Between Two Worlds

Jamie Rodney writes an extremely poignant piece about Jewish identity in the aftermath of a horrific tragedy.

I’m writing this less than twenty four hours after a man got drunk on the world’s oldest hatred and murdered eleven people for believing in the things I believe in, so apologies in advance if this isn’t the most calm and reasoned of articles. 


I’m a Messianic Jew, meaning that I believe that Elijah (the Jewish Messiah) and Jesus Christ (you’ve probably heard of him), are the same person. In an ideal world, that would mean I got to have my Christmas turkey with potato latkes (google them-or indeed, most traditional Jewish food- if you’re a fan of diabetes.) But this is not, as I’m sure you’re aware, an ideal world. I’ve lost track of the arguments I’ve had with Christians who think I’m too Jewish, or Jews who think I’m too Christian. And I’m one of the lucky ones- some Messianic Jews face total ostracism from mainstream Jewish circles, and we’re disproportionately more likely to come into contact with Christian anti-Semitism than other Jews. I remember seeing a tweet accusing Messianic Jews of being “religiously Bisexual”, and I was offended until I realized this angry, anonymous account had stumbled on a good point without even realizing it. If we are the bisexuals of the Judaeo-Christian world, it’s because everyone wants us to pick a side, but nobody wants us on theirs. And, from personal experience, I can tell you that coming out as either can be awkward. And sometimes, it doesn’t feel worth the awkwardness, the fear of ostracism, of judgement. You start to wonder what your holocaust-survivor grandfather would think if he was still alive. Would he see this as a betrayal? You start to wonder if you’re kidding yourself- in realms like religious belief, very few people get the best of both worlds, and you don’t look much like Hannah Montana. So you start reffering vaguely to yourself as a “follower of Jesus” to your Christian friends, and a “cultural Jew” to your Jewish ones. And nothing about that is technically false, but it’s motivated by shame, by insecurity, by fear.


And then something like the tragic events of last night happens. A man posts vile conspiracy theories about people like you controlling the world, and shoots up a place of worship. Then a member of the Brittish House of Lords says the whole thing is Israel’s fault. Then a UK member of Parliament decides to mark this tragedy by trolling Jewish community leaders on twitter. You remember every bit of anti-Semitism that’s been heaped on you, online, face to face, by knuckle-dragging idiots outside your own synagogue, by well dressed, well-spoken students who want to hold you responsible for the murder of Palestinians. 


And you realize, despite all the theological and philosophical permutations you put yourself through, you remain what you always were in the eyes of these people. Kike. Yid. Usurer. Zionist whore. Christ-killer. Backstabber. Rootless Cosmopolitan. Shylock. Fagin. Oven-dodger. Jew. 


And you realize that that’s fine. It shouldn’t have to be, but it is. Because you come from a people that has faced down more blind, unreasoning hatred than any other. And because you have the love of Jesus Christ to help you do it.