I spent the first year of my life in that bastion of Jewish civilization known as Brooklyn; then my family moved to Queens. We attended a Conservative synagogue, where I developed an early awareness of God and the fact that things pertaining to him were to be set apart from the ordinary.
Everyone in New York City was Jewish, or at least it seemed like it. But when I was eleven years old, we moved to Monroe, in upstate New York, and I discovered that I was in a minority. My mother explained that being Jewish was special. She often pointed out that many of the world’s greatest achievers were Jewish: people like Albert Einstein and Jonas Salk.
My ideas of God changed as I grew older. When I was fourteen years old, I watched my grandmother die a slow and painful death that resulted from hardening of the arteries in her brain. She had been an altruist all her life. Where had it gotten her? What good had it done her to keep all the religious rituals so faithfully? In 1974, Grandma Jenny’s name was added to the brass plaque in our synagogue in Monroe. I thought bitterly that if such was her reward, it left much to be desired. The thought of a loving God seemed absurd.
After high school, I saw myself as a sophisticated college student . . . which meant I had no tolerance for superstition and no need for God.
At the Florida Institute of Technology, I became friends with Dr. Cissy Petty, the director of student activities. I did part-time office work for her to earn a little extra pocket money. One day, she told me that Jesus was my savior. I informed her that I was Jewish, expecting that she would immediately realize her mistake. But she still thought her comments were for me. While walking towards the student union one day, I saw an elderly man with boxes all around him, and he was handing something out. As I walked past him, he gave me a New Testament. I figured that Dr. Petty would want it, so I gave it to her. She said that I should keep it. She actually put an inscription in it, dated May 20, and gave it back to me.
About this time, a book called God and the Astronomers, written by a famous astrophysicist named Robert Jastrow, piqued my interest. Jastrow was convinced that the creation account was backed by science. Even though he wrote as an agnostic, there was something in his conclusion that jolted me. Jastrow wrote, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the Power of Reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the final peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries” (Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers [New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1978], pp. 105-106.)
Upon graduation I moved to Denver, Colorado, to take a job with Martin Marietta, designing orbits for the space shuttle program. I wasn’t surprised that my dreams of success were becoming a reality, but I still could not resolve the spiritual questions I had begun to ponder in college.
My dilemma really intensified when I met Eliezer, a Holocaust survivor who believed in Jesus. From the first time I walked into his home, it reminded me of my grandmother’s house. First there was the familiar smell of mothballs in the closet when I went to hang up my jacket and then the aroma of chicken soup wafting in from the kitchen—I felt at home instantly! Eliezer and his wife, Sarah, might believe in Jesus, but they were mishpochah, they were Jews.
Eliezer and I read the Bible together. We studied messianic prophecies, and we read from the accounts of Jesus’ life in the New Testament so I could see for myself who Jesus was and what he taught. “The Sermon on the Mount” from the book of Matthew really took me by surprise. I saw that people can be clean on the outside and still be dirty on the inside. I realized that one didn’t have to be a criminal by society’s standards in order to be a sinner in God’s sight.
My biggest obstacle in considering Jesus was my pride. After all, I was a scientist, an engineer. Until now, the only God I could bring myself to believe in was far too busy coordinating the clockwork of the cosmos to concern himself with me, and I’d seen little reason why I should concern myself with him. I had a couple of words to describe faith in a God who actually cared—intellectual suicide.
No one could explain to me why the Creator of the universe should care about his people, but after reading the Scriptures, I knew God is not the impersonal force Spinoza and Einstein had made him out to be. He is a personal Creator who made us because he wants to be involved in our lives. He constructed us with souls that can be fed only by his own hand. I concluded that believing God cares is not intellectual suicide; believing that he doesn’t care is spiritual starvation.
I came to faith in Jesus as my Messiah on May 20, 1982. I went home that night to read the Bible Cissy had given me. Her inscription was dated May 20, 1981. Amazingly, it had taken exactly one year from the time she gave me that Bible to the time when I finally read it . . . as a believer in Y’shua.
Andrew Barron is the director of Jews for Jesus in Canada. He and his wife, Laura (also a Jewish believer in Jesus), reside in North York, Ontario, with their three children Rafael, Ketzia and Simona.