Don't Turn Messianics Away;
Help Them Return Home
A Remarkable Woman
Named Regina Troyer
ELIZABETH APPLEBAUM ASSOC ATE ED TOR
PHIL JACOBS EDITOR
I don't want a mes-
sianic Jew teach-
ing my children or
yours any subject
in a Jewish day
school or afternoon
At the same
time, it is so criti-
cal that we reach
out not only to Jews who find
themselves on the spiritual fence,
but to all. Rabbis, teachers, par-
ents, all of us can never overlook
a person's emptiness.
There isn't any deep science
here when it comes to the reasons
why groups such as the Hebrew
Christians turn many of us into
what they call "believers." They
can hem and haw about Scrip-
ture and show "proof' all they
want. But it's my belief that the
"evidence" they show is less im-
portant than the emotional but-
tons they know how to push.
An attorney friend, a man with
a good mind and a
hunger for life's deeper
meaning, became a
Jew for Jesus in the
mid-1970s. Over the
years, he found that
even the Hebrew Chris-
tian leadership couldn't
account for several key
scriptural questions, so
he opted out. But he
had the strength and
the insight to find a
rabbi, in this case an
Orthodox rabbi, who
didn't talk negatively
about the man's He-
brew Christian experi-
ence. Instead, the rabbi
showed him in positive
terms what Judaism
had offered all along.
There are many rabbis
and lay leaders of all
here in Detroit who offer the
same emotional, as well as spir-
itual, support to our community.
My friend would later say that
the outward signs of "love," be
they real or not, are extremely
important. The swaying, the
singing, the hugging and the per-
sonal testimony found in a mes-
sianic service is powerful. He said
those signs of emotional power
are clearly missing in many syn-
agogues and temples. There are
too many Jewish spiritual lead-
ers who don't come off their pul-
pits to reach out. There are, he
said, too many Jewish parents
not listening or giving importance
to the questions of their children.
Until people feel that Judaism
isn't the sum total of a responsive
reading and the synagogue a
place to be seen but not heard, es-
pecially by God, then groups dis-
guising themselves with Jewish
regalia and even prayer will con-
tinue to grow.
It is correct that a teacher who
becomes a messianic Jew should
not hold a position in any of our
religious schools. This lady, as
well as others like her, needs to
know that we are not afraid of
her or the messianic message. We
are so secure in what we believe
that messianics, Hebrew Chris-
tians, whatever the label, are not
going to shake our Jewish foun-
The truth is, though, maybe
we're not so sure. Many of us can
relate a bitter experience having
to do with a synagogue, rabbi or
family member. And many of us
choose not to remember the pos-
How many of us have a cousin
who had a run-in with his rabbi
25 years ago during bar mitzvah
preparation? The argument be-
came a crutch keeping that
cousin from attending any syna-
His bitterness gets passed on
to Jewish friends and even to his
family members. It becomes a
torch for anti-Judaism, anti-Jew-
ish practices. Messianic Judaism
feeds on the emptiness and these
What's worrisome is that mes-
sianic Judaism, which is the con-
gregational brand of Hebrew
Christianity, isn't attracting only
those on the fringe anymore. It is
also bringing in the highly de-
greed, the successful in life.
A personal experience.
In 1982, my wife and I were
invited to a person's house for
Shabbat dinner. We didn't know
this man very well. He and his
wife seemed anxious to have us
over for dinner. They were suc-
cessful businesspeople we knew.
We lit candles, said the blessing,
said the kiddush and ate challah
and a wonderful dinner. Then,
we all got in the car and drove to
They were praying to Yeshuah
HaMashiach that evening. They
put their arms up in the air,
swayed back and forth, gave tes-
timony about how their lives had
changed. They wore yarmulkes
and talleisim. They had a Torah.
My wife cried and asked to be
returned home. The couple who
took us were very smart: they
drove that night. We were stuck,
at least _through the end of the
Some of the people there that
night spoke with Israeli accents.
That's what I remember the
most. I naively thought that be-
ing from Israel gave some sort of
internal protection against mis-
My "friend" told us during the
ride home that if we wanted to be
"saved," all we had to do was re-
peat a prayer that he would give
We chose not to become "com-
plete" Jews that night. That's the
term messianics use for
Jews who accept Jesus.
Instead we were
scared, intimidated that
we didn't know enough
to answer what seemed
like a "legitimate" reli-
gion. We felt like fools.
It was a gentle soul of a
rabbi, a man so confi-
dent yet relaxed with
his spirituality, who
supplied the answers.
The answers, he said,
are all around us.
They're in the Torah,
they're with our rabbis,
they're in our syna-
gogues, they're at our
Sabbath tables. They're
part of Jewish Experi-
ences For Families
they're at the AJE, JFS,
JCC, Federation or any
other Jewish organization in
You don't need to believe in
anyone else but God to be a be-
About that local teacher.
She should have been dis-
missed from the schools where
she taught. But let's show this
teacher, an Israeli, that we offer
the spirit of God, not to mention
a personal relationship with God.
If we can't learn to give our
own "testimony" through the
lives we live as Jews, you can bet
that someone else will be waiting
with his testimony.
Let's use this experience as a
wake-up call. There are others
like this lady out there. I think
they want to come "home." I don't
really think they'll ever sit com-
fortably with any form of Chris-
tianity. Their association is a cry
Unselfishly, let's give it to
n recent years,
I've heard a
lot of talk
about the me-
dia and religion.
Not much of it is
The media, re-
say, is often ig-
norant and certainly biased.
They never tell the whole story.
I think there's some legiti-
macy in such complaints,
though I disagree with asser-
tions that the secular media, as
a whole, is anti-religion.
In recent weeks I have come
across two media pieces on reli-
gion that I haven't been able to
The first was a radio report
on the death of the head of the
I don't remember details of
the story, but I distinctly recall
a reporter's comment that I
found offensive. This Mormon
leader, she said, was a tradi-
tionalist who resisted liberaliz-
ing church policies. As a result,
he had faced a great deal of op-
position from Mormon "femi-
nists and intellectuals."
That "intellectuals" really
bothered me. Obviously, it's a
none-too-subtle suggestion that
anyone who takes his faith se-
riously, who does not bend to
every contemporary whim, is
somehow backward. ("Hey, Jim
Bob! How 'bout you and me
takin' up this here Bible soon as
we finish our grits and 'Hee
Haw' is all dun!")
The other report I cannot for-
get was a story in the Kansas
City Star. It was about a woman
named Regina Troyer.
The article, written by Scott
Canon, tells of a Mennonite who
is HIV-positive. She contract-
ed the disease from her hus-
band, a hemophiliac.
Just about everything about
this piece is unforgettable.
First is that it's beautifully
written — clear and concise with
all the facts there and the right
sources interviewed, but also gen-
tle and loving, almost like a song.
The second is the subject of
the story herself.
Regina Troyer probably
would not be included among
the "intellectuals" the radio re-
porter clearly esteemed. She is
a religious woman who believes
firmly in God and His presence
in her life. She so adheres to the
teachings of her faith that it was
a terrible struggle for her to con-
sider the use of a condom, even
after she knew her husband had
AIDS. (The Mennonite church
does not sanction birth control.)
Certainly she would not be the
type to question her church
leader's instructions to return
to the basics of her faith.
Yet I can think of few women
I admire more.
Though her husband has died
of AIDS and she may never see
her only child, Sara, reach adult-
hood, Regina Troyer is not bit-
'Worry and regret about the
past just don't help at all," she
said. "I just thank God that He
has given me this day. I don't
want to waste any time being
bitter or angry."
That is one thing I remember
from this story.
The second is a paragraph the
reporter wrote, gently and grace-
fully, which has had a profound
impact on my life.
I'm not a big fan of "mean-
ingful phrases." I loathe those
flower-laden signs that read,
"Today is the first day of the rest
of your life," or "Take time to
smell the roses."
But there are, on occasion,
words so beautiful they almost
take my breath away. One is a
quote by Thackery: "Mother is
the name for God in the hearts
and on the lips of little children."
Another appeared in Mr.
"The house she (Regina)
shares with Sara is filled with
laughter," he wrote. "They love
doing chores together."
Until I read this story, the
word "chore" translated to
"dread" in my mind. Laundry.
Dishes. Dusting. Vacuuming.
Mopping the kitchen floor. Aw-
ful. Why, I could whine about
having to do each of those for at
least an hour, nonstop. I, who
compared to Regina Troyer, have
seemingly an eternity to live.
But now before I open my
mouth I try to remember Regi-
na Troyer, a woman who may
not have long to live who loves
doing chores with her daughter.
I can't say I have completely
stopped my complaining, but I
do think twice.
Like Regina Troyer, I want to
be the kind of person who is
grateful for each moment. At
every instant, I want to recog-
nize the rare privilege of living.
I don't want to forget how lucky
I am to have healthy children
and a loving husband and
enough to eat. I don't want to
stop being grateful to God for
Regina Troyer does not know
her fate, but "I believe in mira-
cles and that God can perform
miracles. I believe He can do
anything. I don't know what He
will do. My faith in God, my be-
lief in Him, that's what keeps
No doubt some might find
such devotion to God not in
keeping with "intellectualism."
I find it remarkable. ❑