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One Small Step Tampa Bay: Different Interpretations On Being Jewish

Oct 7, 2019

This week’s story from StoryCorps' One Small Step - Tampa Bay focuses on two Tampa residents – both who identify as Jewish, but with differing ideas on what their faith means to them and how it informs their politics. 

Steve Weiler, 72, is a Messianic Jew and Rabbi at the Shoresh David Messianic Synagogue in South Tampa. He believes Jesus is the promised messiah. And he uses a literal interpretation of the Bible to inform his conservative politics and the way he lives his life.

“For somebody who looks at the Bible and says, 'this is truth, it was truth yesterday, it’s truth today and it will be truth tomorrow,” he said. “From a biblical perspective, about marriage and homosexuality, there are very few gray areas. For me it’s not about what the Jewish people say, it’s about what the Bible says.”

While insurance advisor, Jeff Chernoff, 38, is also Jewish, he sees Judaism more like a smorgasbord where people can pick and choose what fits best for them. “I’m hard-pressed to use the Torah, the Bible or even the Talmud to try and live my life, outside of saying: these are principles,” he said. “Some are going to fit and some of them are not.”

ONE SMALL STEP: WUSF breaks down the boundaries created by politics

Chernoff said he would like to see Florida adopt the federal protections gay and lesbian people have in job security, while Weiler worries these rights could lead to some having more rights than others. 

In spite of some strong disagreements on a number of political topics, both were able to respectfully discuss their differences.

StoryCorps Tampa Bay airs every Monday on WUSF 89.7 at 8:44 a.m. during Morning Edition and at 5:44 p.m. during All Things Considered.