VOL 17: 4 WINTER 2014

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1 VOL 17: 4 WINTER 2014

2 A portrait of Messianic Jews by Andrew Barron and Rich Robinson S omeone once perceptively said, Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off. 1 From June 1 through December 1,, Jews for Jesus carried out a broad statistical study of Messianic Jews in North America, involving 1,567 respondents. This study updated a similar one we did in, exactly thirty years ago. The results paint a portrait, but really only part of one. Behind each 15% and 168 respondents lurk personal stories of searching and finding, pain and loss, struggle and glory. Yet it was important to survey the people we did, which was really about surveying ourselves, the North American Messianic movement. (A worldwide survey will have to await another day.) We wanted to know more about our lived experience, for God works in the world and calls us to work alongside him. Our study was Paint By Numbers Some readers might remember growing up with a hobby called painting by numbers. This involved a kit with a board that featured a scene divided into small numbered areas. Each number corresponded to a color included in the kit. When the entire canvas was filled in with the appropriate paints, voilà a landscape or a reproduction of the Mona Lisa. In a similar way, surveys also put numbers together in order to produce a finished picture. Here is a glimpse of the many pictures that our numbers produced. Again, see the full survey for a much more detailed portrait. Parentage. Over 75% of those 50 and older reported that both parents were. But for those born after 1980 (33 years and younger), just under 33% came from households with two parents. This is probably meant to help us understand our evolving movement and, moving forward from the results, to provide resources and stimulate strategies for outreach, fellowship and edification. because of the larger proportion of second-generation Messianic Jews in the younger respondents, reflecting the mixed marriages of their Messianic parents. This leads us to the next picture. Like the earlier survey, this one covered age, family background, education, religious observance and vocation. We also delved into observance of religious traditions, beliefs and identity. A new section, not part of the survey, covered the participants experiences as they heard and responded to the gospel. Along with our earlier study and the recent Pew Study of the general community,2 we can paint a portrait of Messianic Jews in North America. This article gives only a few highlights. Our full survey is available online at j4j.co/2014jfjsurvey, with full-color charts and infographics. We re intermarried, like other Jews, only more so. About 75% of Messianic Jews are married to non-jews, not much more than in the survey. This is higher than in other segments of the community, such as Reform (50%) or no denomination (69%). Intermarriage was markedly higher in the 50+ age bracket, with a small change in the intermarriage trend among second generation Messianic Jews. PUBLISHED BY My son, the college student! We re smart... or at least educated. Messianic Jews show a commitment to education that trends higher than in the general population and is on a par with or even greater than 60 HAIGHT ST, SAN FRANCISCO, CA TEL: How often we celebrate the holidays in the wider community. For example, 28% of Jews overall have post-graduate degrees, compared to 27% of believers and only 10% of the U.S. general population. While 42% of the general population haven t gone beyond high school, that is true of only 9% of believers and 17% of Jews in general.3 What s in a name? There has been some significant trending in the last three decades away from believers self-identifying as Hebrew s in favor of identification as believers or Messianic Jews. The sharpest decline since was in the use of Hebrew, followed by a smaller decline in the self-identification of. Interestingly, 28% are happy to identify simply as. (Respondents could pick multiple labels.) Doing. Messianic Jews of participate in holidays more than we did in, and much more than the overall community does. For all age groups, our participation increased after coming to faith in Yeshua. In the chart on the top left, the Pew Study tracks the overall community, followed by the two surveys of believers. There was also a marked increase in lighting Shabbat candles after becoming a believer. We saw a consistent increase in orientation across age groups towards this practice as well as in the general observance of Shabbat, the study of Hebrew, accessing and reading media, and observance of kashrut (kosher food laws). Notably, after coming to faith, believers showed a very significant increase in orientation across age groups towards the practice of tikkun olam (social activism, literally repair of the world ). Worship. Also significantly, more believers attend a church than a Messianic congregation. The significantly largest number attend a community (our name for community churches, non-denominational churches, and some of the more recent movements in which non-denominational churches have emerged as affiliated congregations in multiple cities). More, however, attend a Messianic congregation than traditional (Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian), Baptist or Charismatic congregations. Five percent indicated attendance at both a Messianic congregation and a church. There is also a consistent pattern of Messianic Jews in all age groups participating in and worshiping at local synagogues outside the Messianic community. Pew Study () Never 22% N Monthly 23% Seldom 54% Jews for Jesus Survey () N Jews for Jesus Survey () Never 10% Sometimes 29% No 22% Yes 40% Always 31% Often 30% Sometimes 35% Holiday observance has increased among American believers since and is greater than in the general American community.* *For various reasons, figures do not always total 100% Our Family Portrait, Part One Our Identity These few snapshots would seem to indicate a Messianic community that has a high rate of intermarriage, with more of us attending a church than a Messianic congregation. And yet, counter to some kinds of conventional wisdom, our community retains a strong sense of identity in terms of how we label ourselves, what kinds of activities we participate in, and how we worship (e.g., continued identification to some extent with non-messianic synagogues). Statistics, of course, are never cut and dried, and there is ample food for thought as to how retaining and expressing ness can best be maintained across generations and marriage situations. On the Journey to Faith Many believers will be eager to know how their own experience compares with that of other Messianic Jews when it comes to the journey to faith. Here s what we found: The beginning of the journey. We started young. The median age for first hearing the gospel is 17, and for taking that actual step of faith, it is 22 years of age. Through all age groups, most people had heard the gospel by the time they were 25, though there were still a significant (Continued on page 6) FAX: WEB: JEWSFORJESUS.ORG PRINTED IN THE U.S.A EDITOR: RICH ROBINSON ART, DESIGN, PRODUCTION: DAVID YAPP COVER PHOTOS JEWS FOR JESUS/RACHEL FRIEDLANDER WINTER 2014, VOLUME 17:4 PUBLISHED QUARTERLY ISSN

3 by Beverly Jamison Missouri, Math & Messiah a statistician s story Beverly Jamison was the lead statistical researcher for our survey. She is 100% the mathematician, and since behind every statistic there lies a story, she agreed to tell hers for Havurah. Notice the many points of contact between her journey (and what she says about her daughter) and the results of our survey. Iwas born in Kansas City, Missouri, where the community was largely Orthodox. When I was five, we changed the family name from Roskinsky to Ross and moved to California. There, I attended Sunday School, and later, the Hebrew School at a Reform temple. My father Roland worked in real estate appraisal for the government and also taught at the local community college. He was very interested in social issues and active in the civil rights movement. My mother Charlotte was also active in social causes and founded the suicide prevention center in San Mateo, California. I have one younger sister, and she is a humanities teacher and an author of novels and short stories. Growing up, we experienced all the sights, sounds and smells of the holidays. Since we were away from our extended family, who were back in Kansas City, we usually celebrated Passover with a local family or two. I remember the wine and candles partly because one of my pigtails caught on fire one year while I was clearing the table! At Hanukkah, we had the blue and white tablecloth on the dining room table, and I have memories of dreidels, chocolate coins, recounting the story and getting wax stuck in the menorah! And during the High Holidays, I remember going home and trying to be good, cleaning my room and taking out the trash. I was taught to consider what God expected of us. I think that I wanted His approval more than I wanted Him to meet other kinds of needs in my life. If I was wrong about Jesus, and the real Messiah showed up, there would be negative consequences. By high school, though, I wasn t thinking much about God any more; I was learning about existentialism and humanism. My junior and senior years were spent in the big city (San Francisco) where I lived with my father and my stepmother Betty (my parents had divorced by this time). Though my father s identity meant something to him, he was also spiritually interested in the variety of cultures and philosophies that could be found in late-1960s San Francisco. Meanwhile, my own interests lay in the somewhat newlydiscovered world of discrete math and the very new world of computer science. Though I started college at UC Berkeley, I later transferred to MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There I found a suite in which there were eight other girls, most of them from Orthodox families, who needed a ninth girl who would agree to keep the kitchen kosher. I was glad to do that and moved in with them. And shortly afterwards I heard the gospel. As a child, my only experience with s was that I had known some Catholic families and was familiar with the crucifixion, since it was a dramatic image. But that image just seemed to convey a sense, passed down from my grandmother s generation, that Jesus got killed, we got blamed, and it was a good idea to be careful! But what happened at MIT was this. During a new students event, I met someone my future husband Rick, as it turned out who was also from San Francisco, as well as his roommate Eric. Eric made a remark about Jesus, assuming a common cultural understanding. I was puzzled, but after hearing his explanation, I had no hesitation in saying that was just about the weirdest thing I had ever heard! Taken aback, he contacted some girls from Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru) and asked them to explain the gospel to me. They were a bit concerned about how welcome they would be in the kosher suite, but they agreed to see me. This was the heyday of Hal Lindsey and his book, The Late Great Planet Earth, and there was a lot of interest in the prophecies of the Old Testament. Because I was, the girls shared with me the messianic prophecies that showed that Jesus was the Messiah. I was intrigued, and it looked like they might have a reasonable case. But I hesitated. All the s around me were Gentiles, and it didn t make sense that they would know much about the Messiah. I also figured that if I was wrong about Jesus, and the real Messiah showed up, there would be negative consequences to face! I felt similar to how I had felt at the High Holidays when I was younger: what if God was watching and what if He didn t approve of how I was conducting myself? Still, I was reading the Bible at this point. I remember being extremely fascinated by the book of Ecclesiastes, impressed by its sense of reality. And it meshed with my earlier interest in existentialism. In the New Testament, I found the books of Matthew and John to be the most interesting ones. By May of 1975, the end of my time at MIT, I had come to put my faith in Yeshua. There was still a spiritual learning curve for me, though, and there were several more times when I felt I needed to pray the sinner s prayer all over again! At the end of my time in college, I got married to Rick, the person who had originally shared the gospel with me. He was a newlyminted Navy officer and off we went to his first duty station in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. We attended a church there as well, though Rick was often away due to being on duty or out to sea. In the spring of our first year, the Liberated Wailing Wall (Jews for Jesus music team at the time) came to Hawaii, and we were fortunate enough to be able to hear them. Later that year, Moishe Rosen came to Hawaii as well and spoke in several churches. I came to hear him too, in order to learn more about Jesus. In addition, our daughter Ruth was born in Hawaii and that gave me even more reason to know more about how I should live as a believer. I remember being extremely fascinated by the book of Ecclesiastes... it meshed with my earlier interest in existentialism. Rick retired after a career in the Navy, designing and building submarines, to work high tech in the civilian sector. Ruth inherited her parents geekiness and her grandparents dedication to societal causes and serving the community. She works at Google and is involved in work with children at risk, the Blood:Water mission and microfinance initiatives. And today I work in information technology at the American Psychological Situation. What I have learned over years of involvement in community has been helpful in my interactions with those on my team and with the clientele that we serve. I should also mention that Rick and I continue to have a seder every year; we used to light Shabbat candles until our lives got a bit too busy. We go to a Messianic congregation for the other holidays. And as you see from this edition of Havurah, I have also had a chance to use my background to work with Jews for Jesus on understanding our community of believers in Jesus! 4 5

4 49% 55% Messianic How we describe ourselves 51% 57% Believer 43% 29% 40% 13% Hebrew 37% 28% First bar in each group is, second is. believers calling themselves Hebrew showed the most dramatic change. Respondents could pick multiple labels. (Continued from page 3) number who didn t hear until later in life. And while the medians were 17 and 22, the averages were significantly higher, indicating that people do respond to the gospel even when hearing it for the first time at much later ages. Who told us? As expected, the most common way that someone heard the gospel in the community was through personal conversation. However, there has been growth in the numbers who heard it in a church, a Messianic congregation or in conversation with a relative. Others heard it directly from Scripture, at a public event or from tracts or other literature. The smallest number heard via online sources or social media; we might expect that to change significantly in the future. How did we respond to the gospel? Nearly as many had a positive as a negative response, with a significant number being interested. Overall, there was a mixture of positive and negative responses across the age groups. Thus the people were divided because of Jesus (John 7:43) remains as true today as in the first century. After hearing the gospel, people took a varied number of actions: most commonly, reading the Bible, followed by speaking further with the initial person and then asking God to show them what was true. A distinct minority tried to show that the gospel wasn t true, while the least common response was to talk to a rabbi. Pressure points and related experiences. We received comments indicating that the major pressure point in coming to faith involved what it would mean for relationships in the community (which included the community plus family members), followed by pressure from friends, school and work peers. Specifically, fear of disloyalty to one s upbringing and/or to the community was especially a point of pressure for the 50+ group. Fear of life changes was also prominent, as well as conviction of sin (a more positive kind of pressure point!). While all age groups experienced these factors, it would seem that pressure points, especially regarding the community, factored less significantly among younger generations. Our Family Portrait, Part Two Our Journey of Faith This second set of snapshots shows a community that heard the gospel early in life, with personal contact being (as we might expect) the largest single factor in introducing someone to the gospel. Our responses, as with Messianic Jews of past generations, showed a mix of the positive and negative, with the most common one being to investigate or read the Bible again, not surprising, since the Bible texts are the arena of debate concerning the Messiahship of Jesus. And coming to faith is never easy for people community and family pressures continued to loom large, though somewhat less so for the younger generations. So What? News We Can Use Statistics are an aid to understanding and an incentive to action. Here are some practical points that come out of our survey: 1. The presentation and response to the gospel have not drastically changed over the years. Personal contact, reading the Bible, and various kinds of pressures from the community and from family remain steady factors as they have since the first century. This means that we need to build relationships, make the Bible available, and recognize and then address the pressure points. This is nothing new, but bears repeating. When encouraging non- s to share the gospel with friends, the pressure points should be a special talking point in helping those s address the issues with which we are all too familiar as Messianic Jews. 2. More controversially, the survey showed that intermarriage, having only one parent and attendance at a church rather than a Messianic congregation did not appear to decrease identity or even practices. We note that this is true for our current survey; had we surveyed the believing community in, say, 1930, we might have correlated intermarriage with a loss of identity. This is controversial because some believe that marrying a partner and/or involvement in a Messianic congregation are necessary for the maintenance of identity down through the generations. Statistical results are only as good as their interpretations, and this finding bears further exploration, especially vis-à-vis the larger community s experience. 3. In terms of relating to the larger community, Messianic Jews in North America are more similar to the American/Canadian community than to the general U.S. population in areas such as dispositions, education and occupation. Our preferences in labeling ourselves and our religious observance levels indicate a continuing identification with the people. While there is much diversity in the Messianic community, this also reflects the diversity of the larger community. We are, in our temperaments, dispositions and activities, part of the wider community and moreover, we often actively seek ways to be part of that community, for example, through synagogue attendance. This is true even though the larger community continues to exert pressures away from consideration of the gospel. This suggests continuing the ongoing conversation as to what extent we need to prophetically challenge, and yet seek to remain a part of, the community at large. 4. Finally, this is a North American survey. Mileage may vary for Messianic Jews in Israel, the former Soviet Union, Western Europe and elsewhere. In fact, it certainly will vary. It will be important to compare our Messianic community to other settings to see what approaches we have to consider in cultivating our own ness and in bringing the gospel to our people worldwide. A Final Word Say you were standing with one foot in the oven and one foot in an ice bucket. According to the percentage people, you should be perfectly comfortable. 4 So said Bobby Bragan back in Statistics are curious things, and once there was even a book published called How to Lie with Statistics. We ve tried our best to produce reliable statistics and a picture of who we, the Messianic community of North America, are as of. But (as someone famously once remarked) since we is us, various ones may or may not recognize themselves in this picture. Our respondents varied in age group, in experience, in their own self-assessments. For this reason, we again encourage those who are interested to consult the full survey at the major pressure point in coming to faith involved... relationships in the community and family j4j.co/2014jfjsurvey and to send your feedback to As we increase our online presence, we may even be able to include some responses as Letters to the Editor. And by the way don t try standing in the oven and the ice bucket! 1. Cited by Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial (Pantheon Books, 1985), p Portrait of Americans, Pew Research,, j.mp/jportrait 3. In, though, 20% of believers had not gone beyond high school. 4. Bobby Bragan, j.mp/bbrag1 Photos Jews for Jesus/Rachel Friedlander Illustrations Jews for Jesus/Amer Olson See the full survey at j4j.co/2014jfjsurvey 6 7

5 VOL 17:4 WINTER Haight Street San Francisco CA NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION U.S. POSTAGE P A I D I N S I D E A P O R T R A I T O F M E S S I A N I C J E W S W h a t o u r l a t e s t s u r v e y r e v e a l s M I S S O U R I, M A T H & M E S S I A H A J e w i s h s t a t i s t i c i a n s s t o r y 100% of our readers get to hear about: Our Cape Town, South Africa evangelism outreach (December 14 24, 2014) will be over by the time you read this. But not really there are still follow-up visits, phone calls, s and Skype meetings with those who are interested or came to faith. Please be in prayer for this. Camp Gilgal s Wonderful Winter Weekends in Southern California January 30 February 1, 2015 Northern California February 13 15, 2015 East February 6 8, 2015 Midwest February 6 8, 2015 Ages Info and registration at campgilgal.com Photos Jews for Jesus

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