I was born and raised as a Conservative Jew in a Chicago suburb. I attended Hebrew School and learned about Jewish traditions, liturgy and of course, the Hebrew language. Yet I don’t remember the rabbis talking about God as if He could be known personally. And while I learned to read and pronounce the Scripture in Hebrew, its meaning was rarely explained. My real interest was math and accounting. I saw religion as a short-term liability, something I had to do twice a week until my bar mitzvah at age 13.
At age 16, I met a cute girl who kept inviting me to youth functions at her church. It wasn’t that I intended to believe in Jesus; I never really prayed and I refused to sing the name Jesus.” Still, as I was exposed to the gospel, I found myself growing curious. One evening I decided to experiment. “What if I just pretend to believe in Jesus,” I thought. As I listened to the gospel, I allowed myself to think of it as true, almost like a game. But even though I was pretending (or so I thought), something very real began to happen. Suddenly, my heart started to feel warm and I began to experience a strange new peace and joy. Uh-oh!
It might be difficult to imagine how feelings of peace and joy could frighten a person, but I was really scared. I felt my whole identity as a Jew was in jeopardy. I could barely eat or sleep for a week. How could this happen? I kept telling myself, “I am Jewish and Jesus is for Christians!” (At that time, I equated the term Christian with non-Jew.) In desperation, I decided to talk to a Jewish authority, Rabbi Rosen, who had officiated at my bar mitzvah. He quickly explained away my feelings of joy by pronouncing that it would be illogical for one man to die for the sins of others. He also told me, “Christians proselytize because deep down they doubt their own faith, and the more converts they have, the more they convince themselves.” At 16, that made perfect sense to me. Without further analysis, I believed my rabbi, and stopped going to church.
Two years later, I entered the University of Illinois and lived at the Jewish fraternity house Zeta Beta Tau. I was far from thinking about God. Some Christians witnessed to me; someone from Jews for Jesus even called me, but I hung up on him. In fact, I hung up on all Christian witness.
Upon graduating magna cum laude with a degree from the number one accounting school in the country, I went to work for Ernst & Young, at the time, the largest accounting firm in the world. I had plenty of friends, money and good times, yet I knew I was missing something. I couldn’t figure it out. Then I met Denise.
Denise was not born again, but she occasionally went to church to appease her parents. We fell in love, and I even went to church a couple of times to show her parents I cared about God too. A funny thing happened. That warm and peaceful feeling returned, and this time Rabbi Rosen was not there to explain it away.
I started going to church every week. I even made an appointment with the pastor, asking him well over 30 questions I had about this Jesus. Yet I couldn’t seem to take the step and accept Him as my Savior. “I am Jewish and Jews don’t believe in Jesus,” I told the pastor.
My spiritual progress seemed to be at a standstill. Then the Jews for Jesus mobile evangelistic team, the Liberated Wailing Wall, came to Denise’s church. As I listened to their music, testimonies and drama, I couldn’t believe these intelligent, articulate and normal people were all Jewish, and at the same time, believed in Jesus. (I had always assumed Jews for Jesus were a group of religious fanatics.) That night I answered the Holy Spirit’s irresistible call and accepted Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord. To my surprise, so did Denise!
I felt as if my income statement went from being “in the red,” to showing unlimited fixed assets in Jesus! I left my secure and stable job as a CPA to be one of those “religious fanatics” I used to ridicule. Instead of cranking out numbers, now I have opportunities to see faith multiplied as I preach, teach and disciple Jewish people to follow the promised Messiah of Israel, Jesus. I used to reconcile financial statements; now I help people become reconciled to God through Yeshua Hamashiach, Jesus the Messiah!