As you know, our ministry is located in a community that, though historically Jewish, now claims an Irish identity. So, to try to connect a little more with the community, I have been trying to find ways to bridge the Jewish-Irish canyon. I’ve found, over time that the canyon is less a canyon and more a little ditch. It just doesn’t take much to build that bridge! Leon Uris, James Joyce, and even modern Israel’s history is rich with Irish/Jewish connections. But I never saw the Irish language as one of those bridges.
Even so, we opened our doors on Tuesday nights to a group from the community that needed a place to teach Irish language lessons. My bagpipe instructor (our group meets here on Monday nights) asked me if I was interested in letting another group use the space for Irish lessons, and of course I said yes. So, now I’m taking bagpipe lessons, and Irish language lessons, and finding ways to share the Gospel in these new forums. The teacher of the Irish language class is an Irish immigrant from Derry who was fascinated with the Jewish/Christian nature of our ministry. He started the class with another Irish/Jewish bridge, stating that the resurgence of the Irish language is taking its model from the modern state of Israel and the recovery of Hebrew as a national language.
During the first class, everyone introduced themselves and shared their Irish background. Most of them were of Irish descent, planning a trip to Ireland and wanted to know a little of the language. I introduced myself as an “Irish Jewish believer in Jesus.” Of course that got everyone’s attention, and I got to share my testimony a bit, and to share a little of the Irish/Jewish connections that I have developed in this process. Needless to say, we had many good conversations about Jesus through that. But I didn’t expect that class to give me an opportunity to share with any other Jewish people.
We are now in our second session. In the first class of that session, there were several new people, and one of them introduced himself as a Scottish Jew! He was interested in what he saw around him (our sanctuary has crosses, stars of david, a Torah scroll, a baptismal font…a little eclectic I guess).
So after that class, he asked me what kind of “Temple” this was. I shared my background with him, and he with me. He grew up in an observant home as well, and shared his journey from Orthodoxy to where he is now. His reference of our building as a “Temple” belies a bit of Reform Judaism, which could mean almost anything. We’ve had our second class, and afterwards, he sought me out again to share some of his memories growing up and he is open to my stories and my faith in Jesus. What a strange journey! But along the way, God continues to open doors to Jewish hearts.