Pride & Prejudice

Cheryl Brown's picture

Messianic Judaism Perspectives in Multiculturalism

Multicultural Reporting Assignment w Patricia Egessa, CCTV Instructor

Assuming that the class focus would be on covering journalism in only “black and white”, I thought the class would not be interesting or of value. Instead, we were immediately challenged to face evil within ourselves, revealing elitist attitudes and deep seated fears.

As instructor Patricia Egessa introduced herself to the class, her Kenyan dialect caused reservation in me as I recalled childhood prejudices in hearing of how people who arrived directly from the African continent, were elitist because they had never endured slavery, and hence could not relate to “our” African-American plight. So I expected to be disrespected or at least distanced.

However, as she challenged each class member to share their expectations, challenges and preconceived notions, I discovered fears and prejudices we all had in common. We each were required to venture outside of our culture comfort zone and learn about a new people from a journalistic point of view, objectively without bias and most of all to do no harm.

My outlook changed. Hence my journalistic mission changed.

This gave me a chance to write about something different like my recent visit to Harvard Hillel. Judaism is new to me in that I’ve read about it for many years but never have interacted on such a personal level. Taking this class and attending service for the first time raised my curiosity about the Jewish culture. Now I have questions like “what exactly is a “Gabi”. How does a college age person choose a worship group? What is the correct terminology for the worship group or service? It’s not a church, so is the place of worship called a temple?

Acknowledging pride and prejudices can be liberating, especially when you elevate your mind to live intentionally, seeking first to do no harm. In Jane Austen’s classic tale of love, misunderstanding unfolds in class-conscious England near the close of the 18th century where the five Bennet sisters find themselves juxta positioned against Pride & Prejudices. Family traditions, societal norms, internal strivings pull each of the sisters in varying directions of joy and pain. All of which inevitably leads to growth.

I’ve since learned that a Gabi is a facilitator of who aids in the worship proceedings and helping the Rabbi. Celebrating a month of attendance, I’ve been invited to a Malave Malke at the home of the Gabi, also book club invitations, study groups and more. Also, it appears that the different types of worship groups allow for intentional training and inclusion of Jews of all ages beginning with early learning Hebrew schools, Bat Mitzvahs and Bar Mitzvahs to mark transitional periods of life for youth, celebratory meals, weddings, and worship service all weave together to keep all ages invested. And the place of worship can be called a temple or synagogue depending on who you’re speaking with.

“Shabbat services include spirited, musical davening (prayer) based on traditional liturgy; a lively, wide-ranging Torah discussion; and a convivial Kiddush. We rely on our members to lead us in prayer and to teach us Torah, and we are always seeking new voices to uncover new facets of our tradition. We also enjoy the guidance of our Rabbi and our Rabbis Emeriti. In addition to our weekly Shabbat services, we come together for holidays and for social occasions at members’ homes. Likewise, we celebrate together at life-cycle events and comfort one another in times of sickness and mourning.”

Immersing myself into the Jewish culture lead to the joy of gaining a new friend over lunch and my confession of a fear that I would not be accepted as an untraditionally proselytized Gentile. It is my belief that Israel and “the church” are two different entities. Jews are charted to receive an inheritance through birthright by following the laws of God. Gentiles are adopted into the family through grace. Messianic Judaism is a faith where Jews accept Jesus as Messiah and Gentiles are engrafted into the family through faith in Jesus Christ. Behold, O Israel, the Lord our God is one.

Fellowship with the Jewish portion of my family of faith has been enriching because we both have a chance to grow. I’m now learning Hebrew, observing the methodology for carrying out Jewish traditions, sharing sacred meals and looking forward to a new perspective on High Holy Days. This experience has offered depth beyond a textbook. And the fact that our cultures are different, it is opening up dialogues we may never have had the privilege of sharing.

It has long been said that the most segregated days of the week in America are days on which people worship. Not everyone has the time or inclination to socialize or fellowship with unfamiliar congregations of people.

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that unfortunately, immersion is often the only way to break through barriers and transcend some elemental strongholds of Pride & Prejudice.