Rabbi Tovia Singer of New York will speak in Toledo on the topic: “Jesus Was a Jew – But Can a Jew Be for Jesus?” There’s only one acceptable answer to that question, according to the rabbi: an emphatic “No!”
There is one Messianic Jewish synagogue in Toledo, Adat Adonai, whose slogan is, “A Messianic Jewish expression of the Church.” The congregation meets at Cathedral of Praise’s former facility on Alexis Road and is led by Rabbi Kirt Schneider, who also hosts a weekly program on WLMB-TV (Channel 40) called Discovering the Jewish Jesus.
“He’s not running a Jewish synagogue,” Rabbi Singer said, speaking of Messianic rabbis in general. “It’s a church designed to appear as if it were a synagogue and I’m there to expose him. What these irresponsible extremist Christians do is a form of consumer fraud. They blur the distinctions between Judaism and Christianity in order to lure Jewish people who would otherwise resist a straightforward message.”
Rabbi Singer, 45, a graduate of Mir Yeshiva, is the host of The Tovia Singer Show, a talk show that is broadcast thrice weekly on Israel National Radio, and is the founder and director of Outreach Judaism, an organization dedicated to countering efforts by Messianic Jewish groups to convert Jews.
Rabbi Singer said he would have no qualms if the groups he targets presented themselves as Christians, because, unlike Jews, they believe that Jesus is the Christ.
“If I came to Toledo and called myself a doctor or a lawyer, they’d throw me in jail,” Rabbi Singer said. “If I called myself a priest and had never gone to a Catholic seminary, wouldn’t that be worthy of an expose for journalists?”
In a separate interview, Rabbi Schneider of Adat Adonai said his credibility hinges on one foundational issue.
“Is Yeshua – Jesus – who he said he was? That, to me, is what it’s all about,” Rabbi Schneider said. “If Yeshua is not who he said he was, which is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, according to Matthew 5, then I am a complete phony, a heretic, an enemy to the Jewish people.
“But if he is who he said he is, if he is the Messiah of the world, then they are wrong,” Rabbi Schneider said. “Jesus said to the Jewish people: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to God but through me.’ So it really all depends on that.”
The Messianic rabbi said the word rabbi in Hebrew means “a teacher of the Word of God,” and synagogue means “a house of worship” or “a house of study,” which he said are used appropriately in his case.
Rabbi Schneider, who was raised in a Conservative Jewish family in Cleveland and bar mitzvahed at 13, said he has experienced much persecution from Jews because of his stand on the Messiah, but that he is willing to endure more.
“It’s not Tovia Singer … who will determine if it’s a Jewish thing, it’s God himself who will judge. And I’m comfortable with letting God be the judge,” he said.
Rabbi Schneider, who said he left Judaism after experiencing a vision of Jesus, went through deprogramming paid for by his family after he converted to Christianity. He graduated from Toccoa Falls Bible College in Georgia and worked as a Christian pastor for a while, but said he only found fulfillment through Messianic Judaism.
Rabbi Singer said the title of rabbi is authorized only for those who graduate from rabbinical college.
He accused Jews for Jesus and Messianic Jews of exploiting a “deep interest” among Christians today to study the shared roots of Christianity and Judaism.
“They are taking advantage of gentiles who don’t know any better,” Rabbi Singer said.
He said it will take greater education, not more legislation, to “expose” Jews for Jesus and Messianic Jews.
“I welcome the Mormon who knocks on the door representing himself honestly as a Mormon. But are you going to have ‘vegetarians for hamburgers?’ or ‘Buddhists for Muhammed’? What sense does that make? It’s the same with Jews for Jesus,” Rabbi Singer said.
In addition, he said, preaching some of the ideals that Judaism espouses does not make a person a Jew, Rabbi Singer said.
“Right now, we are remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who articulated ideas of freedom, of fighting intolerance. These are Jewish ideals,” he said. “But Dr. King wasn’t a Jew. Gentiles can articulate ideas that are thoroughly Jewish, but Judaism and Christianity are different religions. We all know that.”
He said that unlike some faiths, Jews do not seek to convert people to their own faith because they do not profess to have the only answer.
“Judaism teaches the righteousness of all nations, that all have a place in the world to come. One does not have to be Jewish to be right by God,” Rabbi Singer said. “The notion of Christianity, the fundamental teachings of church fathers, is that if you’re not a Christian, you’re not saved. The fundamental teaching of Islam is that if you’re not Muslim, you’re lost. The fundamental teaching of Judaism is that God loves all mankind, that every human being is created in the image of God. The Jew has a special role in the world that is unique. We’re here to be a light to the world. That is our mandate. But we do not have a closer relationship to God than the gentiles do.”
Rabbi Tovia Singer will speak at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the University of Toledo’s Driscoll Alumni Center, 2801 West Bancroft St. Admission is free. The talk is sponsored by UT Chabad/Hillel at the Chai Jewish Center. Information: 419-392-8941.
Feb. 11, 2006
David Yonke, Blade Religion Editor