By Contributor Lace Williams-Tinajero
One day Rabbi David D’Auria found a red Nazi swastika painted on the sign of his synagogue. Regardless, he answers with a firm “no” when asked if he has ever been targeted or persecuted for being a Messianic Jew. The leader of Kehilat HaMashiach, a Messianic congregation in Spokane Valley, says that anti-Semites, people who hate Jews, target all Jews. Even some of his fellows Jews are suspicious of him. For Christians the rabbi has to prove himself a true follower of Jesus. For Jews he has to prove he’s still Jewish.
At times, such “gross display of ignorance” makes living in Spokane difficult, D’Auria said. Larger metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, Miami and Fort Lauderdale have higher populations of Jews and Messianic Jews. Not so in Spokane, which is mostly homogeneous.
“Spokane is not this international community with many different cultures,” D’Auria said. “When you have interactions between different cultural groups, you have more openness. Spokane feels resistant and non-accepting of different groups.”
One word sets all Messianic Jews apart, Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus). The call for Messianic Jews is obedience to Yeshua while maintaining their Jewish identity. Yeshua is the center of their worship. Yeshua is also the eye of a storm of controversy that swirls around them.
“We are not part of what is traditionally considered Christian or Jewish because of our unique call; yet, we desire the unity in both groups of people — Christians and Jews,” said D’Auria.
As with any religious journey, it is difficult to walk a straight path. The difficulty for Messianic Jews is, “staying to the center of the road when there are two sides pulling you apart, Jews pulling you to be non-Yeshua, and Gentiles pulling you to be less Jewish,” he added.
Yeshua is the most descriptive word for Messianic Jews. It evokes hatred from some non-Yeshua believing Jews. D’Auria indicates for nearly 1,000 years, some ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox Jews refuse to utter the name Yeshua. Instead, they spit on the ground and shorten it to Yeshu, interpreted as false one or traitor. Non-Messianic Jews regard Yeshua as a blasphemous word. They disregard Yeshua because of the harm that has come to Jews in the name of Jesus. In defense of Yeshua, D’Auria rejects this conclusion as sinat hinam (hatred without cause), stemming not from theological reflection but from emotional reaction.
To move forward, more open dialogue in place of emotionally charged reactions is needed. D’Auria answers “yes” to the question of whether it is possible to understand one another’s beliefs based on language.
“From a Messianic Jewish standpoint, belief in Yeshua breaks down some points of compatibility,” he said.
He stands firmly in his belief that Yeshua is God’s promised Messiah to the Jewish people. His sincerity and courage give insight into his character and why he continues on a path that others find so suspicious, even if it comes in the form of a red swastika.