• What exactly is Messianic Judaism?

    Among Jewish people today there are various denominations or forms of Jewish faith. These include Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and others. In recent years, another kind of Judaism called Messianic Judaism has emerged. Like the others, it is a way of expressing love for and obedience to the God of Israel while possessing its own unique quality. Our very special “place in the sun” centers on our conviction that Jesus, who we call by his Hebrew name, Yeshua, is the long-awaited Messiah and King of the Jewish people. Like all other forms of Judaism, we seek to live in ways which resonate with our Jewish past and present. Our Messiah takes center-stage as we seek to live as faithful Jews.

    The centrality of Messiah Yeshua puts us in profound spiritual unity with people in another world-wide community – the Christian Church. Though we practice our faith differently, we have deep appreciation for the Church. Our primary sense of identity lies with the Jewish people but we share a deep bond with all who see Jesus as the ultimate answer to the great questions of life.

    Messianic Judaism is new in one sense, but very old in another. After all, Yeshua was Jewish! All his earliest followers were Jewish as well. The New Testament was written by Jewish people and the First Century “Jesus movement” was entirely a Jewish affair. So in a sense, Messianic Judaism is the re-emergence of one of the many kinds of Judaism practiced 2,000 years ago!

    We invite Jewish people, intermarried couples and those rare individuals who, though not born Jewish, have a deep love and regard for Jewish life, to explore the rich reality of modern Messianic Judaism as we express it at Congregation Ruach Israel.

    To learn more about our congregation explore our about us menu.

  • Who exactly is a Messianic Jew?

    A Messianic Jew is a person born either of a Jewish mother or father[1], or a person who has converted to Judaism and who embraces Yeshua (Jesus) as Israel's Messiah. More specifically, a Messianic Jew seeks to live as a Jew and thus find his or her primary congregational affiliation in a Messianic Jewish synagogue.

    A non-Jew who associates with a Messianic Jewish synagogue is not a Messianic Jew, but is commonly called a Messianic Gentile. The term "Gentile" has absolutely no negative connotation in this usage, but simply refers to someone not born of Jewish parents, but who has come among the Messianic Jewish community.

  • For almost 2,000 years, people have believed that Jews can't believe in Jesus. Is it really possible for Messianic Jews to turn back the clock and place him at center stage again?

    Yes, it is entirely possible. Here's why:

    1. It is a fact of life. Thousands of committed Jews do believe in Yeshua today. The answer to the question, "Is it possible?..." is answered in part by the fact that Messianic Judaism is alive and well, both in Israel and the Diaspora.
    2. The sheer breadth of beliefs evident in the Jewish world today argues for the legitimacy of Messianic Judaism.[2] In this age of pluralism, Humanistic Jews and Hasidic Jews are part of the same people of Israel. It is hard to imagine groups of more differing perspectives! Yet, both are part of the Jewish world. Messianic Jews view themselves as yet another perspective among the many viable Jewish options. We are Jews with a difference -- living among other Jews who often have great differences of belief on even the most basic issues and equally great differences in daily practice.

      There is room under the sun for Orthodox, Humanistic, Messianic, Reform, Conservative and other kinds of Judaism.
    3. Even by the standards of Orthodox Judaism, Messianic Jews are still Jews.[3] Belief in Yeshua does not make one a non-Jew! However, without participation in synagogue life, it is difficult to live as a Jew in any meaningful way. Hence Messianic Jewish synagogues -- congregations like Ruach Israel where being Jewish and believing in the Risen One go hand in hand.
    4. Jewish is as Jewish does! Messianic Jews are often far more observant of Jewish customs and more committed to historic Jewish beliefs than many others in the Jewish community. Many Messianic Jews, in fact, became more deeply committed to their Jewishness as a direct consequence of having become followers of Yeshua! We consider this transformation the work of God in our hearts and minds.
  • Is diversity of opinion welcomed at Ruach Israel?

    The general character or ethos of Congregation Ruach Israel is warm, engaging and open. That is, we place more value on how people treat one another than on the specifics of one's beliefs. This is not to say that we have no communal norms or convictions. We surely do. However, the atmosphere is such that questioning, wondering, experimenting, seeking and growing are evident and encouraged.

    To explore some of the learning options at Ruach, please visit our learning page.

  • Are Gentiles equally welcome at Ruach Israel?

    Like any synagogue, Congregation Ruach Israel exists primarily for Jewish people, particularly those who wonder about or who believe in Yeshua the Messiah. However, there are some non Jews who can benefit greatly from participation in the rhythms of our congregational life. First, we think of the non-Jewish spouses of Jewish people.

    Intermarried couples find a natural fit at Congregation Ruach Israel. Though primarily oriented for Jews, the fact that Yeshua -- Jesus -- is honored allows a non-Jewish spouse to feel religiously "at home."

    Some other non-Jews find life in a Messianic Jewish synagogue attractive. Often, these folks experience a strong gravitational pull to Jewish life -- a deeply rooted inclination in their souls which may seem difficult to understand, but which may be very real. Time is the key test of the strength of this inclination. Is it a passing fad? Is it merely a reaction to negative experiences at church? Or is this the beginning of a long-term commitment?

    The mature non-Jew considering affiliation in a Messianic Jewish synagogue should consider carefully the issues involved. Congregations like Ruach Israel, in order to maintain cultural integrity, must retain a significant Jewish majority of members. And considering the inherent identity confusion which comes with the territory for non-Jews at a Messianic Jewish synagogue, we urge a hard-nosed "cost/benefit" analysis on the part of the prospective non-Jewish participant.

    After carefully weighing the issues involved, a non-Jew who wishes to cast his lot with Jews who embrace Messiah is very welcome to seek membership in Congregation Ruach Israel.

    To dig deeper please explore our Important Books and Articles and Websites of Interests page.

  • Is Messianic Judaism just a local affair or are there Messianic Jewish synagogues in other places?

    Since the late 1960's Messianic Jewish synagogues have sprung up in all major and many mid-sized cities around the United States. Israel has many congregations as do most European cities. We find congregations scattered throughout Mexico, Central and South America and South Africa.

    The affiliation to which Congregation Ruach Israel belongs is the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregation (UMJC).

    Given the amazing level of growth numerically, organizationally, and educationally, we suggest that Messianic Judaism is here to stay. Given the growing openness to Messianic Judaism among some segments of the Jewish community and in the broader culture, we expect Messianic Judaism to gain a significant following in the years ahead. Given the thirst among many modern people for an experience of God which is personal,communal, and rooted in history, we are confident that Messianic Judaism will meet the needs of many.

  • Who determines which Jewish practices are appropriate for Messianic Jews at Ruach Israel?

    In any given synagogue there is a range of personal practice among members. However, we do seek to model and commend a set of observances to our congregational family. These have been generated by the rabbinical association to which our clergy belong, the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council (MJRC). The Council gives guidance on Sabbath and holy day observance, kashrut and other important areas of Messianic Jewish life. For more information, see the MJRC website: www.ourrabbis.org.

  • What opportunities are offered for children and teens at Congregation Ruach Israel?

    Children, their needs and delights, are a central focus at Congregation Ruach Israel. Deeply woven into the fabric of our congregational life is the awareness that raising well-adjusted, morally-sensitive children is truly the work of the entire village.

    Our program includes the following:

    • Childcare and Nursery. We value full family participation in our services. Parents are encouraged to bring their kids and feel free to hold them during the songs and guide them through the prayers. At the same time, we want our parents to be able rest and enter into worship, so we offer child supervision for ages 0 - 6. During Shabbat school (11:30-12:30) we have nursery care for the little ones while the older children are in classes. Following our oneg we provide parents with the opportunity to stay and take a class, receive healing prayer, or just schmooze with friends, so we offer child supervision after services as well from 1:30-2:30.
    • Shabbat School is offered on Saturday mornings during the service, children learn Bible, Jewish traditions, ethics, etc.
    • Hebrew School is also offered on Shabbat prior to services. Children are taught the aleph-bet, vocabulary and simple grammar so they can learn their Torah portions for Bar/Bat Mitzvah. (Many of our members travel 45 or more minutes to services, thus making mid-week Hebrew School not practical for our community).
    • Youth Group provides activities such as weekend camp-outs, trips to Jewish sites in New York and other outings led by caring, committed young adults.
    • Personalized Bar and Bat Mitzvah Training: led by Rabbis, Cantors and lay teachers.

    Please Visit our Children’s Learning page for more information.

  • How much Hebrew do I need to know if I am to become part of Ruach Israel?

    Shabbat and Holiday services are conducted in Hebrew and English. The relative amount of Hebrew is similar to Reform and some Conservative synagogues. A person unfamiliar with Hebrew can still benefit from the worship experience because our Siddur offers Hebrew, transliteration and English translations.

    Ongoing Hebrew study is available through weekly classes offered at Ruach Israel. Ruach attendees are encouraged to grow in their skill in reading and understanding the language of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Yeshua.[4]

    We also have many of the prayers we do on Shabbat morning recorded for you to learn on our website under Encountering our Siddur.

  • Is Ruach Israel associated with Jews for Jesus?

    Sometimes people assume that all Jewish people who believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah are referred to by the name "Jews for Jesus." However "Jews for Jesus" is not just another name for Messianic Judaism. "Jews for Jesus is actually the name of a specific religious nonprofit organization rather than a religious movement, denomination or term describing our identity.

    While we do share a common bond in our conviction about Yeshua the Messiah, Congregation Ruach Israel is not affiliated with "Jews or Jesus."

    Jewish people have been following Yeshua since he stepped foot inthe Galilee and have gone by different names over the centuries. Today, in the 21st century we identify as Messianic Jews. We see ourselves as a developing Jewish movement and seek to co-exist within the diversity of our shared modern Jewish experience.

    To learn more about Ruach Israel’s vision, please visit our Vision and Values page.

  • Do I have to share the beliefs of the congregation to be part?

    As mentioned above, the content of one's faith is not as important as the way in which he or she acts on that faith. A wide variety of views on many religious, social, political and aesthetic issues is evident among the members and friends of Ruach Israel.

    Formal members are united on some key convictions such as the existence of the God of the Bible, his ongoing commitment to the Jewish people, the centrality of Torah, the messiahship of Yeshua, the historical reality of his death and resurrection, and our conviction that God has been present in the formation and development of both the historic Jewish community and the historic Church.

    Visitors are encouraged to explore, ask tough questions and take their time in sharpening their own convictions in these and all other matters. No pressure is exerted. Truth has its way of making itself known without coercion or even subtle pressure.

    Explore our Vision and Values page to get a sense of some of our communities shared values.

  • What does Ruach Israel offer intermarried families?

    Ruach Israel offers two things...common ground and company.

    However, our synagogue does not exist primarily to make intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews easier. Our religious outlook is based on deep convictions and not expediency. This being said, our beliefs about Jewishness and Yeshua do, as a byproduct and benefit, create a very comfortable situation for intermarried families.

    Many intermarried couples have made their congregational home among us where otherwise insurmountable difficulties can be removed:

    1. The Jewish spouse can worship in Jewish "space." Often, it is very difficult for a Jew to attend his wife's (or her husband's) church. Since Ruach Israel is a synagogue, the sights,, sounds, and rhythm of life are clearly Jewish.
    2. The non-Jewish spouse often finds it difficult to attend a traditional synagogue, not only because the symbolic world is unfamiliar, but because religion without Jesus seems incomplete. At Ruach Israel, Yeshua the Messiah is honored as the exalted Holy One of Israel who, as a matter of genuine historical record, died and rose again! This point of commonality with the historic Church resonates with the deepest sensibilities of the non-Jewish spouse.

    Thus, the common ground offered to an intermarried family can meet a deep need and even head off a potential marital conflict, so long as the couple is willing to view the Jewish community as their primary community of reference.

    At Ruach Israel, intermarriage seminars are offered to help the many mixed and matched couples among us deal with the related problems of child rearing, holiday observance, getting along with in-laws, etc.

    Please see our Interfaith Couples page.

  • Are Jewish holidays important at Ruach Israel?

    Yes! As a Jewish community, we live in the cycle of the Jewish year by celebrating all festivals and remembrances of our Tradition.

    High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,) Shalosh Regalim (Pesach Shavuot, and Sukkot), Purim, Hanukkah, Tisha b'Av, as well as the more recent Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day) and Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) are all built into the fabric of our life together.

    Please visit our Holy Days page.

  • Do you celebrate Christmas and Easter or other Christian holidays?

    As a Synagogue we seek to express our liturgical calendar in Jewish terms. Though we deeply affirm the significance of remembering our Messiah’s birth, we have no developed liturgy as of yet for this celebration.

    The same is true for Easter as it has been traditionally observed in both the Western and Eastern Church traditions. However, the Resurrection Day of Messiah (Chag Hat'kiyah in Hebrew) is, we believe, the most important and most historically verifiable event in first century Jewish history.

    To date, a consensus has not developed among the world's Messianic Jewish synagogues as to the best date for this celebration, however Generally, it is celebrated in connection with the Passover season.

    Picking up on a developing custom in some Jewish circles to celebrate the Messiah with a special eighth night seder, some in our community have developed a “Meal of Messiah” seder where we celebrate Yeshua our Messiah and the magnificent moment in Jewish history of His resurrection and redemptive work

    Visit our Holy Days page to get a sense of our calendar rhythm at Ruach Israel.

  • Some synagogues always have instruments while some never have instruments. Some synagogues pray exclusively in Hebrew, while some use very little. Why do you use a variety of modes of communal prayer?

    Worshipful service before God is multi-dimensional and multi-faceted. Our diverse community enables us to blend a mixture of traditions as we bring the classical prayers of our people before our God. Through the mode of a capella davening, accompanied melody and song, spontaneous dance, and Hebrew and English prayers, we weave a tapestry of worship as diverse as our community; a pleasing offering to God.

    Visit our Shabbat at Ruach Israel page.

  • How does someone become a member of Ruach Israel?

    The process begins with a period of regular attendance. Since Messianic Judaism has a very unique focus and orientation, we desire people to look us over carefully before formally joining the congregation. Generally, we ask that newcomers wait at least six months before considering formal membership..

    A class called "Ruach Israel-- An Up-Close Look" comes next, followed by a meeting with the Senior Rabbi or Associate Rabbis-to ascertain how the congregation can be most helpful to the person seeking membership and how he or she can be most helpful to the community.

    Finally, the person or couple is warmly welcomed during a Shabbat morning service.

  • How are funds raised in the congregation? Are there membership dues?

    Unlike - traditional synagogues, Ruach Israel does not have a formal dues structure. Instead, people are encouraged to give generously and voluntarily.

    In addition to regular giving to cover the yearly budget, special projects are funded by a designated giving program in which members and friends of the congregation may contribute as they choose.

    Visit our Giving page here.

  • What’s the best way to get to know Ruach Israel?

    Come and visit us! We meet Saturday mornings at 10:30AM.

    To get a feel for what a Shabbat morning looks like at Ruach, visit our Shabbat at Ruach Israel page.

  • Notes from the above questions

    [1]Messianic Judaism affirms the principle of patriarchal descent. Along with Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, Jewish identity is transmitted and conferred to children through either parent so long as the child is raised as a Jew. Orthodox and Conservative Jews believe that Jewishness may be conferred only through the mother.

    [2]Rabbi Carol Shapiro in her insightful book on Messianic Judaism notes that Messianic Judaism is difficult to dismiss on the basis of some essential Jewishness which would necessarily leave Messianic Jews out in the cold. She writes:

    "To believe that "Jewish authenticity" is something that can be defended from a "false Judaism" is to make the assumption that there is a "genuine Judaism" present carrying within it the essence of a genuine Judaism past, a line of unbroken continuity that Messianic Judaism violates. Indeed, such an assumption is highly questionable." Rabbi Carol Shapiro, Messianic Judaism --

    A Rabbi's Journey Through Religious Change in America, Boston: Beacon Press, 1999.

    [3]This point is often missed by Messianic Judaism's detractors. Orthodox Jewish scholar Michael Wyschogrod provides the historic perspective of Halachah or Jewish law in a famous letter to Cardinal Lustiger, a Jew who had joined the Roman Catholic Church after being hidden as a child from the Nazis among pious Catholic people in Poland. See Soulen, R. K., Ed. (2004). Abraham's Promise. Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdman's Publishing Company. "So I return to your claim that you remain a Jew in spite of having become a Christian. Is this a claim that I can accept? Of course I can. Anyone born of a Jewish mother or anyone properly converted to Judaism, is, according to Rabbinic law, a Jew."

    [4]Actually, the best evidence suggests that Yeshua spoke Aramaic, a language related to Hebrew and spoken widely in the Middle East in the first century. However, Hebrew was in those days the language of synagogue prayer, as it remains today.