As part of its ongoing quest to blend into the mainstream of the Jewish community, an umbrella organization of so-called “Messianic Jewish” groups wanted to plant a forest in Israel through the Jewish National Fund.
The JNF agreed to plant the forest of about 100,000 trees, which would have brought the organization $50,000, and to put up a plaque with only the initials of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America-Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations of America.
But the JNF changed its mind.
In its initial agreement, the JNF had required that the Philadelphia-based group not use the words “Messianic” or “Messiah” in any of its promotional materials related to the forest, said JNF spokesman Mark Cohen.
But even that restriction, he said, would not have mitigated the fact that the organization is devoted to converting Jews to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.
Jewish experts on missionaries say it is the imprimaturs of the mainstream Jewish community that the evangelical Messianic Jews desperately seek so that they can claim legitimacy in the eyes of the Jewish community.
When the Forward, a Jewish weekly, exposed JNF forest in a May 3 article, an outcry arose that led the Jewish group to rescind its agreement to plant the forest.
A May 13 statement from the JNF said that “in response to a strong outpouring of protest from longtime friends and supporters, including its lay and National Rabbinic Council leadership, [we] acknowledge that [we] made a mistake.”
This was not the first time the JNF had accepted donations from Messianic groups, who many say are nothing more than Christians dressed up in Jewish clothing. In August 1995, Baltimore’s Messianic congregation Rosh Pina donated $5,000 to JNF.