Messianic Judaism is a movement whose influence extends far beyond the Jewish community.

Millions of Gentiles have connected with Yeshua of Nazareth and with the Jewish people through celebrating the biblical festivals and observing, to some degree, the Sabbath. This has elicited a varied reaction from the Jewish community. This week, Messiah Podcast interviews David Nekrutman, Executive Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, about his recent book inviting Gentiles to celebrate the Sabbath.

David was born into a secular, New York Jewish family. In an effort to become more observant, his family sent David to Yeshiva of Brooklyn. He had no love for Christians and no knowledge of Christianity beyond medieval Catholicism. After finishing his master’s degree and working in the public sector for some time, he began working for the Israeli consulate in New York. In this capacity, he was asked to visit Bay Ridge Christian Center, a charismatic church in Brooklyn, to participate in a night to celebrate Israel during the Second Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Conflicted, he asked his rabbi, Gerald Meister, whether he was even allowed to enter a church. After explaining the situation, Rabbi Meister told him that he had to go as a representative of Israel under orders from the Israeli government. He prepared for the occasion by watching Sister Act, as he thought Catholicism was the only expression of Christianity.

Afterward, Nekrutman was asked to take the lead on Jewish-Christian relations for the consulate. After receiving permission from his rabbi, he began to research evangelical Protestantism, as he felt they would be the most receptive. Later, he moved to Israel joined Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin to help found the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, the first Orthodox Jewish organization dedicated to Jewish-Christian dialogue.

David cites Dr. Mark Rutland and Dr. Brad Young as the primary drivers who influenced him to attend Oral Roberts University. He was forthright about his Jewish identity throughout, continuing, for example, to wear his kippah; however, no one tried to convince him to convert to Christianity.

He likens the modern renewal of Jewish-Christian dialogue as the second-greatest miracle of our era, with the first being the State of Israel. He sees the Jewishness of Jesus as the greatest point of commonality between Jews and Christians. Citing the fact that Jesus was an observant Jew, he encourages Christians to "allow the Judaism of Jesus to enhance your identity and also the covenantal partnership you have with your elder brother—namely, the Jewish people."