Buffalo is home to several Messianic Jews who meet at Congregation B’rith Hadoshah in a spacious synagogue at 50 Alberta Drive in suburban Amherst. Messianic Jews differ from other Jews because they believe that Jesus–whom they refer to as Yeshua– is the promised Messiah of Israel. According to the congregation’s literature, “Our faith was born of a First Century Jewish revival movement. The first people to recognize and believe that Yeshua was the Messiah were Jews one and all. Not for a moment did they believe they were starting a new religion. Christianity did not appear until the Fourth Century.”
If you’ve never been to a Messianic Jewish service, here are some things to know before you go:
1) Since worship is in a Jewish context, Jewish terminology is used, such as “Yeshua” in place of “Jesus,” and “synagogue” in place of “church.” Also, out of reverence, you’ll see the terms “God” and “Lord” written out as “G-d” and “L-rd,” respectively.
2) Portions of Jewish liturgy are incorporated into the service, such as Shema (Hear O Israel), Ma Tavoo (How Good), and the Aaronic Benediction. While much of the liturgy and some of the songs are in Hebrew, an English translation is included to help you participate.
3) There are large doors to the right of the bemah (altar area); this is called an Ark and contains the Torah (scriptures). A Torah service is held at least once a month, which involves getting the Torah out of the Ark, processing it around the sanctuary, opening it up and reading from it.
4) If you’re used to a Catholic Mass or Protestant service, you won’t feel out of place at a Messianic Jewish congregation– it’s not “too different.” A typical service starts out with a greeting, everyone together reading scripture off a projection screen, music by a five-piece worship team that lasts about an hour (featuring piano, bass, guitar, bongos and singers), and a sermon/homily/message that lasts about 45 minutes. All together, a service lasts about two hours. Afterward, people can go into the cafeteria filled with round table for bagels, soup, dessert, coffee, tea and juice. Note: Interestingly, many attendees bring bottled water into the sanctuary and sip it often during the service.
5) One thing that might surprise you is this: there’s dancing during the music portion of the service. In one part of the sanctuary, about a dozen people gather together in a circle, sometimes holding hands, and dance together as they sing, twirl, and use their body to dance like David danced before the Lord. It’s quite enjoyable to watch, and will remind you of a wedding reception. Apparently, there are classes you can take so you’ll be able to practice the different moves before you join the circle. Looks fun.
6) In other countries, it’s not uncommon to have a blending of Jewish and Christian people together in one congregation, especially in parts of Africa like Nigeria. Most Americans don’t even know there are “Messianic Jews,” but worldwide, it’s more well-known. The Buffalo area, and the Congregation B’rith Hadoshah, is home to Rabbi Frank Lowinger, one of the world’s most prominent and respected Messianic Jews. Rabbi Lowinger is connected with the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues.
If you would like to visit Buffalo’s B’rith Hadoshah, come some Saturday at 10:30am. The Buffalo congregation is made up of a diverse group of people– about 10% from no religious background, 20% from Judaism, 40% from Catholicism and 30% from evangelical (Protestant) Christianity. Typically, about 150 people attend each Saturday and if you use the phrase “Shabbat Shalom,” you’ll fit right in– that means “Happy Sabbath.”
You can visit www.shalombuffalo.org for more info.
Would you like to see a colorful upright piano or two outdoors in Western New York for all to enjoy this summer? Details here.