I was newly married, and I had just gone to my girlfriend’s wedding and come back. It was late at night. I just went into this room that had a window in it—it was a pantry—and looked out, and here was this huge star in the sky. All of a sudden, I realized that I believed that the Christmas story was true. The fact that I believed that it was true meant that I really needed to investigate further about who Jesus was. As a child—I was maybe under five or six years old—I would pray to God, and I never thought that God loved me. It was never said to me that he loved me or didn’t love me. But I felt I could ask him for anything because he was God. So, I would ask for things, and then I stopped praying because it didn’t mean anything to me. That is, I stopped praying in a personal way, but I would recite the Hebrew prayers. But there was nothing spiritual in that. It was just an exercise in what I was supposed to do as a Jewish person.
My parents expected that I would do everything according to the Jewish laws that they kept, and I, as I got older, wondered why it was okay for various Jewish people to keep various parts of our rules and regulations, why some did and some didn’t. It was very confusing. I began to sort of rebel; I began to eat non-kosher food when I was away from home and things like that. And I found out that I didn’t even get a stomachache! So I thought, “Well you know, maybe God doesn’t care. Or maybe there isn’t even a God.”
By the time I got to high school, I had joined chorus because I was very much into music at the time. I sang the carols—I would always sing them, even when I was younger, without feeling really guilty about it, except that I would not sing about Jesus being my Lord or my Savior, because I knew that I was Jewish and I wasn’t supposed to believe in Him. But I never really felt bad about saying the word “Jesus” or anything—just so it didn’t have “Lord” connected with it because then I would feel like I was doing something against my religion.
What had started me thinking about Jesus was the fact that I was singing all these Christmas carols. I began to think about the words. The carol that really became sort of pivotal in my beginning to think a little bit about who he was, was when I sang “O Come Emmanuel” during the high school program. I lived in a very Jewish neighborhood, but the few people who were not Jewish were either Irish or Italian Catholic. I would see a picture of a crucifix. I always felt very bad for Jesus on the cross. I felt like I was sharing in His shame if I looked at Him.
Well, I realized then that I now had my own home. I was free to make my own decisions. I was free to explore what I really felt and what I really believed. We were expecting our first child, and I knew that I wanted to impart some kind of spirituality to the child. But first I had to find out what that was for myself. I had started out by just wanting to read about who Jesus was. The only way I could do this, I knew, was by reading the New Testament, which I had never read. I went right to the Gospel of Matthew. I opened it up, and it started to give the genealogy, and I said, “They’re talking about Jesus being Jewish. All of these forefathers of his, they were all Jews. Why don’t our Jewish people believe that?”
I prayed that God would show me—was I supposed to go back to the Judaism that I had spurned and be very religious, very Orthodox, light the candles and say all the prayers and do all the things that a good Jew, I thought, was supposed to do? Or was there something about Jesus that I needed to know? Was there another way? But I needed to know the truth, so then I asked God to show me the truth. After that was that moment of looking out of the pantry window and seeing that star, which kind of helped things to formulate more in my mind—I really did believe and I needed to know more.