Archives For Judaism

After a recent significant national event that shall go unnamed, I lamented to my mother: ‘Forget Canada, if I had a Jew in my family tree I’d move to Israel.’

To which my mother replied: ‘Huh, my grandparents were Jewish.’

My first thought: No wonder I’m so funny. Second thought: We need to get a Rabbi on the podcast. 

Rabbi Hayim Herring, Ph.D. is an published author and researcher, presenter and nonprofit organizational futurist, with a specialty in Jewish community building. A former congregational rabbi, senior federation executive and executive director at a national Jewish foundation, In addition to over 50 scholarly and popular articles and studies about the contemporary American Jewish community, Hayim’s most recent publications include Leading Congregations and Nonprofits in a Connected World with Terri Martinson Elton (Rowman & Littlefield 2016).

Coming up, we’ve got conversations for you with Tripp Fuller and Richard Rohr as well as a conversation with the author of a memoir about her time as a dominatrix in NYC.

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24riff-articleLargeOf course, this is what churches should be attempting/achieving through confirmation. Here’s a piece from Sunday’s NY Times Magazine. I’m curious what folks think of about the idea of churches poaching bar mitzvahs. And before anyone gets too righteous about Jewish practices- the last bar mitzvah I attended featured a flashy boy band and absolutely no religious content.

Of all the surprises promised by the recent TLC reality show “The Sisterhood,” which followed the lives of five Atlanta preachers’ wives, the only one that truly amazed me was the Christian bar mitzvah, an event organized by Pastor Tara Lewis and her husband, Pastor Brian, for their son, Trevor. Brian was born to Jewish parents; Tara was not. Both are born-again Christians, and they’re of one mind about their son’s bar mitzvah as a Christ-centered take on the traditional Jewish coming-of-age ceremony.

In one episode of “The Sisterhood,” Brian and Tara plan the theme of the bar mitzvah cake. “How about Christ in the Torah?” Brian asks. “Amen,” Tara answers.

Their Jesus-fied version of the Jewish ritual is intended to celebrate both Trevor’s ethnic heritage through his father and, even more important, his spiritual identity through salvation. For, in the eyes of the Lewises and many fundamentalists like them, born-again Christians are in some sense more truly Jewish than actual Jews are.

I grew up in a Charismatic church and later went to public high school in a heavily Jewish neighborhood of Miami, yet I was unfamiliar with a trend of bar mitzvahs among Christians. So I decided to e-mail the Lewises for details. Brian Lewis identifies as a Charismatic Christian (tongues-speaking, faith-healing, demon-exorcising), and in our correspondence, he conceded that “there is a biological basis for Jewishness and Jewish genetics” but pointed out that there has often been intermarriage; consider the biblical Ruth, a Moabite “who married Boaz and became the great-grandmother of King David.” Quoting Galatians 3:28-29, Brian says, “In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew,” but all are equally Abraham’s descendants and “heirs according to the covenant promises.”

Tara put it more plainly. “Dr. Brian and I believe in the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment,” she wrote to me. Jews and gentiles “who are saved will be resurrected to eternal life,” while those who are lost face “the resurrection of eternal damnation.” She cited “God’s end-time plan for the nation of Israel and for the world.”

Obviously a reality show is no metric by which to judge the reality of anything, but when I dug into the concept of a Christian bar mitzvah — or a bar barakah, meaning “son of the blessing,” as Craig Hill calls it in his 1998 book on the subject — I discovered that the ritual is gaining traction among some evangelicals. It’s an outgrowth of the fundamentalist fascination with Judaism that has emerged and intensified since the publication of Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth” in 1970.

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