Jul 1, 2009

Messianic Jew Wins 'Kosher' Court Battle

Chuck Missler
By Chuck Missler

After a three-year battle, a Messianic Jew is getting her bakery's kashrut certificate reinstated. Israel's Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Pnina Conforty's religious beliefs did not automatically make her bakery unkosher, to the disgust of the Ashdod chief rabbi.

Messianic Jews are a group prone to be misunderstood by the non-Christian Jewish community as well as by non-Jewish Christians. They are therefore a marginalized group. Yet, "Jews for Jesus" are spiritually the descendants of Jesus' disciples. After all, Jesus was a Jew, who taught and fulfilled prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures, and his close followers were all Jews who recognized him as their long-awaited Messiah. Two thousand years later, being a believer in the Messiah is still not easy in many Jewish communities, especially in Israel. Despite the difficulties it causes, Jews are still finding the love of God through Yeshua.

Pnina Conforty, a Yemenite Jew, ran a thriving bakery in the city of Gan Yavne until her belief in Jesus was made public. Her bakery was picketed, and it was made known around the city that she was a "missionary." The Gan Yavne chief rabbi revoked Conforty's kashrut certificate, which meant that the food sold at her bakery could no longer be considered kosher. Conforty didn't fight it. Instead, she moved to Ashdod where she opened another bakery in 2006.

Soon after Conforty opened her new bakery, though, the anti-missionary groups began showing up to picket her bakery again. Ashdod's chief rabbi Rabbi Yosef Sheinen had Conforty's kashrut certification revoked. Sheinen's logic was that Jews for Jesus could not be trusted to abide strictly by kashrut laws.

Conforty petitioned the High Court of Justice about the situation, and Sheinen and the Chief Rabbinate compromised and decided that Conforty could have her kashrut certificate reinstated if she agreed to abide by extra conditions, including giving the keys to her bakery to a kashrut supervisor and hiring a worker approved by Sheinen. Conforty was also told she could not proselytize on her property.

Conforty rejected these conditions, which went far beyond anything that secular Jews have to abide by, and the case went to court. On Monday, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that Conforty's belief in Jesus as the Messiah had nothing to do with food preparation, and did not make her bakery unkosher.

Fear of Idol Worship

The strict law-keeping Jews of Jesus' day were horrified by Jesus' claims to be the Son of God. The Pharisees constantly wanted to stone Jesus over it (John 8:58-59). To an observant religious Jew, worshiping Jesus is the same as idol worship, and that is the reason Jews fear Christian efforts to convert them. The LORD is very serious about the sin of idolatry. The Northern Kingdom was destroyed because of idolatry, and the Southern Kingdom was sent into captivity because of it. Religious Jews do not want to make that mistake again.

Yet, the Old Testament is full of Jesus. Jesus himself spent seven miles walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a good two hours, demonstrating from the Scriptures that the Messiah had to suffer. "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." -Luke 24:25-27

Maybe he pointed out Isaiah 53 or Psalm 22. Maybe he showed them how the Messiah's death fulfilled the sacrificial system, and provided the blood as God's ultimate Passover lamb. Perhaps he quoted Micah 5:2 or Zechariah 9:9. Maybe he showed them that the Messiah would be God's Son through Psalm 2:7-12. It would have been wonderful to hear his seven-mile sermon on the suffering Messiah in the Scriptures.

Coming to know Jesus as Messiah is an amazing revelation for Jews who believe. Jesus did not come to the gentiles. He came to the Jews. In Matthew 15, Jesus told the Canaanite woman, a gentile, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 15:24) Of course, he came to save the whole world (John 3:16), and even in the Old Testament it was prophesied that Israel, that the Messiah, would be a light to the gentiles (Isaiah 49:6). But it all began with the Jews. It is therefore a most natural thing for a Jew to decide to follow Yeshua Ha Meshiach.

But just as Jesus said it would, it is a decision that brings with it great controversy, even among family members (Matthew 10:35-38). Conforty is not alone in her experiences, in the harassment she's received for her faith. Yet, God is still working in the hearts of human beings, both Jews and gentiles, and He is still faithful to His friend Abraham whose children the Jews are.

Serving God From Love

Conforty came to believe in Jesus as Messiah while working for a Christian family in Ohio.
"God arranged it that I arrived at a place where there were Christians who love Israel more than most Jews do. Their love and faith were so different from the religion I learned at home that was based on fear. I was never taught to serve God out of love until then. They taught me that Yeshua is the messiah."

"I was on the verge of divorce and I prayed to God. I said to him, 'If Yeshua is messiah then you have to bring my husband back to me and make peace between us. No more than 10 minutes passed before my husband came to me and accepted the faith."
Our Bible studies regularly bring out types and prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament. To get started in learning about the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, please see the Koinonia House materials listed in the links below.

Related Links

Court Declares Jew For Jesus 'Kosher' - The Jerusalem Post
Messianic Jews In Prison Complain Food's Not Kosher - Winston-Salem Journal
Bakery Owned By Jew For Jesus Gets Kashrut Back - JTA
The Feasts of Israel - Koinonia House
The Unexpected King - Koinonia House
Footprints of the Messiah MP3 Download - Koinonia House Store
Session 10: Hebrews 9 - Koinonia House