There Is No Such Thing as a “Messianic Jew”

Nov. 20 2018

Last month, at a rally in Michigan for then-congressional candidate Lena Epstein, a self-styled “messianic rabbi” (who was in fact defrocked fifteen years ago by the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations) delivered a benediction in honor of the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre, offending the sensibilities of many American Jews. David Wolpe explains why the terms “messianic Jew” and “Jew for Jesus” are deliberately misleading, and why the vast majority of Jews are justified in seeing them as outsiders:

According to the strict [talmudic] legal standard, a Jew, no matter what practice or belief he adopts, cannot leave Judaism. But as a communal, practical matter, of course one can. . . . [T]he clear bright line between Jews and Christians is, and has always been, belief in Jesus as divine. It was over precisely this question that early Christians separated from Jews. They were Christians because they accepted Jesus. In the first few centuries of Christianity that conviction split the new religion from its Jewish parent. If you ask why Christians persecuted Jews in the ancient, medieval, and modern period, that is the answer, because they accepted Jesus, and Jews refused to do so. . . .

After thousands of years of understanding this simple difference, in 1970, Moishe Rosen came to the strange realization that tweaking the message of Christianity was a successful strategy and “Jews for Jesus” or “messianic Jews” gained currency. It is a very attractive marketing scheme. You can stay Jewish! No need to abandon the faith of your ancestors. All you need do is make a small adjustment. Of course, that adjustment is precisely what has always divided you, but no matter. Of course, there are no Christians for Muhammad, but no matter. Be a Jew for Jesus, and when Jews object, just disparage their sensitivities.

A “Jew for Jesus” is an insult to Judaism and to Christianity. It takes the central tenet of a faith and pretends that you can hold it without being part of that faith. It is a strategy for conversion, . . . and a transparent one at that, . . . a marketing scheme dressed up as theology, a faith-based oxymoron that no one should believe. . . . [I]t is a disgrace and an offense to the countless Jews who remained faithful in the face of unimaginable suffering and gave their lives for refusing to accept Jesus as their savior.

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More about: Christianity, Judaism, Messianism, Religion & Holidays

Hizballah Is in Venezuela to Stay

Feb. 21 2019

In a recent interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the presence of Hizballah cells in Venezuela as further evidence of the growing unrest in that country. The Iran-backed group has operated in Venezuela for years, engaging in narcotics trafficking and money laundering to fund its activities in the Middle East, and likely using the country as a base for planning terrorist attacks. If Juan Guaido, now Venezuela’s internationally recognized leader, is able to gain control of the government, he will probably seek to alter this situation. But, writes Colin Clarke, his options may be limited.

A government led by Guaido would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hizballah’s presence on Venezuelan soil, not just nominally but in more aggressively seeking to curtail the group’s criminal network and, by extension, the influence of Iran. As part of a quid pro quo for its support, Washington would likely seek to lean on Guaido to crack down on Iran-linked activities throughout the region.

But there is a major difference between will and capability. . . . Hizballah is backed by a regime in Tehran that provides it with upward of $700 million annually, according to some estimates. Venezuela serves as Iran’s entry point into Latin America, a foothold the Iranians are unlikely to cede without putting up a fight. Moreover, Russia retains a vested interest in propping up [the incumbent] Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and keeping him in power, given the longstanding relationship between the two countries. . . . Further, after cooperating closely in Syria, Hizballah is now a known quantity to the Kremlin and an organization that President Vladimir Putin could view as an asset that, at the very least, will not interfere with Russia’s designs to extend its influence in the Western hemisphere.

If the Maduro regime is ultimately ousted from power, that will likely have a negative impact on Hizballah in Venezuela. . . . Yet, on balance, Hizballah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group—no matter how high a priority for the Trump administration—remains unlikely. The best-case scenario for Washington could be an ascendant Guaido administration that agrees to combat Hizballah’s influence—if the new government is willing to accept a U.S. presence in the country to begin training Venezuelan forces in the skills necessary to counter terrorism and transnational criminal networks with strong ties to Venezuelan society. But that scenario, of course, is dependent on the United States offering such assistance in the first place.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Mike Pompeo, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Venezuela