Category Archives: Jewish Demographics


fiddler-on-the-roof1520As I write this, I am thinking about our Purim celebration and our Passover Seder plans.  Of course, if Purim and Passover are coming up, then Ash Wednesday, Lent, and Holy Week are too.  And all of these are wonderful opportunities for worship, fellowship and growing in faith, and all are rich in tradition.

Tradition!  We are all probably familiar with Tevye’s take on tradition in The Fiddler on the Roof.  This month, for our Shabbat fellowship on the 17th, we are hosting a sing-a-long (and dance-a-long!) evening with Fiddler on the Roof.  And while I will laud the value of tradition along with Tevye, I will also grieve a little.

Tevye’s whole perspective is that living in this world is a tenuous proposition.  Life is hard, and you never know what the world is going to throw at you.  So you rely on tradition to keep your balance.  Because, “without our traditions, life would be as shaky as a fiddler on a roof.”

Traditions are good things. . .until they’re not.  We all know the joke, “How many Lutherans does it take to change a lightbulb?”  The punch line is of course, (with a horrified look on one’s face), Change!?  I was with a group of guys the other night, and a few were Lutherans, and one of them added to that old joke with the addendum, “My grandfather paid for that lightbulb!”

There are traditions that strengthen our faith and grow us as a people of God.  I would argue that the celebration of biblically historic festivals and days fall into that category including all those that I mentioned above.  Liturgy can be in that category and unites us with the historic Church throughout the ages, even as ours unites us with the historic Church, even before the 3rd century!

But some traditions serve only to serve our flesh.  The old “we’ve never done it that way before” can stifle our growth in faith.  Lutherans are full of those kinds of traditions too.  So are the Jewish people.  And the worst tradition of all is that “Jews don’t believe in Jesus.”  I’ve heard that both from Lutherans and Jews, and that’s when I grieve.  Because, though our God is unchanging, for those of us who believe in Jesus,  “we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52) and raised imperishable.  Praise Him!


Rhode Island, Touro Synagogue, and Us

ImageI spent some of this month on the East coast, where I have helped serve Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Smithfield, Rhode Island. This year, the pastor was on sabbatical, and he had arranged for pastors to serve the congregation during, so I was able to go to church as a worshipper. I haven’t done that in a long while and it was truly a blessing.

I had forgotten just how comforting it is to be able to go to church, know the liturgy (apart from a couple of obscure hymns!), and just enjoy worship from the pew. It truly gave me a fresh perspective on the “worship wars” we are suffering in the Synod right now.

But while I truly consider our traditional liturgy a blessing for the Church, it was also wonderful to get back to Chai v’Shalom, and worship in our traditional way, Hebrew/English with hymns and messianic music. There is certainly a place for both in the Church, and I hope we can still honor the freedom we have to worship as we will, for some of us in our own heart language. For me, traditional Lutheran liturgy is my heart language, as much as our traditional Hebrew service is! Who knew!?

I did get to talk to one of the elders there, and we chatted a little more about a summer mission in the Newport, RI area and how our ministry might be involved with that. Smithfield is about 45 minutes from Newport, and there is not a Lutheran church close to Newport. Newport is the site of the first synagogue in America, and there is still a considerable Jewish presence in that part of RI. As you drive into Newport, one of the first things you see on your right is a large and very historic Jewish cemetery. Please pray about how we might be able to start a branch in RI along with this summer mission.

While I was relaxing in RI, our Michigan branch was very busy. They hosted a well-received seminar in Detroit, distributed “Stand with Israel” signs all over central Michigan, and through that evangelistic effort, Suzanne was able to pray with a Jewish man for faith! In addition to all that, we nailed down some of the details for the trip to Israel next year, and planned a bit more for the retreat that LIJE is hosting in September in North Carolina. The wonders of modern technology…it allows us to get so much done, even while on vacation. Believe it or not, that is a a good thing!

The Sunflower State et. al.,

shapeimage_2I think I have been “short-sighted” about a few things during the course of my ministry. I’m sure there are many other things I am short-sighted about, but one that glares at me recently is the desire for our ministry in many places around the country. Let me explain…

Our ministry has a long-term goal of a branch of our ministry in every city in the U.S. with a Jewish population of over 20,000. I know that this is an artificial number and that all Jewish people everywhere are in need of the gospel, but we had to start somewhere. What this left us to “start” with is 39 cities in the United States. Currently, we have four branches in four of those cities. Obviously, we have a long way to go.

But, what I have been short sighted about is the desire for learning and outreach in other than those 39 major cities. As an example, we have a partner church in Western Kansas that wants to start a branch of our ministry. Trust me, Western Kansas is not on the list. But in their own words, “hey, we go to Denver for shopping, dining and football games, why not evangelism?” Denver is definitely on the list! And since I have had a tough time getting ministry going in Denver, why not from Western Kansas?

I was reminded again by a church in Waterloo, Iowa last weekend. Iowa doesn’t even show up on the radar of most demographic studies where Jewish people are concerned, yet I met several people who know Jewish people and want to learn how to share the gospel with them. One such lady shared with me that a member of her family had converted to Judaism and asked me to pray with her about this family member.

What this all tells me is that while I need to focus on the larger areas of the country, I can’t forget those wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ who want to start work too! In Iowa, we’re starting a “Messianic Friendship group” (basically a small-group bible study) where they will start learning about Jewish people and better ways to share. I’m excited! Would you like to start one too?