God has unique ways of dealing with each of us. He meets us where we are and brings us to Himself in individual ways. That was the case with me.
My religious background is common to many Jews. My home life was traditionally Jewish, and I attended an Orthodox Jewish synagogue. It was more Orthodox in worship than in belief. The liturgy was conducted entirely in Hebrew, and the men and women sat separately from one another. Those were the major distinctions between Orthodoxy and the other branches of Judaism.
I learned the liturgy of the Sabbath, how to observe the holidays and the many other customs and practices of my religion. However, I was discontent because I saw no real reason to practice those things. God was presented to me as being far away in heaven, unreachable and unknowable. Because of this, I vowed that after my bar mitzvah (confirmation at the age of 13) I would no longer attend Hebrew school. I thought that if God was not interested in me, why should I be interested in Him? I felt free to live the way I wanted (as much as a 13-year-old knows how to live).
In junior high school I felt alienated from my Jewish classmates, largely because their families were better off financially than mine. I turned to one of the small local gangs as my peer group. I learned to smoke, to drink and even to smoke marijuana. I felt I had to do those things in order to be accepted. Shortly after that my attitude began to decline. I became very apathetic toward my school work, and my grades showed it. I became more and more rebellious toward my parents. All in all, my lifestyle was far from desirable. One summer my friend Frank went away. When he came back, I noticed that there was something different about him. He didn’t want to get high any more. I also noticed a drastic change in his attitude. When he invited me to what he called a prayer meeting,” I told him I wanted nothing to do with it. Besides, I was Jewish, and we Jews didn’t go to those things.
Then in October of 1971 there was a tragedy in my family. My uncle passed away. It was the first time that kind of thing had happened in our family. I was used to being with them at functions that promoted joy and happiness. This event was far from joyful. As I looked at my uncle in the casket, I began to wonder about life in general. I thought there had to be more than living one’s life and dying and that was all there was. My problem was that I didn’t know where to look for answers.
A couple of weeks later Gordon, a good friend of mine, also died. Gordon had been a backslidden Christian when I knew him, but shortly before he died he had decided to rededicate his life to the Lord. He had been driving to tell his girlfriend about his decision when he had fallen asleep at the wheel and been killed.
The night I learned of Gordon’s death I went to his home. While my friends went in, I waited outside in the car because I didn’t know the family very well. Then Gordon’s father came out and invited me in. Once inside the house, I was amazed at the family’s reaction. They were far from happy, but there was such a calmness about the place. (Later I learned that it was because they knew Gordon had gone to be with the Lord.)
By that time, I was so sick of death that I really wanted to be alone. After I had paid my condolences to the family I wandered upstairs to be my myself and ponder the events of the last few weeks. As I was sitting there, a man with a Bible walked up to me. He asked if I minded if he sat down. I said no. He began to tell me how Gordon had loved the Lord and that the Lord also loved me. After presenting the gospel to me, he asked if I wanted to accept Christ. I had a lot of fear in my heart. I feared my parents’ reaction, for one thing. Yet I felt it was the right decision to make, so that night I prayed to accept Christ as my Messiah and Savior.
My family did react with anger, and it took some time for me to be able to explain to them fully what I actually believed. It was 1974, and Jews for Jesus was conducting its first New York Witnessing Campaign. I came to the city for a few days as a volunteer. As I watched their evangelism tactics and methods, I saw the response and reaction from the Jewish community and I became really excited at what was taking place.
The more I was rejected by my Jewish people for my faith, the more I felt the need and the burden to share Yeshua with them. In the fall of 1974 I enrolled in Nyack College. In my heart I knew that God was calling me to reach my people, but in my first few years of school I decided to become a little more involved in the social life. Consequently, I became less and less involved in what I knew I should be doing.
In 1975 I gave in. I transferred to Northeastern Bible College and became officially associated with Jews for Jesus through the student scholarship program. During my involvement in that program I had many opportunities to grow and learn. My experiences included leading Bible studies, going to Northern Ireland for a week of evangelism, leading an outreach at Queens College and singing in Messiah’s Shofar, our New York music group.
I entered the scholarship program with the intention of coming onto full-time Jews for Jesus staff. In December of 1978 I graduated from Northeastern with a bachelor of arts degree in biblical literature. I spent a year at Jews for Jesus headquarters in San Francisco during our Avodah special year of training.
There I met my wife Angi. Together we sang and ministered with The Liberated Wailing Wall until the birth of our first child. At that time we were assigned to serve with the Los Angeles branch of Jews for Jesus. We were there for three years, and in 1987 I was transferred to Boston. Now I am leading the Boston branch. I look forward each day to the challenge of reaching my Jewish people and others for Yeshua.
Editor’s Note: In 1984 Steve’s parents both became believers in Yeshua. Just this past year, after Mr. Silverstein suffered a heart attack, both of them recommitted their lives to the Lord.