I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and I came from a loud, loving Jewish family. I’m the oldest, and I have a younger sister, Anita, and a younger brother, Allan. My maiden name is Jaffe. We only went to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We celebrated the holidays as family events and dinners, not anything religious.
I was a teenager in the 1970s and just jumped right into the hippie lifestyle. I attended the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan. There was a lot of diversity ethnically, which I really liked.
Before I graduated, two of my Catholic friends told me they had become Christians. I remember thinking, Why did they have to become Christians? They already are Christians. They gave me a book called The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. I was very impressed with it because the author was not Jewish but had such a strong love for Israel. Before reading this book, I never had thought about the concept of a Messiah. But now that caught my interest. I had some friends who were Orthodox, but they couldn’t answer my questions about the Messiah.
My Jewish hippie, Jesus-believing friends
I graduated high school a year early, and in the fall of 1974, at age seventeen, I started college at the Fashion Institute of Technology. It wasn’t a good fit for me, so after six months I transferred to Brooklyn College. Around that time I met some new friends, Leah and Gloria, sisters who lived around the corner. They were Jewish and believers in Jesus!
They were fun and non-judgmental, really nice girls, and we became fast friends. They were also hippies, smoking pot and doing all those things my generation was doing. We would have really good discussions about God. I thought we were on the same page until they said that Jesus was the only way to really know God. I thought, Well, all roads lead to God if you’re a good person. But they would insist that wasn’t true. At the time I was thinking I should do yoga and learn about Eastern religions. I thought I was on the right road – accepting, enlightened and open to all thoughts, philosophies and political movements.
So THAT’S your brother!
My younger sister, Anita, was good friends with Leah. Anita said, “You need to meet Leah’s brother.” And I thought, No, I don’t need my little sister to set me up! But one night in March 1976 I was driving down my block, and I saw Leah sitting in a car with this really cute guy. I rolled the window down, and so did she. She said, “This is my brother,” and introduced me to Jeff. And I thought, Oh, THAT’S your brother? Okay!
I was eighteen at the time, and Jeff was 23. A few days later we went over to Jeff and Leah’s parents’ house around the corner. My sister was there, and I was trying to give her some advice about a disagreement she was having with my mom. Jeff was agreeing with me, and he was very nice and friendly. Then he asked me if I would like to take a ride with him to visit a friend on Long Island. I said sure, and we’ve been together ever since!
A nagging thought…
I started being nagged with the idea of Jesus being the Jewish Messiah and the only way to know God. It wasn’t so much that it was a problem for me because I was Jewish and didn’t want to believe in Jesus. It was more that I didn’t want to close myself into what I thought was a narrow way of thinking.
In the meantime, Jeff and I were spending a lot of time together, and by June we knew that we wanted to be married. That summer a pastor came to Jeff’s parents’ house to meet with Jeff’s sisters because they had visited his church. We got to talking, and he challenged us to pray and ask God if Jesus was the Messiah.
Jeff and I got married on November 28, 1976. We were still living the hippie lifestyle, now in upstate New York, where Jeff was attending SUNY New Paltz. I had taken the year off from school. My sisters-in-law and my future brother-in-law, Arnie, were all believers in Jesus and had decided to no longer smoke pot. At first I didn’t like it, because I wanted them to be like us. But I was really impressed that they were following their convictions.
I started reading the New Testament, and when I got to the Gospel of John, I began to see how it fit together with the Hebrew Scriptures and how Jesus could be the Jewish Messiah. So one night as I was washing dishes, I was talking to God – not formal praying, because I didn’t understand much about prayer. I just said, “Okay. If Jesus is the only way, then You have to change my thought process. You have to do it because I can’t do it on my own.” Well, the next morning I woke up and it was crystal clear that Jesus was who he said he was. That was in June 1977.
I told Jeff that I now believed in Jesus as the only way to God, and he was happy for me. We’re best friends and we share everything. Even at that time.
I’ll let Jeff pick up the story from here.