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An Orthodox Jew's Unexpected Encounterby Sharon Sommer

I was brought up in a modern Orthodox Jewish family. We went to synagogue every Shabbat and on every major Jewish holiday. My family kept kosher and I had twelve years of yeshiva education. I learned how to read and write Hebrew fluently and I learned many Jewish subjects, including the myriad of laws and customs. I learned that being Jewish was an honor and that I was one of the "Chosen People." We did not associate with people who were not Jewish. It was frowned upon to befriend anyone who wasn't Jewish because that person might want to convert you. It was forbidden to marry someone who wasn't Jewish. If you married out of the religion it was a shameful thing and if you converted it was as if you physically died to your family and community. I lived an isolated life away from the rest of the world. All of this left me with an uneasy feeling.

When I started college and was among people of other cultures, races and religions for the first time, I realized that I was really not so different from them. At age twenty, I married an Orthodox Jewish man. As time went on, I realized that even though I believed in God, I felt very distant from my Creator. Deep down, I knew there was something missing in my life.

Things started to unravel in 2001 during my twelfth year of marriage. My mother-in-law, who was a virtuous woman in my eyes, suffered a very slow, painful death from pancreatic cancer. I couldn't understand why God would allow such a thing. During this year, my husband lost his job and I was pregnant with our third child. Once I gave birth, my husband opened up a business and began to work long hours. Having to handle so much on my own, I succumbed to depression. I couldn't sleep at night. I began seeing a therapist and taking antidepressants. I felt an emptiness and loneliness that nothing could fill. I felt used up, unappreciated and never good enough. I was hitting rock bottom. Then God used an ordinary man to speak truth into my life.

The man who regularly serviced my pool was kind and caring. I didn't understand how someone could be smiling all the time. It annoyed me because it took a lot to make me smile. I asked him what made him so happy and he said that God made him happy. I was bewildered by his answer, but deep down I wanted what he had. As time went on, he noticed the downward spiral in my mood and attitude. I told him that I was depressed and what I was doing to try to remedy myself. I had realized a short time earlier that he was a Christian but I never gave it much thought. He told me that I didn't need therapy or medication—I needed Jesus. I told him that I was Jewish and Jews don't believe in Jesus! He said that he completely believed what he was telling me and he would put his neck on a chopping block for the truth of God.

He asked me to read a book by a well-known Christian author. I decided I would read the book and just not read anything that had to do with Jesus. But once I started reading, it felt as if the author wrote it for me. God used this book to prepare my heart for the next step, which was to start hearing and reading the word of God. My service man read to me from his Bible every time he came to work. When he read to me, I sometimes got very bad headaches. I realized later that the headaches resulted from my mind fighting the new information that I was trying to process.

One day, my service man asked me to read Isaiah 53 to him from the Hebrew Scriptures. This section of the Bible opened my eyes to the possibility of Jesus being the Messiah. I never remembered reading this chapter in the Bible in school. How could I deny that Jesus was the Messiah when it is written in Isaiah 53:4-6:

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

After reading Isaiah 53, I kept thinking, how could Jesus be the Messiah and how could Jesus be God? And the Bible also taught that the Holy Spirit was God. I was 34 and all my life I was taught and believed that there is only one God.

That evening the Lord spoke to me in my mind. He told me to consider that he was like a "whole" pie made up of three parts. God is a whole united "one" made up of three separate parts: God the Father, God the son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit, which make a complete one. That night I acknowledged that Jesus was my Messiah.

My depression lifted as I continued to seek God, and I felt a new freedom in my heart and mind. As I continued to read my Bible, I got a strong desire to be around other believers in Jesus. I called up my friend the service man and told him that I needed to go to church. I was scared, since other Jewish people had always told me that we are not allowed to go to church. But I went to my friend's church with him that day, and I began to attend regularly.

The next difficult thing I did was tell my husband that I believed Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. It was hard for my husband to understand. I told him that I needed to go to church. He said he wouldn't stand in my way but that he wasn't happy about it. I was scared that my husband might want to divorce me. But even though my husband did not understand my passion for God, he supported me.

The next hurdle was to tell my mother that I was a Christian. When I first told her, it rendered her speechless. She was unable to process it, and she excused herself from the conversation. But once it sank in, my mother waged a war against me. She told me that I must not be her daughter because her daughter would never betray her and the Jewish people this way. She even suggested that I must have been switched at birth with her real daughter! She contacted every rabbi she could think of to intervene, but only one tried to help her by phoning my husband. This rabbi told my husband to divorce me and take my children. Since my husband loved me, he did not listen to the rabbi. Even though I have a relationship with my mom, she still will not accept the choice I have made to follow Jesus.

The next three years were rough, but I asked God to help my family and me. Then, in 2006, my husband asked Jesus into his life. Our two younger children have come to trust in the Lord too, and my older daughter has drawn closer to God. Now, after all that God has seen me through, I tell people, "Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).

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Remembering Ida

My great-grandfatther's name was Louis Reiner, but we always called him Zayde Leib. He was a tall, handsome man who had served as a soldier in Europe, but spent most of his life as a cobbler—a maker and designer of boots. His marriage to Becky Mendelovich, daughter of the learned Rabbi Mendelovich, was prearranged. Leib never saw his bride until they were exchanging vows under the canopy. He was delighted to find that a beautiful woman with lively dark eyes and dark brown hair stood waiting behind the wedding veil.


Bobbe Ida Brown on left. Sister Mary on right. Early 1920's

Zayde Leib arrived in America in 1917…alone. He emigrated first to Iowa City but quickly moved on to Chicago, Illinois. Zayde worked hard, and for seven years sent all the earnings he could afford to his family in Europe. Finally, the day came; there was just enough money, the papers were all in order, and Becky set sail for America with the seven children: Anna, Phillip, Hymie, Rifka, Mary, Helen and Ida.

Ida, (or, as we now refer to her, Bobbe Ida) was the second oldest. She had inherited her mother's lovely dark features and her father's proud disposition and sense of humor. Bobbe Ida could speak Russian, Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish. She soon added English to her list of languages, and though she spoke it the most often of all, she never did lose her Yiddish accent.

The Reiner family attended synagogue regularly and clung to their Jewish identity while also enjoying their new identity as Americans. Bobbe Ida worked as a seamstress to help pay the family bills, and was even able to set aside some of the earnings for herself. Whenever she had saved up enough, Ida would spend her money on beautiful clothes, making certain to keep current with the styles of the day. She looked forward to Saturday night dances on the roof-top garden of the Jewish Peoples' Institute for it was the place to go and be seen.

In 1928 Ida married Sam Brown, a fellow immigrant to Chicago from Europe. He was a strong, handsome man with blue eyes and a warm smile. His father was a rabbi in Europe and Sam continued to be observant himself. The two of them lived with Zayde Leib and Becky for the first few years of their marriage—not an uncommon practice for married children in those days. Soon their first child, (my mother) Anne, came along. Ten years later my aunt Beverly was born. Their home was full of love and they kept in close contact with the rest of the family, whom they visited on a regular basis.

My grandparents kept a kosher home, as their parents had taught them to do. They considered this a privilege, since we had relatives in Europe who were not so fortunate. Those who had stayed behind were persecuted and, during the holocaust, many were killed for being Jews. Ida and Sam cherished the freedom to practice Judaism and to observe the Jewish holidays.

When my mother was 12 years old, my grandfather died of a sudden heart attack. He was so young—only forty-one—that his death came as a totally and terribly unexpected shock. Bobbe Ida slowly emerged from her grief and despair with the help of loving family and friends. She struggled to earn a living for herself and her two daughters. Despite their tragic loss, Ida managed to keep her home and her family on an even keel.

In 1955 Bobbe Ida was run down by a bus and one of her legs was crushed. The doctors told her she might never walk again, but my Bobbe Ida had the grit and determination to pull through. It took several operations and skin grafts, but she was finally able to walk and eventually she returned to work.

Ida saved what money she could—and then spent most of it to give big, beautiful affairs for both of her daughters' weddings. Although she never remarried, she took pride in her seven grandchildren…and six great-grandchildren. We always came to Bobbe Ida's house for the holidays and spent time with her regularly. She was a perfect hostess and a terrific cook. Her homemade gefilte fish and fresh horseradish couldn't be beat!

The years without Grandpa were awfully lonely for Bobbe Ida, especially once her daughters were grown and Bobbe found herself aging. She would sigh and tell us how bitter a widow's life is. As she prayed that God would help her, I began to see that Bobbe Ida was searching for meaning in her life.

I had come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah in August of 1975 and wanted my Bobbe to find the same meaning and peace with God that I had found. I asked a staff member from Jews for Jesus to come with me, and together we sat down with Bobbe Ida and showed her passages in the Bible concerning Messiah. She was familiar with Old Testament religious doctrine concerning the Messiah and said she had always believed that the Bible is the inspired word of God. She had never given a thought to the idea that Jesus might be the Messiah until we presented the possibility to her. We explained our belief that God became a man in order to show how much he loved and cared about us. God himself became the atonement for our sin so we can be forgiven and have eternal life.

We showed her the Bible prophecies which relate to the Messiah, such as Psalm 2 and 22, Isaiah 53 and 7:14 and Micah 5:2. God seemed to open Bobbe Ida's heart to him that night, because she prayed to receive Jesus into her life as Messiah and personal Savior.

As we three prayed together Bobbe Ida cried tears of joy—tears which washed away the bitterness which had built up over the years. It was a wonderful moment for all of us. After that, my sister Sharon (also a Jewish believer in Jesus) and I had the joy of explaining our faith and strengthening our grandmother in hers. After everything our Bobbe Ida had done for us, we were finally able to do something for her, thanks to God and his great love and mercy.

My grandmother Ida died in December of 1985 at age 83. I miss my grandmother very much—I miss spending time with her. Yet it comforts me to know that we will be together again, in heaven. In the meantime, I will content myself with remembering Bobbe Ida.

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One Way Out

Mike OppenheimerI was brought up in a Jewish home, observed Shabbat faithfully and celebrated the High Holy days at the temple and with family. I attended Hebrew school twice a week and was bar mitzvah and confirmed. While attending classes I asked a lot of questions about God that the rabbi could not answer. Though I continued each year, mainly to please my parents, I became less interested in traditional religion. Feeling hindered in my spiritual development, I leaped headfirst into my own brand of freestyle spirituality after high school graduation.

 

By reading and attending lectures, I got involved in the New Age movement, became a vegetarian and for fifteen years practiced yoga and meditation. I used psychedelic drugs as part of my religious observances and smoked pot as part of my lifestyle. I experimented with various religions and the occult. I felt they each contained some part of the truth of the one "true" religion.

I studied the Ancient Masters, learning about Buddhism and Zen. I had a number of spiritual experiences which at the time I was sure were from God and leading me to a greater knowledge of myself and him. I discovered and believed in the Ascended Masters that were guiding our world into a greater evolutionary path. I was involved with UFOs and channeled messages. I was sure I was on the right spiritual path because of the various signs; things just fell into place. At the same time I also read the Bible (even the New Testament), not denying my Jewish roots.

I had also started to surf before beginning my spiritual pilgrimage. I fell in love with the sport and began traveling, surfing and entering contests. Surfing became my livelihood after I learned to shape surfboards. I became the New York champion and the eastern surfing champion. Hawaii proved to be an irresistible attraction due to its fantastic surf. I moved permanently to Hawaii with my girlfriend, Kathy, in the mid 1970s.

This gave me more freedom to pursue both surfing and my freelance spirituality. We thought we were becoming enlightened, reading about the Ascended Masters and "learning" about Earth's past history on Lemuria and Atlantis. We wanted to become servants of the New Age movement, convinced that if we all united we could usher in an age of spiritual cooperation and enlightenment. After nine years Kathy and I started to pursue our spiritual hunger more seriously and became involved in the "I AM" movement (the Saint Germain Foundation). We called on angels and powers unknown to us and tried to eradicate past life karma. Kathy practiced affirmations and mantras, studied herbology, polarity therapy and kinesiology, and learned about the supposed spiritual energies of the body.<

Then one week we had two friends over who had recently become Christians. One was a surfer who I knew from New York. We talked about end-time events for hours. I had been reading the Bible for years and was especially fascinated about the end of the age. My friends invited us to a Christian seminar on the New Age movement. During that same week I heard an audible voice say, "I am the Lord your God. You shall not want." From my Jewish upbringing, I recognized "shall not want" from Psalm 23. I had never experienced anything like it. Inside I knew this was the God I was searching for.

I attended the seminar on Bible prophecy and the New Age Movement while Kathy stayed home doing her New Age affirmations. The information I heard at the conference seemed incredible. The speakers knew all about the occult techniques Kathy and I were practicing and about the New Age Movement's master plans.

Though I was reading the Bible all these years, I was blinded by the viewpoints ingrained from the New Age influences. I was challenged by one of the speakers on my occult practices. He was aware of the "I AM" movement. He asked me, "If you're God, did you create the universe?" I had never thought this through. How could I become God through all these New Age techniques, when God is always all knowing and all powerful?

I could relate to what another of the speakers had experienced, especially in regards to the Ascended Master "Jesus." She spoke about another Jesus—the true Jesus of the Bible, which came as a total shock. I never thought there could be false Jesuses parading around as the real one. They were only Jesus by name but not the One who is God come in the flesh. It all made sense. When she prayed, my heart was pierced, and I knew I had heard the truth. But what would I do about it?

All the way home I wrestled with the realization that I had wasted the past fifteen years believing and doing the wrong things. I asked my friends who took me to the meeting numerous questions. Being new Christians, they could answer only a few. They just kept saying, "We know the Bible is God's Word and Jesus is the truth."

Kathy was waiting up for me when I got home. It was late and she was scared that I would come home a Jesus freak! As I came in, a peace came in the house and on her. I shared with her what the Scriptures say about the last days and how it isn't anything like what we were being taught in the New Age movement. Kathy suddenly realized that not only were we following the wrong Jesus, we were worshiping Satan, and that he is a real being. We got down on our knees and prayed to the true living God to forgive us for the occult beliefs we had been deceived into practicing.

The next morning we both went to a church, and the pastor said that he felt led to change the sermon. He spoke on sin, Satan and Jesus; we thought our friends had tipped him off! After the message, we dedicated our lives to God. That was in 1986. Five weeks later, Kathy and I were married and today have a 21-year-old son, Micah.

Immediately, I began to study the Bible in order to answer those who ask why we believe in Jesus. Since 1988 I have continued teaching on the cults and the occult, specifically the New Age world view. All through my searching I held on to my Jewish roots, and now, through Y'shua (Jesus), the Jewish Messiah, those roots have grown even stronger.


Mike Oppenheimer has hosted a TV program as well as a live call-in radio show, "Let Us Reason," on a local station in Hawaii. In 1994 he founded Let Us Reason Ministries as an up-to-date resource center to help equip believers in Jesus with both biblical and logical answers for their faith. You can visit the website at www.letusreason.org.

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In Their Own Words: Messianic Jewish Holocaust Survivors

Vera Schlamm

One of the questions I was asked frequently when I first came to this country is: Was it really as bad in the camps as they say in the news?" Now the question is: "Was it as bad as was shown in films such as 'The Hiding Place' or 'The Holocaust'?" My answer is "Yes, except it was worse because there is no way you can show these things on T.V. or in a movie theater, and certainly no way that you can exaggerate what happened." The fact that the question is still being asked shows that we sometimes just don't want to believe the truth, and look for a way out.

When I came to believe that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and committed my life to him, I was amazed at the questions and misunderstandings that it created. One of the main Scripture passages that spoke to me was Isaiah 53. The little I had heard about Jesus made me see very plainly that this passage is talking about him. But when I try to explain why I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, people don't want me to use the Bible.

It surprises me because, after all, that is what Judaism is based on. When I studied medicine, I had to learn what the medical books were saying, not what writers in popular magazines came up with. The same is true for my faith. One reason that I started to read the Scriptures was that I wanted to know what God had to say, not what people were saying, because I found that even in Judaism as it is practiced today, there is a great variety of interpretation and observance.

Like most Jewish people, I used to think that Christianity was a gentile religion and had nothing to do with me. But the day that I committed my life to Jesus as the Messiah, I realized that I hadn't "changed," but rather grown in my own faith.

From "An Interview with Dr. Vera Schlamm," September 1, 1985, ISSUES: A Messianic Jewish Perspective, volume 4, no. 3.

Rose Price

In early 1945, the allies were destroying the Nazi war machine faster than it could be rebuilt. There were no more ammunition factories to work in and no more beets to pull up, so [my sister] Sarah and I felt useless. We weren't needed or wanted at Bergen-Belsen anymore, so once again we were put on a train that took us deeper into Germany and stopped at Dachau.

As Sarah and I were trying to settle on the top bunk, I noticed that she seemed weaker than usual and her face looked flush. Then I saw a rash on her arms and hands. Sarah had contracted typhoid fever. Thousands had died from an epidemic of the dreaded disease, yet it was vitally important for Sarah to look as healthy as possible. The guards were on fierce lookout for anyone who had the fever, so when they came to inspect the barracks, I put my threadbare blanket over Sarah and laid on top of her. She was safe for the time being, but her fever continued to worsen. Her skin felt like a flame to the touch. "She needs medicine, probably aspirin," said a woman in our barracks.

I could not let my Sarah die. That night, I waited until everyone was asleep and made my way in the dark to the infirmary. The fear that my sister would leave me overcame my fear of being caught. Still, my heart pounded in my ears. When I finally reached the infirmary, I discovered to my amazement that it wasn't locked. I took a deep breath and tiptoed inside. I expected at least the cabinets to be locked, but to my surprise, they too were open.

I grabbed as many bottles of pills as I could carry. I couldn't read the labels in German, so I raced back to the barracks and woke the woman who said Sarah needed aspirin. We pried open Sarah's mouth and forced her to swallow some tablets every few hours. Over the next few days her fever dropped, and she began to eat on her own again. Without my sister, I knew I wouldn't survive, so I silently thanked God for sparing her, both for her sake and for mine.

From A Rose from the Ashes by Rose Price (San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate Productions, 2006). Available at http://store.jewsforjesus.org

Eliezer Urbach

At the outbreak of the Second World War, I was seventeen years old. Life was pretty good. And then on September 1, 1939, the Nazis entered our hometown and I ran away with five Polish friends. We went way east, first by train and walking. Then the Nazi armies caught us, caught all the refugees, and told everybody, "Go back home." So I came home after four or five weeks and found that the Nazis had taken over all the Jewish stores.

From sixteen to sixty, all Jewish men were kicked out, told to leave, taken to [the train] and brought to the Russian border. Then they opened the railroad cars and started shooting. So the Jews started running. I had a Jewish friend who brought my brother to me. And we were together until the summer of 1940, when the Russians exiled us to Siberia.

My brother and I tried to escape from Russia into Afghanistan. We were apprehended on the Afghan border. We were given two years of a prison term. My brother died after a year. I survived after 22 months of Soviet and Russian prison.

My uncles invited me to Brazil and I worked in a factory. A younger man who worked in the factory invited me to his church. That first night I watched a movie that moved my heart. I professed to believe that Jesus is my savior. It was May 15, 1955. He dated the Bible he gave me in Portuguese. In my house you will not see crosses, but you will see mezuzot on all doors. Everybody sees that it's a Jewish home. But Jesus is our Messiah.

From Survivor Stories: Finding Hope from an Unlikely Source, DVD, 60 min. (San Francisco: Purple Pomegranate Productions, 2004). Available at www.store.jewsforjesus.org

A Chronological Look at How Jesus Spent his Last Week Leading up to Passover

Saturday and Sunday

Jesus drew near to Jerusalem,1 arriving at Bethany six days before Passover,2 on Saturday. Jesus was anointed at Simon the leper's house.3 On Sunday, a great crowd came to Bethany to see Jesus.4

Monday

The next day5 Jesus entered Jerusalem,6 visited the temple7 and returned to Bethany. It was Nisan 10, when the Passover lambs were selected. Likewise, the entry into Jerusalem was the day when Jesus presented himself as Israel's Paschal Lamb.

Tuesday

On the way from Bethany to Jerusalem, Jesus cursed the fig tree,8 and in Jerusalem he challenged the temple practice of selling on the premises.9 Some religious leaders began to plot ways to kill him. That evening Jesus left Jerusalem, presumably returning to Bethany.10

Wednesday

On the way to Jerusalem, the disciples saw the withered fig tree.11 At the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus' authority and wisdom was questioned by some religious leaders.12 That afternoon Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and delivered his discourse to those assembled.13 Two additional things occurred on that day: (1) Jesus predicted that in two days he would be crucified at the time of the Passover;14 and (2) Judas planned the betrayal of Jesus with some religious leaders.15

Thursday

Jesus and his disciples prepared the Passover lamb,16 and they had their seder meal together.17 Jesus shared heartfelt words with his disciples and offered an intercessory prayer in their behalf.18 They arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus suffered in agony awaiting what was to come.19 Later that night Jesus was betrayed and arrested.20 He was tried first by Annas and later by Caiaphas and other religious leaders.21

Friday

Early in the morning, Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod Antipas, and Pilate again.22 He was led to the cross and crucified at 9 a.m. and died at 3 p.m. and was buried later that day.23 Jesus died at the time when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed.

Saturday

Jesus' body was in the tomb during the Sabbath, and the Pharisees hired Roman guards to keep watch of the tomb.24

Sunday

Christ was resurrected from the dead.25 His was the first of many resurrections to come, in which it was a type of first fruits offering. (First fruit offerings were made on the day after the Sabbath.)26

End Notes

  1. John 11:55
  2. John 12:1
  3. Matthew 26:6–13; Mark 14:3–9; John 12:1–8
  4. John 12:9–11
  5. John 12:12
  6. Matthew 21:1–9; Mark 11:1–10; Luke 19:28–40; John 12:12–19
  7. Matthew 21:10–11; Mark 11:11
  8. Matthew 21:18–19; Mark 11:12–14
  9. Matthew 21:12–13; Mark 11:15–17; Luke 19:45–46
  10. Mark 11:18–19; Luke 19:47–48
  11. Matthew 21:20–22; Mark 11:20–26
  12. Matthew 21:23–23:39; Mark 11:27–12:44; Luke 20:1–21:4
  13. Matthew 24:1–25:46; Mark 13:1–27; Luke 21:5–36
  14. Matthew 26:1–5; Mark 14:1–2; Luke 22:1–2
  15. Matthew 26:14–16; Mark 14:10–11; Luke 22:3–6
  16. Matthew 26:17–19; Mark 14:12–16; Luke 22:7–13
  17. Matthew 26:20–30; Mark 14:17–26; Luke 22:14–30
  18. Matthew 26:30–35; Mark 14:26–31; Luke 22:31–39; John 15:1–18:1
  19. Matthew 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42; Luke 22:39–46; John 18:1
  20. Matthew 26:46–56; Mark 14:43–52; Luke 22:47–53; John 18:2–12
  21. Matthew 26:57–75; Mark 14:53–72; Luke 22:54–65; John 18:13–27
  22. Matthew 27:1–30; Mark 15:1–19; Luke 22:66–23:25; John 18:28–19:16
  23. Matthew 27:31–60; Mark 15:20–46; Luke 23:26–54; John 19:16–42
  24. Matthew 27:61–66; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55–56
  25. Matthew 28:1–15; Mark 16:1–13; Luke 24:1–35
  26. Leviticus 23:9–14; 1 Corinthians 15:23

Adapted from Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ by Harold W. Hoehner. Copyright 1977 by The Zondervan Corporation; 1973, 1974 by Dallas Theological Seminary. Used by permission of The Zondervan Corporation.

What's a Jewish Atheist to Do?

A young, Jewish atheist discovers God through the New Testament.

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Not Even A Minyon

When I was six years old, my world changed. If I had remained in the city of my birth, Buffalo, New York, my neighbors, my friends, my surroundings, my culture, most associations would have been Jewish in the way that my parents' and their parents' associations were Jewish. But when I was six, my family moved South (of Buffalo, anyway) to a town called East Aurora. This was a town where the Jewish population numbered six: my father, my mother, my two sisters, my brother and myself, with my grandfather making seven during the spring and summer months. It was there that I grew up—in a friendly, educated, upper-middle class, but non-Jewish environment. I was a part of this community, yet in a way separate. Being Jewish made me different.

Our town had no synagogue, and my parents weren't particularly religious" Jews, so I wasn't brought up in a traditionally Jewish way. I lived in a world of gentile friends, gentile culture, Santa Claus, Christmas carols and Christmas trees, Easter bunnies and colored egg-filled baskets, and churches to which much of the community went on Sunday.

But I was also influenced by a culture and heritage not shared by my peers. These things were shared by my family…The trips into Buffalo to spend time with relatives and participate in events of Jewish life, such as going to Temple services on holidays, lighting Hannukah candles, going to Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, eating special foods, listening to stories on Jewish life told by my grandfather, and general association with my people.

"I was part of this community, yet in a way seperate. Being Jewish made me different."

The special times affirmed to me that I was different because I was Jewish and that being Jewish meant there were certain things in my day-to-day life which were "not for us." After all, could my parents, my grandfather, and all my relatives have taught me wrong? And the most obvious "not for us" was Jesus. My Jewish world said Jesus was a good teacher and nothing more; my gentile world was fairly quiet on the subject.

But who was this Jesus? "Never mind," I was told. "He's for 'them,' not 'us.' " I accepted this answer and decided that as a Jew, I didn't need Jesus.

Years later in college, into my life came a girl who was different from other gentiles I had known while growing up. This Jesus was important to her and her friends. He made a difference in their lives. She talked a lot about Him—telling me that He was the one of whom the Jewish prophets spoke, the one who was born to die for the iniquities of the people, the one who was resurrected, offering eternal life to those who believe in Him…

She told me about this Jesus, this one who wasn't allowed to be a part of my Jewish world. No, my life had no room for Him. After all, if He was who she said He was, why had my parents, my grandfather, my relatives told me otherwise? Yet I was faced with the words of Jesus, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6.)

"My Jewish world said Jesus was a good teacher and nothing more…"

Could it be true? Could I even consider the possibility that he was the Messiah? I felt guilty for even considering that this might be true. What would they say if they thought I was nibbling at the the forbidden fruit? Would I be betraying my family and heritage if I believed in Jesus? Even so, part of me wanted to know the truth, even if it meant that the truth was Jesus.

So I prayed. I asked God if Jesus were indeed His Son and my Messiah. I told my Father in Heaven that I knew He would want me to believe in Jesus if all that I had read, all that I had been told about Jesus were true. I asked God to reveal the truth to me and help me understand. While the answer God gave me was not a convenient one for me, I knew it was true. And He has helped me to understand. Jesus did fulfill our Jewish scriptures. The guilt I felt for considering a belief that my family and culture dictated was "not for me" was no longer an issue. I found that I wasn't betraying my heritage; I wasn't "going over to the other side" after all. Jesus is for us; He is on our side, and I now believe in the greatest Jew who ever lived! And how can any Jew feel guilty for believing what the Jewish prophets fortold?

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me he who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." Micah 5:1.(5:2 in Jewish Scriptures.)

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31.)

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Passing It On

My name is David Lovi. I was born in 1980 and I grew up in a mixed home. My father is a non-practicing Jew and my mother was Catholic. We sometimes went to a cousin's house to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, and my mother would take me to a Catholic church for Christmas Eve. I remember as a kid in kindergarten someone asked what religion I was and I said both," thinking there were only two in the world.In high school, I began reading books on Taoism, Buddhism and even Islam, all of which were very confusing and did not satisfy my hunger for something real to grasp on to. All the while I was sinking lower and lower into all kinds of drugs and sex.

When I got to college, I was so entrenched in my sinful lifestyle that I felt as though I was drowning. I wasn't sure if Truth even existed. Then one day in August of 1999, as I was sitting on the floor outside the Harper College library reading a book, a Korean man named Dr. Paul Koh approached me. He said, in a heavy accent, "Excuse me, would you like to come to Bible study?"

I was stunned for a moment, and then much to my surprise I heard myself tell this stranger, "Why not, when are you gonna have it? I might as well keep an open mind." He offered to meet me at the library that very night and I agreed! After he walked away I wondered what I had gotten myself into. So I brought three or four other guys with me! That night, Dr. Koh opened up his Bible to Genesis 1. For the first time in my life I read the verse, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." There was power behind that verse and I wanted to learn more. I started to see how the Bible was different from all the other books I'd been reading!

Dr. Koh was an amazing man of God. He was an endocrinologist who felt impressed by God to reach out to college students in the United States. So he left Korea and began to do just that. He was a highly intelligent person and though our meeting seemed random, it was obvious that he cared about me.

I continued to study every week with Dr. Koh, usually one on one. My eyes were opened and I finally saw that the Bible had the very thing my soul was longing for—Jesus! However, receiving Jesus as my Lord and Savior did not happen instantaneously. It took two years of meticulous study before I surrendered my life to Him—but when I did, I was drastically and forever changed. The old David was dead, and the new David was born again!

I began leading group Bible studies and I developed a burning heart for lost people. I really wanted to do more to reach out and shine the love of Jesus to the world—as Dr. Koh had done with me.

Some years later, I was taking a course on "Religions of the World" and I had to do a project on Judaism. I'd planned to interview a rabbi, but none would talk to me. So I thought, who better to call about Jewish questions than Jews for Jesus! Through a series of phone calls and e-mails I not only got the information for my class but I got hooked up with a missionary from Jews for Jesus named Micha Cohen. Micha invited me to Passover dinner at his home. While we were sitting around the table, I told Micha how the Lord had been prompting me to tell others the gospel. He understood perfectly my desire to share the love and grace that I'd experienced with others. And so we started our Thursday tradition of hitting the streets (Devon Avenue in particular) almost every week to reach out and offer people the life-saving gospel of Jesus.

Devon Avenue is very diverse. West of California Avenue is almost all Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, and east of California is dominated by Muslims and Hindus, kind of like the Middle East today! Micha and I hand out broadside tracts, and try to engage in as many meaningful conversations about God as we can. We usually have at least two or three great conversations about Jesus every time we go out. I leave feeling amazingly uplifted. It's true that while sharing the gospel on the cold street we are often rejected, laughed at, or yelled at, but it is worth it! We are planting seeds and sometimes we even get to watch them grow!

Just the other day, I saw a Hindu businessman named Sri, whom I had met a few weeks ago. I had given him the Jesus movie in his native language and he told me that he has since watched the DVD twice! He was too busy to continue our conversation but he wants to meet and talk about Jesus again.

Obviously street ministry is not the only way to share the gospel. Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation" (Mark 16:15). "All" means from college campuses, to Devon, to our families and even to foreign nations. We must develop a passion in our hearts for the souls of men. Preaching the good news is more than a request; it is a command! Jesus tells us to GO!

How are we to experience a great move of the Holy Spirit like the disciples did unless we do what they did? They preached the gospel in season and out of season and so should we (2 Timothy 4:2).

I have heard people say, "But I am just not that outgoing," or "I don't have the gift of evangelism." I would bet a dollar to a doughnut, that if these believers had just one glimpse of the eternity that awaits unsaved people, they would very quickly become outgoing evangelists.

I think about what a missionary named C.T. Studd once said, "Some wish to live within the sound of church or chapel bell, I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell."

I shudder to think where I would be right now if Dr. Koh had not reached out to me in obedience and shared the love of Jesus with me in that college hall. The love and grace of God compels me to "pass it on" and serve others in the same way. To people who want to get involved but don't know where to begin, I quote Acts 16:9, "During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.'" Micha and I are like that man. Anyone in the Chicago area is welcome to join us in serving the Lord through our evangelistic efforts. If you are not in this area I encourage you to pray and step out in faith on the streets. For those who can't get out on the streets, please pray for us.

Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field"(Matthew 9:37-38).

In conclusion, I pray that many will listen to the call of the Lord and serve in His harvest field. May we all echo Isaiah 6:8 and say to the Lord, "Here am I. Send me!"


26-year-old David Lovi has an Associate Degree from Harper College in Palatine and is working to complete his BA in liberal arts from Indiana University. He works part-time as a handyman (thus shattering the stereotype that Jewish men don't know how to fix things). He hopes, after his graduation, to enroll in seminary where he will pursue an M.Div., with the view of becoming a full-time preacher or pastor.

Articles tagged

He's Not Clowning Around

Henry Morse takes the Word of God very seriously. Yet while the Great Benafuchi thinks of himself as an evangelist, through his circus ministry he acts and looks like a clown. Henry believes that the use of humor is important in getting across the Good News: "When people are laughing, at least we know they're listening."

The Great Benafuchi promotes himself as one who uses "juggling, unicycling, acrobatics, rope walking, magic, music, comedy, false advertisement and more." His humor is not lost on the audience, nor is it pointless. It's not humor merely for the sake of a good laugh; it is humor for the sake of a goal: "to increase the work of the kingdom till He (Y'shua) comes, and take back spiritual strongholds through the knowledge of the Word."

The energetic Henry came to know Y'shua as his Messiah the year he turned 18. He grew up in a "pseudo-orthodox home." He and his brother were more religious than their parents. Henry even thought seriously about pursuing a career as a cantor. However, his parents' lack of observance of a Jewish lifestyle caused him to fall away from Judaism. Perhaps though, a more subtle reason is that he felt a need for more than just a religion. Today he can tell you that it isn't the religion, it's the relationship he has with the Living Creator that he values most.

When Henry was nine years old he told his mother that he wanted to be an acrobat like the ones he saw on the Ed Sullivan show. He worked very hard at gymnastics and finished high school with the state gymnastics title in both his junior and senior years. Henry admits that he "was slightly obsessed" with gymnastics, working out five hours a day, six days a week.

Henry's single-mindedness is one of his most valuable assets in his work, personality and ministry. He is foremost an evangelist. He has defined his entire sense of self as someone whose goal and task in life is to be a catalyst for real and creative communication of God's word. While he excels in the circus arts, this is not the excellence that is most important to him. Henry is seeking to be God's man in a world that finds faith superfluous.

Henry's talent is a means to that end. We are part of a culture that views boredom as a most serious malady. Henry has taken this as a challenge and has created a context for the gospel message, which is never boring. He has learned to communicate God's love for a sinful world through juggling, unicyling, acrobatics, rope walking, magic, music and comedy.

He wants his brothers and sisters in Messiah to get back to the basics, to preach the Word to a lost and dying world and to win the lost. When we do that we are fulfilling our destiny as the "Chosen People" of God.

Do you want to see a Winking Bedouin Production of "The Great Benafuchi & The Full Contact Comedy Show"? Perhaps you would like to write Henry to find out how you can obtain information about his next project, the production of two Christian comedy tapes.

He can be reached at:
Winking Bedouin Productions
Henry M. Morse
202B Whitman Street
East Bridgewater, MA 02333

Articles tagged

Zinaida Abramovna: A Daughter of Abraham

I was born in 1932 in Belarus. My parents were religious; they knew God. My father was a rabbi and was sent to prison for five years for conducting circumcision rituals. My father always took me to the synagogue, but I did not understand anything there. I only understood Yiddish. My father always prayed before meals, "Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu," then he dipped bread into salt and then we could eat.

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