The Priest Was Wearing a Yarmulke
I am from New York—Bronx-born but suburban-bred. My father was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, and my mother is Gentile. I grew up in a Reform Jewish home and attended the local Jewish Community Center, which was also a Conservative synagogue. I attended worship there on Friday nights and sometimes Saturday mornings. The extent of my Jewish training was some Hebrew I learned when I was little and participation in our synagogue youth group’s discussion of the Hebrew Scriptures.
At home we celebrated the Jewish holidays, always a big family affair. My Grandma’s house was the center of attention. On Friday nights we had Sabbath dinner at her house in the Bronx. There was always a lot of good kosher food to enjoy. Even though the Sabbath is a time to focus on God, our conversation generally focused on what good people we were and what great things we had done.
My family attended synagogue off and on for several years, and then we stopped going. At that point we did not worship God. We always believed in him, but we never made an effort to find out what he wanted for us or from us.
My first experience with Jesus was at the age of 7 or 8. To please my mom’s side of the family, sometimes we went to the Catholic church. It felt strange for me to be there because I knew I was Jewish, but the church seemed to be a friendly place. One of the priests wore what looked like a yarmulke (a Jewish skull cap traditionally worn by Jewish men as a sign of respect to God), so I asked my mother, Is he Jewish?”
To my surprise, she replied that he was not. I heard some people who attended that church refer to Jesus as the King of the Jews. I thought that was great, but as far as Jesus being the promised Messiah, I had never considered it. I had been told that Jesus was not the God of the Jews. My rabbi taught that when the Messiah came, all the world would be at peace.
Since New York is not one of the most peaceful places in the world, I had two choices to consider: either the Messiah had not come, or if he had, he had surely forgotten about New York. Needless to say, I did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.
Throughout my high school years many of my classmates went to the same synagogue I attended, but their lives were different from mine. They lived as though God were not important. To them a Jewish holiday was just another day off from school. On the other hand, I really believed in God. I knew God was important, but he seemed very far away.
I began a spiritual search to try to bring him closer. As a teenager I dabbled in white magic, spiritism and other occult philosophies. I became so obsessed that at the age of sixteen I almost killed myself.
I became increasingly aware that there was an evil presence in my life. I would have terrible dreams and when I awoke I would sense that there was someone or something in my room. Members of my family would tell me I was just imagining things, but I knew somehow that the devil was real, and that he was trying to pull me to him.
Then the summer before I entered college, something tragic happened to our family. My father was diagnosed as having acute leukemia. The doctors gave him little more than six months to live. It took me a long time to accept this fact. My family was going through turmoil. We no longer attended synagogue, though I had been going more often during my high school years. The rabbi was a nice man, but we felt empty and indifferent to the whole ritual of synagogue worship.
Thankfully, I was slowly moving away from my obsession with the occult. I realized that in spiritism I was being deceived into thinking I could communicate with spirits from another life. All that time I was believing lies that could not give me the peace and security I needed.
About that time my mother began to read the Bible with a New Testament in it—something not usually done in Jewish homes. I noticed that she had begun to have a peaceful attitude during my father’s tragic illness. She would watch preachers on television and pray with them. Those preachers said that Jesus had compassion on many people and healed them. Some even called him Jesus the Messiah. I began to think that if Jesus really did rise from the dead as they said he had, maybe he could heal people. Maybe he could heal my father. Maybe he really was God. Maybe that was what the Messiah was supposed to be. I was beginning to see the link between Jesus and my Jewish people.
Then I read the Old and New Testaments and the prophecies Jesus fulfilled. When I read that King David, a great servant of God, referred to himself as a sinner from his mother’s womb, I realized that no matter how good I tried to be, sin would always stand in the way of my relationship with God. I confessed Yeshua as Lord and Redeemer because I knew from Scripture that he had no sin but had taken the sin of all of us onto himself. I knew that only God could do the things he had done for all humanity.
Then God did something wonderful. My older sister gave her life to the Lord, as my mother and I had done. The three of us prayed for my father, and God allowed him to live four years longer than diagnosed. About six months before he passed away, my father also put his trust in Yeshua as his Messiah.
Since then the Lord has really been working in my life. He took me from a job in the financial district of New York City to Chicago where I served with Jews for Jesus. Now I am with the Liberated Wailing Wall, happy to serve Yeshua through music.
In Isaiah 55:6 the prophet said, “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” I praise God that Yeshua is there for all to seek him. As I have sought and found him, I hope that all who read this also share in the joy of that new life found in Jesus.