So Be It!
Growing up in a racially and religiously mixed neighborhood in the Bronx, I accepted certain convictions that were bestowed on me by others. For example, if they told me it was Tuesday, So Be It! It was Tuesday! If they told me it was snowing outside, even though it was mid-summer and 90 degrees, So Be It! It was snowing!
It was the same for my religious preference. I was told, You’re a Jew!” So Be It! I was a Jew! When the religious holidays came, my parents said, “The Jewish holidays are here. You will stay home from school.” My parents, wise beyond their years, were giving me permission to cut school. Would I dare to question such wisdom? Whatever my parents told me was “gospel”—whatever that meant.
Around the time I was 11 I was told it was time for me to study for my bar mitzvah. Several of my friends had already had theirs, so I knew the study would be difficult. I also knew that it would be well worth the trouble, for when a Jewish boy has his bar mitzvah he reads from the Torah in the synagogue and becomes a man in God’s eyes. He also gets a great party, with lots of presents and money.
So at 13 I became a man. I had a bank account and a “complete education” in Judaism. I knew that we Jews got extra days off from school, that we were the Chosen People, and, most important, above all else, we didn’t believe in…Christ…(that “C” word could barely pass my lips). So Be It! I was a Jew!
In my rather large family, two cousins and I became very good friends. One was my cousin Kenny and the other was my cousin Rhonda. Rhonda only had sisters, so I became her “big brother.”
Rhonda came from a more religious environment than I. She experienced an unsuccessful marriage and several very rough times. Nevertheless, I was shocked when she told me that she had become a “messianic Jew” and had accepted Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel, as her Savior. Oh, no! There was that “C” word! I thought, Rhonda has gone off the deep end. I told her, “Jews don’t do that!” Nevertheless, throughout the years I remained in touch with Rhonda. She went from one thing to another and then settled down and now has a beautiful family. Through it all, her belief in Yeshua remained constant. So Be It, but I would remain a Jew!
In 1975 my father suffered a major heart attack. During his hospitalization he had several near-death experiences. On one occasion after being revived, he said, “If I survive, I am going to become a religious man.” Unfortunately, he did not live, so I never knew what he meant by that.
Some time after my father’s death, my mother went to visit her friend Angie. Upon her return, she informed me that she had become a Christian and had accepted Christ as her Savior. She said she had found “inner peace and happiness.” My mother, who had always said, “Jews don’t believe in Christ” now believed in Christ! It was very confusing. Was my mother now a Jew who thought she was a Christian, or a Christian who thought she was a Jew? In any case, she believed in Christ. Had she lied to me? The thought of my mother lying was unbearable, so the answer seemed obvious. My mother must no longer be a Jew. She kept her new belief, and I clung to what she had instilled in me. So Be It! I was still a Jew!
The years passed. I was in show business and my career prospered. I held an admirable position in network television production and let it be known that I was a hotshot. I took all the credit for my success. After all, I had worked for it. After nearly 20 years of television work and several unsuccessful attempts to start my own business, I decided to relocate to Las Vegas. I had worked there many times, and I believed that with my credentials no one could compete with me.
I started a production company and was negotiating several contracts with major celebrities for cable television specials, when the rug was pulled out from under me. I was embezzled. The money was gone, negotiations fell apart, and the lawsuits began. I had promised my family a better life, and suddenly everything had disappeared like a puff of smoke.
Telling my wife was the most difficult task I ever had. I was in a situation I had never been in before—poverty. I had to start cutting expenses. One particular cut was my disability insurance policy. When my agent called, I explained what had happened, and he convinced me to keep the policy in force by making a partial payment.
I needed work, so I took a job driving a taxi six days a week, 12 hours a day, for very little money. It was like taking one step forward and three steps backwards and the most humiliating and humbling experience of my life. I didn’t know what to do. I was depressed and nervous. I started drinking and even thought about suicide.
In the midst of all this I received a phone call from my mother’s friend Angie (the one my mother had been visiting when she accepted Christ). Angie began to preach to me. She said God had been knocking on my door for a long time. She said that I was one of the “Chosen People,” and because I had ignored God, He had drop-kicked me like a football player making a field goal to bring me to my knees, so that He might lift me up.
All that time I was thinking, “If this is what it means to be chosen, I’d rather be ignored!” I told Angie that I would accept her Christ, but only out of desperation. What more could I lose? Angie led me in a prayer, and I asked Christ into my life as my Savior. Immediately I called Rhonda and told her that I had accepted Yeshua, and I thought, So Be It! I’m no longer a Jew!
Rhonda was delighted to hear of my decision and began to tell me about a congregation in Las Vegas for Jews who had accepted Yeshua. All those years I had been thinking that she was not a Jew, and there she was in Connecticut, telling me about a messianic congregation in my home town. I joined that congregation and began to study the Scriptures, Old and New Testament. One of the most important things I learned was that Christianity is not a religion but a belief, a way of life. I began to understand what Rhonda and my mother were saying, and I thought, So Be It! I’m a Jew again—maybe!
Two weeks after I made the partial payment on my disability policy, I had a minor accident while driving the taxi. The resultant injury to my knee required surgery and put into effect the policy I had almost cancelled. During my recovery, my wife’s mother was diagnosed as having cancer, with only three to six months to live. We decided to move her from Florida to live with us. She accepted Yeshua and lived for more than two and a half years.
I have had three operations on my knee, and since I can’t work, the insurance policy is still paying me. It has been three years since I accepted Yeshua into my life, and I am very active in my congregation. Now I, too, experience that “inner peace” my cousin and my mother described some 15 years ago. I would not trade that contentment and tranquility for anything I have lost.
I like the person I have become. I believe that God had to humble me to give me these gifts. He used me in many ways, particularly in attending to my mother-in-law. I stopped worrying about tomorrow. I felt that when God was ready to heal her or take her home, He would deal with my future, and He did just that. On August 21 I received an offer to work on a film, and I accepted. On September 1 my mother-in-law, Florence Ukrain, passed away and is now with the Lord. This story is dedicated to her memory.
Many people say everything that happened to me was purely coincidental. My reply is, “Belief in coincidence is denial of God’s existence.” Nothing happens by chance. Everything that happened was part of His master plan which began the very moment I was conceived. Everything has worked together for the good and has made me a better person. Now I understand what my father meant in the hospital, and I can say, “So Be It! I am a Jew—now more than ever!”