Jewish Identity and Faith in Yeshua, Part 2

In the first part of this article we looked at some of the ways in which identity—Jewish identity in particular—is formed and shaped. In this second part of the article, we are going to briefly recap the importance of social identity and social memory theory and then consider what the research data says about how the church interacts with Jewish identity—what does and what doesn’t help. Next, we are going to consider how the existing streams of Judaism work with Jewish identity. Finally, we will look at how Messianic Judaism can learn from both the church and other Judaisms to foster and promote individual and congregational Jewish identity.

Recapping the Theory

Our basic identity—who we are—is given by God. Although one’s identity may develop over time, it does not fundamentally change. For example, we could track the life stages of a typical person from baby, to child, to youth, to adult, to spouse, to parent, to grandparent, to widow or widower. Other identities may be added to or supplement such a trajectory on a temporary basis: employee, caregiver, manager, employer, patient. Still other identities are more enduring: a male will always be the son of his parents even if they are no longer alive; if she has children, a woman will always be the mother of her children. Many of these identities may overlap, so that a young woman in her early twenties can be a wife, a mother, a caregiver, a student, and an employee all at the same time; a man in his sixties can simultaneously be a husband, a father, a grandfather, an employer.

Social identity theory suggests that each person maintains two hierarchies of identity: the prominence hierarchy and the salience hierarchy. The prominence hierarchy is the person’s own view of himself, sequenced by the relative importance the person attaches, consciously or subconsciously, to the various identity components in his life. The salience hierarchy is dependent upon the context within which the person is operating and is therefore at least partly dependent on the others with whom the person is interacting. The prominence hierarchy changes only slowly over time, but is always controlled by the person himself; the salience hierarchy can change rapidly from context to context, as the person selects those identities that will be displayed or hidden in response to the other actors in a given situation. One moment a woman may be a mother taking her children out for a walk; the next moment she may be a paramedic responding to an elderly person who has just collapsed on pavement in front of her. Dissonance occurs when the salience hierarchy—essentially, who others want or will allow the person to be—is consistently out of alignment with the prominence hierarchy—who the person considers herself to be.

Social identity theory also suggests ways in which all groups have a corporate identity, which is used to include or exclude people from membership in a particular group. The group maintains a prototype, a set of characteristics that act as a filter or pattern against which potential and current members can be tested to see whether they match the group’s identity criteria. Behaviors, opinions, or attitudes that fall outside the prototype can cause a member to be marginalized or excluded from the group. Members amplify prototype-compliant behavior to strengthen and confirm their own membership, to gain priority within the group, and to reinforce the prototype. Group prototypes are the principle way that groups attract members and differentiate themselves from other groups. Deprived of their natural environment, individuals will assimilate to the least offensive group available, shedding identities and behaviors as necessary to gain a minimal resemblance with the group prototype.

Memory also plays an important part in identity formation and maintenance. Some memories are personal, some are social, and still others are narrated. Personal memories are those held by an individual about events in his or her own life—that is, first-hand experiences. Social memories are those held by a group of people about events that they have experienced together. Narrated memories are those that have passed from personal or group memory—a process that typically takes a generation to happen—into narrative form that no individual can remember from personal experience but are remembered by for the group through repeated tellings for subsequent generations.

Social memory theory offers explanations for the ways in which personal memory interacts with social memory. While personal memory is held by individuals, it can be corrected by other individuals who either share memories of the same experience, or by those who have heard the memory being recounted before. This can often happen within families. The individual may or may not accept correction and may or may not “alter” her memory. Researchers have shown that individuals will relate their own personal memories in slightly different ways, depending on who is listening and any “correction” that is offered. Memories can also be altered or re-narrated to make a point, win an argument, or further an agenda, sometimes subconsciously.

The power of shared social memory is that it no longer relies upon a single individual’s personal memory and offers a measure of self-correction and maintenance. It develops an immunity to drift or elaboration due to the presence of multiple individuals within the social group who either share personal memory of the event, or who have heard the story told the same way enough times that they can easily detect a change. A group may only allow an “authorized” memory of certain events, even if individuals may have slightly divergent personal memories. Over time, social memories become stylized or abbreviated—losing detail, like a picture that is compressed—as they move into narrated memory, to focus on a simplified strong narrative with a limited number of reliably repeatable points that can easily be learned by successive generations.

Social memory increases the cohesion and sense of belonging in a group because of the memory of shared experiences and the values with and between the group members. Whether of social events, such as parties or shared meals, of people—Grandpa’s eightieth birthday speech—or life-cycle events like so-and-so’s wedding or funeral, shared memories of being there, taking part together, helping to set up beforehand or clear up afterwards, help to create a powerful bond of shared lives. Social memory can also encompass similar events at different times and different places, when other members of the group were not actually present, based upon a shared experience. Members of Parliament share the memories of the count at their first election victory and of their maiden speech in the House; members of the clergy share memories of their ordination services or preaching their first sermon.

Applying all this to the case of Messianic Jewish identity, we can say that fostering a healthy identity requires:

  • an environment where Messianic Jewish identity is not constantly questioned, challenged, or marginalized
  • an environment where Messianic Jews can participate in social and religious events without being excluded by scheduling in conflict with the Jewish calendar
  • an environment where shared memories interact in a constructive way with Jewish cultural memories
  • frequent access to an environment that is significantly Jewish in foundation and context to bolster Jewish identity alongside faith in Yeshua

An absence of these environments will inevitably lead to assimilation into the dominant church culture and a loss of meaningful Jewish identity. In particular, children will assimilate away from Jewish identity to follow their peer group, creating social memory in a non-Jewish context that undermines and devalues the Jewish identity of their parents. To repeat a quotation from Professor Sam Heilman in the first part of this article:

Jewish identity is dependent on Jews being among, living with, and sharing the destiny of Jewish people. Those who don’t share this existential neighbourhood and consciousness do not play a significant role in Jewish identity. So the most important thing is creating and enlarging the Jewish street, the Jewish community.1

Heilman claims that the development and maintenance of a strong and healthy Jewish identity depends on Jews spending time with and living with Jews. This is no surprise as it directly follows from the social identity and social memory theory outlined above.

Now let’s explore some of the data from my field research in the UK to see what that means in practice for Jewish Believers in Yeshua (JBYs) in the church.

Jewish Life in Church

During the research that I carried out for my doctoral studies, I interviewed over fifty people who were connected with the issue of JBYs in church in the UK. Many are JBYs in church, both as members and in leadership, some are JBYs who felt unable to be in church, and some are gentiles in or leading churches with some JBY membership. I also quoted from the published writings of a number of UK and USA JBYs who relate something of their struggles in and outside church. In this section we are going to listen to some of those voices to hear what is and what isn’t helping Jewish identity in a church context.

For some JBYs, particularly those who have or who are trying to establish a strong Jewish identity, church can be a difficult and painful place. Typically, many JBYs with a visible Jewish identity feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in church. Shana, a younger, professional, and cosmopolitan Messianic Jew living in London, reported that she wasn’t allowed to play in the church worship band because of her observance of Shabbat and the feasts. Bethany, an older JBY from a Holocaust-survivor family, hid her Jewishness for many years, but when it was discovered by her church leaders after she attended a conference at a Bible college about life as a JBY, she and her husband were rejected from their position as elders and worship leader and told they could only attend as visitors. Jasper too, a late thirties worker for a Jewish mission agency, felt driven to leave his church after the leadership disapproved of his Jewishness. Aware of the re-emerging trend of anti-Semitism, Pip suggests that “for most English people, Jews are just weird, opinionated, slightly—foreigners.” Eric reports that church has made many JBYs feel that being Jewish is a sin, so have suppressed their Jewish identity in order to fit in. Contrariwise, he also reports that some churches valorize a JBY, rather like a trophy, which can be a significant challenge. Sherry agrees with Eric’s second point and laments that in some churches what in the outside world would be challenged as “racial prejudice against the Jews” is passively accepted as biblical teaching. Adam, an ordained minister, really struggles with church at times.

On the other hand, Carl, a married JBY in his early thirties training for ordination, found that the church he attended while he was at university was very encouraging and positive about Jewish identity, holding a Passover meal each year. Grant, who experiences the discomfort of being what he calls “a pro-Jewish missionary” in an anti-Jewish church, expects that most JBYs should be comfortable in church because they will have taken care to choose a church where they can be comfortable. Adam echoes that; most JBYs just keep moving until they find something they can live with. Bethany is settled in a church that specializes in deliverance ministry but encourages her and other JBY members in their Jewish observance and identity. Eric shares his experience with some churches that organize tours to Israel to help JBYs engage with what their Jewish identity means, although they have no intention that the JBYs should put it into practice. He also relates stories of JBYs he has known who have been able to bring much-needed practice of festivals, study, and the importance of family to church life.

Timing and scheduling often create problems. Most church youth work takes place on Friday evenings and Saturdays. As Serena, a late twenties JBY recently ordained by a national Pentecostal denomination, said, “That is the moment in the week to engage with youth. And if that were to be forfeited for the sake of keeping the Jewish Sabbath, I think we’ve lost out.” Carl talked of the difficulty of celebrating Passover when he was ordained and hoped that God would understand his conflict once he was a serving as a church minister. He aspired that any church he led in the future would be able to offer events at different times for JBY members. Shana found that she couldn’t attend women’s meetings as they were mainly arranged for Saturdays.

All the JBYs I interviewed were insistent that Jewish identity continued after they came to faith in Messiah. Adam was firm: “I think it does continue and it should grow. I feel more Jewish as a follower of Yeshua than I did before.” Grant, now retired, spoke of there being many “hidden Jews” in church congregations up and down the country, sitting there week by week without their Jewish identity being of any relevance to them. Somewhat indignantly he added, “One would not expect a Jew coming to faith to lose his identity unless the culture around him caused him for some reason to become gentilized, such as severe pressure to conform to a different norm.” A number of the respondents tied Jewish identity to the eschatological process: that the re-emergence of Jewish identity among the followers of Yeshua, particularly in the church, was an end-times phenomenon.

Is it possible to maintain a strong Jewish identity in church? “No it’s not; why should it be?” Pip maintains. “We all bring our own baggage and heritage.” Eric said that while being in a supportive community was important, often JBYs feel that they are being pushed out of their Jewish identity as a condition for that support. Adam, an ordained clergyman, suggests that 70% of the church has a mistrust of Jewish people and that there is a distinct and growing anti-Semitic trend in the church. Avi, another clergyman, lit Hanukkah candles in church one evening at an Advent service and was questioned afterwards by a congregant, “Are you Jewish or Christian?” It didn’t seem possible to be both.

The area of Jewish continuity seems to be a particular problem. Shana is praying for a Jewish husband, but complains that the church isn’t going to help her pass her Jewish identity on to her children; in fact, she estimates, they will probably hinder her. Bethany says that the churches don’t see the importance of Jewish identity—rather, the opposite—and so make no effort to preserve or encourage it. While Carl hopes that his children will be able to grow up with some Jewish identity, he accepts that identity and faith in Messiah are more important and they may have to make do with that alone. Pip says that her children “would describe themselves as Christians who have a mother who has Jewish relatives.” This question keeps George awake at night: how on earth does he bring up a Jewish family in a church context?

There was significant disagreement about whether JBYs were supposed to be in church at all. Some didn’t want to be there, but felt they had no alternative for fellowship. Others tried to combine church on Sunday with some kind of Messianic Jewish meeting on Shabbat. Grant felt a specific call to attend church solely to be a “salt and light revelation into Jewish roots.” He goes as far as possible without provoking hostility! Pip feels that she is meant to be building bridges between Christians and non-Christians; she thinks that JBYs should be in church to make sure that Christians don’t forget in whose steps they walk or on whose shoulders they sit. Eric, in his mid-fifties, gentile and a leader of a large Jewish mission agency, wants JBYs to be in church as a way of reforming the church into a more biblical model: providing Jewish input, thought, and influence. Juliana worries that JBYs will mimic their “host” culture and so lose their own identity. If George could worship Yeshua in the Liberal synagogue then he’d be really comfortable. Stephan is sure that JBYs should be in church; firstly because that is where all believers in Yeshua belong and secondly because his experience of Messianic Jewish congregations is that they are all “odd” and invent their own theology.

A number of JBYs feel that they have to keep up a Jewish life outside church. Carl, a trainee minister, said that it was the only thing that kept him sane. Bethany has organized a circle of Jewish friends and attends synagogue occasionally. Grant, like others, tries to celebrate the feasts in some way, but usually only in a Christianized or gentile-led form. Jasper regularly attends Jewish events and festivals as an excuse for mission. Eric pointed to the different ways the church and the Jewish world do membership: the church works on doctrine—what you believe—while the Jewish world works on who you are and what you do. A number of the interviewees made an effort to keep Shabbat in some way each week, as a way of making their homes sacred space. Stephan regularly attends simchas and feasts at family and friends, both as a way of maintaining relationship and as a means of witness.

Some gentile church leaders expressed significant irritation towards JBYs in church: that they were always trying to promote a pro-Zionist agenda (which is quite strongly resisted by the majority of UK church leaders and denominations) and distracting people from the real work of the church. Another senior leader, born Jewish but totally assimilated, said that he had no Jewish identity and that it was completely irrelevant to churches today.

For many, it seems impossible to separate the pro-Zionist Israel-fanatic (and often gentile) image, which is considered deeply not politically correct in the UK, from the rather different aims of Messianic Judaism to build and live out a Jewish life in Messiah. Quite a few of the JBYs interviews admitted that they were active in pro-Israel activities and organizations because that offered them some sympathetic friends, while not actually totally supporting the aims (or practice!) of the organization. Jasper reported that “There are people in our leadership team who are very nervous about anything to do with Israel and the Jews.”

Anti-Semitism is a problem within the UK church. Adam thinks that it is institutional and comments that “everyone who has the inclination towards being anti-Semitic uses [pro-Zionist or pro-Israel groups] as an excuse to be anti-Semitic.” Although the church does have some leaders who are open about their Jewishness, Eric talks about a glass ceiling that effectively blocks anyone who is too open, as though the church doesn’t trust them in senior positions. Juliana has experienced significant church anti-Semitism first-hand and had to use legal/criminal proceedings to get it stopped. She observed that “The experience of being a Jew in the church can highlight this, as we can be rejected, isolated, targeted and victimized in a myriad of ways, from subtle to blatant.” Sherry has heard of JBYs being held personally responsible for the errors of the IDF. Carol, a church leader herself, says that “the standard church is full of anti-Semitism and largely the house churches are full of replacement theology or supersessionism.” George, another JBY who serves as ordained clergy, says that if anti-Semitism gets to a point in the UK, he will abandon his position and go to Israel.

Here, through a variety of voices, we can see that the predictions of social identity and social memory theory are being proved true. By rigorously promoting and policing the “Christian” group prototype, the Church compels JBYs to comply with standard church practice and discourse—so losing their own Jewish identity and being unable to pass it on to another generation—or marginalizes them so that they either leave or cease to have influence. In the one case where a church does promote Jewish identity and its maintenance, the JBY has been able to grow her identity and practice.

While a number of JBYs among those interviewed have been successful at settling in church and speak of meaningful participation in church life and fellowship, this is always at the expense of the Jewish identity, the Church is, with a few exceptions, relentlessly assimilationist and, based on verses such as “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,”2 prefers identity transformation as a form of identity construction. This is described by Snow and McAdam: “continuity, that link [with past identity], is deeply fractured, if not obliterated, with the result being a dramatic change in identity, such that one now sees her- or himself as strikingly different from before.” Typically, this is a breaking or dissolution of previous identities, resulting in a dramatic change in identity; it may involve dismantling or deconstruction of the past before reconstruction and can result in rewriting of personal narrative.3

Now let’s move on to look at some areas where Jewish identity is thriving within mainstream Judaism and see how theory meets practice in these cases.

Where Jewish Identity Thrives

It is clear that some areas of the Jewish world are working hard not only to maintain but to strengthen and develop Jewish identity in their people. In this section we are going to look at how some of these groups think and what they are doing in practice to foster and grow Jewish identity and what effect that has upon their people and their congregations.

In a 2012 report about the future of mainstream synagogues, Lawrence Hoffman commented, “Non-intentional synagogues will probably survive as what they are—they actually do many things very well (life-cycle ceremonies, for example).”4 He and others suggest, however, that they will face increasing challenges and falling membership as their largely non-engaged congregations age and are not replaced by younger individuals and families who choose not to express their Jewishness by formal affiliation with a synagogue. Leaders such as Lawrence Hoffman and Ron Wolfson argue that the only way to reverse the declining trend is through relationship and doing—precisely the factors that our social science has identified.

When setting up a pilot group to reach out to non-affiliated Jews in Marin County, CA, Noa Kushner’s primary objective was to rekindle an enthusiasm for Judaism by “doing Jewish stuff” without any prior membership or affiliation requirements.5 She leads some kind of Shabbat event 2-3 times a month: “a Havdallah houseparty with lots of people invited by the host; pop-up Shabbat, an informal, rousing Kabbalat Shabbat service followed by a take-out feast; a Storahtelling Shabbat morning where families get together to pray and engage in an interactive rendering of the parasha.” According to Noa, this isn’t radical content even if the setting is informal. They try to present “a compelling, relevant Jewish experience” using language and a presentation that will resonate with the participants. And in this case, that is the key: “rather than radically changing Jewish content, ours is primarily an exercise in the translation and change in ownership of that content.” By encouraging people to “do Jewish”—and their long-term plans are to train teachers/facilitators for “a participant-directed experience”—the people who come find themselves doing rather than watching, remembering and engaging rather than just listening, and so developing and growing a group social identity and social memories. As they invest their time and individual personalities in repeated events, their ownership grows and the group builds social cohesion: they matter to each other and what they do matters to all of them.

Congregation Shirat Hayam provides several parallel streams for their Shabbat morning services, ending with a huge communal catered Shabbat Oneg meal for anyone and everyone. One of the alternatives on offer is what they call “Nosh and Drash.”6 The Talmud claims that “an ignorant Jew cannot be a pious Jew” (b.Sotah 11a), so while the traditional service continues in the main sanctuary, every week guest rabbis and scholars facilitate a Torah study discussion. “Instead of listening to a teaching and sitting quietly, this is a lively exchange of thoughts, questions, insights, debates and holy arguing.” This is a multi-voice exploration of the text, allowing full participation and sharing among everyone in the room. Rabbi Baruch Levine argues that, “the destination in Torah study is truly the journey itself.” Ellen Frankel writes that the discussions reminded her of the intense family debates she remembers from her childhood over Thanksgiving dinners, adding that “we can engage in debate not to prove that one side is right or wrong, but to grow deeper in our spiritual quest for meaning.” After a time of discussion, the group pauses for food and drink before the guest speaker preaches a sermon to bring everything together. Participants raise their hands and are invited to join in the sermon to continue the conversation. Ellen concludes, “Yes, we could argue and debate, but we were united not only in the food of our meal but by the spiritual sustenance of our tradition, which nourished our bodies, our minds and our spirits too.” Here we see a group creating new social memory by engaging with the past in a context that welcomes multi-vocal community participation and allows a good match between the prominence and salience hierarchies.

A number of Reform congregations have moved their Friday night services forward to a regular 6:00 or 6:30pm start, to engage with adults returning home from work at the end of the week. Reasoning that folk would rather come straight from work to a lively service and then be free to go home to settle for the evening, rather than going straight home, eating and then having to come out for the evening service, the congregations have seen considerable growth in service attendance. They have also elected to allow full use of musical instruments during these services, with several congregations having bands that lead singing with a song leader rather than a cantor. This has led to a greater level of engagement with the services, a more relaxed and hospitable environment and congregants taking the music of Shabbat home with them: “the new music of today derives its authenticity from the fact that it is the prayer of its leaders, who manage to engage congregants in it as their own person prayer as well.”7 Adjusting time to match their audience and pitching their content at a level that tracks their interests, the group prototype has been altered to allow greater membership and less marginalization.

This isn’t about abandoning ritual and tradition, walking away from liturgy, and just doing anything or nothing. Craig Taubman’s “Friday Night Live” and “One Shabbat Morning” music may be very non-traditional, but its lyrics and many of its tunes are straight out of the siddur. As Lawrence Hoffman explains, “Ritual is at the heart of today’s synagogue transformation. Synagogues that regularly provide ritual with active engagement, personal expression and authenticity will become forward places of the Spirit.”8 He proposes the four “R’s” of congregational success:

1. Retraditioning: reaching back into the past for traditions that had proved sustaining and recontextualizing them for the present;

2. Reflexivity: willingness to change through engagement with tradition and an equal willingness to change the tradition through engagement;

3. Reflection; thoughtfulness about practice and belief;

4. Risk taking; if we always think the way we always thought, we’ll always get what we always got.9

Notice how these both agree with the identity and memory theories and, at the same time, challenge them. It isn’t enough just to understand what is happening; it is important to recognize how and when the rules can be harnessed for the future. HaLevi and Frankel agree, writing in their conclusion, “The greatest gift we can give our children and grandchildren is not merely the ancient timeless, rooted values and practices of our tradition. We must also give our progeny the tools to navigate change, adapt to uncertainty and move forward with vision and fearlessness.”10

At Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, the rabbi’s Shabbat sermon became an opportunity for the whole congregation to engage in a conversation with the rabbi and each other about the weekly parasha. After a brief moment or two of summary, the rabbi engages in a tough and penetrating dialogue with his assistant, before they pass out wireless microphones and engage the congregation in the discussion. “Here were writers, artists, psychotherapists and professors, each offering a different take on the text.”11 Study, dialogue and a deep shared spirituality are a key component of the synagogue’s profile and make-up. Another voice comments that “what makes my spirit soar … is the synergy between the service leaders and the congregation, the energy that flows between us, and exists both in the music and the silence that fills the sanctuary.”12 Once again, a break with tradition allows a fresh expression of communication, while staying sufficiently bounded in existing social identity and memory frameworks for people to feel safe while exploring and pushing their boundaries.

These examples of positive transformation within mainstream Judaism confirm much of the social science psychology and point to some of the ways in which Messianic Jewish leaders and congregations can grow and develop a strong Jewish vision and identity. Before looking at these in detail, let’s take a look at some of the issues that Messianic Judaism currently faces.

Messianic Judaism Has Some Issues

In this section, we look at some of the issues that Messianic Judaism faces in defining and maintaining its identity.

Contemporary Messianic Judaism in the USA has been described by Shoshana Feher, Carol Harris-Shapiro and Francine Samuelson.13 In the UK, Pauline Kollontai has written three papers based on small-scale surveys and Simon Dein has published an ethnographic study of a Messianic Jewish congregation.14 Dan Cohn-Sherbok wrote perhaps the earliest definitive guide to Messianic Judaism.15 Writing from within the movement, Dan Juster’s early book has been through several editions, while other Messianic Jewish scholars such as John Fischer and David Stern have contributed work.16 Richard Harvey has documented the various theological streams within the Messianic Jewish movement.17 The most recent definitive guide to Messianic Judaism at a scholarly level comes from David Rudolph and Joel Willitts.18

Messianic Judaism is still a young movement. It is still working to define its own identity apart from its two parents: the church and the synagogue. This inevitably leads to tensions that disturb the relative peace that exists between the parents.

In describing the Messianic Jewish movement, Feher talks of “consistent inconsistency” as the movement constantly negotiates its positions. As she sees it, by borrowing elements from both the Christian and Jewish worlds and refusing to acknowledge the boundary that exists between Christianity and Judaism, Messianic Jews muddy the water and cause offense to both parent religions, which typically are uncomfortable with or refuse to recognize their child.19 They threaten the existing classification system such that Jews who would otherwise convert to Christianity don’t, because they straddle a previously strong boundary, insisting on retaining and exercising both identities.20 They construct a new identity from two groups that have for many centuries considered themselves—and each other—as mutually exclusive.21 Intermarriage between MJs and gentile Christians further blurs both cultural and religious boundaries.22

Feher suggests that Messianic Judaism is a unique religious movement, because it provides “a new conservative religious expression combined with a new ethnic identity,”23 Jewish identity being strengthened beyond a previous cultural-only identity. MJs are considered a threat by the mainstream Jewish communities, not because they are JBYs, but because they deny the Jewish-Christian boundary.24 MJs challenge the boundaries and beliefs of both Judaism and Christianity.25 MJism heightens the tension by projecting itself as a Judaism,26 rather than a Christian denomination, and asserting a Jewish identity that is not a blended tradition.27

Messianic Jewish Congregations

Messianic Jewish congregations meet on a regular basis, usually every Shabbat morning or Erev Shabbat. Some have meetings or services at both times; others hold public services on Shabbat morning and meet in chavurot (small groups) at private homes for the Kabbalat Shabbat service, followed by eating together. Messianic Jewish congregations make significant efforts to keep the biblical feasts and festivals, so services are also held on the feast days in the Jewish calendar. Midweek chavurot may meet each week or bi-weekly. Education and learning are considered important, so the congregation may offer classes in a variety of subjects, taking place on a weekday evening, after services on Shabbat or on Sunday.

In the USA, while many Messianic Jewish congregations can afford to own or rent their own premises, many share the buildings of sympathetic churches. In the UK, churches will not usually consider sharing their main building with Messianic Jewish groups, so congregations have to hire village halls or other communal buildings. Either arrangement can bring difficulties getting access to a sanctuary on feast days if they fall on Sunday or a weekday when a church or communal activity is already happening, so that Messianic Jewish congregations can end up celebrating festivals several days away from their proper date. Partnership with a church can also introduce other pressures to conform that may impact the congregation’s ability to live out its Jewish vision. These may include a strong presence of Christian symbols that are difficult for Jewish people, particularly Jewish visitors, and the inability to decorate a sanctuary area with posters, banners, and Jewish symbols. More disturbingly, the host church may impose limits upon what can be taught or done on their premises.

The UK also has a number of Hebrew-Christian fellowships. These are small groups of church-based JBYs who meet only on one or two Saturday afternoons each month. Unlike Messianic Jewish congregations, they maintain a focus on church for weekly worship and fellowship. Their members come from a number of different local churches and denominations, and they generally have no vision for living a Jewish lifestyle or developing their Jewish identity. They can often be quite mission motivated, sponsoring or volunteering with one of the Jewish mission agencies.

Gentile Majority

One of the identity issues that most Messianic Jewish congregations have to face is that the majority of those attending services will be gentile. Pleading either a “Ruth” calling—that they have been called to be part of the Jewish world as their primary spiritual home—or that they have been “grafted in” to the Jewish olive tree, they claim to be the gentile component of Paul’s Ephesians 2 “One New Man.” Many congregations accept this, allowing gentiles to be equal participants in leadership roles and even ritual functions. A few congregations have a gentile leader, sometimes adopting the title ro’eh (“shepherd” in Hebrew) instead of rabbi.

Having a significant gentile membership can lead to difficulties and misunderstandings in a number of identity areas. Some of these can be intractable:

  • Catering: in common with the mainstream Jewish world, where catering is usually done to a high standard of kashrut so that everybody can partake, regardless of their own personal level of observance, most Messianic Jewish congregations will try to maintain a biblically kosher standard at all food events. gentiles sometimes find it difficult to accept that they are not allowed to bring pork and seafood products, just for themselves or their group.
  • Kippot and tallitot: these very strong markers of Jewish identity can be a contested issue in some congregations. Some congregations allow or encourage their gentile members to wear them on the premises or during services, thus blurring the lines of Jewish and gentile identity. New congregants or visitors cannot tell who is who. Other congregations either do not allow or actively discourage gentile members from wearing them, so as to maintain a clear identity distinction. Some MJs are then reluctant to wear them so as not to make their gentile brothers jealous; some gentile members feel they are the object of discrimination and complain about rebuilding the “wall of partition.”
  • Jewish life-cycle rituals and events such as bar/bat-mitzvahs can be problematic. Should a Messianic Jewish congregation allow a gentile child to have the same event and celebration as a Jewish child, particularly if they have been in the same Shabbat-school class and learned Hebrew together for years? What is a Messianic Jewish congregation saying to a gentile child about her identity if she has a bat-mitzvah and receives a certificate?
  • Intermarriage is an instance of the challenge of gentile-majority congregations that can cross many red lines, including the Jewish identity (both inside and outside the congregation) of any children. It also touches the question of whether Jewish identity should be more or less significant than a JBY’s identity as a believer in Messiah.

The Hebrew Roots Movement

In some areas where the Jewish population is very low or non-existent, there are nevertheless congregations that describe themselves as Messianic. Meeting on Shabbat, observing the Jewish feasts and festivals, worshipping in the Jewish style with liturgy in Hebrew and English, these congregations usually have no Jewish attendees or members, sometimes just one or two. The interview data suggests that a JBY visiting such a congregation, even if their own level of Jewish identity and practice is low, may be valorized, drawn to everyone’s attention, and urged to wear a kippa and put on a tallit whether he wants to or not.

Much of Hebrew Roots practice is drawn from rabbinic Judaism. Since Messianic Jewish input is often strongly resisted by HR leaders, and HR congregations usually have no Jewish members or leaders, it is important to ask what identity the HR movement is building. Since the movement lacks a foundation of Jewish people who were brought up Jewish, what social memory is available to construct a substantive social identity? Any given community may be healthy in isolation, but with an eclectic blend of artificially acquired rabbinic practice and without the Jewish lifestyle and depth of understanding, the HR movement lacks grounding and accountability. Hebrew Roots leaders tend to be self-taught in that they lack formal theological training, but often come from strong organization backgrounds (such as the military, the police, or corporate management), so that they are capable administrators and managers, but may be overly authoritative.

What Identity?

More than one of my correspondents observed, a little sheepishly, that they were intimidated by other Jews, particularly the more orthodox. “I feel very Jewish when I’m the only Jew in the room,” Pip said, “but when there are other Jews present, I feel that I don’t belong.” Most MJs that I interviewed were defensive about their Jewish identity and practice and were reluctant to engage with the wider Jewish community, say, by attending classes at a JCC or a local synagogue.

We Jews are both gregarious and curious and we ask a lot of questions about each other: What synagogue do you go to? How did your family survive the Holocaust? These are often difficult for MJs to answer easily without exposing our faith in Yeshua or the Messianic Jewish understanding of Jewish identity, both of which are rejected by most mainstream Jews to the orthodox of Reform. In the UK, where many Jews feel the rising shadow of the old European anti-Semitism, there is a little dance that Jews go through when meeting other people who claim to be Jewish to negotiate whether they feel safe and can trust them. Questions tend to revolve around the standard Jewish maternal descent definition of Jewishness, one’s parents and family, where people went to school and the youth movements one attended; all may trigger rejection and accusations of only pretending to be Jewish in order to evangelize. In the UK, certainly, the phrase “Jew by choice” is seldom accepted. Often MJs don’t have the “correct” answers to all the questions, so many choose to avoid social engagements with other non-Messianic Jews.

Many Messianic Jewish congregational leaders gain their theological training in evangelical Christian colleges and bible schools, so that their first serious encounters with doctrine, biblical hermeneutics and exegesis, scriptural reasoning and faith challenges are all shaped by a tradition that is at best neutral to Jewish identity and at worst subtly negative and assimilationist. They have then to balance that with their own faith position and identity, adding Messianic Jewish practice and understanding as a second level as they come into ministry and leadership. Messianic Jewish leaders are generally much more comfortable talking to church leaders and forming relationships within the church world than the Jewish world. A dependence on the church for funding, shared premises, trustees, or board members and even, in some cases, clergy and leaders, adds additional weight away from developing strong Jewish identity and vision. Inevitably this passes on to their congregations, so that youth groups may find themselves sent out to charismatic Christian youth rallies and training events, further weakening Jewish identity and loyalty and forming peer-group connections and expectations outside the Jewish street.

Messianic Judaism Lite

Messianic Judaism is consistently attacked by mainstream Jewish groups as being simply a cover for Christian evangelism of the Jewish people. We are accused of using Jewish ritual and symbols as nothing more than a mechanism for attracting Jews who may not know any better, making them think that we are Jewish when in fact we are Christians. That such might be the truth is fuelled by past—and in some cases, current—behavior of some missionary organizations that occasionally act in this way, attempting to “convert” Jewish people and place them in mainline churches.

A similar appearance can also be given by a Messianic Jewish congregation that does not seriously or regularly engage with Jewish ritual in its services, that does not use much or any Hebrew liturgy or read from the Torah portions in Hebrew as well as English, that sings almost exclusively Christian worship songs. Despite the wearing of kippot and tallitot, it might be difficult to recognize such a context as Jewish space—it comes off more like church on Saturday. If this is combined with no emphasis or commitment to a Jewish life outside congregation, no opportunities for Jewish learning, and a focus only on external appearances, then questions might reasonably be asked about what level of genuine Jewish identity is being built or curated.

What Is Messianic Judaism Building?

Given the quotation from Sam Heilman above, it is reasonable to ask whether Messianic Judaism is developing a Jewish identity that can be equal to competing with and standing up to mainstream Jewish identity, that could be recognized by those outside the movement as compatible with being a Judaism and plays any part in the Jewish destiny.

Clearly, Messianic Judaism is developing a Messianic Jewish identity. Daniel Langton’s second approach to identity—self-definition—here works to the internal advantage of Messianic Jewish groups, who can brush aside the claims of external observers that Messianic Judaism doesn’t match mainstream normative Jewishness, while maintaining their own definitions which are accepted by other Messianic Jewish congregations, groupings or networks.28 Without a change, either by mainstream Judaism to accept that MJs are Jewish, or by MJs to conform to mainstream normative Jewishness, it seems unlikely that Messianic Judaism will be able to move beyond self-definition and hence into a position of having an equal voice at the table of Jewish destiny.

The church too finds itself in a position of some difficulty. In recent decades, after centuries of hostility, Jewish and Christian scholars are cooperating on joint research projects, the church and the synagogue are regarding each other as equal partners in processes of interfaith dialogue, a process said to require a “full commitment to the authority of Judaism for Jews and Christianity for Christians.”29 The church is reluctant to lose this and some churches and groups of scholars have forsworn evangelism of Jewish people as part of their compromise to enable dialogue.30 For the church to endorse Messianic Judaism as a Judaism, as a valid expression of Jewishness, in the face of the synagogue’s refusal to do so—the synagogue considers itself the sole authority on who and what is Jewish—would imply that the church doesn’t accept the synagogue’s right to determine its own membership criteria, which is certainly a form of supersessionism. On the other hand, to refuse Messianic Judaism’s claim to be a Judaism and to accept it only as a Christianity, as the synagogue insists it to be, denies Messianic Jews right to self-definition and leads to assimilation and a repeat of the supersessionism of the fourth and fifth centuries.

Coming full circle, there are significant sections within Messianic Judaism that do not altogether welcome church endorsement either as a Judaism or as a Christianity for exactly the reasons above. These look to the synagogue for a normative definition of Judaism. Fearing both control and assimilation, endorsement by the church is exactly what they fear will ensure that dialogue with the synagogue cannot begin.

Some or all Messianic Jewish congregations may experience some degree of any or all of these issues. I can only say that my personal experience of leading a congregation in the UK makes at least several of them painfully real. My conversations with other congregational leaders in the USA and research interviews with current UK leaders suggests that my experience is far from unique: that while not often afflicted in every area, most congregations do have a measure of at least one of these issues on a back burner somewhere in the camp.

Having looked at some of the issues, let’s now move on to consider some of the positive ways in which Messianic Jewish congregations may build and develop Jewish identity and community memory to support congregational life and faith in Messiah.

Building Messianic Jewish Identity

In our last section I have the temerity to highlight some of the ways in which a Jewish Messianic Jewish identity can be fostered, enumerating strategies whereby Jewish loyalty and cohesion with the Messianic Jewish movement can be grown and confidence gained to engage with the mainstream Jewish world on a more equal basis. I intend no offence to Messianic Jewish congregational leaders who are already fully engaged with these ideas and working hard to encourage Jewish identity in their congregations.

Mark Kinzer lists three aspects of Messianic Judaism that he sees as needed in this quest:31

1. summoning MJs to live an observant Jewish life as an act of covenant fidelity rather than missionary expediency

2. embracing the Jewish people and the Jewish religious tradition and discovering God and Messiah in the midst of Israel

3. serving the (gentile) Christian church by linking it to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, thereby confirming its identity as a multinational extension of the people of Israel.

These speak richly of the growth and development of a strong Messianic Jewish social identity, using social memories—particularly narrated memory and narrative commemorated events—to enable the church of the circumcision and the church of the uncircumcision to stand alongside each other. In these ways, that can develop a powerful synergy based on their different gifts and callings while not building or slipping into dependence.

Participation Rather than Performance

If there is one thing that social identity and memory theory suggest—be that for personal identity growth or for the reinforcement of corporate identity by master narrative commemorative events—what Yael Zerubavel calls the “commemorative density”32 must be high and it must be participatory. In the Messianic Jewish case, this means that on the one hand, sharing the Shulchan Adonai (“the Lord’s table”) should be done regularly, faithfully, and deliberately rather than rushed and squeezed in at the end of the service if there is time. If the sermon took an extra fifteen minutes, then so be it; allow time for reflection and and absorption of what the Spirit has been saying before moving on. On the other hand, it also means that the Jewish festivals should all be celebrated and by as many of the congregation as are able. These observances should be surrounded by generous and collaborative teaching, preparation, and discussion that helps people to explore the depth and meaning of the events in their original contexts, historical changes through time, and current conventions both within mainstream Judaism and Messianic Judaism. Everyone will have their own particular memories of Pesach, Sukkot and so on. Give time for these memories to be shared to allow the individual to consolidate and refresh the memory and for the congregation to share the memory and develop a relationship with each other and the communal past.

Participation may be regular, by means of a rotation for service tasks, occasional for special events, or it may be spontaneous, when the Spirit leads, a need arises, or a memory is triggered. Participation allows the creation of loyalty and familiarity, a sense of ownership and shared values, developing social capital and strong mutual bonds of relationship and connection. It also establishes new memories among the participants through the recitation of old memories of previous events and people. The latter, particularly, helps to generate corporate identity, a sense of “we” that outlives the individuals concerned.

Social memory builds upon the things that we did together, even if that “we” is beyond the personal memory of those currently present.

Teaching and Leading by Example

People learn best when following both a taught and lived example. Engaging more than one sense, such as both hearing and reading, increases retention and the ability to replicate. Leaders must be consistent in their teaching and practice so that they can be seen to be doing what they are urging others to do. This is social identity in practice: I can do this because he/she did this and that is what we do. Then, as Paul instructs Timothy, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2, ESV) build a chain of folk that not only receive and learn, but also practice and teach for themselves.

Teaching, decision making, and problem solving should include anecdotal material so that learners can ground their learning in practical examples. Encourage sharing of personal stories of engaging with the same issues or questions to increase group ownership. This shares social memory and demonstrates similarities among members of the group; stories are often more easily remembered than argumentation. Brian Stock explains that “in textual communities” and I interject that Messianic Judaism should always be a community that owns and holds its text close, “concepts appear first as they are acted out by individuals or groups in everyday life. Only later, and within norms structured by texts, is there a collective consciousness.”33 Often leaders influence other influencers in their congregation or group setting by adopting a new practice or observance and explaining what it means. This is adding to or editing the group prototype. They, in turn, also adopt the practice and so influence a wider circle of friends within the congregation and, with time, the practice becomes part of the “this is what we do” accepted by all.

Developing Focused Autonomy

Francis Chan bewails contexts where leaders “expect their members to sit under their teachings till they die rather than training them to leave and shepherd others.”34 Held too tight, groups stagnate and fail to grow; without specific encouragement, expectation, and freedom to fail, initiative will not blossom. Many groups and leaders fear splits and factions developing, and so tend to limit the opportunity for autonomy. In practice, developing focused autonomy—a freedom to innovate within a particular framework or set of rules—allows constructive growth and development that contributes to the identity and coherence of the whole. Aron and colleagues identify leadership focus and interest in autonomous groups as the key factor.35 Without leadership interest and occasional participation, events fail or can splinter; regular but not controlling leadership interest provides encouragement and room for growth as part of the whole. Allowing room for diversity, for example multiple chavurot with different levels of observance and liturgy, within an overall range set by leadership, encourages individuals to find a space for comfortable expression while remaining part of the overall vision for a congregation.

The larger movement identity acts as an umbrella, what Philip Esler refers to as a supergroup identity. This covers or includes a number of different subgroups, each of which have their own identities that overlap in significant ways, which in turn makes the supergroup identity prototype. The subgroups are the locii of focused autonomy. When forming or maintaining that top-level identity, care must be taken not to erase the distinctiveness of the constituent subgroups. Paul demonstrates this principle in his discussion of the olive tree in Romans 11; he explicitly retains the identity of the wild and the cultivated branches. As Esler observes, “efforts at social recategorization may fail if this strategy is not adopted by those leading the process.”36

Education, Education, Education

The Jewish world often revolves around education; it is seen as empowering, liberating, unifying, and releasing. Messianic Judaism needs to be able to offer classes on anything and everything Jewish (even if the connection is sometimes a little tenuous) for all ages, but especially for adults. We should empower anyone with the necessary qualifications and abilities to teach: Hebrew classes, Torah classes, ethics classes, and social action classes and workshops. As a movement, Messianic Judaism shouldn’t be afraid of teaching from the Jewish writings. Talmud, Mishnah and Midrash all have something positive to offer, particularly in the hands of a careful teacher, in building a broader Jewish identity and increasing confidence to engage with the wider Jewish world.

Education should also be a part of all preaching and teaching. Messianic Judaism must anchor its exhortations and encouragement for living in today’s world in understanding how the Jewish people—including, of course, Yeshua, the disciples, and the early church—lived with and applied God’s word in previous generations. As Stock notes, “The ritual of reading recapitulates the primal experience of speaking and hearing the word of God. Each reading is a speaking anew.”37 In addition to reading the texts thoroughly, we must provide a reasoned argument for adopting a particular course of action, a way of interpreting or obeying the text, as well as an emotional appeal.

Education acts as glue within the group prototype, strengthening the core and helping to prevent marginalization as people drift towards the periphery. Education should ensure that the characteristics of the prototype are understood by all, are clearly and logically expressed and are internally consistent. The accessibility of education to all enfranchises everyone and generates social confidence that no-one is excluded.

Shared Experience and Ritual

Rituals and non-ritual communal events provide ways of strengthening and deepening identity and social memory. Together we learn what Jews do and find our place in the tradition. Whether singing the Sh’ma standing up or sitting down, hearing the shofar being blown after morning prayer each day through the month of Elul to prepare us for Yom Teruah, or acquiring a taste for gefilte fish, this is what makes us a part of the Jewish people as a whole and our local expression of it—our congregation.

Messianic Judaism needs to make the most of all the memory-making, community-building events that are available to us. The Jewish calendar, of course, is our primary source: Shabbat and the festivals, the appointed times. Each of these needs to be widened by having a party, a picnic or a dance—whatever social event fits our local context best. This brings life into the holy as we rejoice together in the goodness of God. Many congregations have an oneg, a shared meal after Shabbat morning service, a communal break-fast after Neilah at the end of Yom Kippur. If your chavurah meets to celebrate Erev Shabbat each week, why not add a meal to the evening; each bring something to share and then spend an hour or so singing songs, catching up on the week, laughing and praying together and talking about tomorrow’s Torah portion. Then there are life-cycle events when we come together to celebrate away from the calendar but in the midst of life. These bring the holy into the everyday as we say a blessing and remember God’s goodness to us.

Whether formal or informal, “when you have eaten and are full, you shall bless the Lord your God” (Deut 8:10). Times of rejoicing—even if mingled with tears—provide images and anchors for both our individual and our shared identities in God as Jewish people.

Engagement with the Wider Jewish World

Despite the challenges involved, MJs should not be afraid of engagement with the wider Jewish world. We should consider taking a class at the local JCC or synagogue; we are guaranteed to learn something. Sometimes the identity issues can be avoided by finding common ground on which a conversation can be held: security, anti-Semitism, etc. At other times, perhaps we just have to be prepared to be a little brazen and admit who we are and the congregation that we attend, but insist that we have only come to learn and to share in the solidarity of being Jewish.

Shopping in Jewish bookshops and supermarkets can be an easy and anonymous way to explore—I speak from experience in this case! Choosing kosher pastrami at the delicatessen counter, discussing the merits of different kosher wines, or debating Neusner versus Heschel—these all bring valuable experience in the nuances of Jewishness and increase our ability to engage in our local Jewish communities.


There are lots of positive ways in which Messianic Judaism can use our modern understanding of the way in which social identity and social memory are formed to build individual and corporate Jewish identity, to increase communal loyalty and cohesiveness within Messianic Jewish congregations, and to enable a stronger and bolder engagement with the not-as-yet Yeshua-believing Jewish world.

Over the course of two articles, we have examined the way in which social psychology—in particular Social Identity Theory and Social Memory Theory—can explain the way that individuals and groups behave in social settings. We have looked at the difficulties some JBYs experience in the gentile Christian Church and seen how the theory anticipates and explains those difficulties. We have also looked at how those theories are being used, whether consciously or subconsciously to build strong Jewish identity in the Jewish world outside Messianic Judaism, and we have examined some of the challenges facing Messianic Judaism in its process towards defining its own group identity apart from both the Church and the Synagogue. Finally, we have considered some ways in which Messianic Judaism and Messianic Jewish leaders could work to develop a Messianic Jewish identity for themselves and their congregations.

Jonathan Allen received his PhD in Theology from Bristol University in the UK and has taken classes in Rabbinic Studies with MJTI. He writes a weekly Torah commentary which can be found at Some of the material in this article is based on his doctoral thesis, published in 2018 by Wipf and Stock as A Profile of Jewish Believers in the UK Church.

1 Alan Brill, “Interview with Prof. Samuel Heilman,” The Book of Doctrines and Opinions, September 3, 2014,

2 2 Cor 5:17

3 David A. Snow and Doug McAdam, “Identity Work Processes in the Context of Social Movements: Clarifying the Identity/Movement Nexus” in Self, Identity and Social Movements, eds. Sheldon Stryker, Timothy J. Owens and Robert W. White, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 51–53.

4 S3KReport March 2012, No. 11, 5.

5 S3KReport November 2010, No. 9.

6 Baruch HaLevi and Ellen Frankel, Revolution of Jewish Spirit: How to Revive Ruach in Your Spiritual Life, Transform Your Synagogue and Inspire Your Jewish Community (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2012), 77–79.

7 Isa Aron, Steven M. Cohen, Lawrence A. Hoffman, and Ari Y. Kelman, Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary (Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2010), 72.

8 Lawrence A. Hoffman, Rethinking Synagogues: A New Vocabulary for Congregational Life (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2006), 107.

9 Hoffman, Rethinking Synagogues, 210.

10 HaLevi and Frankel, Revolution of Jewish Spirit, 172.

11 Sidney Schwarz, Finding a Spiritual Home (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2000), 186.

12 Schwartz, Spiritual Home, 195.

13 Shoshanah Feher, Passing Over Easter: Constructing the Boundaries of Messianic Judaism (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 1998). Carol Harris-Shapiro, Messianic Judaism: A Rabbi’s Journey through Religious Change in America (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1999). Francine K. Samuelson, “Messianic Judaism: Church, Denomination, Sect or Cult,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 37:2 (Spring 2000): 161–186.

14 Pauline Kollontai, “Messianic Jews and Jewish Identity,” Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 3, Part 2 (2004): 195–205; “Between Judaism and Christianity,” Journal of Religion and Society 8 (2006); “Women as Leaders: Contemporary Perspectives on the Roles of Women in Messianic Judaism,” Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal 6, no. 1 (Spring 2009). Simon Dein, “Becoming a Fulfilled Jew: An Ethnographic Study of a British Messianic Jewish Congregation,” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 12, no. 3 (February 2009): 77–101.

15 Dan Cohn-Sherbock, Messianic Judaism (London: Cassell, 2000).

16 Daniel C. Juster, Jewish Roots (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2013). John Fischer, The Olive Tree Connection (Palm Harbor, FL: Menorah Ministries, 1983). David H. Stern, Messianic Judaism: A Modern Movement with an Ancient Past (Clarksville, MD: Lederer, 2007); Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message for Christians (Clarksville, MD: Lederer, 2009).

17 Richard Harvey, Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2009).

18 David J. Rudolph and Joel Willitts, eds., Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Its Ecclesial Context and Biblical Foundations (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013).

19 Feher, Passing over Easter, 20–21.

20 Feher, Passing over Easter, 31.

21 Harris-Shapiro, Messianic Judaism, 14.

22 Brian Brewer, “Jewish Believers in Jesus and the New Supersessionism,” in The Jews, Modern Israel and the New Supersessionism, ed. Calvin L Smith 2nd ed. (Broadstairs, UK: King’s Divinity Press, 2013), 254.

23 Feher, Passing Over Easter, 61.

24 Feher, Passing Over Easter, 65, 142.

25 Harvey, Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology, 1.

26 David J. Rudolph, “Messianic Judaism in Antiquity and the Modern Era,” in Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Its Ecclesial Context and Biblical Foundations, ed. David J. Rudolph and Joel Willitts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 35.

27 Harris-Shapiro, Messianic Judaism, 14.

28 Daniel R. Langton, The Apostle Paul in the Jewish Imagination (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 9–10.

29 David Novak, Talking with Christians: Musings of a Jewish Theologian (London: SCM Press, 2006), 2.

30 See, for example, Mary C. Boys, ed., Seeing Judaism Anew: Christianity’s Sacred Obligation (Lanham, NY: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005).

31 Mark S. Kinzer, Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2005), 13–15.

32 See Yael Zerubavel, Recovered Roots (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 6–10.

“Commemorative density” is a term that refers both to the frequency of commemorative events and the depth of the commemoration.

33 Brian Stock, Listening for the Text: On Uses of the Past (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 13.

34 Francis Chan, Letters to the Church (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2018), 119.

35 Aron et al, Sacred Strategies, 65–66.

36 Philip F. Esler, Conflict and Identity in Romans: The Social Setting of Paul’s Letter (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 300.

37 Stock, Listening for the Text, 149.