By Sharon Mager
SILVER SPRING, Md.—Each Saturday a group of believers, from a variety of ethnicities, gathers in their Rabbi’s home to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They also worship the Jewish Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, whom Jewish people know as Yeshua.
The Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus are part of the congregation of Mishkan HaShofar, a new plant in Silver Spring.
Each week, Rabbi/Pastor Robert Pristoop shares with the congregation a “drosh,” or lesson related to the Torah, followed by a teaching rebutting a traditional Jewish objection to Jesus. Then comes a time of praise, worship, a sermon and prayer. The conclusion is “Havdalah,” a Jewish service ritual to close the Sabbath that includes three elements; lighting a candle-as Messiah is the light of the world, blessing a cup of wine—an element of joy in Jewish vernacular—and smelling sweet spices, to remember the Sabbath as each participant goes back to the secular part of the week.
Each service begins with the blowing of the shofar as a call to gather for worship, an ancient
practice using an animal horn.
Pristoop is adept at playing the ancient instrument. Refreshments are provided following the worship.
The Rabbi remembers when he first accepted Messiah. “I thought I was no longer Jewish,” he said.
Later, when he attended a service where Jewish people were worshipping with familiar Jewish traditions yet truly worshipping Yeshua as Messiah, he was overwhelmed with emotion.
“All I could do is cry,” he said “My faith and my heritage were ‘echad’—one!”
Pristoop’s father was raised in the Orthodox Jewish tradition and his mother was a Catholic who converted to Judaism. The family, though, only observed religious traditions when celebrating with extended family during the Jewish holy days, and during Christmas and Easter as secular festivals.
Accordingly, Pristoop had no real knowledge about Jesus. “For fifteen years all I ever heard was that Jesus hated Jews,” Pristoop said. “I had never heard that Jesus was, in fact, Jewish. I had never heard that He came to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
The Messianic Rabbi’s journey to Jesus began when he was a rebellious teenager. He noticed a young student teacher that was “different.” She was an authentic Christian. He saw that she had joy and peace. She invited him to go out with her and her friends and he found himself in church and then at a restaurant discussing the sermon.
Pristoop said he eventually accepted Messiah, but it was during a Passover celebration with his family that God really opened the new believer’s eyes. As the family observed the Seder with the three pieces of matzo, Pristoop knew the bread traditionally represented Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but in light of Messiah the same traditions looked much different.
The first piece always stays untouched in the “echad” (meaning “one” in Hebrew), a bag with three chambers. The second matzo is broken in half and half is hidden while half is placed back in the “echad.” During the dinner portion of the Seder, the broken matzo is wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden. The children find the hidden half and hold it ransom. The third piece of matzo is eaten with the elements on the Seder plate like the bitter herbs and charoset.
“Why break Isaac?” Pristoop dared to ask. The answer he received, he laughs, is, like Tevye’s in “Fiddler on the Roof”: “Tradition!”
The first Passover after coming to faith in Messiah Jesus had Pristoop see many mysteries solved; like what do the three matzos represent? He explained, the first piece of Matzo represents the Father – which no man has seen; the second is the Son, broken for us, buried and then resurrected as well as He was ransomed for many (Isaiah 53). The third matzo represents the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
“That is how I came to know…I saw Messiah in so many of the Jewish traditions,” Pristoop said. He fully embraced his heritage and his newly discovered Jewish Messiah.
Pristoop is married to Herta, who was raised in a Catholic convent and converted to Protestantism. In 2009, after retiring as a 27-year career as a police detective, he enrolled in the Feinsberg Center for Messianic Jewish Studies with Talbot Theological Seminary where he completed his master of divinity degree in Messianic Jewish studies. He holds a double ordination, as a Messianic rabbi and as a Baptist pastor.
Pristoop wants other Jewish people to see Jesus through their own traditions. He passionately wants to open the eyes of both Jewish people and Gentiles to the Jewishness of Jesus, to the true and full understanding of Scripture through the Jewish culture, language and feasts. Robert’s congregation celebrates the high holy days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Unlike Jewish temples, his congregation does not charge a fee for people to attend the High Holy Day services.
The Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network has contracted with Pristoop on a part-time basis, to help equip churches to reach out to their Jewish communities.
He and his wife are available to meet with pastors and church leaders, and they are available to host Passover Seders, teach about and demonstrate the Shofar and share about Jewish festivals and the Jewish roots of the Christian faith.
For more information, contact Rabbi Pristoop at [email protected] or visit online at