BATH TWP.: The congregation that worships in the building that looks more like a home than a religious institution at 3891 Ira Road has some unique characteristics.
Members consider themselves Jewish and believe that Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) is the Messiah whom Jews await. They use both the Torah and New Testament (Brit Chadasha) as sacred texts. Their leaders are called rabbis, who in their Jewish-style worship services present Christianity as a fulfillment of Torah prophecies.
The Messianic Jewish organization — Rosh Pinah Congregation — was established in 1992 in the home of its Senior Rabbi, Michael Humphrey Sr. The initial goal was to introduce Christians to the Jewish roots of their faith. The ministry has grown to attract worshippers of both Christian and traditional Jewish backgrounds.
“We are between two major religious groups, Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity. If you go to a church, they would say we’re Jewish. If you go to a Rabbinic Jewish synagogue, they would say we are Christian,” said Rabbi Michael Humphrey II, son of the senior rabbi. “But we don’t have an identity crisis. We know exactly who we are. It’s a lifestyle. We find the presence of God in the New Testament and in the Holy Spirit as we become the vessels who hold that Holy Spirit.”
As in other faith groups, theology varies among Messianic Jews, but they generally observe Jewish customs, rituals and holidays, including, Passover, Sukkot, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Like traditional Jews, Messianic Jews observe the Sabbath starting at sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. Messianic Jews, however, believe and follow their Messianic Talmud (the New Testament).
Messianic Jews believe that sin is a transgression against the Torah and that sin is forgiven — if you ask for forgiveness and believe by faith that your sins have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus. They accept Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament and believe he died an atoning death for the sins of humanity, was raised from the dead and is alive today.
They believe that male circumcision is part of keeping the covenant. The only sacrament Messianic Jews practice is baptism — done by immersion — of people who are old enough to understand and accept Jesus as Messiah.
The local congregation, which gathers for worship at 11 a.m. Saturdays, includes Messianic Jews who carefully follow applicable Jewish laws, customs and traditions, and Christians seeking to learn more about the Jewish roots of the Christian faith.
The temple building follows the same design as traditional synagogues. Inside is a bimah, the platform where the Torah is read; the Holy Ark, where a rare Torah scroll that made it through the Holocaust in Poland is kept; and the eternal light, which symbolizes the spiritual enlightenment that emanates from the Torah.
A decorative Hebrew inscription on the bimah reads: “Know Before Whom You Stand.”
A Tzedakah (or charity) box for donations or offerings is located near the doors of the sanctuary. A fellowship area, where the congregation gathers before and after services, is just inside the front entrance of the temple. The tree of life (the Etz Chaim), which is often seen as the symbol for holding the Torah or Jewish law, is located in the lobby and is made of granite obtained from the Amazon River basin.
The congregation moved into the newly constructed 6,000-square-foot temple in November 2004. Its name, Rosh Pinah, means “Cornerstone” in Hebrew and signifies that Yeshua the Messiah is the cornerstone of the congregation’s faith.
“When we built this, we wanted to make it like a home. The people who come here are from different backgrounds, but we truly are a family. That’s why we made the building look like a home,” said the elder Humphrey, an attorney and forensic accountant who grew up in the Baptist faith and moved to the Pentecostal church before being drawn to Judaism.
“I guess you could call me a ‘Bapticostal’ with Jewish tendencies,” the elder Humphrey quipped. “More than 30 years ago, I began feeling more associated with the Jewish side of my faith. The more I studied the Jewish side, the more understandable the New Testament became. God has confirmed my path through a number of events over the years during my faith walk. I believe this is where God wants me to be.”
Rosh Pinah attracts between 75 and 110 people to its Shabbat services on Saturdays. Its largest crowd — more than 200 — is seen on Passover, when the service is typically moved to a banquet hall at a local hotel. The congregation’s upcoming Pesach Seder will be 6:30 p.m. April 14 at the Sheraton Suites in Cuyahoga Falls.
Weekly services include the blowing of the shofar, traditional Jewish blessings, worship and praise, a special blessing over the children, reading from the Torah scroll and a teaching from one of the congregation’s three rabbis, none of whom is a paid cleric. A webcast of the service is available at the congregation’s website, www.rosh-pinah.org.
The elder Humphrey is a managing director at Cleveland’s KPMG LLC, an audit, tax and advisory services firm. The younger Humphrey is a vice president at the Canton-Lackawanna Division of Republic Steel. The third rabbi, Steven Scherger, is director of health career advising at Case Western Reserve University.
“We do this because God tells us to. This defines who we are in our souls,” the younger Humphrey said. “We don’t proselytize or evangelize. People who want to come seek us out. This place is a learning center where we teach people how to live in the context of the Messianic Jewish faith. Our goal is to help people have a deeper relationship with God and a deeper understanding of his teachings.”
For more information about Rosh Pinah, call 330-668-6840 or go to www.rosh-pinah.org.