One of the greatest desires of my parents was that I should know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and love Him.
From my earliest childhood, I remember my parents’ love for God and for His people, Israel. When I was very young they began to read to me the beautiful stories from the Scriptures. Because they loved God, my parents had a deep love for His Word.
Even through my mother was from a Gentile background, she took after her namesake, Ruth. She had a Jewish heart which was fiercely loyal to the people and the land of Israel. My mother was a member of the local Hadassah chapter, and I can recall how very excited she and my father were when Israel became a state in 1948.
My paternal grandmother, Esther Glazer Kendal, was born in czarist Russia, the daughter of a rabbi. She was betrothed to her cousin who went away to apprentice as a cabinet maker. When he returned to claim his bride, the family was scandalized to discover that he had become a believer in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Esther loved him deeply and was determined to marry him anyway, being confident that she could win him back to Judaism. After they moved to Constantinople to open a shop, she was sure that her prayers were being answered when one day a rabbi came to work for her husband. When her husband convinced the rabbi through the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah, Esther told God that if what her husband believed was indeed the truth, she wanted to be shown from Him and then she would believe. Her own serious study of the Jewish Bible brought her to the point of conviction that Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah. She spent the rest of her life, more than fifty years, boldly and lovingly telling Jews and Gentiles about Jesus. She won her own mother to faith in Jesus.
My father grew up in a home where Yiddish was used as the language of conversation, prayer and song. But, the songs that were sung were not just folk ditties, but songs of faith about the faithfulness and love of the God of Israel and His Messiah. I shall not forget my father telling of how his parents faced hard times by expressing their faith to the God of Abraham through impassioned prayers and songs of praise poured out in the familiar mama-loshen” of their European-Jewish heritage. It was often his own custom to sing some of these same songs when he expressed his own faith in the face of life’s challenges.
Some have said that believing in Jesus cuts one off from the Jewish people and erases identification with them. I have only to look at my own children to realize that this need not be true. They represent the fifth generation of our family who have believed in Messiah Jesus. Rather than showing any inclination to assimilate and lose their Jewish identity, they have shown a readiness to identify themselves as Jews. My two oldest have engaged in Jewish studies and one of them has indicated a desire to settle in the land of her forefathers: Eretz Yisrael. But this attachment to the people and land of Israel does not stem from mere nationalism. Like their grandparents, great grandparents and great, great grandmother before them, their love for Israel is rooted in a love of the God of Israel and of His Work. I believe that these are the kinds of roots that God intended for us and that they will make the family tree stand forever.