A new survey by the Pew Research Center shows that young Jews do not consider religion as a key component of what it means to be Jewish. This trend, connected to a wider secularism among the youth, provides an opportunity for preaching the Gospel, according to some Messianic Jewish scholars.
Russ Resnik, executive director of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC), called the decreasing emphasis on religion among Jewish Millennials "both a real problem and an opportunity," in an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday. Resnik explained "it's a problem that our country is becoming increasingly secular," but he insisted that, as a result, "a lot of people are growing up without a lot of religious boundaries that historically kept Jews from thinking about Jesus as the Messiah."
According to the Pew study, 73 percent of Jews between 18 and 29 said a person can be Jewish if they do not believe in God. Sixty-six percent of the same group said being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry or culture, as opposed to religion. Only 13 percent said religion was more important. Thirty-two percent of them identify as Jewish but have no religion.
"The Millennials do not associate religion as a key component of what it means to be Jewish," Messianic Jew Richard Harvey, visiting lecturer on the Hebrew Bible at All Nations Christian College in the United Kingdom, told CP in an email statement. "This shows dissatisfaction with Judaism as a religion, but like other U.S. Millennials, dissatisfaction with religious institutions in general," Harvey added.
Harvey also said this secularism is an opportunity for Christian outreach. While Jewish Millennials might be abandoning the Synagogue, "they are hungry for belonging, community, identity and purpose,…something we as believers in Yeshua (Jesus) should be modeling in a way that is infectious and engaging, rather than being irrelevant and out of date."
"For Messianic Jews, the challenge to become more visible, and more relevant to those who are not looking for 'religion' so much as identity and purpose needs to be taken seriously," Harvey wrote. He also encourages all Christians to use language more relevant to the Millennial generation.
Kirk Glebe, president of the UMJC, agreed that Christian language is causing a barrier to an effective presentation of the Gospel. "Most people in the Christian circles in America speak in a language most people don't understand," Glebe explained. What young secular people need, he argued, is for Christians to be "simple and clear about theological points."
"The person of Yeshua is very compelling and attractive, even to Jewish people and secular people," Resnik argued. "It's the religiosity around the person of Yeshua which turns people off."
Both Glebe and Resnik attacked the mainstream media presentations of Jesus as being inaccurate. Referring to the History Channel's series The Bible, Bill O'Reilly's new book Killing Jesus, and Reza Aslan's controversial book Zealot, Glebe argued that "they give their own slants," which hide the true character of Christ.
"The best thing you can do is give a Jewish person a portion of the New Testament," Glebe said. The Gospel narrative presents the person of Jesus better than any new media sensation or theological argument could.