Sandy Cohen: A Story
A way that people might have described me as a child was the good little Jewish girl who wouldn’t hurt anyone.” I was my father’s favorite, and he took me almost everywhere he went. He liked to have me along when he went to see the relatives, and when he went to the synagogue. In this way I met many people, but none of them would have guessed then that God was preparing my heart to accept Jesus, and that one day Jesus would become the center of my life.
While I was growing up, Jesus, the “Gentile God,” was never mentioned at home or in any of my Hebrew school classes. Even the “Jewish God” seemed so far away that by the time I reached high school, I was already feeling unsure that He was real. I was more concerned with worldly leisures than with spiritual truths. I had only a few friends, and like other adolescents my age, being popular was a very great need. But, more than just lacking friends, I knew that something else was missing from my life, something I couldn’t quite describe. I didn’t know then that if I had really searched, I would have found that the something I needed was Someone.
My friend Kathy was the first person who told me about Jesus. The Gospel was so new and frightening to me that I had to ask her to stop. Jewish people just didn’t believe in Jesus! Still, she kept telling me that Jesus loved me, and that I needed to be forgiven of my sins. She spoke of a personal relationship with God, but the whole thing didn’t make any sense to me at all.
As I drove along in my car one day, I suddenly felt that I wanted to see Kathy’s friend, Mike. When I arrived where he worked, I still didn’t understand why it was so important for me to talk to him − until he started talking about Jesus. For the next two months I struggled in my mind with the question, “Could Jesus really be the promised Messiah of Israel?” I didn’t bother to ask my family because I already knew what they would say. I had to find the answer for myself.
After I heard more about Jesus I knew that He could provide me with the peace and love that had been missing from my life. In September of 1976 I asked Him to come into my life. Unsure of how my family would react to all of this, I knew one thing for sure: they considered believing in Jesus a totally unJewish thing to do! I couldn’t bring myself to tell them.
Soon I started attending church with Kathy, and her pastor arranged for me to meet Steffi Rubin, another Jewish believer, who was a staff member with Jews for Jesus. I was really happy to meet her because I thought I was the only Jew in Chicago who believed in Jesus. Steffi began meeting with me to teach me the Bible, and soon I met other Jews for Jesus at the weekly Bible study in Skokie , Illinois . After a few months I was out on the streets with them, handing out Gospel tracts and telling others about my new-found faith in Messiah Jesus. This was the beginning of my work for the Lord.
During all this time my family still didn’t know about my decision to follow Jesus. I was so afraid to tell them. But, with encouragement from Steffi and her husband, Barry, I knew that I had to tell my family what was happening in my life. Their reaction was worse than I had expected. They were so angry that before long I had to move out of their house. I wasn’t sure of where I was going to live, but Steffi and Barry invited me to live with them until I knew where the Lord wanted me.
I had been working for a dentist and volunteering part-time in the Jews for Jesus Chicago branch office, doing some clerical work, handing out tracts and witnessing to people. It was always encouraging to hear what was happening in the other Jews for Jesus branches around the country and at headquarters in San Francisco . I knew that I wanted to serve God, and I knew that He could use me in a secular job just as well as in a Christian one. Still, I didn’t want to be in a place where I wouldn’t be able to do evangelism, or hear about what was happening in the lives of other Jewish believers.
I prayed that God would show me where He wanted me. I knew that He had placed me in different jobs and situations for His purpose, and I was blessed by the things that were happening. I also felt that the Lord had something even greater for me, but that He had His time and His way of doing things. I just had to be patient and trust Him.
In time, He opened up a position for me at Jews for Jesus headquarters in San Francisco. I think I have found the best of two worlds here that of being in a Christian ministry, surrounded by the support and love of a good Christian atmosphere and the fellowship of other Jewish believers, and at the same time, being able to go out on the streets to talk to people about Jesus. I’m learning that wherever God puts you, whether in a situation such as mine, or in a nine-to-five job on Wall Street, He can use you to tell others about Jesus.
In some ways it’s been a difficult road for me since I’ve come to believe in Jesus. My family, ties became badly strained because of my faith. But one Scripture that comforts me, because it has really proven true in my life, is Mark 10:29-30: “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.’ “In the meantime, I have not given up hope for my family’s salvation. I remain in contact with them over the miles that separate us. They know I care for them, and I know that God is able to work in their lives.
Editor’s note: Sandy works in our Word and Data Processing Department here at Jews for Jesus headquarters. The staff has unanimously voted her “The Shortest, Sweetest Worker-Who-Would Never-Hurt Anyone.”