December 2011 - John Fischer, PhD

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My rabbinic journey technically begins in Budapest, Hungary, the place of my birth. Since my grandfather ran a kosher butcher shop, perhaps it wasn't so surprising-but then again maybe it was-that my mother became Budapest's first licensed woman butcher. My father's family tended towards being Orthodox and later became even more so. There, in Budapest, my parents miraculously survived the Holocaust, with Raoul Wallenberg playing a significant part of that story. Interestingly, for the first several years of its existence the US Holocaust Museum would give out my mother's "story" as one of those it distributed to visitors to the Museum.

After the war, as the Iron Curtain of Soviet Communist rule was descending throughout Europe, including Hungary, my parents (along with my sister and me) made another supernatural escape. This time they landed on the shores of the United States even though we were ticketed for Paraguay. Through another series of small miracles-including an act of Congress-we were eventually allowed to remain here and became US citizens.

Growing up, I remember always being religiously oriented. I was interested in the great stories of the Bible and learned them well, something my parents always encouraged. From childhood on I felt a closeness and connection to God and recall "talking" to him quite regularly. Given this foundation, it's not so surprising that after dabbling in science (chemistry and physics) I pursued-and accumulated-a handful of undergraduate and graduate degrees in biblical and Judaic studies. (Fittingly, my wife Patrice accumulated her own handful as well.) After completing most of these studies, one day the notion struck me: "I think I'd like to be a rabbi."

Study, particularly of the Bible and Judaism, remains my (our) passion. This is what led us into Messianic Judaism. It began with the curiosity stirred up by wonderful professors such as Walter Kaiser and Richard Longenecker and the active encouragement of Louis Goldberg. It eventuated in our founding one of the first handful of Messianic Jewish synagogues in 1975. Four years later this passion prompted us to get enmeshed in founding the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations. And in those early years this study is what reshaped our thinking and perspective and led us to become more traditional in our personal and home life.

Far too frequently, the biblical texts are interpreted through whatever lens or framework has been passed on from others to the person examining these vital, life-transforming texts. One of my primary goals is to assist people in peeling back the layers of time, space, history, and culture that separate us from these texts. Then, to a far greater degree, we can freshly examine the Bible and see more clearly how it should apply to and shape our lives and thinking. And, then we can more fully realize that our understanding of the Bible, and of the God who gave it to us, is a rich, ongoing journey of adventure and discovery and of drawing closer to our Creator.

It is troubling to many Jewish leaders that our commitment as a people to the "faith of our ancestors" is generally diminished and diluted. Another of my prime objectives is to see our people more fully engaged in a deeply authentic and vital Jewish life. To my mind this can only be fully accomplished if we see and connect to Yeshua the Messiah as the center and core of Judaism and Jewish life. Only this-only he-can provide the staying power for a recognizably Jewish Messianic Judaism that gets handed down to future generations. We have been fortunate to see this happen in our own lives and in the life of our synagogue community. A little over three years ago our granddaughter Naomi had a traditional naming and dedication ceremony in our synagogue shortly after her birth. Given that my grandparents eventually became Messianic Jews, Naomi represents the fifth generation of Messianic Jews in the Fischer family (the fourth generation on Patrice's side). This fall Nathan, the grandson of David Bronstein, the co-founder of our synagogue, began functioning as one of our cantors. He represents the fourth generation of Messianic Jews in his family.

This is a Jewish life that should be open to all, regardless of gender. My vision is to see a maturing Messianic Judaism that is not only open to, but actively encourages the full and equal participation of women at all levels of involvement and leadership. It is how we actively function in our synagogue, and is what we hope to see in the Messianic Jewish movement worldwide.

There is another enduring passion I (we) have. That is to teach others about the reality and relevance of a Yeshua-centered authentic Jewish life. That is an important part of my role as rabbi in our synagogue, but it goes beyond that. For over 25 years I (we) have taught graduate level courses at Netzer David International Yeshiva http://www.sptseminary.edu/academics/the-netzer-david-international-yeshiva . Our purpose throughout has been to train Messianic Jewish leaders to stand within Judaism and among the Jewish people. Our fond desire is to equip students to take various leadership and ministry roles in Messianic Jewish synagogues and ministries, and to sensitively and effectively interact with those from within the Jewish community.

Rabbi John Fischer, Ph.D., Th.D.

 

Read more about Rabbi Fischer on his profile page.