Jewish Journal


March 30, 2009

A Haggadah for Christians



What makes this Haggadah different from all other Haggadot? Jesus. And The Forward reports that a Jewish anti-missionary group isn’t happy about it.

The group, Outreach Judaism, convinced Barnes and Noble to reclassify “Passover Family Pack: Everything You Need to Enjoy a Passover Seder Dinner,” which states on its cover that it is the “Messianic Passover Haggadah,” as Christian. (A little background on Messianics here and here.) Here’s more:

If you judge a book by its cover, “Passover Family Pack: Everything You Need To Enjoy a Passover Seder Dinner” looks like a traditional holiday starter kit. A festive drawing adorns the front of the package, which includes a Seder plate, a Kiddush cup, two copies of the Haggadah and a cassette tape of music, all for $39.99.

But a few pages into the Haggadah, it becomes clear to observant Jews that something is fishy - and it’s not the gefilte. The guide recasts the story of Passover as a mere setup for the arrival of “Yeshua the Messiah”: The text says the wine represents the blood of Jesus; the matzo represents his body; the three matzot represent the Christian Holy Trinity, and so on.

“They’re taking the traditions of the Jewish faith and using them as a blunt instrument to convert Jewish people to the Christian faith,” said Rabbi Tovia Singer, director of the anti-missionary group Outreach Judaism and host of a radio talk show in Jerusalem.

“It’s a paradigm of this entire nefarious movement. They use subterfuge to lure Jews who would normally resist a more straightforward evangelical message.”

The publisher of “Passover Family Pack” says he’s not trying to trick Jews into worshipping Jesus.

“Of course not, that would be a terrible thing,” said Barry Rubin, author of the Haggadah contained in the Passover kit and president and CEO of Messianic Jewish Communications, a division of distributor Messianic Jewish Resources International. He notes that the cover of the kit identifies the Haggadah as messianic - which it does, in small letters below a larger Hebrew title.

“It looks like a regular Seder kit because it is…. There’s nothing deceptive at all about it,” said Rubin, who is the rabbi of Emmanuel Messianic Jewish Congregation in Maryland. He says he doesn’t believe that the Passover kit should be classified as Christian, as he considers himself a Jew. He thinks a good compromise would be for booksellers to establish a “Messianic Jewish” section.

In the absence of such a category, booksellers must choose whether to put such material in the Jewish section or in the Christian section.

Messianic Jews, who are really Christians, have been growing in numbers in recent years. While their practices can at times be deceptive, this doesn’t seem like one of those cases. What do you think?

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