A Quiet, But Not Silent Witness
We all should have at least one opportunity to tell our loved ones what He means to us. If, after hearing our initial story, family members are not interested in hearing anything more about Jesus, that is their right. They can’t expect you to keep silent about Jesus—but you can’t expect them to listen to everything you’d like to say, either. You have rights and so do they. Even when they don’t want to hear about Jesus, you can communicate other aspects of your story.
Respect the Jewish religion.
We can affirm much that is beautiful in Judaism: the reading of Scripture in the synagogue service, the moral and ethical teaching of our rabbis and sages wherever it is consistent with biblical principles. We can affirm and join in celebrating the holidays God gave us. Always be honest—don’t affirm aspects of Judaism that you might not find meaningful, but do not ridicule them either.
Respect Jewish traditions.
For example, send greeting cards at Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah and Passover to family and friends. Better yet, send a beautiful Jewish calendar at Rosh Hashanah. That story will last the year long and is an especially meaningful gift to more observant Jews (and sometimes, Jewish families decide to become more observant when one of the mishpochah professes faith in Jesus!).
Another "Jewishly significant gift" to commemorate special occasions (the birth or bris of a child, a bar mitzvah, graduation, etc.) is a monetary present in multiples of 18. Eighteen is the numeric equivalent of the Hebrew word chai, which means life. In sending $18, $36 or any other multiple of 18, you symbolize your blessing for life to that person in a Jewish way.
Reflect your Jewish identity at home.
Would a person observing your home guess that you are Jewish? Many messianic believers have mezuzot on their doors, menorahs or shofars out on a shelf and Jewish artwork on their walls. These things help our loved ones understand that faith in Jesus does not make us ashamed of our Jewishness.
A corollary: we should balance those things with something to indicate our belief in Yeshua—otherwise it might appear that we are ashamed of Him. Our Jewish identity and our Jesus identity do not conflict; we should express both in a natural and integrated manner. If you don’t have artwork that somehow affirms your faith in Yeshua (such as calligraphed verses) you can place books on coffee tables or even in the bathroom. Many people have found Yeshua: The Jewish Way to Say Jesus and Testimonies of Jews Who Believe in Jesus most helpful to have in some visible place around the house.
Attend Jewish community functions.
In the early years of Jews for Jesus, Moishe Rosen knew that he wouldn’t be welcomed in the synagogue, yet he encouraged others to attend until they couldn’t. Many did not believe they would be put out, but they were, one by one. It is good to attend synagogue and other community functions until you are asked either to keep silent about your faith or leave.
When visiting relatives, attend shul with them when possible. If you aren’t familiar with the service, simply admit it. Most people respect those who don’t pretend to know more than they do. (Just remember, synagogue is no substitute for fellowship with other believers in Jesus.)
Should messianic Jews join Hadassah, the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith or other Jewish organizations? Well, if you can be open about who you are in these organizations, and they still welcome you as an asset to their cause, terrific. I know that some Hadassah chapters have undergone pressures to oust messianic Jewish members and have thus far held firm because those believers are valued members. But I hope no one of us would join such an organization with the intent to infiltrate—that is, keep his or her identity a secret while hoping to influence people for the gospel. We should be as open and forthright as Yeshua. Anyone who tries to have an "undercover" witness gives truth to the lie that messianic Jews and Jewish missions are deceptive and fraudulent.
A few years ago I read an incredible story in a Jewish newspaper. A Gentile disguised himself as a Chasid and attempted to enter the community to be a witness. People realized he was a phony by the socks he wore! Instead of providing light to the community, his fraudulence put the gospel in a "bad light." The only reason to join or support Jewish organizations is because in your heart, you want to identify as a Jew.
Read Jewish books and periodicals.
Continue giving to Jewish charities.
We should support our local congregations first, but we need to support Jewish causes as well. Of course you don’t want to find yourself supporting an organization that intends to thwart the proclamation of the gospel—but there are plenty of organizations whose causes we can embrace. One possibility is the Jewish National Fund. Its goal is the reforestation of Israel. Trees are apolitical! It’s also traditional to honor someone’s memory by having a tree planted in Israel.
Send letters to the editors of local newspapers on behalf of Israel or the Jewish people.
Remember, music is a powerful witness.
Many who play The Liberated Wailing Wall or some other messianic music—even in the background—have found that music can open people to conversation. One of our former staff used to sing "Great and Wonderful" around the house. Soon, her unbelieving mother was humming it! Songs that express our faith and our culture pack power. If you doubt it, listen to the words of Suzanne F. Singer, managing editor of Moment, "the Jewish magazine for the ’90s."
Music can draw when words repel. Music seduces when words can drive away. In our communal thrashing about to invent ways to keep Jews Jews, is it possible that music—maybe klezmer, maybe niggunim—offers a compelling route toward God’s still, small voice? Who knows where that might lead…" 1
Obviously God does not use music or anything else to "seduce" people to faith, but He sometimes uses music to draw people to Yeshua, the author of song.
Sometimes literature helps.
Our bi-monthly publication, ISSUES, explains why some Jews believe in Jesus. We’ll send it free to your family members if you like. Some appreciate the opportunity to learn about Jesus privately. It enables a person to make sense of our faith without having you look over their shoulder. Or you can leave a copy around your home when the family comes for a visit.
Let your children talk.
Children’s "indiscretions" are tolerated. If they begin to talk or sing about Yeshua, relatives often allow them to carry on until they’re done. Children also have the knack of asking blunt questions that we could never get away with. So teach your children well and let them go! Once again, music is an apt teacher. We’ve produced a new children’s album that will not only teach the kinder some Hebrew but will also move them to jump for joy in the Lord!
When you can’t talk to others about Yeshua, you can talk to Yeshua about them.
Let your family members know you are praying for them—not only because you want them to find Yeshua, but also because you want them to find joy and you want God to bless them in all ways.
If you think about your own journey to faith in Messiah, chances are, many small impressions influenced you: a voice on the TV or radio, a movie, a comment at the office. You have opportunities to make the same small impressions on your loved ones. If they don’t want you to talk to them about Jesus, don’t despair. Remember, there are many ways to speak, even when you can’t "talk" about Jesus.
- Suzanne F. Singer, "Lure of the New Klezmer," Moment Magazine, vol. 21, no. 4 (August 1996): 87.