Why Melissa chose to believe in Jesus for herself, and not for her parents
Melissa Weinisch was born on Long Island in New York. Her parents—both Jewish—were believers in Jesus and had been involved with various Jewish evangelism efforts in the past. (Their names are Stewart and Shoshanna, and they are both currently on staff with Jews for Jesus in Manhattan.) By the time Melissa was born, her father had become the leader of a Messianic congregation—a calling which he pursued at various locations along the East Coast during Melissa’s childhood and teenage years.
Melissa accepted Yeshua (Jesus) at the age of five. But she, her parents, and her younger brother Jonathan were the only believers in their extended family. Melissa recalls:
“Growing up in New York, surrounded by Jewish family, I gained a very strong Jewish Identity. I knew that as a Jew—I was a part of a rich and wonderful culture. But I also knew that, unlike most of the Jewish people around me, I believed in Jesus.”
Learning to Seek
Her relationship with God became even more real to her at age thirteen, shortly before her Bat Mitzvah.
“A friend invited me to attend a youth conference; it was at this conference that God grabbed ahold of my heart. As I sat in an auditorium of teenagers who were worshiping God, I realized that I had been missing something. Of course, I loved God and I wanted to please Him, but I was not pursuing Him; I was not seeking Him. I was more just coexisting with Him. At the conference, I made the decision to to seek God with my heart, my soul, my mind, my strength, and with all of my life.”
After my Bat Mitzvah, I had a renewed sense of purpose in my pursuit of God, a fresh desire to know Him and seek His will in my life. Along with that came a reconciliation of the difference between doing the right thing and having a right heart. I realized that for the majority of my life there had been a gap between what I did and what I believed, and it was time to make one a product of the other.”
Throughout high school, Melissa kept her relationship with God at the center of her priorities. She also was very involved in her Messianic congregation, Beth Shofar. She served as a shabbat schoolteacher and nursery worker and she sang on the worship team. She was active in extra-curricular activities as well: she acted in many plays and musicals and served as president of her school’s branch of the “International Thespian Society.” In the midst of all this, Melissa also held several jobs, one of which was at an elementary school summer camp.
A Musical Interlude
After high school, Melissa decided to take her love of music, drama, and Yeshua to a new level. She joined the Jews for Jesus mobile music team called “The Liberated Wailing Wall” and traveled the country presenting Jewish gospel music at churches and other venues. Though she was the youngest member of the team, her skills as a singer, guitarist, and composer were invaluable. She was even able to contribute four songs to the album they recorded, titled Never Forget. Melissa toured with the team for twenty months.
While it was a time of blessing, those months spent living in very close quarters with her teammates (on a bus) were also a challenge for Melissa.
“The nearly two years I spent touring with The Liberated Wailing Wall was a time of growth. It is often said that the hard times are what bring us closer to God, and this was no exception. God taught me so much about Himself and His love for me in that season.”