NEW YORK (Dec. 30)
Not all Jewish advisers are particularly Jewish, but the news that a Connecticut prep school had a “messianic Jew” as its adviser caused an uproar in the Jewish community. The Greater Hartford Rabbinical Association asked officials at Miss Porter’s School late last year to replace Jessica Lemoine after the Connecticut Jewish Ledger reported that she was a member of a local “messianic Jewish” congregation and believes that “Yeshua,” or Jesus, is the Messiah.
After all, “the New Testament is not a work given specific sanctity by Jews as the work of God,” says Rabbi Eric Polokoff, the spiritual leader of B’nai Israel in Southbury, Conn., and the associate chaplain of the Taft School.
One rabbi who met with school officials said that the school at first didn’t understand why Jews didn’t see messianic Judaism as a legitimate branch of Judaism, but that school officials eventually understood why most Jews would be hostile to a person with Lemoine’s beliefs serving as an adviser to Jewish students.
At the time, school officials said they would consider replacing Lemoine, but she is still in the position, though a local rabbi now is in occasional contact with the students.
Officials at Miss Porter’s, a 160-year-old school that counts former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis among its graduates, did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
Part of the problem in trying to replace Lemoine may be that students at the all-girls school in Farmington, Conn., seem pleased with Lemoine’s work.
Lemoine pledges that she doesn’t proselytize the Jewish students. In an interview last year with the Jewish Ledger, she said she opposes the missionary work of Jews for Jesus.
But Lemoine once took Elisa Epstein, who describes herself as modern Orthodox, to a service at Lemoine’s messianic congregation.
“It wasn’t what I was used to, so I was shocked by it,” says Epstein, 18, a senior at the school.
But Epstein, who is from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., adds, the school “couldn’t have an adviser as dedicated as she is. She doesn’t put any of her views on us.”