Meaning no disrespect, to the six million, but first it was the Holocaust. Then it was Israel. And now it is availing oneself to Torah study taught by Orthodox rabbis and Jewish educators. When it comes to our sacred texts, Christians, Evangelicals in particular, seem to be heads over heels with what we Jews have to offer. Donna Jollay serves as a perfect example. Donna is a 59-year-old , rags to riches American Evangelical, who made a fortune in high-tech. Recently, she moved from Hawaii to Israel.
Rather than analyze what makes “Patricia” or “Patrick” so infatuated with what we Jews along with our Judaism have to offer, perhaps it’s time to analyze why hearts of Orthodox rabbis and educators beat that much faster, when approached by Evangelicals with that pleading look in their eyes that says “teach me.”
With the exceptions of Orthodox bastions in cities such as Boston, Baltimore, Detroit and Denver, a goodly amount of Orthodox rabbis and educators deal with a Jews who are less than enthusiastic when it comes to learning about their heritage. On the other hand, the desire on the part of Evangelicals to study Torah and in some cases Talmud is breathtaking. In their Evangelical hearts and souls, hearing a Jew disseminate knowledge, is second only to hearing it from their savior. However humble rabbis and educators are, or portray themselves to be, a little appreciation goes a long way. With Evangelicals, the appreciation is at times so great, that it’s immeasurable. Faced with receiving appreciation that is typically both scant and seldom, if ever, from their own, or incessant raving reviews from Evangelicals, human nature dictates that Orthodox rabbis and educators can’t help but seek the latter.
Spiritualty and Synagogue services do not seem to go hand in hand. By our very nature, we Jews are either not spiritual when it comes to prayer, or we show our spirituality in most unusual ways. A little over 30 years ago, I attended a mid-day “Power Hour” at First Mariner Baptist Church at the tip of Manhattan. I witnessed more spirituality in five minutes at that church service, than I experience the entire year at a synagogue. Nor is this a new phenomenon. If we Jews were truly into religious fervor, Chassidism would never have entered the scene three centuries ago. Synagogue services are seldom, if ever, hotbeds of spirituality (I’ll deal with Chabad at a different occasion). Synagogue service (main stream church services as well) are staid. Evangelicals are spiritual people. So too are many non-Evangelical Christians. Not that long ago, a non-Jewish woman sitting in my office was brought to tears because of an explanation I gave her. Seeing her cry was such an awesome sight, that I myself was nearly brought to tears observing her reaction. I cannot help but feel that given the choice of staid or spiritual, Orthodox rabbis and educators crave teaching spiritual individuals.
Orthodox rabbis and educators alike do not seek converts to Judaism. They do however sub-consciously seek validation. So too does any and all clergy. Validation not only cuts across denominational lines, but religious lines as well. Appreciation aside, clergy lacks any barometer to measure validation. And unless they commit a major faux pas or achieve some sort of resounding success, rabbis will typically hear nary a word from their synagogue board. “Business as usual” is tantamount to sounds as silence. With Evangelicals, there is no such thing as business as usual. Evangelicals or any interested Christian group provide validation beyond belief. Their very presence says “what we hear from you will impact on our very being. Please teach us, so that we can strengthen our Christian faith”. How often does a rabbi or educator hear, “please teach us so that we can strengthen our faith in HaShem” from any congregant?
Say what you like about Evangelicals. Remain as suspicious of them as you have always been. By all means, question their sincerity. Realize however, that when it comes to appreciation, spirituality and validation, unlike so many Jews, Evangelicals are able to provide a diet for Orthodox rabbis and educators that is so desperately needed.