My parents were both Russian born Jews who emigrated to the United States during their teens. They met and were married in Chicago, and although both had been raised in Orthodox families, they spent the first twelve years of their married life in a fairly nonreligious lifestyle.
But in 1937, four years before I was born, their complacency about spiritual matters was challenged. My mother had employed a housekeeper in those days. One week she left some literature on a table in our home for my mother to read, literature which spoke of Jesus the Messiah. After my mother had read it, she said to the housekeeper, I was interested in what I was reading here until I came to the name ‘Jesus.’ You know, we Jews don’t believe in Jesus.” The housekeeper (who was not Jewish herself) replied, “Well, I’ll take you to meet some who do!”
Larry Rich (far left) as a young boy.
My mother attended a women’s Bible study class at a nearby center, and met Esther and David Bronstein. This was her first contact with Jews who believed in Jesus. After several weeks of attending the classes, my mother herself came to believe that Yeshua is the promised Messiah of Israel.
For my father, the path to faith took a good deal longer. He too studied the Bible with the Bronsteins, attended a camp they conducted, and took part in the camp’s daily Bible studies. About a year after my mother’s experience with Yeshua, my father also came to believe. He became quite active in the Bronstein’s congregation (then known as the First Hebrew Christian Church of Chicago) and served on the Congregational Board for almost twenty years until his death in 1959.
This was the atmosphere in which I was raised. Many of my childhood friends were the sons and daughters of members of our congregation. As a young boy, I acknowledged Yeshua as the Messiah and Savior who had made the atonement for my sins. My commitment to him was something that seemed to be a part of me from my earliest memory. Even at a young age, I felt that God had a special “calling” for me, although there were still dreams of one day playing for the Chicago Cubs!
Over the course of these many years since that initial decision, my understanding of my faith has deepened. Most significant has been my evolving identity as a Jew.…
Although my parents were Jewish believers in the Messiah, they placed only a limited emphasis on Jewish practice. Thus, I was raised knowing that I was a Jew, but with little knowledge of what Jewishness really means. Through contact with various Jewish believers whose Jewishness was totally compatible with their belief in Yeshua, I have grown in my own identity as Jew. I see how the traditional Jewish lifestyle—observing the holidays and keeping traditional practices in the home—can be appropriate for a believer in the Messiah. In our home and congregation we take part in these observances with joy, for we have come to know in a personal way the God of Israel who ordained them.
While my understanding of Jewishness has increased, so has my understanding of God s Word. The significance of the atonement Yeshua brought us through his death becomes especially meaningful to me each year as the High Holiday season approaches. I have come to see that God’s requirement for sin could not be satisfied through any act of righteousness on my part, no matter how good or how right it may seem. No, God’s requirement was satisfied through love, his love, as expressed through the sacrificial death of Yeshua the Messiah. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Such love! Yeshua’s death and resurrection are the key to real life; this is where it all begins. As each year passes, I am more and more thankful that God loves me and that in Yeshua I have confidence in God’s forgiveness and in my future with Him.
Larry with his wife Jan, and their 18 month old son, Ari.
Today I serve as the spiritual leader of the congregation in which I was raised. We are known as Adat HaTikvah—Congregation of the Hope. Rabbi Saul of Tarsus wrote almost two thousand years ago, “…while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13) To know the Messiah is to possess great hope, great joy and true forgiveness of sins. Rabbi Saul also penned these words: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15) That gift is Yeshua, who died that we might have life. I am so thankful for him—and for my mother’s housekeeper!