So often we consider the Messianic Jewish movement to have begun in the 1960s—in America. We think our movement is modern, a resurrection after 2,000 years of dormancy. However, this could not be further from the truth.
Although the Messianic Jewish movement may not have been huge or well known until the 60s, there has been a faithful remnant keeping the torch lit from the time of Yeshua’s apostles until now.
Last week at the Bram Center we hosted a lecture given by Israeli historian and Messianic Jew Dr. Gershon Nerel. Gershon specializes in the history of Messianic Judaism—or Jewish Believers in Yeshua (JBY), as he prefers to call them—in the modern State of Israel. He highlighted the major milestones that occurred for these pioneers of faith and described the world in which they lived. This history began in the late 1800s when Jews began to leave Europe and come to Israel as pioneers.
The history is very layered, much of which includes Christian Missions to the Jews from all over the world. However, it shows the evolution of theology and practice that took place as Jewish believers began to settle into the land of Israel and rework their own viewpoints as Israelis—Jews who have returned from the Diaspora to the promised land.
We hoped to cover the history of JBYs in the modern State of Israel up until the present day, but the history is so rich that it was impossible to cover anything past the 1940s. So many Messianic Jews contributed to the establishment and cultivation of the country, and so much history is still unknown and unexplored, that we were not able to cover the current situation of the Messianic Jewish world in Israel today. However, our lecture did end at a very important point, that being when the Messianic Jewish movement started to slowly shift from being a very Evangelical Christian (theologically speaking) enterprise into being a thoroughly Jewish one. We ended with the namesake of the Bram Center: Abram Poljak.
Abram Poljak was one of the several dozen Messianic Jews who ended up remaining in Israel when the British Mandate evacuated hundreds of Hebrew Christians from the State of Israel during Operation Mercy. Operation Mercy occurred practically on the eve of Israel’s independence in 1948, when the British Mandate evacuated the Hebrew Christians in anticipation of a devastating war after Israel’s declaration of independence and statehood. Many present-day Israelis have not forgotten this point in history, and this has been one more source of contention between Israeli Jews and Jewish Believers in Yeshua. However, Poljak was not a part of this group. He led a group of Messianic Jews who were adamant to stay in the brand new state and throw in their lot with their fellow Jews.
This is how we ended—on the inspiring life and testimony of Abram Poljak. All the history prior to the 1960s was tremendous, and there was still much yet to cover. All this shows us very clearly that the Messianic Jewish movement was alive and well, formulating and transforming, filled with inspiration and controversy, long before the movement gained traction in 1960s America.
Dr. Nerel beautifully proved his point, and he inspired us by showing the powerful footprint—both good and bad—that Jewish Believers in Yeshua have left on the land of Israel, and seeing this rich history shows us that there is still a rich future. The lecture was recorded and will soon be available as a teaching-of-the-month for our FFOZ Friends.