Hi Luke! I am an Orthodox convert. I was never involved with Jesus and Christianity. It’s only after converting that I started appreciating what he had to say to the Jews of his time. Based on what I read in Luke 1:68-75, i cannot believe tha he was Messiah (even less the third person of the trinity) but I cannot deny the fact that I do identify with his Halacah and Hashkafa. One example: he was inviting people to practice Hitbodedut (unstructured personal prayer) 2000 years ago, ages before Rabbi Nachman did! Anyways, the point is that I began to feel uncomfortable in a traditional, narrow minded Orthodox setting knowing too well that this stand of mine – for lack of education on this subject – would be totally misunderstood as sort of messianic. I can assure you that this is not the case. It seems you know Jewish Los Angeles pretty well. Is there a shul (I would not consider a reform or conservative or reconstructionist one) where I could fit?
Luke: "What do you think jesus contributed? What insights?"1) For sure he gave us a great kitzur of prophetic thought, accompanied by a practical demonstration of how to apply it in real life.2) At a time when people still pretended that in the Temple the sacrificial meat never became putrid or that the wind did not disperse the vertical column of smoke from the altar, he had the courage (despite this wasn’t going to help sociologically) to expose what was actually going on (see Baba Basra about Herod) and try to do something about it.In others words, I think he taught us that – sometimes – you’ve got to go for it.
I don’t know any Orthodox shuls that will embrace a Jesus-friendly approach to introspection and Jewish law, but if I find one, I’ll let you know!