In southern U.S., first gathering highlights biblical and cultural elements of Judaism.
The congregation of Beth Shalom Community and Learning Center, led by director Tina Munson and co-leader Matt Munson, hosted their first Jewish Adventist Camp Meeting in the Southern Union territory, October 14-21, 2019, at the Unicoi State Park in Helen, Georgia.
Around 75 people were in attendance, with 30 to 35 attending daily workshops and teachings. The cultural Adventist Camp Meeting and Sukkot (the celebration of “The Season of Our Joy”) was in pioneer style, with the majority of the meetings held outside, except the Saturday (Sabbath) services.
Leaders reported that most attendees were able to enjoy the outdoors in tents, cabins, and RVs — with some attending from as far away as the U.S. states of California, Texas, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and even France. Not only were there Jewish Adventists in attendance, but they were also joined by some of their Jewish and Messianic Jewish friends in the local area.
Bible studies included “The Season of Our Rejoicing,” prophecy teachings in Daniel pointing toward the Messiah, with Richard Elofer, Seventh-day Adventist Church director of the World Jewish Adventist Friendship Center. “The Remnant of Israel” and “The Everlasting Covenant” were presented by Ralph Ringer, director of Jewish ministries for the North American Division and the Southern Union.
Cultural workshops were also offered, including Sukkah building and specific symbols of Jewish celebrations and worship. An outdoor education workshop taught camp skills, wild edibles, and plants for health purposes. “The Heavens Are Telling the Good News in the Stars” included moments for learning about and appreciating the evening skies.
A highlight of the time participants spent together was watching seven members of the Baez family follow Jesus/Yeshua in baptism, and Matt Munson, congregational co-leader, being set aside in ordination as an elder.
At the end of Sukkot, in the Jewish tradition, everyone said, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Leaders explained that their prayer is that next year, they will all gather in the tabernacle with Jesus in the New Jerusalem for eternity. They prayed that until that day, the fellowship of all believers brings fruit to celebrate the final harvest.
New Graduate Degree
Andrews University, a Seventh-day Adventist educational institution in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States, recently announced the launch of a new program never offered before by any Seventh-day Adventist college or university — a Master of Arts in Jewish-Christian studies. Classes are set to begin in May 2020.
Educational leaders reported that the degree explores the parallel histories of the Christian and Jewish communities from the birth of Jesus until today and investigates the vast body of Jewish literature that imparts a clearer interpretation of the Old and New Testaments.
Courses will include Jewish Life and Thought; the Great Controversy; the Covenant, Law, and Sabbath; History of Jewish Experience; and seminars in Classical Jewish Literature from the Old and New Testament time frames. In addition, traditional Adventist topics such as the doctrine of the sanctuary and studies in Daniel and Revelation will reflect on overlooked ties to a Torah-based foundation. Designed for non-traditional students, rather than requiring students to live on campus, classes will be held on campus for four weeks each May, with the remainder of class time being online. At the end of five years, students will earn their M.A. degree while remaining employed.
A Rabbi Turned Adventist Pastor
The vision for this degree arose as Alexander Bolotnikov, a Jewish rabbi turned Adventist pastor, who has completed a doctorate in rabbinic literature, saw an increase of Seventh-day Adventists converting to Judaism in recent years.
“Many Adventists are drawn to the Hebrew roots of their faith, yet common misunderstandings about Judaism raise questions and concerns when many pastors are asked questions about Jewish topics. This is unfortunate,” said Bolotnikov of the North American Division’s Shalom Learning Center. “I decided I should learn what my heritage meant to be Jewish because I was raised as a communist, not a Jew. So, I went to the yeshiva [Jewish school]. When I became a believer in Jesus, the only Christian church I could join without compromising Scripture was the Seventh-day Adventist,” he said.
“What I learned in the yeshiva has anchored me within Adventism. Thus, my dream developed of bringing together instructors and a curriculum that equips Adventists to interact effectively with both secular and religious Jews, while also addressing the attrition of our people to Messianic congregations and Jewish communities like Chabad. The Jewish people are part of God’s family, waiting to be introduced to their Messiah.”
This story is based on reports about Jewish camp meeting and a new graduate degree first posted by Southern Tidings.