Messianic Judaism emerged as a movement in the 1960s among American Jewish converts to Christianity in the larger context of Hebrew Christianity, which began earlier in the 20 th century. Since the establishment of the first Messianic Judaism synagogue in 1967, tens of thousands have joined congregations in the U.S. A former member of the American Board of Missions to the Jews, Mioshe Rosen, founded Heneni Ministries (Jews for Jesus) in 1973, which is now one of the most well-known of these evangelical Jewish missionary ministries. The movement’s major organization, the Hebrew-Christian Alliance, located in the Chicago area. It is estimated that currently there are about 100,000 Messianic Jews in the U.S. alone, with more joining congregations in Canada, England, Israel, and a number of republics of the former Soviet Union. A vigorous debate occurs over whether Messianic Judaism belongs to the Christian or Jewish faith. One of the main precepts of the tradition is that Jews can reconcile their Jewish culture and faith with Christianity. Their perspective is that Christianity does not conflict with Judaism but completes it. Unlike Christianity, which shares a belief in the savior Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew), Messianic Judaism is fully Jewish in practice and members of the group identify themselves as a Judaic sect. However, many Jewish Christians are simply members of mainline Christian churches and are only evident through the various independent evangelical Jewish missionary ministries they support.
Tikvat Israel is the first house of worship in the Greater Richmond area to serve the Hebrew-Christian community. The Tikvat Israel worship center on the corner of Grove Avenue and the Boulevard was originally constructed around 1915 as the home of Grace Baptist Church. In the 1940’s, during the Holocaust period, the building experienced a devastating fire. In 1948, the same year that modern Israel became a nation, the Jewish community bought the building and turned it into an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, naming itself Kenneset Beth Israel (the assembly of the house of Israel). Large round stain glass windows with the Star of David were installed. Kenneset Beth Israel remained in the building for thirty years. In the 1970’s Kenneset Beth Israel moved to Patterson Avenue. Since then the building changed hands several times. In December 1990, the building was rented and eventually purchased by Tikvat Israel. Original members of the congregation associate the first services in the building with their own Chanukah miracle – in which four furnace tanks miraculously filled with over 1000 gallons of oil to heat the service.
The main sanctuary seats approximately 500 facing east towards Jerusalem. This is used primarily for Shabbat services on Saturday mornings. There is also a smaller sanctuary used for morning and evening prayers, a bookstore, classrooms, and a library. Another central place for congregation, called the Oneg area, is used for eating. The two adjacent kitchens date to the time when the building was used as an Orthodox Jewish synagogue and reflect the traditional separation of milk and meat products. Tikvat Israel established a subsidiary organization, Russian Immigration Services. The services provided include a food bank, a Russian library, social service needs, legal services, English and citizenship classes.
2715 Grove Avenue
Richmond, VA 23220
Rabbi Jamie Cowen
Profile prepared by Julie Philp