A new exhibition tells the history of Messianic Judaism from the time of the early church to today’s movement
By Tuvia Pollack Mar 15, 2022
In the opening event at the Christ Church heritage center, which was held February 24, they explained that they often have Israeli visitors who have never heard of Messianic Jews. When they hear about it, they have many questions, and since the same questions kept coming back, the Christ Church staff figured, why not make an exhibit to showcase the answers?
Four members of the Christ Church staff; Idan, Iris, Rafi and Nina, spent a year meeting on a weekly basis and putting together the material and information. The evening included speeches from the three of them who were in Israel, and a guided tour of the exhibit, which is situated in a corner of the Christ Church Heritage Center.
“Our museum is not the largest in Israel, but we have 50,000 visitors a year, and that’s significant,” Idan began. “Our place here is a historic site, and the people visiting come in search of history. Learning about the modernization of Jerusalem, the architecture, and then they hear about, and get interested in the Messianic Jewish movement. Jews who believe in Yeshua? They don’t expect that.”
Idan went on to explain that the exhibit is built as a timeline, allowing the visitors to follow the history and where it is today.
“Each one of us had to learn a lot of history. It was a research process for us. We had to sit through tons of historic information and sift through it. What can go in the exhibit? What fits the big picture and can help to show the general development? … I think it captures some of the most important thoughts, which can be very insightful to Israelis. Why, for example, we, as Messianic Jews, insist on our Jewish identity while we are holding onto faith in Jesus. And also, help the Christian world understand a little bit better the Jewish identity.”
The Christ Church heritage center is inside the building in which the first ever Hebrew-speaking Messianic congregation used to meet when it was first formed in 1842, back in the time of the Jewish bishop, Michael Solomon Alexander. The exhibit about the Messianic history is scheduled to be there for a year, and it’s to the left of the entrance.
Besides six information plaques with a lot of interesting historic information, it also includes some actual historic artifacts, such as pages from a Messianic-Anglican prayer book in Jewish religious style from London’s Messianic Congregation “Bney Avraham” which was founded in 1813. There was also a copy of a manuscript from 1939 of a Messianic version of the Israeli national anthem, “HaTikvah.”
The six plaques detail the history of Jesus-believing Jews from the time of Jesus until today – with a short gap of 1,400 years between 400 AD and 1813.
Plaque one: “A Jewish Beginning.” This plaque displays details about the Jewish origins of the early church and their acceptance of gentiles into the church, as described in the book of Acts.
Plaque two: “The Age of the Gentiles.” This plaque includes explanations on how the church gradually became more gentile and less Jewish, forgetting its roots and even being hostile to Jews. The plaque displays the last known evidence of an existing relationship between the Jewish and the Gentile expressions of the church from a 5th century mosaic in the Santa Sabina church in Rome.
Plaque three: “The Reemergence of Jewish Identity in Jesus.” This plaque focuses on how changes in Europe after the reformation paved the way for Jewish believers in Jesus to maintain their identity as Jews while believing in Jesus, and the first Messianic congregation, “Bnei Avraham” in London, established by Joseph Levy in 1813.
Plaque four: “Identity Crisis.” This plaque includes quoted by famous Hebrew Christians and Messianic Jews from the 19th and early 20th century about how they see their double identity as Jews and Christians. “The Jews accuse me of being a missionary. The Christians accuse me of being a Judaizer.” (Moshe Imanuel Ben Meir, 1905-1978). “I will stay among my people. I love the Messiah, I believe in the New Testament, but I have no intentions of changing my religion or join a Christian church.” (Rabbi Itzchak Lichtenstein 1824-1909).
Plaque five: “Jewish Believers Today.” This plaque, they said, was one of the hardest to write and to define, to not misrepresent any of the many expressions of Messianic Judaism in Israel. The result is an excellent and diplomatic formulation, stating that the Jewish believers in Israel, like the general Israeli public, is a community in a process of forming its identity and holds a wide array of opinions and customs. It then defines some of the core beliefs that all believers hold on to, and the aspects of Jewish identity that virtually all Messianic Jews in Israel share – celebrating the Jewish holidays, circumcising their sons, and see themselves as a part of the historical Jewish people. “From the days of the first disciples until today, Jewish followers of Jesus continue to search for an authentic integration of both its Jewish and universal expressions.”
Plaque six: “Jesus in Israeli art.” This last plaque describes how Jesus is no longer as taboo in Jewish circles as he used to be, and that more and more Jews and Israeli artists have reclaimed him as one of us. An exhibit in the Israel Museum in 2016-2017, “Behold the Man,” displayed a number of artworks about Jesus in Jewish and Israeli art, and this plaque displays and explains some of them.
So if you plan a visit to Israel during the coming year, don’t miss the Heritage Center of Christ Church and their exhibit on Messianic Judaism, displaying the past, present, and future of Jewish believers in Yeshua.