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When a Messianic Jew is Still a Jew

Israel Today, Ryan Jones, June 2019

Celebrated New York Timescolumnist and best-selling author David Brooks isn’t keen on the term “Messianic Jew.” Still, according to its standard definition, that’s what he now is. Typically, when a Jew comes to faith in Jesus as Messiah and assumes that “Messianic” prefix, wittingly or not, rabbinical authorities are quick to banish such a one from the people of Israel, to utterly deny their Jewishness.

Not so with Brooks.

Brooks’ first wife converted to Judaism for him. His second marriage seems to have had something of the opposite ef- fect. In 2017, Brooks married his former research assistant, Anne Snyder, a devout evangelical Christian. Since then, Brooks has made no secret of the fact that he now believes in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In his new book “The Second Mountain: The Quest for the Moral Life,” Brooks calls himself “a wander- ing Jew and a very confused Christian.” That confusion no doubt stems, at least in part, from Brooks feeling “more Jewish than ever before,” as he said in an inter- view with The Washington Post, coupled with the fact that the rabbis teach that to believe in Jesus renders one no longer Jewish.

But Brooks insists that “if Jews don’t want me as a Jew, they’re going to have to kick me out. On the other hand, I can’t unread Matthew.” He then goes on to call Jesus’ Beatitudes the “ultimate road map for life.”

In that same Post interview, Brooks admits to not knowing much about the Messianic Jewish movement, and that he’d be unlikely to consider himself a card-carrying member, even if he now shares most of their core beliefs.

Regardless of his views on main- stream Messianic Judaism, the rabbis do not appear ready to kick Brooks out of the Jewish fold, as they have done to so many others who came to faith in Jesus. Some prominent rabbis have seemingly refused to declare Brooks no longer a Jew. Rabbi Gil Steinlauf was the former rabbi of the Washington, DC synagogue that Brooks previously attended. Amid the controversy surrounding the columnist’s religious persuasions, Steinlauf told theJewish Telegraphic Agency that Brooks remains “one of our own,” though he is living a “dramatic contradiction.”

So, it would appear that Brooks’ ce- lebrity status has been enough to shield him from excommunication from the American Jewish community, but would it be enough to sway Israel’s rabbinical authorities?

It should be noted that Brooks’ em- brace of Christianity has gone largely unnoticed in the Jewish state. Still, we wondered what might happen if Brooks decided today that he was ready to make aliyah and move to Israel. Would he be allowed in under the Law of Return?

“According to all the Supreme Court precedents on the matter, if this person is Jewish by Halacha (i.e. the child of a Jewish mother), and professes faith in Je- sus, then his aliyah application would be denied,” explained Adv. Michael Decker, whose Jerusalem-based law firm regu- larly deals with immigration and visa issues.

Indeed, a great many Jews who openly believe in Jesus have in recent years been denied the right to return to their ancient homeland. At the same time, some notable exceptions have been made, usually owing to some degree of celebrity or public standing enjoyed by the Messianic applicant. We’ll refrain from naming any names so as to spare these individuals any future legal head- aches. But, suffice it to say that if David Brooks decided to make aliyah, even after publishing a book meticulously detailing how and why he now lives by Christianity’s core tenets, he’d likely find Israel’s doors open to him, while so many other Jewish believers in Jesus have had those same doors shut in their faces.

Make no mistake, this is purely speculation on my part. But, it’s specula- tion that reflects a growing frustration among Messianic Jews. Israel’s amended Law of Return now requires applicants to both be born to a Jewish mother, and to not be a “member of another religion.” Many Jewish believers like Brooks, how- ever, would and do adamantly reject the notion that they are no longer adherents of Judaism. After all, Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.

And still they are denied entry, even as Jews who believe in an assort- ment of New Age religions, or who are avowed atheists (which is most antithet- ical to Judaism), are permitted to make aliyah at will.