Frequently Asked Questions
What is a “Messianic Synagogue”?
A messianic synagogue is one that affirms the messiahship of Yeshua (commonly known as Jesus of Nazareth).
At Shuvah Yisrael, we gather for Torah (“instruction”), avodah (“worship”), and gemilut hasadim (“deeds of lovingkindness”). In this way, we are very much like congregations you would find in any Jewish community. And like any synagogue, we are a “Bet Knesset”, a place where the congregation assembles and addresses community needs, a “Bet Tefillah”, a place where we pray together, and a “Bet Midrash”, where we study our heritage and transmit it to the next generation.
Those who have visited or participated in the wider Jewish community find much that is familiar at Shuvah Yisrael — our liturgy, our wearing of traditional talleisim (prayer shawls) and kippot (skull caps), and our festival observances. Shuvah Yisrael feels like a synagogue because that is what it is!
As a Messianic Synagogue, we affirm our confidence that Yeshua of Nazareth is the Messiah promised in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures), and our acceptance of the New Covenant Scriptures in addition to the Tanakh as God’s revelation to Israel and the nations.
For almost 2,000 years people have believed that Jews can’t believe in Jesus. Is it really possible for Messianic Jews to turn back the clock?
Yes, it is entirely possible. Here’s why:
1. It is a fact of life. Thousands of committed Jews do believe in Yeshua today. The answer to the question, “Is it possible?…” is answered in part by the fact that Messianic Judaism is alive and well, both in Israel and the Diaspora.
2. The sheer breadth of beliefs evident in the Jewish world today argues for the legitimacy of Messianic Judaism. In this age of pluralism, Humanistic Jews and Hasidic Jews are part of the same people of Israel. It is hard to imagine groups of more differing perspectives! Yet, both are part of the Jewish world. Messianic Jews view themselves as yet another perspective among the many viable Jewish options. We are Jews with a difference — living among other Jews who often have great differences of belief on even the most basic issues and equally great differences in daily practice. There is room under the sun for Orthodox, Humanistic, Messianic, Reform, Conservative and other kinds of Jewishness.
3. Even by the standards of Orthodox Judaism, Messianic Jews are still Jews. Belief in Yeshua does not make one a non-Jew! However, without participation in synagogue life, it is difficult to live as a Jew in any meaningful way. Hence, Messianic Jewish synagogues – congregations like Shuvah Yisrael where being Jewish and believing in the Risen One go hand in hand.
4. Jewish is as Jewish does! Messianic Jews are often far more observant of Jewish customs and more committed to historic Jewish beliefs than many others in the Jewish community. Many Messianic Jews, in fact, became more deeply committed to our Jewishness as a direct consequence of having become followers of Yeshua! We consider this transformation the work of God in our hearts and minds.
Do I have to be Jewish to attend?
Every week at our congregation we welcome visitors who are not Jewish. However, like any synagogue, we chiefly exist to serve Jewish People. And therefore, we recognize and extend our community to serve the spiritual needs of interfaith couples (Jewish/Christian couples) and their families as well.
Some other non-Jews find life in a Messianic Jewish synagogue attractive. Often, these folks experience a strong gravitational pull to Jewish life — a deeply rooted inclination in their souls which may seem difficult to understand, but which may be very real. Time is the key test of the strength of this inclination. Is it a passing fad? Is it merely a reaction to negative experiences at church? Or, is the pull the real thing?
The mature non-Jew considering affiliation in a Messianic Jewish synagogue should consider carefully the issues involved. Congregations like Shuvah Yisrael, in order to maintain cultural integrity, must retain a significant Jewish majority of members. And considering the inherent identity confusion, which comes with the territory for non-Jews at a Messianic Jewish synagogue, we urge a hard-nosed “cost/benefit” analysis on the part of the prospective non-Jewish participant.
We offer classes as well for our friends in churches to help them appreciate the Jewish roots of their own faith and to build bridges of peace.
Do you celebrate Christmas and Easter or Hannukah and Passover?
Like other Jews, we celebrate Hanukkah and Passover.
Our calendar includes Rosh Chodesh, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Chanukah, Purim, Passover, Shavuot, Yom Hatzmaut (Israel Independence Day) and Yom HaShoah (Commemoration of the Holocaust) as well.
Unlike other Jews, though, we also observe and celebrate the coming of Messiah and the death and resurrection of Yeshua at the appropriate seasons–yet without borrowing the cultural trappings of other communities to do so.
Believe it or not, we celebrate the coming of Messiah and his death and resurrection in Jewish ways! You will have to visit us to see how!
Do I have to share the beliefs of the congregation to be part?
The articulation of one’s faith is not as important as the way in which people act out their faith. A wide variety of views on many religious, social, political and aesthetic issues is evident among the members and friends of Shuvah Yisrael.
Formal members are united on some key convictions such as the existence of the God of the Bible, His ongoing commitment to the Jewish people, the centrality of Torah, the messiahship of Yeshua, the historical reality of his death and resurrection, and our conviction that God has been present in the formation and development of both the historic Jewish community and the historic Church.
Visitors are encouraged to explore, ask tough questions and take their time in sharpening their own convictions in these and all other matters. No pressure is exerted. Truth has its way of becoming known without coercion or even subtle pressure.
Do I have to know Hebrew to attend your services?
Shabbat and Holiday services are conducted in Hebrew and English. The relative amount of Hebrew is similar to Reform and some Conservative synagogues.
A person unfamiliar with Hebrew can still benefit from the worship experience. Singable English, dynamic translations, and transliterated Hebrew all help to make the experience easier for and more meaningful for the uninitiated.
Ongoing study is available through classes offered regularly at Shuvah Yisrael and all attendees are encouraged to grow in their skill in reading and understanding the language of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Yeshua.
What does Shuvah have to offer intermarried families?
Shuvah Yisrael offers intermarried families three things: common ground and good company.
However, our synagogue does not exist primarily to make intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews easier. Our religious outlook is based on deep convictions and not expediency. This being said, our beliefs about Jewishness and Yeshua do, as a by-product create a very comfortable situation for intermarried families.
Many intermarried couples have made their congregational home among us because otherwise insurmountable difficulties can be removed:
First, the Jewish spouse can worship in Jewish “space.” Often, it is very difficult for a Jew to attend his wife’s (or her husband’s) church. However, Shuvah Yisrael is a synagogue. The sights, sounds, and rhythm of life are clearly Jewish.
Also, the non-Jewish spouse often finds it difficult to attend a traditional synagogue, not only because the symbolic world is unfamiliar, but because religion without Jesus seems incomplete.
At Shuvah Yisrael, Yeshua the Messiah is honored as the exalted Holy One of Israel who, as a matter of genuine historical record, died and rose again! This point of commonality with the historic Church validates the deepest sensibilities of the non-Jewish spouse.
Thus, the common ground offered to an intermarried family can meet a deep need and even head off a potential marital conflict so long as the couple is willing to view the Jewish community as their primary community of reference.
What opportunities are offered for children at Congregation Shuvah Yisrael?
Children — their needs, their delights — are a central focus at Congregation Shuvah Yisrael. Deeply woven into the fabric of our congregational life is the awareness that raising well-adjusted, morally sensitive children is truly the work of the entire village.
Our program includes the following:
– Shabbat school offered on Saturday mornings at the synagogue
– Hebrew classes for Bar and Bat Mitzvah training.
– Personalized Bar and Bat Mitzvah training by Rabbi and lay teachers.
How are funds raised in the congregation? Are there membership dues?
Unlike the traditional synagogues, Shuvah Yisrael does not have a formal dues structure. Instead, people are encouraged to give generously, voluntarily and anonymously.
In addition to regular giving to cover the yearly budget, special projects are funded by a Designated Giving Program in which members and friends of the congregation may contribute as they choose.
Specific fees are reserved for some advanced learning programs.
How should I dress for your services?
One should always dress his best, and conservatively, to attend synagogue services, and treat the occasion with respect and honor. And for the younger set, “Grunge” is definitely NOT the look!