I was born in Israel on the holiest of Jewish festivals, Yom Kippur,” the Day of Atonement. I believe God has had His hand on me ever since, to show His grace and wonderful mercy. I grew up in a secular home where we followed all the traditions and kept the holidays, but these observances had little meaning to me. We rarely went to synagogue. My parents taught me that the Bible was full of fairy tales and that men created God, not vice versa. Even so, something prevented me from believing that. I knew that God was real and the Bible was true, but I did not know much more than that.
I learned much about my Jewishness while preparing for my bar mitzvah. I even considered attending synagogue regularly; however, I felt there was something missing. I knew we were supposed to be waiting for the Messiah, but it seemed futile. After my bar mitzvah, I attended synagogue just as rarely as before, and soon lost interest in serving God.
When I was 15, our family moved from Israel to New York. After graduating high school there, I enrolled in Stony Brook University, where I majored in math and also tutored the subject. One day a student named Dinah came to me with a math question. After I finished helping her, she commented on my accent. I explained that I was Israeli and she enthusiastically replied, “I am Jewish, too!” She introduced herself and we began talking.
At some point in the conversation, she told me that she believed in Yeshua. I had never heard that name before, so I asked who she was talking about. She told me that Yeshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus. As soon as I heard that, it made perfect sense to me. Yeshua in Hebrew means “salvation.” Now if Jesus is salvation, I reasoned, it may be that He is the Messiah and I would not have to wait anymore.
Dinah and I made plans to meet the following Monday for lunch. Over lunch, she showed me Old Testament passages that pointed to Jesus. By that afternoon, it was clear to me that Jesus was the Messiah. I wondered what my parents would say. I told Dinah that I couldn’t accept Jesus until I told my parents. I couldn’t make the most important decision of my life without letting them know. I was afraid, and it took me a couple of days to tell them. Incredibly, they did not seem very concerned and said something to the effect of, “You’ll grow out of it.” Later, I found out that Dinah’s family and congregation had been praying that my parents would not react too negatively. The next day, I described what happened and told Dinah, “I believe, I believe!”
She asked if I had prayed to ask the Lord to be my personal Savior and explained that I needed to ask God to forgive my sins and invite Him to be my personal Lord and Savior. Later that day, I did. My parents watched while I faithfully attended church and Bible classes during the next three months. They realized that I was not merely going through a “stage,” and became extremely upset. My mother went through my room and threw out everything having to do with Jesus—including entire Bibles. Sadly, there was no way I could stay in my parents’ home and also serve God. Leaving was a source of great grief for me. It is ironic that my parents spared no expense attempting to bring me “back” to Judaism and to a God they don’t believe in. They also exerted pressure to prevent my marriage to Dinah; we hope that their failure to dissuade us may have ended their fight for my faith. One thing I know: God, in His great mercy and love, has preserved me and kept me faithful to Him.
This content was adapted from an earlier Jews for Jesus article published on May 1, 2000.