I am writing to express my frustration over the article in last week’s edition of the paper, about the celebration of a Jewish festival by two Christian communities, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church here in Sun City Center, and Shoresh David, of Brandon. I am disappointed that the paper did not consider it appropriate to discuss a Jewish festival with the local Jewish community.
The article identifies the Brandon group as serving “messianic Jews,” that is, Jews who have come to believe in Jesus as their savior. Please note that no branch of Judaism today recognizes such people as Jews. Belief in Jesus is contrary to the teaching of all of Judaism today, because we hold that the messiah has not yet come. It is appropriate for Christians to hold and express this belief, but not for Jews to do so.
Accordingly, no branch of Judaism would identify as a synagogue the place where such persons worship. A synagogue is a Jewish house of worship. There is no place in a synagogue service for reference to Jesus.
If there are Jewish newcomers to our area, looking to celebrate Sukkot as it is traditionally observed, they would be bewildered to find two Christian communities observing this Jewish festival.
It is the clear intent of “messianic Jews” to draw other Jews into their community, away from the traditional practice of our faith. It is shocking to me that a mainstream church would endorse this, after so many years of respectful interfaith dialogue and service to our community. All interfaith cooperation and joint efforts are based on the premise that we recognize the boundaries of our own faiths and the faiths of others, and work together on projects that our separate traditions can endorse. Good examples of that are the Interfaith Social Action Council’s Nearly New Shop, the annual Thanksgiving service organized by local clergy, and the Holocaust Remembrance observance.
Furthermore, the article identifies the leader of the Brandon group as “Rabbi Ron Goldberg.” The title “rabbi” is granted today by rabbinical seminaries, none of which are located in Rochester, New York, which is where Mr. Goldberg “trained for the ministry,” according to his biographical information. This is not a title that anyone can simply assume; it takes years of challenging study at a recognized institution to acquire this title, which is never granted to a person who considers him/herself a “messianic Jew.” Having earned the title “rabbi” by studying for five years at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, I am sensitive to the misappropriation of the title by people who have not met the standards of an ordaining institution.
The article was accompanied by a graphic depicting a Star of David with a cross inside it. That star is universally recognized as a Jewish symbol, just as the cross is universally recognized as a Christian symbol. But it is offensive to Jews to combine them, despite the fact that Christianity clearly has Jewish roots. The star in question was not a Jewish symbol at the time that Jesus lived, and would have been unknown to him as such; therefore, Christians should respect the distinction and identify themselves with their own symbols exclusively.
I understand that The SCC Observer does not question the credentials of those who submit news items for coverage. However, it behooves the paper to understand what it prints and circulates to every home in our community, and to be aware of the implications of that material.
Beth Israel, the Jewish Congregation of Sun City Center, recognizes that we will have to be more visible to the community at large, to make it clear that there is a genuine and very vigorous Jewish presence here. We hope we can count on the paper’s support in doing so.
Rabbi Carla Freedman
Beth Israel Congregation of Sun City Center