Everyone has their ideal picture of what Messianic Judaism should look like. I am no exception. Some want the movement to resemble some form of orthodoxy—modern or otherwise—while others would like to see it resemble more liberal forms of Judaism, or even some sort of Jewish-Christian hybrid. However, as the pioneering generation of Messianic Judaism is starting to pass the baton to the Millennials, the question now is what will Messianic Judaism look like in the next fifty years?
While I may not be able to fully predict how Messianic Judaism will look in practice or demographics, I have spoken with enough of my peers to be encouraged that Messianic Judaism will be an authentic Judaism, a Judaism that is meaningful, structured, and sustainable.
Knitted Kippah or Star of David
My generation, for the most part, is not interested in a superficial Judaism consisting merely of Star of David necklaces and random Yiddish and Hebrew words thrown in conversation. My generation is interested in Jewish life, marrying Jewish spouses (or at least very supportive Gentile spouses), and raising Jewish children. My generation is interested in connection to Israel, and many of them prove this by making aliyah, even serving in the Israeli Defense Forces.
All these things are important to us. Judaism is important to us. The only difference is in how that Judaism looks. Some of us want to return to a more “established” expression of Judaism that is found in modern Orthodox approaches, while others of us are comfortable with reevaluating more liberal forms of Judaism (such as Conservative and Reform) and allowing those expressions to influence our practice and worldview. There are also those of us who desire to take both traditional and liberal trajectories into account, learning from each branch of Judaism and finding a healthy, progressive balance. Still, there are those of my age group who, while they may prefer a more Christian expression, yet they desire Jewish life and Jewish expressions in other areas of their every day lives.
Even with all this diversity, I have found one principle to be common amongst all my peers: We want a Judaism that is shaped by the Messiah; a Judaism that has Yeshua completely and entirely at the center.
From Sea to Shining Sea
Having strong connections to communities of young Messianic Jews both on the East Coast in New York and Boston, as well as on the West Coast in Sacramento and Los Angeles, I have had the privilege to see and be encouraged by my generation of future leaders and rabbis. Our movement will be transferring into godly, capable hands.
The young adults in their 20s and 30s are interested in an authentic Judaism. We are interested in learning the traditions, being well-informed on halachah, even if there are particulars with which we disagree. We desire to challenge, but we want to do so within the already established frameworks and boundaries of Judaism. We see all the movements (Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform) as guides for us. We learn from these sects of Judaism, rejecting some things and accepting others based on our worldview, our halachic understanding, and, most importantly, based on the teachings of our Messiah and his apostles. We want to have a Judaism with Yeshua at the center, but a Judaism that does not invalidate or throw out all other Judaisms.
Authenticity is important to us. Consistency is important to us. We gravitate toward more structured Jewish expressions, but we are proud to be who we are—disciples of Yeshua of Nazareth—and we know that Judaism fits perfectly into our discipleship with him.
I am always encouraged to see people my age taking their faith and practice so seriously. My generation has a passion for Jewish life and, for the most part, has worked through the identity crisis of being Jewish and believing in Jesus. We are comfortable being authentic to ourselves, which means being devout Jews and devout Yeshua followers. This generation gives me great hope and I firmly believe has great promise. Invest generously in the spiritual lives your local Millennials, for they will be tomorrow’s leaders!