Peter, the interest of the Orthodox Christians in Greater Russia (an Empire and the USSR) in Judaism isn’t new. One of the reasons the church always demanded limitations for Jews was that, coming into contact with the Jewish faith, the rural population frequently became “infected” with Jewish religious thought and certain practices. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subbotniks
This comment you have provided, Peter, about Ukrainians––some of them at least––wanting to be Jews is both surprising and not surprising. It is surprising, as you say, that this should take place in a society known for its anti-Semitic proclivities. It is not surprising, however, at a time of globalization when stereotypes and half-baked images of all sorts careen around the globe at near lightspeed. The ability of hucksters and charlatans of all sorts to hijack traditional religious symbols and ideas has never been greater. Even Jews have done this with their own tradition, as I described in my book JEWCENTRICITY, which you so graciously wrote a dust jacket comment for. The fake Kabbalists are my case in point, operating out of both Los Angeles and points in Israel, taking advantage of the unsuspecting, the ill and the merely credulous desperate for some sort of community. As I said in the book, just imagine how much more harm the false Messiah Shabbtai Tzvi could have done with the Internet.
We will see more of this sort of thing in coming years. I do think, however, that wherever Jewish symbols hitch a ride with Evangelicals, whether of the Jews for Jesus sort or some other sort, the characteristic passive/aggressive character of the understanding of these symbols will go with it. It will not on the whole be “good for the Jews.”
I live in Kiev and have been to one of Sunday’s shindigs. Lots of music, jumping, shouting etc. etc. Rather like evangelicals back home. There appears to be a fairly good case that members close to Sunday exploited the credulity of the membership to sell financial products, and Sunday benefited.
Evangelistic Jews are a lot harder to find. I live in downtown Kiev, and have just once encountered a group, maybe 20 people or so, singing recognizably Jewish music in a park towards sundown on Friday. My wife discounted the whole thing – “Hava Nagila” is also a traditional Ukrainian tune – but they did hand out, in a low-key manner, some visit cards.
Two years ago I hosted the publisher of “Moment Magazine,” the leading journal of Jewish culture and politics in the US. We met the local Jewish leaders, who are predictably split, but none of the shards had a charismatic bent.
I am Anglican and my wife attends both Orthodox and protestant services. We note that conservative but traditional protestants – Baptists, Presbyterians, non-denominational – are doing well here. As the country recedes again from the West, they need something ho hang onto.
A fascinating report!
Monotheism is indeed ripe for a change, and your story may point in one of the directions it is taking.
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