Have you ever wondered what kind of a Jewish person would believe in Jesus? The answer is, all kinds. There are Jewish doctors, lawyers, artists, musicians, engineers and yes, scientists who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. They all had reasons why they would never believe… but they were willing to examine those reasons and more important, they were willing to ask God to show them the truth. Maybe one of their journeys will resonate with you.
I was brought up in a Jewish home, observed Shabbat faithfully and celebrated the High Holy days at the temple and with family. I attended Hebrew school twice a week and was bar mitzvah and confirmed. While attending classes I asked a lot of questions about God that the rabbi could not answer. Though I continued each year, mainly to please my parents, I became less interested in traditional religion. Feeling hindered in my spiritual development, I leaped headfirst into my own brand of freestyle spirituality after high school graduation.
Like many Jewish people, I was raised in a home where Jewishness was more cultural than religious. Our family celebrated Passover and Hanukkah at our home in Brooklyn, we went to the Temple on the High Holy Days, and several afternoons each week I would attend Hebrew school. This upbringing ensured that I would always know something about what it meant to be Jewish. But cultural awareness and religious faith are two different things, and God was basically peripheral to my life.
I was born in 1932 in Belarus. My parents were religious; they knew God. My father was a rabbi and was sent to prison for five years for conducting circumcision rituals. My father always took me to the synagogue, but I did not understand anything there. I only understood Yiddish. My father always prayed before meals, “Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu,” then he dipped bread into salt and then we could eat.
It was New Year’s Eve, 1951. As I reached for a drinking glass in the shelf-lined pantry of our cold-water flat, I glanced out of the tiny window at the midnight sky. The light of one star in the southwest dazzled me with its brilliance. It beamed bigger and brighter than any star I had ever seen, and I thought, Maybe the Christmas star over Bethlehem looked like that.” Then I realized that I, a Jew, halfway believed something I had always been taught was untrue.
If the condition spread to my left eye, I would be blind. My medical career would be over, and life as I knew it would cease. I was afraid — afraid and angry. I cursed God, figuring if he existed, he deserved it. I informed him — or was it the air? — that I would never believe in him until I understood his ways. “Who are you? What are you like? Why are you doing this when so many people you have allowed to have cancer depend on me? You must not exist!”
I spent my youth in a way that did not produce envy in my peers. Every afternoon, for five days a week, I studied the Hebrew Scriptures at Hebrew School. What a place to spend my youth, with Mr. Katz and with Mr. Bugatch! They seemed to think that learning Hebrew was not punishment enough, that they had to add their own particular sadistic enjoyment to our seemingly perpetual misery. Friday night and Saturday found me in the Synagogue worshipping. For a while, as I grew older, I worshipped evening and morning each day in the synagogue. Every day, I would rise before dawn and, before going to the morning service, would, in obedience to rabbinic tradition, put on tefillin – the boxes containing God’s law – on my forehead and arm.
I wasn’t looking for Jesus or God or anything ontological. I kept my nose to the grindstone. My goal in life was nothing big: I wanted to earn a good living and be able to afford a middle-class lifestyle. But even if I wasn’t looking for Jesus, He was looking for me.
I came to the courtroom early, before the proceedings began. The podium was adjustable, right? I lowered it. I’m five feet, seven and a half inches tall and the last thing I needed was to be standing up on the tips of my toes to reach the podium!
There are Jews in Pakistan?!?” is the common reaction I get when I tell people I was born in Karachi, Pakistan. My father, a Catholic, was of Goan origin (Goa is a western province of India), and my mother comes from the Bene-Israel Jewish community in India/Pakistan. We moved to Quebec, Canada when I was about four years old.
I was born into a middle class, Jewish American family, which would have made me a princess” except that my father was a florist, not a doctor. We celebrated almost all the traditional Jewish holidays in a superficial way. While I was taught there was a God, I never really knew him.