Meet Susan Mendelson
I hail from West Islip, New York. Yes, you pronounce it like I slip”—and we’ve heard all the jokes about falling down! Whoever named the town must have had a sense of humor because there are also the towns of East Islip, Central Islip and Islip Terrace as well. Both my parents are Jewish; my mother was from an Orthodox home, and my father was also raised with a very strong Jewish identity. They raised me as a Reform (more liberal) Jew, but there were two things I always knew; one, we were Jewish and two, we didn’t believe in Jesus. Nevertheless, my best friend Janet was a Christian and because my mom thought so highly of her, I was allowed to participate in anything Janet did, including attending church with her from time to time. I distinctly remember sitting in church thinking to myself, “Nope, I can’t believe in this because I am Jewish!”
I was saved in July 1990. I was living in Dallas, Texas, pursuing a career in country music … yes, that’s right, country music. I was two days away from a big country music competition and I began to feel this horrible performance anxiety coming over me. I had experienced a severe bout of it the year before and felt that I could not stand to go through that again. Countless people had tried to share the gospel with me countless times and I had never felt any interest in the gospel. At least I never thought I was interested, but somehow or another it must have sunk in, and it all came to the surface that Sunday afternoon.
I was in my van and as I felt that anxiety starting to well up within me, I cried out, “Dear God, I cannot go into another performance like this again. I need a transformation now. Please let the Spirit of Christ fill my heart.” No sooner had I gotten the words out than I was drenched in the most incredible peace; I never thought I’d feel fear again. Three days later was the competition. All day long I felt a battle going on; part of the time I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit; part of the time, well, the anxiety was back in full force. So I cried out to God again, “Dear God, please just kill off this other thing, and just let me feel your peace.” And in a split second I knew I was in the presence of the Lord. In that second, He showed me my selfishness; I saw that I would do anything, say anything, promise anything to get what I needed and when I didn’t think I needed it anymore, I would forget where it came from. There were no visions, no voices, just this huge opportunity to decide that I would be true to Christ. And I took it.
I came to serve with the ministry of Jews for Jesus after phoning the New York office. I was looking for a messianic congregation to visit while visiting family in New York, so I looked up Jews for Jesus figuring they could recommend a congregation to me. I mentioned in passing that I was a musician. The person I spoke to asked if it would be alright to give my name to the Jews for Jesus Headquarters office in San Francisco. The Minister-at-Large office contacted me and next thing I knew, I was filling out an application to serve with The Liberated Wailing Wall! I began my tour with them in 1992, and served as the team’s music director.
It was quite an adventure living on a bus for 18 months. How like God to use my performance anxiety to bring me to Jesus—and then to put me on an evangelistic team where I would be performing Jewish Gospel music every night!
Serving with The Liberated Wailing Wall was a real growing experience for me, filled with challenges and yet a contentment in my work that I had not known before. After the tour, I moved back to New York and joined the local Jews for Jesus Singers team (later I led the team and also led worship for the Jews for Jesus Friday night chapel services from the fall of 1995 to the spring of 1997). Then I had the opportunity to go on another tour, this time on my own, performing a variety of music, both Jewish Gospel and Contemporary Christian. I traveled the country from August of 1997 to December of 1998 and sang in about 400 churches. During that time I saw more than 100 people come to faith in Christ, and more than 200 others rededicate their lives to Him.
I sensed that God was calling me to continue in full time ministry with Jews for Jesus, and here I am in New York City as a missionary trainee! I think one of the most important lessons I have learned through my ministry experiences thus far is the importance of being (appropriately) vulnerable so that through our weakness, others might see the greatness of our Lord.
Susan Mendelson graduated from the Crane School of Music at the State University of New York and pursued a career in country music. Because of severe performance anxiety, Susan cried out to God for help the last week of July, 1990 and over the course of three days, had a profound spiritual encounter with Y’shua in response. She came to faith in Jesus as her Messiah at that time and in 1992, the Lord transformed music performance, the very thing that brought her to Y’shua, from a cause for anxiety into her ministry when she joined Jews for Jesus' traveling music team, the Liberated Wailing Wall! As music director of the team, Susan toured the U.S. for eighteen months singing Jewish gospel music, evangelizing, handing out tracts on street corners and creating many of the vocal arrangements for the team's 1994 album, David's Hope. She has also recorded an album of her own, Jewish Gospel Favorites. In 2003, Susan began serving as a full-time missionary in New York City. Susan served on the final Liberated Wailing Wall team in 2009-2010. After the completion of this tour, Susan returned to serve as a full time missionary in NYC. She moved to Long Island in 2011 to be near her dad until he passed away three months later. In July of 2011 Susan was able to open the Jews for Jesus outpost on Long Island and continues to minister there.