That question was the opening of a casual email from a colleague the other day. Just a little over a week after Yom ha-Shoah—the day when Israel remembers the victims of the Holocaust—I was tempted to answer by writing something like, “Way better than it treated my people a few decades ago.” I was there as a guest speaker at a bi-annual national conference of Messianic Jews sponsored by Evangeliumdienst für Israel (EDI), one of Caspari Center’s partners. And one of my strongest positive impressions from this trip was the substantial number of Germans who are members of local Messianic Jewish congregations and also attended the conference. Most of them are good and sincere friends of the Jewish people, and a few have a Jewish spouse; but the important thing is that these dear German brothers and sisters in the faith are full of love for my Jewish people. There is something very redeeming about that fact in view of 20th century history.
I had many other positive experiences during that visit. One was the forum with six participants—three congregational leaders and three members of local congregations—who were each asked to answer certain questions about the Messianic Jewish movement in Germany. Among the needs that were mentioned almost unanimously was theological education—something that this Caspari Center staff worker could not but rejoice over. I am also thankful for the story a girl from Berlin told me about an Iranian family that came to Germany as refugees and became believers in Jesus. I am hearing many stories of this kind from my European friends, but the unique thing about that particular family is that after becoming disillusioned with Islam and choosing Jesus, they decided to join a Messianic Jewish congregation. Why? Because, they said, it all started with the Jews!
But my best memory has to do with a certain development I observed inside the Messianic Jewish movement in Germany. Two years ago, during my previous visit, my Jewish brothers and sisters in that nation who participated in the conference were full of excitement over their Jewishness and everything that goes with it—the kippah and tallit (prayer shawl), kashrut, the traditional Shabbat liturgy, Jewish songs, and rabbinical commentaries. The Shabbat message, delivered by a recognized leader in the movement, was on the calling of Messianic Jews in Germany and the world, and was delivered with a lot of excitement about the unique role we, the Jews, have in the body of Messiah. I fully shared in that excitement, but still had a feeling that something was lacking.
This year the same leader spoke on Shabbat morning, and his message was different. Without denying the importance of Jewish identity, he stated unequivocally that over the years the German Messianic movement has shifted focus from Yeshua himself, his love, and the unity of his body to Jewish tradition and identity, and therefore there is an urgent need to restore the right priorities. I could hardly contain myself from yelling “Amen” right when he said that, but instead spoke to him in private after the service and thanked him for the message. To me that was a sign both of growing maturity, resolving the identity crisis that every Jesus-believing Jew faces sooner or later, and of hope for the Messianic movement in Germany.