Just a few days ago, some amazing statistics were published regarding the significant changes in the lives of Jewish people in America.
This survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project – and the results are stunning!
One of the most interesting points is that over 30% of the Jewish people surveyed affirmed that believing in Jesus is NOT incompatible with being Jewish!
As a Messianic Jew and leader of Chosen People Ministries, it is incredible to think that hundreds of thousands of Jewish people in the United States are now open to the concept that you can be Jewish and believe in Jesus. This is a dramatic change from the times when I first became a follower of Jesus in 1970.
Over the years, I and many others in our ministry have labored to challenge the long-held concept that Jewishness and belief in Jesus were incompatible – so I am greatly encouraged by these findings, and I believe that this is just one step closer for many Jewish people to explore and even accept the claims of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.
Further, the survey indicated that 1.7 million Jewish people identify themselves as Christians. This is absolutely staggering to me! However, the number of these individuals who might be considered ‘Christians by conviction’ remains to be seen.
At the same time, I am concerned about other aspects of the survey results, because it revealed that many Jewish people are no longer interested in practicing the Jewish religion, or even in being Jewish.
Two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue, and one-fourth does not even believe in God!
This trend seems to be intensifying among members of the younger generation. According to the survey, 32% of those born after 1980 say they have no religion. Rather, their “Jewish identification” expresses itself culturally and politically – especially in support of Israel.
Clearly, these trends might indicate a greater openness among the Jewish people to consider belief in Jesus as the Messiah, yet as a Messianic Jew I also believe in the importance of sustaining the uniqueness of the Jewish people as described in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Though I am glad to see Jewish people coming to faith, I am also troubled to see that the Jewish community is fragmenting and becoming more secular.
According to the Bible, the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob established the Jewish people as a nation to glorify Him and to serve His holy purposes (Genesis 12:1-3, Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Even the great Apostle Paul viewed himself as a both a Jewish person and a follower of Jesus the Messiah, and maintained that those Jews who believed in Jesus remained part of the Jewish community (Romans 11:1-5).
Leading by his example, I believe Paul encouraged Jewish followers of Jesus to be a visible and vocal part of the broader Jewish community. Further, the Bible does not distinguish between having a relationship with God and maintaining community loyalties as a Jew. In fact, the Bible views being a “good Jew” as one who has faith in God and desires to be obedient to His expectations outlined in the Scriptures – both the Old and New Testaments.
As Messianic Jews, we understand that Jesus is the Messiah and that the God of Israel wants us to follow the Messiah of Israel – as Jews! This will obviously be interpreted and expressed differently by Jewish believers. Some will express their love for God and His Messiah in more traditionally observant Jewish ways, and others in a manner that is more culturally and community oriented.
The survey also highlighted the large dichotomy between the more Orthodox Jews who are remaining loyal to the Jewish religion, and the younger generation that is beginning to search for answers outside of Orthodoxy. This is one more reason why the new Charles Feinberg Messianic Jewish Center in the heart of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn is needed, as our outreach will appeal to both groups.
Furthermore, about 10% of the Jewish people in American – more than half a million – are Russian Jews. The largest concentration of Russian Jews, numbering over 300,000, happens to be within a few miles of our new Brooklyn Center.
In sum, the survey is indeed fascinating and will have a profound influence on the Jewish community in the days ahead. I will continue reflecting on its implications, especially the impact it will leave on the movement of Jewish people believing in Jesus. Perhaps the remnant Paul describes in Romans 11:5 is larger than we thought!
Also see: http://www.nycreligion.info/?p=10529