From the Editor – Issue 44

One of the liveliest ongoing discussions in the Messianic Jewish world concerns the ordination of women as rabbis. Kesher has helped advance this discussion, most recently in our last issue (Kesher 43) with Paul Saal’s article “No Longer Male or Female? A Case for Leadership Equality for Women in the Messianic Jewish Synagogue.” In this issue, we continue with two papers originally presented (in slightly different forms) at a forum hosted last summer by the Theology Committee of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations.

Joshua Brumbach leads off with “Called to Lead: Women as Spiritual Leaders in Messianic Judaism,” reviewing the precedent for women in leadership in the Tanakh, the New Testament, apocryphal writings, and Christian tradition, before taking a more extended look at the question within Jewish thought and practice. He concludes by asking “what is holding us back” from welcoming women into all spiritual leadership roles, including ordination.

Shari Rubinstein, in “Should Women Be Ordained as Rabbis?” discusses “what is holding us back” in her own terms. She opens with a treatment of the Creation account that emphasizes complementary male-female roles, and goes on to counter some of Brumbach’s readings of Scripture, concluding that “Hashem did not charge women with becoming rabbis — spiritual leaders of congregations.” In “Messianic Jewish Perspectives on Women in Leadership,” doctoral student Elisa Norman places Brumbach and Rubinstein at different ends of a spectrum of views. This spectrum also includes a position based on “complementarity with egalitarian leanings,” and the idea that women’s ordination is possible within Messianic Judaism as a pioneering movement. Her analysis should help clarify and advance this dialogue.

Another long-term discussion concerns the role of Gentiles within the Messianic Jewish community. Daniel Nessim sheds light on this issue in “Nascent Messianic Judaism and its Gentile Adherents According to the Didache,” an analysis of a second-century manual of Torah instruction developed by Jewish followers of Yeshua for Gentiles as well as Jews.

Three more articles round out Kesher 44: Doctoral student Karen Cheng provides an incisive and original treatment of the role of traditional liturgy in spiritual life in “The Siddur in the Formation of Messianic Jewish Identity and Communal Boundaries.” Veteran Messianic Jewish teacher and rabbi (and now doctoral student as well) Ben Volman contributes “A Prophetic Friendship: Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr.,” exploring a personal and spiritual alliance that is particularly inspiring in our day of ongoing racial misunderstanding. We conclude with my review of The Gospel of Mark by Amy-Jill Levine. It may be A Beginner’s Guide to the Good News as in its subtitle, but it reflects in-depth scholarship and a distinctive Jewish perspective on the earliest gospel that make it essential reading for Messianic Jewish students and teachers alike.

Thank you for your interest and support of Kesher as we continue to provide a vehicle for the ideas and perspectives shaping today’s Messianic Jewish community.