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​​New Discovery/Max reality show ‘Survive the Raft’ features a Messianic ‘rabbi’ who says ‘I’m Jewish, too’

(JTA) – Even amid the motley crew with whom he is trying to survive at sea, Jonathan Dade’s introduction as a reality TV contestant makes a splash.

“As a Black rabbi who’s also conservative, if we can’t discuss race, religion or politics, I can pretty much never talk,” Dade tells viewers on the new Discovery/Max series “Survive the Raft,” about nine people from diverse backgrounds forced to work together for 21 days at sea. 

In the first episode, which premiered Sunday, Dade says he works as “a senior rabbi in a synagogue in Georgetown, Texas.”

Dade explains his biography as one of conversion. “I grew up Christian and a lot of my friends when I was in the Navy were Jewish,” he tells the audience. “And by me listening, I learned and then before you know it, I’m Jewish, too.” 

But the photo montage introducing Dade also includes images of him wearing a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl, while performing a baptism — a Christian ritual. 

The juxtaposition had at least one viewer confused. “I was genuinely excited to see the rabbi, so you can imagine my dismay when the little montage showed him performing an obvious baptism,” one Jewish Reddit user wrote after watching the episode. “Do you think the producers didn’t know the difference?”

The viewer was right to be surprised. Dade is actually a Messianic Jew — someone who believes Jesus was the Messiah, a belief that is antithetical to Judaism. His congregation, Messiah Echad, advertises itself as serving “Hebrew Christian, Torah Observant, Messianic Jewish, and Non-Religious Believers.” 

Messianic groups often have ties to explicitly Christian organizations, and none of the mainstream Jewish movements consider them Jewish. As with many mainstream Christian denominations, missionary work is part of Messianic practice.

But the distinction between Judaism and Dade’s Messianic faith isn’t made apparent on the show, making Dade the latest example of a Messianic being countenanced as Jewish in public life.

Pictures on Echad Messiah’s Facebook page suggest it is not the first time: He’s posted photos of himself at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s mansion for Hanukkah parties and a celebration this May of Israel’s 75th birthday, and he can also be seen conducting a public menorah lighting in the center of Georgetown, a small city in central Texas, north of Austin.

A cast image from the Discovery/Max reality show “Survive the Raft.” The series premiered July 30, 2023. (Courtesy of Warner Brothers Discovery)

Messianics are sometimes selected to offer the appearance of Jewish inclusion, which happens with some regularity in politics. For example, Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial candidate concluded his unsuccessful run last year with a Messianic’s performance of a “Fiddler on the Roof” parody

In one especially prominent incident, Jewish groups were outraged when a Messianic “rabbi” appeared onstage at a campaign rally attended by then-Vice President Mike Pence in 2018 to offer a prayer for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

“There are deep theological differences between Jews and Christians regarding exactly who is a Messiah, what a Messiah should do and even how central a Messiah should be to their traditions,” Ingrid Anderson, associate director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies at Boston University, wrote at the time, explaining why Pence’s selection was so objectionable to many Jews.

Anderson noted that most Messianic Jews consider it part of their mission to evangelize to Jews, a practice that is “very painful and damaging” for Jews because, historically, “Christians did not believe that Jewish scriptures contained truths claimed by another religion.”

Dade, who holds a masters in theology from Colorado Christian University, also unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Georgetown in 2020 and again earlier this year; he said he is preparing another campaign for 2026. During his first campaign local media identified him as a “rabbi”; promotional videos for his congregation identify his wife Melinda Dade as a “Rebbetzin,” a term typically employed in Judaism to refer to the wife of a rabbi. Neither he nor Messiah Echad responded to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency request for comment.

“Survive the Raft” is a “Survivor”-esque show that takes its inspiration from a 1973 social experiment by Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genovés, which itself included an Israeli doctor as one of the ship’s crew. The contestants are described as “nine Americans handpicked to disagree about everything,” and include a hunter, a vegan and a conservative mom shown holding an anti-mask sign.

“We do not comment on the religious beliefs of show participants,” a spokesperson for parent company Warner Brothers Discovery told JTA. Requests for comment to Critical Content, the show’s production company, were not returned.

Georgetown has an actual synagogue: Congregation Havurah Shalom, which follows Reform practices but does not affiliate with any movement. Its co-president, Ellen Silverman, told JTA that Dade is a “lovely person,” but added, “We do not recognize the Messianic congregation as Jewish as they believe in Jesus and Jews do not.”

At the same time, Silverman added, “Rabbi means teacher and Jonathan is a teacher for his congregation.”

Whether and how Dade planned to infuse his Messianic ministry into his “Survive the Raft” appearance may never be known: He (spoiler alert) doesn’t stay on the show long enough for anyone else to drill into his faith. He has an on-camera seizure midway through the first episode and is airlifted to a hospital in Panama. At the end of the episode, the show’s host informs the rest of the cast that Dade won’t be returning to the raft.

The post ​​New Discovery/Max reality show ‘Survive the Raft’ features a Messianic ‘rabbi’ who says ‘I’m Jewish, too’ appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Will Hostage-Taking Journalist Abdallah Aljamal Be Added to CPJ ‘Casualty’ List?

The Al Jazeera Media Network logo is seen on its headquarters building in Doha, Qatar, June 8, 2017. Photo: REUTERS/Naseem Zeitoon

One day after Israeli security forces rescued four Israeli hostages from their Gazan captivity, both the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security agency) confirmed that three of the hostages had been held captive in the family home of Abdallah Aljamal.

Aljamal, who was killed during the raid that freed the hostages, had previously served as a spokesman for the Hamas-run Gaza Labor Ministry and, as a journalist, had contributed to Al Jazeera, and served as a correspondent for The Palestine Chronicle.

His last article was published by the Chronicle one day before the Israeli rescue operation.

Abdullah Al-Jamal was not a “freelance contributor” for the Palestine Chronicle. As the outlet itself has repeatedly stated, he was in fact its “correspondent in Gaza.”

They clearly changed the bio to try and avoid legal repercussions

— Eitan Fischberger (@EFischberger) June 10, 2024

With Abdallah Aljamal’s death as part of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, it begs the question whether he will be added to the running list of “journalist casualties in the Israel-Gaza war” compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Since the start of the war, the CPJ’s list of journalist casualties has been used by a variety of news outlets, activists, pundits, and politicians to highlight the seemingly disproportionate number of Gaza-based journalists killed during Israel’s counter-terrorism campaign, and to question whether Israel is purposefully targeting reporters and other media workers.

However, as noted earlier by HonestReporting, a significant number of the journalists who appear on the CPJ’s list were in some way affiliated with Hamas and other anti-Israel terror organizations.

As of this writing (June 10, 2024), close to 50% of the 103 Palestinian journalists listed by the CPJ either worked for news outlets affiliated with terror organizations, or were active members in these organizations themselves.

While he was working as a so-called “journalist,” Abdallah Aljamal also held hostages captive for Hamas.

Shockingly, his death qualifies him for the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (@pressfreedom) list of media workers killed in the conflict.

— HonestReporting (@HonestReporting) June 9, 2024

If Abdallah Aljamal is added to the CPJ’s list, this will only highlight the problematic nature of the list by including terrorists and kidnappers among the ranks of killed Palestinian media workers, and will serve to further debunk the libel that Israel is targeting journalists in order to stifle their reporting capabilities.

If Aljamal is not included on the CPJ’s list of killed Gaza-based journalists, it will ultimately need to be asked what separates him from the likes of Hamza Al Dahdouh, Mustafa Thuraya, and Mohammad Jarghoun — all three of whom are accused of being active members of terrorist organizations and who appear on the list.

In either case, the mere possibility that Abdallah Aljamal, a Hamas member who helped hold three Israeli civilians hostage, will be added to the CPJ’s list of killed journalists is a cold reminder of the interaction between terrorism and civilian life in Gaza, the influence that Hamas has over the media in Gaza, and the untrustworthiness of outlets that turn a blind eye to these salient factors.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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Missile Barrage Hits Northern Israel, Emergency Services Report

Firefighters respond to a fire near a rocket attack from Lebanon, amid ongoing cross-border hostilities between Hezbollah and Israeli forces, near Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, June 14, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israeli emergency services reported dealing with a string of fires in northern Israel on Friday after dozens of missiles were fired from southern Lebanon into the area around the border town of Kiryat Shemona.

The military said that warning sirens had sounded in northern Israel and emergency services said teams were searching the area, where they reported there was property damage but no casualties.

Television footage on Friday showed damaged buildings and cars as well as brush fires in several locations caused by strikes or falling debris amid heatwave conditions.

The Israeli military has exchanged regular fire with Hezbollah forces across the border in southern Lebanon ever since the start of the war in Gaza in October.

Neither side has appeared to wish a wider conflict, but there has been growing worry that the steady intensification of strikes could push the situation out of control with the risk of a wider conflict in a region that has already seen direct exchanges between Israel and Iran.

The latest salvo came after an Israeli strike killed a senior commander from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist group in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, drawing the heaviest bombardment of northern Israel since the start of the war in October last year.

Tens of thousands of residents have been evacuated from their homes on both sides of the border, creating growing pressure to resolve the stand-off, but diplomatic efforts have so far proved fruitless.

On Friday, the Israeli military said fighter jets and anti-aircraft systems had intercepted 11 of the 16 drones launched by Hezbollah against Israel in the past 72 hours.

“The Israeli Air Force is continuing to operate at all times to thwart terrorist activities and protect Israel‘s skies from any threat,” it said in a statement.

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G7 Warns Iran Over Continuing Nuclear Program Escalation

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and European Council President Charles Michel pose for a family photo as they arrive to attend a dinner at Swabian Castle in Brindisi, Italy, June 13, 2024. Photo: Italian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

The Group of Seven leaders warned Iran on Friday against advancing its nuclear enrichment program and said they would be ready to enforce new measures if Tehran were to transfer ballistic missiles to Russia, according to a draft communique.

“We urge Tehran to cease and reverse nuclear escalations, and stop the continuing uranium enrichment activities that have no credible civilian justifications,” the statement seen by Reuters said.

Iran has rapidly installed extra uranium-enriching centrifuges at its Fordow site and begun setting up others, a UN nuclear watchdog report said on Thursday.

Iran is now enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, close to the 90 percent of weapons grade, and has enough material enriched to that level, if enriched further, for three nuclear weapons, according to an IAEA yardstick.

Iran must engage in serious dialogue and provide convincing assurances that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, in full cooperation and compliance with the IAEA’s monitoring and verification mechanism, including the Board of Governors’ resolution of 5 June,” the G7 said.

Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

The leaders also warned Iran about concluding a deal to send ballistic missiles to Russia that would help it in its war against Ukraine, saying they were prepared to respond with significant measures if it were to happen.

“We call on Iran to stop assisting Russia’s war in Ukraine and not to transfer ballistic missiles and related technology, as this would represent a substantive material escalation and a direct threat to European security,” they said.

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