I Couldn’t Turn My Back on Him
My name is Goldie. I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our neighborhood was terrific—half Jewish and half Italian. I thought that the whole world—or at least the half that wasn’t Jewish—must be Italian. It followed then that everyone who was not Jewish was Gentile, and to my mind, that meant Catholic. In my little world in Pittsburgh, all Gentiles were Christians, and all Christians were Catholic. That was all I knew.
An interesting thing that I learned from my ethnic neighborhood was that we Jews and Italians were very much alike. Most of us looked alike in our eye and hair coloring, we sounded alike in our Pennsylvania speech patterns, and our family structures were very similar. In both the Italian and Jewish homes, the family seemed to be number one after God himself.
I come from a very Orthodox Jewish home. We ate only kosher food and carefully observed the traditions of Judaism. Every Sabbath eve (Friday night) and Saturday morning my family attended synagogue. As a child I loved the synagogue and enjoyed singing the Hebrew liturgy. Each Saturday tears came to my eyes as I listened to the cantor sing the ancient Hebrew prayers that tied our people to God. I looked forward to each of the Jewish holidays, and I was proud that our family kept each observance, just as the Torah and Jewish tradition said we should.
My mother had fled Eastern Europe as a young girl. It had become necessary for her family to run away because they were Jewish. In their flight from the Nazis, they had become separated. Not until ten years later was my mother reunited with her family in America. This experience and the knowledge of what our people had suffered in their struggle to survive had made our family very loyal to our Jewish culture.
Both of my grandfathers lived with us, and being very Orthodox men, they were in the synagogue every morning and evening, giving God thanks and praise for each sunrise and sunset. Through all this, I knew even as a small child that our lives revolved around God—that he lived and cared, and that he was our God and we Jews were his people.
Still, I wondered about our Italian friends. What did they believe, and who was their God? We have God, and they have Jesus,” my father used to explain. When I asked him why we Jews didn’t believe in Jesus, I was told simply, “Because we’re Jewish.” Everywhere I turned I got the same answer. No one seemed to have a better one, and after hearing the same thing over and over again, I felt it was not good enough any more. All I had heard about Jesus was that my mother had had to run from her home because “Christians” had killed Jews in Jesus’ name, and six million of our people had died, and the world still hated us because of Jesus. (Now that I am a believer, I think how tragic it is that the beautiful name of Jesus should provoke fear among my people because of those who needed little or no excuse for their hatred and bigotry.) Well, although I was not getting any answers from my family or the Jewish community, somehow I knew that God would show me the truth one day.
I went off to college, and it was there that I first saw a different side of Jesus. I took classes in Art History, and my favorite period was, of course, the Italian Renaissance. It was in that class that I began to learn about Jesus’ life and that he had suffered and died such a horrible death. I thought, “If my father could see this art, he might not hate Jesus so much.”
God had planted a seed in my heart. I know that now. After college, I headed for San Francisco, and there my curiosity about Jesus was rekindled. My very best friends were Italian. They would always invite me to go to Easter mass with them, and out of curiosity, I would go and observe. I was drawn back to that church week after week, sometimes three or four times a week. Soon I realized that it was Jesus I was drawn to, not necessarily the church. I saw that Jesus had spoken of the God of Israel and had taught some very Jewish ideas. He was a Jew and he had loved his own people. Jesus became a magnet in my life. I wanted to know everything about him. I went out and bought a Bible, and for the first time in my life I began to read the New Testament. I began to fall in love with Jesus. He was not the same person my family had described to me. I wondered if they had lied to me. Or had someone lied to them? And then I wondered further: are all my Jewish people believing a lie? Could Jesus be our Messiah and we just don’t know it? I remembered an old Jewish expression that I had learned from my mother: “If it’s from God, it lasts.” It gave me chills to think that faith in Jesus had lasted for almost 2,000 years.
So what was I going to do? I was a nice Jewish girl who was beginning to see God’s truth and beginning to realize that this same truth could destroy my family relationship. I knew I could not turn my back on Jesus, so I decided I must find a way to believe in him but remain Jewish. I finally called Jews for Jesus, just to see how other Jewish people managed to believe in Jesus and retain their identity as Jews.
I began meeting with a Jews for Jesus missionary named Susan Rothbard. She was as Jewish as I was. It was Susan who began Bible studies with me. We studied the messianic prophecies found in the Old Testament. I was amazed by what we read. I read in the Book of Isaiah (chapter 53) that Messiah was wounded for our transgressions, and that he was bruised for our iniquities, and that he was cut off from the land of the living for the transgression of my people. I knew that the “he” of whom Isaiah was speaking could only be Jesus. I knew then that Jesus was the messiah of Israel.
One day Susan asked me, “So you believe Jesus is the Messiah. Well, what are you going to do about it?” I read the verse in Colossians where Paul said, “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Knowing that God had kept his promise and had sent his Messiah into the world made me want to show him that it mattered to me.
Since I have become a believer in Jesus and have told my parents of my faith, my father and I have gone several rounds on the issue of Yeshua’s messiahship. To my father it’s bad enough that I believe in Jesus, but now I have to make matters worse by joining the Liberated Wailing Wall, or as he puts it, by “working for the cult.”
“She’s a gypsy already,” my father says, “and they’re telling her what to do and say.”
I speak to my family on the phone from time to time, and some conversations are better than others. One week we are joking, and the next week my father tells me, “You’re no Jew, baby.” I never know what to expect. Sometimes he surprises me.
One time my father called as usual at 8:00 p.m. sharp. We “shmoozed” and talked about how lousy the Pittsburgh ball team was doing, how gorgeous my five-year-old niece was, and what a shame it was that I could not watch her grow up because I was so far away. Then, pow! He let me have it with, “What’s this meshugas (craziness) in Parade Magazine?” I had forgotten that the Sunday Pittsburgh Press includes Parade with all the other supplements, but for a second I still wasn’t catching on. “Tell me what you saw, and maybe I’ll know,” I said.
“There’s a picture of a real good looking guy—a real good looking Jewish face with a nice beard, great smile,” my father said. Then he went on to read the words in our Yeshua ad.
“Oh, it sounds like it might be Baruch,” I said.
My father, bless his heart, asked, “Who’s Baruch?”
“Oh, that’s Efraim’s brother,” I explained.
My father, with his instant recall, said, “You mean Goldstein, the ‘rabbi’? You mean to tell me his brother is in the cult, too?” Then he went on to say that he thought he would go ahead and fill out the coupon for the Yeshua book offer. “If they want to spend their money and send me a free book, why not let them!” I was really encouraged by his next comment: “I’m going to read it cover to cover, just so I can tear it apart and show you what garbage it is!”
A couple of weeks later the Liberated Wailing Wall was working at San Francisco headquarters between tours and my task was to help with the Yeshua evangelistic ad responses. We needed to pull some original response coupons for zip code information, and lo and behold, on that particular day in that very stack of coupons I found my father’s response to the ad. He had really gone through with it!
When I called home from the road a few weeks later, I asked my father if he had received the book yet.
“Yeh, sure, it came already.” He said. “Your mother wanted to read it first, so I’m waiting for her to finish.”
Needless to say, I am looking forward to speaking with them very soon, hoping that I will have a chance to discuss the book with them. I have asked my father to sit down with his own Jewish Bible and any other of the Jewish texts used in the book, “just to keep the author honest.”
I pray that my father and my mother both will learn new things while reading the Yeshua book, and that they will see Jesus in a new way and will want to know more. I pray that if there is any follow-up contact, they both will respond to the opportunity of asking questions, and that they will get some life-changing answers.