(special thanks, to Jewish Israel member, Shannon)

On November 27th Zev Isaacs of the Messianic Prophecy Bible Project sent out a newsletter update featuring his infiltration of a Chabad Yeshiva. This mailing entitled, “Lubavitcher Jews in Israel SECRETLY BELIEVE in Yeshua as their Messiah!”,is purportedly used to raise funds for the production of missionary literature.

It appears that Isaacs is running out of original material, because much of the content and photos in the newsletter has been recycled and can be seen in a blog post dated December 12, 2007.

Zev Isaac’s tactics are absolutely despicable as he has sent his evangelizing team to disrupt those praying at the Kotel; upset those preparing for Yom Kippur; and he has gone as far as to desecrate the memory of the dead (by naming names off of headstones in a Jewish cemetery and claiming that if the deceased Jews could speak they would be pleading, “tell my Jewish relatives, tell my Jewish family that Yeshua is the Messiah…”).

“Messianic” Christian groups frequently use their spin on the beliefs of Chabad’s so-called “meshichist” faction (Rebbe = Messiah) to bolster arguments for the legitimacy of “messianic Judaism” and the “messiahship of jesus”.

Although numerous mainstream Chabad voices have, through the years, censured the offensive meshichist campaigns and claims, and have made some attempts at clarification; there has not been a clear, unequivocal statement of consensus from respected and recognized members of the Chabad rabbinic leadership.

One prominent Chabad leader told Jewish Israel that as much as the meshichist phenomenon is disturbing and in need of a response, consensus is unlikely as a unified position hasn’t come out of Chabad in years. Indeed he attributed the inception of the meshichist movement to the intense trauma following the passing of the Rebbe.

But Jewish Israel is urging mainline Chabad leaders to address this issue responsibly and as soon as possible.

At present, numerous Christian sects - who have purportedly abandoned their belief in the trinity, while retaining a belief in jesus as the Jewish messiah - are vying for legitimacy as branches of normative Judaism in Israel. They justify their beliefs by comparing them to the positions of certain factions of Chabad. And Israel’s courts and media are hearing the following from evangelical lawyers representing “messianic jews” in Israel:

"It is about time that they [Orthodox Jews] stop having a monopoly over determining who is a Jew. The beauty of the Jewish world is the diversity. If you can still be considered a Jew even if you believe that the Lubavitch Rebbe [Menachem Mendel Schneerson] is the messiah, the same thing should hold true if you believe Jesus is." --- attorney Calev Myers

It should be noted that evangelical bloggers are using a similar twisted argument in their coverage of the Howard Bass court case ,which prominently features a Chabadnik. Final testimony on that case is due in March.

As a result of the leadership void in Chabad and lack of effective response to the meshichistim, certain colorful characters have stepped in and attempted damage control. But their fumbling efforts have added fuel to the fire by inadvertently bolstering the claims of these messianic Christian sects:

Still, I disagree utterly with those unkind critics who warn that the Rebbe-as-Messiah phenomenon is proof that some in Chabad will ultimately write themselves out of Judaism. Indeed, to compare Chabad messianists with Christians is libelous, preposterous, and ignorant. It was not the early Jerusalem Church's insistence on the messiahship of Jesus that broke them off from normative Judaism, but rather Paul's later abrogation of the law. Early Christians did not believe in the divinity of Jesus, only that he was the long-promised Messiah. There was nothing inherently heretical about this belief, even if it was not normative. ---Shmuely Boteach

Jewish scholars in print publications continue to do a hatchet job on Chabad. The Fall issue of the Shalem Center’s Azure Magazine ran an article entitled “Chabad’s Lost Messiah”.

Even Gentile bloggers have gotten into the act with a recent posting at the popular and “scholarly” British political weblog Harry’s Place, referring to Chabad as “a post-Jewish Messianic religion”.

The Rabbinic Council of America (RCA) has – after a 13 year delay - recently added an “Affirmation Regarding Messianic Belief” clause to their membership application.

It reads: I affirm that the following resolution, adopted at the RCA’s 1996 Annual Convention, reflects my beliefs: “In light of disturbing developments which have recently arisen in the Jewish community, the Rabbinical Council of America in convention assembled declares that there is not and never has been a place in Judaism for the belief that Mashiach ben David will begin his Messianic mission only to experience death, burial and resurrection before completing it.”

This move has re-opened the debate which is now raging on at least one Chabad-affiliated site. Debate is good, but without some kind of resolution, missionaries will continue to take gross advantage of the situation.

And it’s painful that, on more than one occasion, when presenting the dismal missionary situation in Israel to the Israeli public, Jewish Israel has received the response, “You know this is all Chabad’s fault”. That claim, of course, isn’t true. But Chabad’s irresolution and inability to put their house in order is surely not helping those of us who are tirelessly working to counter the severe missionary challenge in Israel.

Chabad could technically continue to avoid this issue as long it remains an inner Jewish family matter, but with evangelizing Christian missionaries reveling in the Jewish community’s dirty laundry, Chabad has little choice but to turn this chillul Hashem into a kiddush Hashem.

Jewish Israel understands that it’s unfair to dissect, belittle, or analyze Hassidut and the complex and esoteric issues of Jewish spirituality; nor do we believe it’s right to dismiss or intrude upon the very special and personal relationship Chabad Hasidim had (and continue to have) with the Rebbe.

But we’re not talkin’ rocket science here. We are speaking about the basic fundamentals of Judaism, and an unequivocal statement from respected and recognized members of Chabad’s rabbinic leadership is needed in these troubled times.

Indeed Jewish Israel has been in touch with Chabad –affiliated rabbis and Chabad leaders in the counter-missionary field. We’ve seen a very comprehensive draft statement which clearly draws the line between Christianity and Judaism and allays all misconceptions about Chabad’s beliefs. We are not at liberty to publish that document at this time, as it is being discussed and awaiting endorsements. We hope the parties involved in these courageous and vital efforts will do what they can to expedite matters.

Jewish Israel feels it would be the ultimate desecration of the Rebbe’s name and all of his good work if the meshichist distortion is used by Christian sources to legitimize apostasy in Eretz Yisrael (G-d forbid).

Chabad is no stranger to optimistic and effective PR campaigns. Their messages often have universal appeal and are infused with special warmth, wisdom and Jewish humor. But this is no laughing matter. Jewish Israel hopes that responsible parties within Chabad will answer our challenge.

Happy Hanukah from Jewish Israel.

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Comment by Jake Jacobs on June 1, 2010 at 12:12am
Comment by Jewish Israel on December 21, 2009 at 10:28pm
Thanks, David.
We will stay on top of the powers-that-be and hope that something moves with this.
Comment by David Ziants on December 18, 2009 at 1:12am
This article is a great article which, in my opinion, sums up the issues at stake in a diplomatic way. Sometimes, discussions on the subject are censored and limited on Torah discussion groups, usually to avoid causing rift.

I do hope that the document that was drafted by main stream chabad will be published soon, and really does answer the concerns. It is very easy to make a distinction between the later pagan Xtrians and Judaism, but because early Xtrians were primarily practising although not normative Jews (if I understand my history correctly) it would no doubt take a little effort to document why their belief was wrong.
Comment by Jewish Israel on December 12, 2009 at 8:29pm
Shannon,
Thanks, as always, for your vital contributions and input to Jewish Israel!

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