Monday, April 15, 2024 -
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A fundamental act of disrespect: the case of the old BMH

A religion that is one thing but says it is something else is, by definition, deceptive. This describes so-called messianic “Judaism,” which, in its affirmation of the divinity and the ultimate salvational power of a human being, departs from Judaism at its root, and joins Christianity. For decades, this so-called messianic Judaism has used disguises to attract Jews away from Judaism, including the adoption of Jewish rituals. Now comes a new device: the depiction of a former synagogue as an actual synagogue.

This former synagogue is the old BMH at 16th and Gaylord St., Denver, which is now being restored as a church. The building having been sold long ago by the BMH, its use as a church is fine. But the same building is also being restored as a synagogue for use as a church under the guise of being a synagogue, and this is not fine.

In this messianic church will reside Torah scrolls, an ark, an eternal light, all major trappings of the synagogue which, in all of its configurations — Reform, Conservative, Renewal, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, you name it — no human being is worshiped and no G-d other than the one G-d of the Hebrew Bible is acknowledged.

Here you have it: a church that not only looks like a synagogue, but is a former synagogue, with its old, Hebrew name still emblazoned in stone across its entrance. Obviously, this is a masterful stroke for unsuspecting people thinking they’re in for a Jewish ride when they enter it portals. Still more: This church is being restored in magnificent fashion to its original — its Jewish, its synagogal — style in all of its particulars. Draped in the beauty of the synagogue it once was, this is likely to be the most beautiful messianic church in the country — all the easier to ensnare unsuspecting Jewish souls.

To the extent that this restored building functions as a Christian church, practicing the Christian religion on Sundays and helping the homeless, more power to it. However, these straightforward uses on Sundays will inextricably be entwined with the practice of the Christian religion under the guise of the Jewish one on Saturdays, thus subverting Judaism. The church’s good work becomes compromised when, on a different day, the same institution, under the same leader, exploits and undermines Judaism. Whatever else it is, the use of a restored church as a synagogue is an act of disrespect.

The messianic church’s pastor seems ready to tell anyone who will listen that his grandfather was a kohane, a descendant of the High Priest Aaron — an undeniably Jewish marker — as if the pastor’s ancestry establishes his legitimacy as a preacher of Judaism or as a leader of a Jewish institution. Descent alone does not establish Judaism. Departure from the essence of Judaism is not softened by ancestry; the teachings of a person who separates from the essence of Judaism are not Judaism.

There is freedom of religion in the US and what the messianic church on Gaylord St. is doing is completely legal. There is also freedom of speech in this country and what the contemporary Jewish community is doing in standing united in its rejection of “messianism” as Judaism is completely legal. This latest, cleverest distortion of Judaism is just that — not to mention, a new challenge facing the integrity of the Jewish community today.

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