I was born in New York City in the 1960’s to an Israeli man and an American born Jewish woman. Their marriage lasted only two short years. Eventually, my mother left my father and went back to her mother’s house. It was under the care of these two Jewish women that I received much of my traditional Jewish upbringing.
My mother had to find work to support us which meant that much of my time was spent with a dear Jewish immigrant from the old country affectionately known as my grandmother. She spoke fluent Yiddish, and as a result I learned to understand much of the old country language.
My grandmother’s sense of traditionalism burned bright against the gentile background I’d grown accustomed to in earlier years. We kept two sets of silverware: One for milk, and one for meat. We lit annual Yortzit candles in memory of her husband, my grandfather. We also observed special days the Jewish holidays in the Spring and Fall. We were a very typical Jewish home in New York City!
While most of my friends were allowed to play ball on the street almost every October day, however, there were two specific days during that month that I was not to participate. It was not under the threat of violence that I abstained, but rather from a sense of belonging to my people. On the Holy Days of Yom Kippur and Rosh HaShanna we simply did not act as the gentiles did. I was told that Yom Kippur was the day that we were to fast so God would forgive us of our sins. We were not to engage in any normal activities that day – not even turning on a light switch! You can imagine how difficult this must have been to this ten year old, but we were Jewish! And if this is what God wanted us to do…
As I entered my teens, however, I began to ponder the meaning and value of these and other traditional observances. This idea of just fasting one day a year for the forgiveness of my sins raised perplexing questions in my heart and mind. How could I fast just one day a year and the rest of the year do whatever I wished? And then the question of forgiveness began to loom greater and greater as time passed and I progressed into areas of life that I inherently knew were not pleasing to God.
I graduated from High School at the age of sixteen and went on to college, becoming fascinated by a lifestyle that would eventually shape all of my activities during that period the life of wine, women and song. Rock music and my large collection of albums and tapes became a kind of inner haven as the rock musicians seemed to strike chords deep within my soul. I was also lured by the beauty of women in different girlfriends and very sexually explicit pictures – all the time trying to keep things hidden from my parents.
I recall one day noticing a button on a girl’s jacket which stated, “Sin now, pray later.”, the impact of that statement I will never forget, because I thought, “That’s me!” My religious upbringing was still there, buried deep under outer layers of sin. I still feared God, and in retrospect, I believe that by his Holy Spirit the button on that rebellious girl’s jacket was used gently by God to convict me of my sin. I graduated from college in 1985 at the age of 21. In May of 1986, I was up in the late hours of the evening watching television (as was my habit then) when I heard a slight rumbling sound outside. I went to our seventh floor apartment window and stuck my head out, but saw nothing. A few moments later, the strange noise outside occurred again. I went over to the window once more but saw nothing in the sky… I wondered what it was. And then a brief thought crossed my mind.. What if it was the sound of approaching hoofbeats? Then I thought, “This is it! The Christians were right! JESUS IS COMING BACK and it’s tonight!!” For a few seconds, my eyes were riveted to the sky as I waited for the horses to appear through the nighttime clouds and for this Jesus to return as I knew the Christians said he would do one day.
I’d listened to TV evangelists growing up, and obviously something had stuck with me. The Lord obviously did not part the clouds that night, but His Spirit DID begin to penetrate through my clouded heart. I suddenly realized that night how afraid I was of dying (because I knew that was a sinner), and I told God that I would give up things that I knew were wrong. The fear eased, but…..
Forgiveness. How does one really get it? That was my question. Deep down I knew there had to be something more than just one day of fasting a year to secure forgiveness, but what was it? Somehow the TV evangelists had impressed me with the fact that forgiveness and Jesus went together, and that week I was very much passionately driven to understand how it all worked. There was no putting this off any longer. As the girl’s button had said, “Sin now, pray later,” but now I knew for certain that God had not promised me that there would be a ‘later’. I sought out how to be forgiven with all my heart. The synagogue had never spoken clearly of any afterlife and I didn’t want to walk into the foreign territory of a church – I was Jewish! But I remembered an organization I’d heard of named Jews for Jesus! Obviously there are other people who are Jewish and believed in Jesus…
I called their offices and told the missionary on the other end that basically, I wanted to be saved. He offered to meet me downtown. When we met, he answered some of my questions and gave me some good Bible literature to read. One of the pieces included the sinner’s prayer, and I think I prayed it on the train while returning home. I also called “The 700 Club” and prayed with a phone counselor who assured me I was saved and heaven bound.
My behavior changed drastically after that, but needless to say my family was not pleased with me breaking up with my girlfriend, breaking all my rock albums, etc… I was ushered in to see our family Rabbi, a family counselor, and two trained anti-missionaries. But even with all their words throwing me into confusion, God still had His hand on me. One Friday, at a Shabbat Messianic service, I heard a tremendous message by a Jewish believer named J’han Moskowitz. God used that message and the man mightily in my life, and that night all my doubts and fears literally melted away. I knew for a fact that Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah, and I responded during the invitation / rededication.
I began reading all that I could about the Lord and the Bible. The messianic prophecies in the Jewish scriptures (like Isaiah 53, Daniel 9:24-26, etc.) pointed to Yeshua (Jesus) so clearly! Each day I grew closer to Him, and eventually I was asked to leave my family’s apartment. It worked out for the best, however… I was able to move in with another Jewish believer, and began to read the scriptures like never before – without fear of having my Bible confiscated this time (like my mom used to do.)
Since then, the Lord has done marvelous things. A few years ago my mom came to faith herself (weakly, but she is there, I believe. She even saw Yeshua with her while on the way to emergency surgery in the hospital!) I also have a wife (since 1989) who loves the Messiah. God has given us five children who never cease to amaze us and all have accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as their personal Messiah.