Earlier this year, Chosen People Ministries, a Messianic Jewish organization, purchased an 11,000-square-foot building in the heart of Orthodox Brooklyn.
"If you walk out the door and turn left, you are in an Orthodox Jewish community," says president Mitch Glaser. "And if you turn right, you will be able to buy the best borscht you have ever tasted."
Once rehabbed, the building will allow the organization to provide substance-abuse counseling and to teach English as a second language. It will house a library for Messianic research and a 150-seat sanctuary. It will also host an accredited pastoral training program in partnership with an evangelical seminary.
The institutional changes are in many ways symbolic of new opportunities—and lasting tensions—in the modern-day Messianic movement.
Jesus Movement Roots
In 1970, Glaser and Jhan Moskowitz shared a ramshackle houseboat in Sausalito, near San Francisco, selling drugs to help pay their bills. At the time, the two Jews from New York City were reveling in the hippie lifestyle, with no idea they would soon face the spiritual crisis of a lifetime.
One evening, a lucrative drug deal involving 22 pounds of high-grade marijuana unraveled. Gun-toting rip-off artists showed up. One of them placed a sawed-off shotgun at the back of Glaser's neck as others scooped up the cash and pot. Glaser recalled, "I was just 18 and thought, How stupid have I been to throw my life away! I was scared, hopeless, and had no one to pray to."
That night, Glaser and Moskowitz escaped with their lives, and Glaser swore off drug-dealing. Later, their lives took a different path.
At the invitation of a friend who had become a Christian, Glaser visited an evangelical commune in Oregon. Glaser, raised ...