Our mothers were right. No matter how we tried to fool them when we were little (trying to raise a temperature by placing a thermometer next to the radiator, drawing on chicken pox with ballpoint pens, developing sudden” stomach aches on the day of an exam), our mothers were always there at the door to hand us our lunchboxes and shoo us on our way. They gave us the message that being Jewish goes hand-in-hand with getting a good education.
As we have grown up, we find that we’re still concerned with learning, whether it’s our own studies, others within our own families or those within the believing communities in which we worship. Offered here is a smattering of the education choices Jewish believers are making or creating for themselves today. Space limited us to mentioning only a few (we know there are other worthwhile choices out there), and two omissions—public grade schools and messianic day schools—were deliberate. Public schools are available to most children and messianic day schools are as rare as unicorns (which probably aren’t kosher).
Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Mission—Masters in Judaic Studies and Jewish Evangelism
Fuller’s brochure describes this program: “This concentration is designed to equip missionaries and leaders of messianic congregations for the purpose of serving the Messiah among the 18 million Jewish people in today’s world.” The program is designed for several types of interested individuals:
- Full-time workers in the messianic movement (Jewish and Gentile);
- Those with little experience in full-time service among the Jewish people, but who desire additional graduate-level study in this concentration;
- Church leaders who are interested in developing outreach to the Jewish population in their community.
Jews for Jesus has been pleased to have 20 of its missionary staff graduate from this program, utilizing the summer intensives program taken over a four-year period. (Fuller Theological Seminary can be contacted at: 135 N. Oakland Avenue, Pasadena, California 91182, (818) 584-5400 or (800) 235-2222, ext. 5400.
Messianic Hebrew Schools
New York Magazine (July 14, 1997) quoted Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald as saying, “If the people who run Jews for Jesus were smart…they’d pay to send every Jewish kid to an afternoon Hebrew school, because in most instances it proves to be a great turnoff to Jewish life.” The Messianic School of Hebrew in Chicago, a five-year-old cooperative effort between several messianic congregations and Jewish missions has proven to be anything but a turnoff to being Jewish.
The school runs a 28-week program, ranging from preschool through advanced adults, including a Torah canting class. It maintains a firm commitment to hiring Israeli teachers, so that the children will learn proper pronunciation and accent. Curriculum from the Jewish Publications Society is used. Board member Shellie Gazlay says,
“This is a place where the community can come together and develop a sense of ownership towards the school. We have children from many congregations and even some from area churches. The children are anything but turned off to Jewish life.”
Christian Day Schools
Perhaps you’ve heard the argument that sending messianic Jewish children to traditional Christian schools is antithetical to what our movement is trying to accomplish.…
Dan Strull, spiritual leader of Olive Tree Congregation in Glenview, Illinois, and his wife Cynthia send their three children to Christian Heritage Academy. Cynthia offers these reflections on why they as a messianic Jewish family are pleased to be able to send their children to a Christian day school:
“Just as we are committed to a lifestyle that demonstrates an authentic relationship with Yeshua, we also desire to give our children the ability to think critically and intelligently about the world we live in. The choice of Christian education has been a logical albeit costly one for us. We have opted to pay tuition to a private, non-denominational Christian school for our three children because we want their education to be consistent with what they learn at home.
“One added benefit we have found of private Christian education: Our children have brought a new dimension to their classmates’ understanding of the Jewish roots of their faith. Our school has often incorporated Sukkot and Passover into chapel services and classroom activities, as well as providing opportunities to learn about other aspects of our messianic heritage.”
Jews for Jesus Approved Student Program
Jewish college students who are interested in serving in Jewish ministry after graduation may apply for the Approved Student Program. It is designed to help the student learn missionary skills while attending Bible college. Each student is assigned a watchcare person, who helps the student navigate through school and monitors his or her progress in learning how to be a missionary. The student is required to give at least eight hours a week in service to a local branch of Jews for Jesus. During the summer months, the student will participate in our New York witnessing campaign.
Jewish Believers Who Homeschool
Homeschooling. No other word can strike so much guilt in the heart of a Jewish parent. Undoubtedly, homeschooling is not for the fainthearted or those who can only give it a casual commitment.
Laura* (not her real name) of Skokie, Illinois, and her sister-in-law Sarah, of Madison, Wisconsin, are Jewish believers who both chose to have their children taught at home. Laura told us, “Homeschooling has given me more time with my children, time to learn together about how God wants to work in every aspect of their lives.” Sarah agrees that “the best thing about homeschooling is that we have time to be a family and time to see how each one develops and grows through what they learn.” But both Laura and Sarah agree that it’s difficult to be a parent AND a teacher, for it means you are the authority figure in every area of the children’s lives, and this creates tension.
Laura’s household is “culturally and traditionally messianic Jewish. We observe all the holidays, and now we don’t have to worry about having to take the children out of school for a holiday such as Sukkot.” In the Ewing family, the “distinctions between what one learns academically now become blurred with what one learns in the family and in the community of faith. Everything becomes more integrated.”