This blog post was initiated because of an article that appeared in The Jerusalem Post on “Will Israel Ever Accept Messianic Jews?” by Tamara Zieve (Dec 16) and the many letters that appeared responding to it. The question posed was are “Messianic Jews” really Jews? Can they be considered Jews under the Law of Return to become Israelis, can they be accepted as halachically Jewish?
The answers to these questions are complicated by the fact that the use of the word “Jew” is ambiguous. It refers both to someone of Jewish nationality and someone who believes in the Jewish religion. The Jewish religion happens to be the characteristic belief system of the people defined as the Jewish people, that became in time a nation and ultimately returned as a people to their own State of Israel.
Halachically there is no question that a person born of a Jewish mother, whatever he or she believes, is a Jew in the national sense. This is in effect a racial definition, like someone being born Italian, but not necessarily being Catholic. But, when it comes to belief, that is a different matter. Because of three reasons, someone who believes in the Christian religion, i.e. accepts the divinity of Jesus and his teachings, cannot be considered a Jew; 1. Such a belief system is unacceptable to any person who claims to be a believer in Judaism; 2. Some members of these cults, such as Jews for Jesus, are not halachically Jewish and it is important for such a person to prove that he or she is born Jewish to be accepted as such; 3. These Christian sects that call themselves “Jews” are in fact proselytizing and seek to convert Jews, and this is illegal in Israel.
So for these reasons it is certain that the Rabbinate would not accept someone as halachically Jewish, unless they can prove that they are born of a Jewish mother, do not accept non-Judaic beliefs (such as that Jesus is the son of God) and that they are not intending to attempt to convert other Jews to their beliefs. Likewise, the Jewish State of Israel has the sovereign right to reject the entry of anyone they choose for whatever reason and these three reasons are acceptable reasons.
Someone who is a so-called Messianic Jew, who fails to realize the depth of feeling among real Jews, that this insidious compromise, that someone who is born Jewish is in fact attempting to subvert Jews and Judaism, after our bloody history with Christianity, and Islam, should ask for forgiveness.