Christianity.

Rabbi David Shiff of Congregation Beth Hallel, a Messianic Jewish synagogue in Roswell, condemned the actions in the video.

“Ralph Messer in no way represents Messianic Judaism,” Shiff said. “He is not affiliated with any legitimate branch of Messianic Judaism. His actions in no way reflect the position of Messianic Judaism. I found the presentation to be repulsive and inappropriate.”

The good news from this event, if any, is that more people will understand what makes the Messianic movement so offensive to Jews.