Raised by a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, I didn’t know what to believe. So I chose an entirely different spiritual path. That didn’t work out so well, either. But one day I found the solution to my spiritual dilemma.
My paternal grandparents came from rabbinic families, in what was then Russian-controlled Poland. My grandfather was an officer in the Czar’s army until the Russian Revolution. As the Whites and the Reds were battling it out, my grandparents immigrated to France with a young child and a newborn, my Aunt Rachel and Uncle Jean.
My father, Max, was born about ten years later, in 1931, in Paris. My grandfather was a tailor, the family trade that was passed from father to son. World War II split the family apart. My grandfather was sent to a German work camp in a shipyard in Bordeaux, and though he survived the camp, he was so weakened by it that he died six months after the war's end.
My father has told me many stories of his experiences as a child during the war.
One time, his older sister, Rachel, was fleeing with him and another brother to southern France. They ran out of money but were able to take shelter in a church. The church also provided the means for them to continue to Périgueux. Many years later, my aunt returned to this church and gave a generous, but anonymous, donation.
My father and one of his younger brothers had another narrow escape. They were housed in a chateau run by the church near Périgueux. Just a week after they left the chateau, the Germans came in and took the Jewish children away.
Also in Périgueux, my grandmother, living in a one-room apartment near the river, was sick in bed with six of her children around her. The Germans came into the neighborhood, going from apartment to apartment, taking everyone away. A Nazi soldier came into the apartment and walked up to my father. The soldier put his hand through my father’s hair and said, “I have a son at home with the same red curly hair.” He turned around, walked out of the apartment, and my father heard him say, “There’s no one here!” My father’s family was the only one not taken away.
Only my father’s oldest brother, my uncle Jean, did not survive. He was shot just days before the end of the war as he fought as part of the Resistance in Lyon. His Resistance name was Jean Lambert, and we've found where we believe he was buried in Lyon.
Spiritual fallout from the Holocaust
The horrors of World War II left my father empty, angry and an atheist. He married a French Catholic woman, my mother, who also did not believe in God. This was the spiritual environment in which I grew up. In 1970, my father moved our family to the United States to join two of his brothers who had moved to South Carolina a few years earlier. There, we went to synagogue two to three times a year, primarily on Yom Kippur and Passover.
By age eleven or twelve, I personally believed in “something.” At age thirteen, I became a bar mitzvah, as my father had promised this to his mother on her deathbed. So I had a semblance of Jewish education and a strong sense of Jewish identity. But since my home was a home without God – and since the Christians and the Jews I knew in South Carolina did not seem to truly believe – I assumed that God must be present elsewhere.
If the West had no answers, then the East must have, I reasoned. So began my journey through martial arts and eventually to Taoist meditation, which I started practicing around 1980. I became a teacher of Sundo, a form of Taoist yoga.
From west to east and back again
Then, in 1986, I married Pamela. She came from a Christian background and brought up our children in the church, but I was uninterested. I had found my Taoist path and believed it sufficient. But many years later, in 2000, I became curious. “You know that church you go to?” I said to Pamela. “I’d like to come with you next Sunday.”
Pamela was apprehensive. She had been privately hoping that I would someday become a believer in Jesus. But what if the minister spoke about the Holy Spirit, a concept she knew was totally foreign to me? That would surely be the end of it, she thought. As it happened, the minister preached about Moses that Sunday. I had learned from my father’s side of the family that I was a Levite, so the stories of Moses had always held significance for me growing up. That a Christian church taught about Moses intrigued me. Later that week, I told Pamela I’d like to go back to that church the next Sunday.
What is happening to me?
Once again, Pamela feared how I would react if the minister spoke about the Holy Spirit. This time, that is exactly what he preached about for over an hour. During the sermon, I felt what I can only describe as the presence of God. I reached over to Pamela and said, “I don’t understand what’s happening. What’s going on?” Well, that was that! The Ruach ha Kodesh – the Holy Spirit – came into my heart. I became a newborn Christian on the spot, as Jesus said in the Gospel of John, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). It’s hard to describe exactly; it was a spiritual experience, a direct interaction with God through His Holy Spirit. I knew at that moment that Yeshua was the Messiah of Israel.
God loves everyone and has a purpose for each of our lives. I am convinced that he spared my father and his brothers and sisters for a reason. Still, my belief in Yeshua was not an easy thing for me to disclose to my family. I remain a believer that Yeshua is the Messiah for whom Israel has been waiting. There is no need to wait any longer. Jesus wants you to experience him in a personal way, as I did, so that you can know your sins are forgiven and that you will live with God forever.