Seeing Jesus through the Jewish Lens

My parents are Jewish. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in New York and attended Hebrew day school. When I was in the second grade, my parents realized I was falling behind other children my age in reading and math. They decided I needed to be in a public school and have Hebrew education after school and/or on the weekends. I have vivid childhood memories of celebrating the Jewish holidays and going to synagogue with my grandfather. At Passover in my family, both children and adults searched for the hidden matzah. The adults nearly killed each other competing to find it.

When I became a teenager, my father felt it was time for our family to join a temple. My parents gave me a choice on whether or not to have a bat mitzvah. A typical teen, I declined because I didn’t want to put in the necessary work.

Around this time I got involved in the occult through some friends who were experimenting with fortune telling, runes, spells and the like. I was drawn to them partly because of my own need to fit in and by the seduction of “power” when doing black magic.

When I was a high school freshman, my family moved to Florida. By the following year I was miserable, lonely and depressed. I decided that I would express how I felt by coasting through life and failing a math class. This was out of character for me, as I was an A/B student. I was horrified when I learned that my actions had consequences: summer school! So off I went to repeat the math class. There I met a girl named Ashley, a believer in Jesus. She fascinated me—her drive, commitment and joy. I wanted nothing more than to hang out with her and her family. They loved and me and shared their lives with me.

Ashley and I had plans to hang out one Friday night during my junior year. When I arrived at her house, she said that she had forgotten she had a youth group meeting at her church. She said I could go with her or wait at her house and go out together later. She talked me into driving her there. When we arrived, she talked me into coming inside.

I was so scared. I had never set foot in a church. I was afraid they would know I was a Jew and did not belong. Ashley handed me the car keys and said I could stay or leave anytime. I held those keys tightly in my fist all night, but never once thought of leaving.

What I found was a room full of people my age who were joyful, really and truly happy. I was sure they knew something I didn’t, and I was determined to find out what that was. I was hooked and had to know more. So I snuck a Bible (which included the New Testament) into my house along with some other books about Jesus and read them at night with a flashlight. I would sleep over at Ashley’s house on Saturdays so I could go to church with her on Sunday mornings without my parents knowing. After a youth event, I received Jesus into my heart.

I was changed and people knew this just by looking at me. I had joy and peace and forgiveness. There was no way I could tell my parents or family that I believed in Jesus. And no one told me I was still Jewish. My fear was not unfounded: my father sensed what was going on and warned me that if I changed my religion he would disown me.

So I stayed quiet for a long time. Years went by. I wrote letters that I never sent. I put miles between us physically and emotionally. I couldn’t handle it, and I was sure they couldn’t either. But I have always been close to my mother, and one day in a tearful telephone conversation I confessed to her what I had hidden for so many years. She had a lot of questions, and by now I could answer her intelligently. I actually moved back to Florida and spent time getting to know my family again. We have developed relationships of honesty and mutual respect.

As I met other Jewish believers in Jesus, I began to realize that I was as Jewish as I’d ever been. In fact, if Jesus is the Jewish Messiah as I believe, what could be more Jewish than following him?

I have been interested in art since my teenage years when my mother, who was studying photography, set up a darkroom in our house. I took a photography course at school and learned how to print and develop film. Over the years I have varied my art activities to include drawing and painting, but my great love is photography.

I know there is an ongoing debate among photographers between Nikon and Cannon. Using the Nikon is where I began and I have remained loyal to the brand. I am currently shooting with a Nikon D3100.

I believe that creativity and a need to express ourselves is God-given. I have a deep need in my soul to create and share what I create. I feel more alive when I am working on a creative project. I do not think all art needs to have a purpose. Art should be fun, spontaneous, helpful and healing. If I am living for God, he will make the work of my hands useful and purposeful. Therefore I don’t believe in limiting myself and overthinking my artistic projects before endeavoring to complete them. Art for me is a passion I often long to engage in with reckless abandon. Through my relationship with Yeshua (Jesus), I hope to always retain a childlike wonder, fantasy and curiosity in my work.