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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 25, 2002

Messianic Jews gear up for holidays

By Zenaida Serrano Espanol
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kehilat haMelech gatherings at the Waikiki Community Center Chapel on 'Ohua Avenue include services and dance. Clockwise from left: Anne Eckmann, Julie Tanako, Crystal Kenn and Terry Contemplo.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Name of congregation: Kehilat haMelech (Hebrew for "Congregation of the King")

Our denomination and affiliation: Kehilat haMelech is a Messianic Jewish congregation affiliated with the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues, based in Philadelphia and Sarasota, Fla.

Where we are: Members gather for services at the Waikiki Community Center Chapel at 277 'Ohua Ave.

Our numbers: About 35 to 55 people attend services regularly. About 300 to 350 Messianic congregations are in the United States; Israel has about 430 congregations and home-study groups. Approximately 20 other countries, including England, France, Australia and Russia, have a national association of Messianic congregations.

Presently filling our leadership position: Bill Eckmann

What we believe: Messianic Jews, like Jews, believe in one God and study the Torah, the five books of Moses that make up the most important part of the Hebrew bible, Eckmann said.

Messianic Judaism is a movement of Jewish people from all walks of life whose common thread is their belief that Yeshua (the Hebrew name of Jesus) is the promised Jewish Messiah and Savior for Israel and the world, Eckmann said.

The two movements differ in that Jews believe that the Messiah has yet to come, Eckmann said. But Jews view Jesus as a historical figure, a prophet and a great man, he said.

"Messianic Jews have not stopped being Jewish," Eckmann noted. "On the contrary, we continue to remain strongly Jewish in our identity (and) lifestyle."

Our history: The congregation began as a home-study group in Kailua in the 1980s. The group eventually stopped meeting, Eckmann said, but those interested in continuing a Messianic fellowship began to hold informal gatherings in 1989 at Moanalua Gardens. Eckmann said members gathered "under an energetic new leader," Andy Mass, who left in January 1990 because of military duties.

On Jan. 10, 1990, Eckmann and his family, who were members of a Messianic congregation in Tacoma, Wash., came to Hawai'i to help establish the congregation, which was originally called the Messianic Jewish Fellowship of Hawai'i. A few months later in 1990, the name Kehilat haMelech was adopted on the suggestion of one of the members.

Members of Kehilat haMelech first gathered at the Eckmanns' home for about a year, then rented a room at Waikiki Community Center for about four or five years, and finally began to gather for services at the center's chapel.

What we're excited about: The next major holidays that members will celebrate, Eckmann said, include Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, on Sept. 6; Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, on Sept. 15; and Sukkot (known to Christians as the Feast of Tabernacles) on Sept. 20.

The festivities for these events are still in the planning stage, but Eckmann said that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are "always a public celebration" where anyone is welcome.

What's special about us: While there are other Messianic congregations throughout the state, including Maui and Kaua'i, Kehilat haMelech was the first and is the largest Messianic Jewish congregation in Hawai'i, Eckmann said.

"It's the only place where Jews and non-Jews ... (can) worship together," Eckmann said. "In the Old Testament, there were always non-Jews that wanted to worship with Israel and wanted to be a part of it, and God included these people."

Eckmann said that whatever animosity may exist between between Jews and Christians "is broken down in the Messiah."

"One of the Scriptures talks about (how) he makes Jew and Gentile one new man," Eckmann said. "We are one in the Messiah, we can come together and worship together."

The presence of the Holy Spirit makes Kehilat haMelech a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere, Eckmann said. "That Spirit permeates our services."

Information: 236-0440; P.O. Box 90629, Honolulu, HI 96835-0629.

If you would like to recommend a faith organization for a Where We Worship profile, e-mail faith@honoluluadvertiser.com, call 525-8035 or write: Where We Worship, Faith Page, The Honolulu Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802.