Identity has been a buzzword for decades. I remember discussions from my early days about “identity crisis,” a term developed by psychologist Erik Erikson. Today we’re talking about “identity politics.” Jewish identity remains as compelling a topic as ever, especially within the Messianic Jewish community.
We can best understand identity in the context of community. Family therapist Salvador Minuchin writes, “Human experience of identity has two elements: a sense of belonging and a sense of being separate.” Hence our focus in this issue of Kesher and the next will be “Identity and Community.”
We lead off with “Jewish Identity and Faith in Yeshua,” the first of a two-part article by Jonathan Allen, a Messianic Jewish scholar based in the United Kingdom. This first section explores “What Makes a Jewish Identity and Why,” with an introduction to modern Social Identity Theory and Social Memory Theory. Dr. Allen interacts with a wide range of biblical texts from a new and insightful perspective.
Richard Harvey continues the discussion with “The Conversion of Non-Jews to Messianic Judaism: A Test-Case of Membership and Identity in a New Religious Movement.” This paper was originally presented at the World Union of Jewish Studies at Hebrew University in July, 2013, and is published in slightly modified form here for the first time. In the next article, “The Unique Place of Gentiles in Messianic Jewish Congregational Life,” Rich Nichol explores practical implications of issues raised in our first two articles. Identity and community are inextricably linked: How does this work out in the real-life setting of Messianic Jewish congregations? Dr. Nichol is a veteran local rabbi (as well as president of our parent organization Messianic Jewish Theological Institute) who combines scholarly insight and pastoral depth in this fascinating article.
Carl Kinbar provides a concise history of “The Sages of Galilee and the Formation of Community” in the early centuries of the first millennium. The topic might sound a bit esoteric, but it’s a fascinating story and surprisingly relevant to our communal life today. Our final article is a journey paper by Joseph Culbertson, a graduate student at The King’s University. Culbertson is a Gentile who spent a few years in Messianic Jewish congregations and provides some penetrating—and appreciative—insights.
The first of two book reviews is by Israeli scholar Akiva Cohen, evaluating Jerusalem Crucified, Jerusalem Risen, by Mark S. Kinzer. Dr. Cohen’s review includes a helpful summary of what we believe will become a seminal book in Messianic Jewish theology. In our second review, Rabbi Ben Ehrenfeld introduces us to Moses: A Human Life, by the prolific Torah commentator Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg.
Kesher 35 wraps up with an index of all past issues. This release coincides with the launch of our new Kesherjournal.com website, which includes online subscription options and a complete archive. I hope you’ll take some time to draw upon both of these valuable resources.
Rabbi Russ Resnik
1 Salvador Minuchin, Families & Family Therapy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974), 47.