Frieda Roos-Van Hessen
I was born and raised in Amsterdam, Holland, of Jewish parents. They never talked about God, and I had never been in a synagogue except for my brother’s wedding. For me, Yom Kippur meant a day off from school, and the only Jewish events that took place in our home were the Bar-Mitzvahs of my two brothers! Still, we considered ourselves very Jewish. Order your copy!
In my teenage years I had a Gentile boyfriend, and since my parents had forbidden me from seeing him because he was a Gentile, we often sneaked into a local Catholic church to be together. I was always impressed by the paintings there of the crucifixion and moved by the sadness expressed in the face of Jesus, as the artist perceived the magnitude of that event. But the times were soon to change, and I would become a fugitive, running for my very life.
From Singer to Survivor
The Lord blessed me with a soprano singing voice, and after studying at the Amsterdam Conservatory, I embarked on a career that led me to sing the Dutch version of Disney’s Snow White. From there my work included: the Grand Diploma in the Geneva, Switzerland World Contest; the role of the Forestbird in Wagner’s Siegfried with the Bayreuth Festspiel Haus; a Command performance of Verdi’s Requiem for the Queen of Holland; many live broadcasts and concert performances; and oratorios like Handel’s “The Messiah” and the many beautiful Christian cantatas by Bach. But, when the Second World War began, my singing career ended abruptly. I was immediately disqualified from any and all regular concert performances because I was Jewish. The newspaper reviews read, “this soloist is not worth reviewing, after all the suffering brought upon us by the Jews.” The Germans did allow a temporary Jewish theater, so I became involved in performing with famous German Jewish refugee artists for the Jewish population.
Meanwhile, the Nazis brought to another theater on the next block, Jews that they had rounded up for deportations to the infamous concentration camps. Because of my involvement with the Jewish Council, which sponsored our work in the theater, we were allowed to minister to the thousands of deportees and were guaranteed we would be the last ones to go. The ‘deportation theater’ had become a madhouse of anguish and filth, housing up to 9,000 people in a place built to seat 1,000. Sick people, old and young, crying children, were huddled together in fear of death, sleeping on louse-infested mattresses all over the floor. There were only two toilet facilities. I contracted lice and scabies all over my body, so much so, that when an opportunity did present itself for me to go into hiding, I could not because of my condition.
While at the theater I became good friends with Mieke*. Her husband had been arrested by the Gestapo, and we decided that I would stay in her house and help with her two small children. My former boyfriend, unbeknownst to me, had become a Gestapo agent out of anger against my parents.
Not only did he try to destroy the Jewish people, but he sent the stormtroopers after me at Mieke’s place.
Four Long Years, Day to Day
Thus we entered an unknown world of hiding and escape, fear and agony. For the next four years I lost all I had, my entire family, home and belongings, and had to run from death and destruction, never knowing what the next day would bring, whether I would live or die. We hid out in many places, towns and cities, and each time our arrest seemed inevitable God seemed to put a hedge of angels around us. The longest time in one hideout was 212 days in one room: never going out except by crawling over the ground in the dark to be with my parents. They were hiding in the next house until they were betrayed by the woman who was hiding us--for 25 guilders each. That was the price the Nazis paid for information about Jews in hiding or Anti-Germans listening to English radio broadcasts about the progress of the Allied forces. Alas, nothing had changed since Judas Iscariot! I saw my dear parents rounded up and taken away with bayonets at their backs. They and my lovely younger brother, Eddie, who was betrayed some time later, were all murdered in concentration camps. The only thing Eddie had taken with him was his violin, which he played professionally. He was forced to play it while our people were being tormented and gassed. After the war I met a doctor who had survived, and told me about how the Germans kept Eddie without any medication as he suffered from typhoid and got to the point where his body could no longer cope with starvation. May God help them! It takes the love of Jesus to enable us to overcome and to want to forgive; to say “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
We forgive, He heals the wounds, but the scars remain. Space doesn’t afford here for all that happened. But I can say that our God was in complete control and saw me through. Even when I was held prisoner, having been arrested with a bayonet in my own back, God was there. He freed me right out of the “lion’s den,” forcing them to let me go in a most miraculous way!
From Darkness to Light!
When it seemed to us that our trials would never finish, finally the war came to an end. Suddenly, it seemed from all different directions people began to talk to me about Jesus. Then, I contacted a pastor who sent, believe it or not, a German lady to me. God does have a way with things! She had married an Orthodox Jewish man, become a Jewess, and lived a Jewish life for some 33 years. Her husband died suddenly leaving her brokenhearted and grieving much, but eventually she had found Jesus as her Messiah. For the next six weeks I argued with her about this Jesus, until she asked me to read Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Reading Isaiah 53, I did not understand a single word. Then, as promised, I started reading Psalm 22, and coming to the 16th verse where it says “they pierced my hands and my feet”, I let out one big yell, “Oh my God, that is Jesus, because He was crucified!” I remembered all the Christian paintings I had seen years earlier in that church in Amsterdam, and suddenly all of it made sense. I went back to the 53rd chapter of Isaiah and now I understood each and every word. Hallelujah! The ‘scales fell off my eyes’ instantly, and the first thing I said was “it’s like coming out of a dark hole into the light.” Though I did not know it at that point, I found out later that Jesus is called “The Light of the World.” As I read the Tanakh (Old Testament) all alone in a room, Yeshua revealed Himself to me: then and there I was born again. After reading the Gospels I understood even more. Since those earlier days, God has not only furthered my concert career in the “New World,” but He has enabled me to become a living testimony for Yeshua ha Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah) as my personal Savior. Now, many years later, having been in Israel visiting the places where Yeshua walked and preached, the Word has become even more dear to me. Now it is no longer a dream, but my eyes have seen where He was, and how each day He is always near to us. Amen.
I grew up in my Grandmother’s home with my parents and older brother. It was an Orthodox Jewish home meaning we ate only Kosher food, and lit candles on Friday evening to welcome the Sabbath with the traditional challah bread and blessings over the home.
When I was six years old, I begged my parents to allow me to attend Hebrew school. I loved learning the language though I was not taught the history behind my heritage. My Hebrew education lasted for six years. Most of my Jewish education was gained through living the traditions of my people.
To be a good Jew, I learned to observe the Sabbath, eat no pork, attend synagogue, and on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur atone for all my sins.
As a child I attended the synagogue but also attended church occasionally with my Christian friends. I learned that Jesus was a Jewish carpenter, who traveled much to help people, to heal those that needed healing, performing miracles and eventually gave himself up to be crucified on the cross. I also learned that we Jews did not accept him as the Messiah to come. Rather, one day the Jewish Messiah would come and we would be lifted up and welcomed into heaven’s gate to be with him.
Still, I grew up wondering why Jesus was not our Messiah in general, and why He could not be my Messiah in particular.
At the age of 18, I met Mel. The following year we were married in an Orthodox Jewish ceremony. Mel was also raised in a traditional Jewish home and we tried to raise our two sons to love their heritage, having them Bar Mitzvahed in our local synagogue.
I worked all my adult life, except for the early years of raising our sons. It’s ironic but I thought I would be a stay-at-home mom who would cook and take care of her family. I thought I would always be present in the home to watch my children grow up to become the wonderful adults they are today. That was not to be my lot in life. Am I complaining? No! God’s plan for me was something else.
It turns out I would have conversations about Jesus with an associate at my work. Because of my interest my co-worker went so far as to proclaim to me that in reality I was really a “closet Christian.” In retrospect when I consider this time I realize that God was drawing me to Himself and I was being led to follow Him over those years.
Last winter, through a door-to-door invitation to a Bible study in our Charlotte neighborhood, I found a small community of people who loved learning God’s Word. This was something I had always desired and my husband and I were welcomed warmly as we discussed the issues of Scriptures each week. Knowing that we were Jewish one of the women in the study invited us to the Hope of Israel Congregational Passover Banquet. It was at that Passover where I realized that perhaps Hope of Israel Congregation might be able to provide the spiritual answers and nurturing I longed for.
The next morning I attended their Shabbat services for the first time and felt like I had found my home. After a few weeks of attending the services I realized that Jesus is my true Messiah and on April 25th 2009 I prayed to receive Him as my Savior. When I told Mel he responded, “Well don’t expect me to believe in Him, but you do as you please.”
That was Mel’s initial response but after about a month of coming to services and having his questions answered Mel invited Messiah into his life too!
Now, a full year and one Passover later, we are continuing to build our lives on the solid foundation of the Word of God. We have both been immersed and are serving members at Hope of Israel Congregation, continually growing there in discipleship. Throughout our lives, God has blessed Mel and me with beautiful children, grandchildren and friendships, but now we are complete in His peace, as even the Scriptures assure us (Romans 5:1).
Matt Nadler got a chance to talk to Henn Hetzroni about his faith.
How did you grow up?
I was born in Eilat, Israel. My parents got divorced soon after that time. I went to live with my grandmother in Kiryat Malachi (City of Angels, in Southern Israel). There I went to a religious school. My grandmother was very traditional, keeping the Sabbath and going to synagogue. When my dad remarried, I moved in with him and switched to a secular school. At age 14 I moved to kibbutz Yad Mordechai while my parents stayed at Kiryat Malachi. I loved that time in my life, from twelve to 18. The kibbutz was secular; they weren’t teaching about the Bible or God. Although they would not consider themselves against God, and even though they celebrated God’s feasts - Shavuot, Rosh HaShanah and all that - they just did not believe in Him.
As far as my faith, even before my Bar Mitzvah, I began questioning God’s existence, since He wouldn’t answer my little challenges like, if you are real, make a horse appear. Also, to me, He wasn’t a God to be loved, but feared. For example, in Israel we have high-rise buildings. Going from building to building, I would run, afraid that God was watching me. I thought that when I was inside the building I was okay, unexposed! This experience is imprinted in my memory.
In the kibbutz the emphasis was about the land, about loving your country, defending it for any price. I liked the idea of everyone coming together, being equal, doing activities which were patrioric. After that I went into the army (not by choice of course).
What about "Yeshua"?
Yeshua? Yeshua, or Yeshu, as we called him, was really nothing more than a curse-word. It was a derogatory term. For example if someone saw you eating meat and dairy together, one might say, "what are you... notzri (Christian) or something?"
Later on, a little, I’d think that because he was from Natzeret, a carpenter, and heard things like this, I always thought of him as a person. Maybe he even existed - but he was just a man. People made him God. That was my view then. I heard that he was Jewish, but I’d never read on it. It didn’t interest me at all.
And then you went into the army?
Yes, I served three years mandatory. I was givati. I served in Gaza within six months of me joining the army that is when the first intifada started. It was the first time we had to deal with that kind of civilian warfare. I’d also been stationed in Lebanon, patrolling the northern border. I sign up for one more year [in addition to the three years] and became an officer, commander of a platoon in givati. And that was enough.
After that, you came to America.
Yes, I came to the states, traveling with a friend. The plan was to go to South America, but my friend had to go back, so I was waiting for him. Two or three months later, I met Star [and her daughter Nicole] and we soon married.
Star was raised Christian, but at that time she wasn’t a dedicated follower. Still, I remember we’d have arguments about evolution and God, though I didn’t want to believe in "her side."
Now with the birth of Madisun our daughter and raising a family I felt like that we needed to be connected to something bigger than us, a solid value system for raising our daughters. At that time we were doing Shabbat dinner every Friday, the Jewish holidays, as well as the Christian ones, yet I did not realize at that time that I was praising and thanking God with my mouth [in the Shabbat blessings] and not my heart. I would go to synagogue every year on Yom Kippur to take care of the sins, but deep down I knew it was not sincere (on my part) - you’d go because that was the tradition.
Little by little, I actually started reading the Bible, but read nothing to do with Yeshua. I thought, Star can go with Jesus to God, whereas I can go to him direct. Same God, different ways.
..a direct line?
(laughs) Yeah, whereas she needed a middle man. But, I’d think, we all praise the same God, so no big deal.
Star was becoming more committed to the Lord and she and Madisun began attending a church. And I am thinking, okay? This is a change. But I also thought, I am the father. I need to go as the man of the house, as a family. So I went with them to services.
The services were not the Catholic rituals I was expecting. The whole thing kind of fit. Afterward they’d have an oneg, a time of getting together. I realized they had a peacefulness and a love for each other. I also started reading the New Covenant, as I was attending services. The message of the text surprised me by its Jewishness.
Well, even the names, and the places - most of all the places. Jerusalem, Jaffa, Jordan ... Israel. And I started to realize that this Jesus was a man who cared for people around him, He was not someone who just said "believe in me," and that’s it, which is how he had been portrayed to me.
At the same time, I thought, well, I am Jewish, but this is Christian. I couldn’t understand the theology of it all. When we eventually moved to Charlotte, we started going to Lakeshore Christian Fellowship, and I continued to learn about Jesus. But still, how could I believe? What about all the Jewish holidays - what about my heritage? So in my view I was going to services for shalom bayit (peace in the family), just as they would have Hanukkah and such for me.
Eventually Star and I had a talk about the two directions of faith our family was taking. She encouraged me to consider who Jesus was. Later, while on business in Houston, I was feeling convicted, yet afraid. Again, I didn’t know how to believe. So I called Pastor Gil of Lakeshore [Christian Fellowship], and he assured me that, far from becoming a Gentile, I would be a testimony for Yeshua to the Jewish people by remaining Jewish. I went to God and confessed my sins, confessing Yeshua as my Lord and Savior. It was a new page. Though I saw all my sins, my shame, and could not imagine how God could forgive me, He did. I was a different person.
The next day, I was hungry for the Scriptures. I would read and study, getting revelation and answers left and right. Studying and praying confirmed to me I was on the right path.
So how did you end up at Hope of Israel?
Even before that, Sam [Nadler] had come to our church - I was not there, but Star had told me about it. He did a seder. And she said, "Henn I really think you should talk to this guy. He showed how Jesus... he is your Messiah more than anything." This was before I had come to faith. And she proceeded to explain to me elements of the seder, from his message. So I listened to the podcast and was surprised. Eventually, after becoming a believer, Pastor Gil encouraged me to go to Hope of Israel so that our family could live in a Messianic Jewish context. Months later, doubts crept in as I began to realize I would have to tell my parents. I wondered again at how faith in Yeshua could be real. So I kept it inside for a year before I told my friends and parents.
Finally I told them, when they came to visit from Israel. I was anxious about their response. At first they didn’t understand the concept totally, though they knew something had changed for the better. It was around Yom Yerushalayim (in May) that they visited Hope of Israel. When they came to service, they cried. They teared up at the songs about Jerusalem, the dancing, etc. They could see that we were a part of the Jewish people - and they were happy for me. My mom looked at me and said to me, "I am proud of you." I thought it would be the worst! But they were really good about it. My mom even said, "if every synagogue in Israel would be like this - we would have a lot of the youth following God!"
I see what my parents meant, too: many of the customs that I just did without meaning, now have life in my Messiah.
When I heard you give your story to the youth [at HOI], you described how your life was different now.
Oh yeah, for my immediate family? Absolutely. Now we walk with meaning. We put Him first, and it makes life easier in a sense, in that we understand how things line up under Him. Any issue that we have, we bring it to the Lord we pray and read the Scriptures. For example if I instruct Madisun in something I base it according to the Bible and it’s authority. It is His word, not ours. We can ask, "how will this look in the eyes of the Lord"?
We live an everyday life with accountability to God. And in that, we have a Helper, to see God’s faithfulness, patience, and love for us in all things. I am so grateful for having the Lord in my life, most of all that He sent His son to die for my sins. He is a good God and there’s a purpose to it all.
I was born on January 2, 1948 in Queens, NY. My dad was involved with the Furniture Workers Union after the loss of the family furniture business during the Depression, and both he and my mom were hard working people. Growing up in my neighborhood of Middle Village in the late 40’s & early 50’s meant growing up Jewish. With a synagogue on every block, the choices seemed endless. Where we attended, however, depended mostly on whom we were getting along with during a given High Holy Days season.
I received a normal Jewish upbringing, and was eventually Bar Mitzvahed according to orthodoxy. This both pleased and relieved my family, because even at such a young age I tended to resist religious activity. You see, I always had questions. There were a number of Auschwitz survivors in my neighborhood—the numbers on their arms were a constant argument for me against the existence of God. “How could there be a God, much less a ‘God of Israel’, that would allow such atrocities to be perpetrated against people, especially the Jewish people?” One night when I was nine years old, I put God to the test: “Okay, if you’re there, have a penny appear under my pillow,” I prayerfully demanded. I figured I wasn’t being greedy—anyone can come up with a penny, right? As by the next morning, there was no penny under my pillow, I concluded there was no God over my head either.
After Bar Mitzvah the pressure was off for me to attend synagogue. I was now considered religiously an adult, and my parents were no longer responsible for my spiritual commitments or failures. So I gave up any participation in religion, which I had done only to honor my family.
My teenage years were spent removing any residual effects of religiosity. I actually took great pride talking my friends out of going to services, whether church or synagogue. I got involved in petty crime and local mischief, and the police would occasionally show up at the door, raising suspicions among my neighbors. I became, I’m now sorry to say, a source of disappointment to my family.
Following my stint in Vietnam, where I developed both a fondness for using and selling drugs, I lived in various parts of California. At first I traveled around and lived in an old green Econoline van that I called “Wire and Whimsy,” because that’s what held it together. It was meant to be a sort of a ‘rolling party’, though we would be lucky if it rolled, being such an elderly van. I broke down in Eureka, California, and got a job at the Snug Saloon. It was a bar for fisherman, lumberjacks, and hippies that not only provided entertainment in the form of nightly brawls, but gave me a place to crash until the van was fixed.
It was here that I met my first Christians, by which I mean genuine believers in Messiah. They would come in about closing time to give the drunks a place to sleep, which was fine with me since I had to do something with them anyway. But these were trouble-making Christians: they would take the opportunity to talk about Jesus to whomever was still on their feet! It turns out that talking about Jesus in a saloon is really bad for business, so I’d throw out these zealots, with or without the drunks. Nothing personal, but business is business.
One night one of these Christians tried to tell me how much I “needed the Lord.” “You’ll never be truly happy until you come to faith in Jesus,” she said. Just to show her how ‘happy’ I was, I laughed at her and said, “I have so much religion of my own that I’m not even using, what would I want with any of yours?!” I went on to say some rather creative and colorful but not very flattering things. But something happened. Nothing that I was totally aware of then, but something happened—a spiritual seed was planted. Circumstances changed very quickly after that. The saloon changed hands, the house I was living in burned down, but the van was running somewhat, so I figured it was time to move on.
Back in San Francisco I shared a flat with about a dozen other ‘denizens of the dark’—all involved in one illegal activity or another, generally drug-oriented. It was during that time that I met a Jew who believed in Jesus. He was “witnessing” with some people where I “did business.” Sort of a place ‘where angels fear to tread.’ When he told me he was Jewish, I genuinely felt sorry for him. I figured His mother must have dressed him wrong growing up or something. This had to be the dumbest Jew I ever met, for if there’s one thing a Jew should know, is that we “Jews do not believe in Jesus.” Period. When he invited me to a Bible study, I could only mock, “Thursday night? Sorry, that’s my night to sleep in, but if I come down with insomnia I’ll be sure to drop by.”
The night of that study I decided on a whim to go, to laugh at the believers. While I was there someone showed me a portion from the Hebrew Prophets, Isaiah 53. I read it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It spoke of one who would die for the sins of my people but yet not stay dead! Nothing is supposed to be this clear, especially not the Bible! I figured spiritual matters were supposed to be vague, and you could interpret what it meant ‘for you’. There isn’t supposed to be objective evidence. Sneaky Christians, acting so sincere and Jewish, they must have taken part of their New Testament and stuck it in ‘my side of the Bible!’ They were confusing me with the facts! I pretended not to be interested. When they said they’d pray for me and wrote my name in their Bibles, I could only sarcastically laugh and go back to the little world I was familiar with and comfortable in.
Things began to change, though. Over the next several months, the more I tried to disprove what they were saying, the more intrigued I became with Jesus. I tried studying the occult and what is now called “New Age” religion, even taking courses at the Metaphysical Institute of San Francisco; but the more I searched for truth in all the wrong places, the more I came back to considering this Jesus.
On the evening of January 10, 1972, I became convinced that there is such a thing as “spiritual evil” (till then I figured there was no objective right and wrong: “spiritual power” was simply what you made of it). It was then I realized that drugs were opening me up to the spiritual realm—but to the wrong spirit! I saw a spiritual battle for my soul, which I was losing, and I was thoroughly convinced that I needed a Savior. I needed Jesus.
Though I didn’t know all the right words to say, I asked Jesus to save me. And He did. When I prayed that simple prayer the Spirit of God came down upon me with power. I was cleansed, forgiven, and I experienced a peace that I had never known before: a peace that passes all understanding.
I woke the next morning and I knew in my heart one thing: Jesus is Lord. I don’t know how I knew that, but I did. I also knew I could not live where I was living or the way I was living, but what was I to do? I thought surely I had to be the only real Jew who had ever done this before. After a few dead ends I remembered the Bible study I had attended months before, and thought, “Maybe they know what to do?”
As I called them up I was sure they would never remember me, so I explained who I was, then finally blurted out, “Jesus saved me last night—what do I do now?” The other end of the phone sounded like the Hallelujah Chorus. They hadn’t forgotten, they had been praying for me every day! though I hadn’t believed in prayer, they believed that there is a God who does answer prayer. So if you’re praying for someone, don’t stop. The Lord does answer prayer!
I soon started studying the Scriptures, growing in Messiah, and learning to share Him with others. There were many more blessings to follow. I went off to Bible College, and soon after, I met and married my wife Miriam. The Lord called me to bring the Good News to my people—something I’ve attempted to do for the past 40 years. Some of that will have to wait to be told at another time, but this is my story, and I’m sticking to it!
David S. Taylor
I, and my family come from the Biblical tribe of Levi. Although I bear the last name of Taylor, my family name is originally Hochman. My father was born and raised an Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn, NY. As a professional musician, he played for many years with Guy Lombardo, and on the Ted Mack show. The name Taylor came about thus: in order to leave Poland and enter the United States, my grandfather assumed another person’s identity, and chose the name ‘Schneiderman.’ Later my father chose the name Taylor (tailor in Yiddish is ‘schneider’) as a stage name, since “Sheldon Isadore Schneiderman” wasn’t exactly a ‘great stage name’ for a performer! Then, along came me.
I was raised in a traditional Jewish home and attended my synagogue weekly. At a young age, I was always very moved during the synagogue services, felt a deep closeness to G-d, and desired to be a rabbi when I grew up. I excelled in my early years, a Bar Mitzvah at 13, the rabbi worked with me within the instructions given to him by my devoutly Orthodox grandfather. He must have been pleased at my ceremony as I remember lots of hugs and tears on that day.
The following year I was given my first job by my rabbi, where I was actually hired and paid to teach the beginner’s Hebrew School class at my synagogue. Every Shabbat, I sat on the bema with my rabbi and the president of our synagogue, assisted removing and replacing the Torah scroll in the ark at the weekly readings. I continued to be very involved in my synagogue until I neared 16 years of age, at which time, I became more interested in playing guitar and hanging out with my friends. At 18 years of age I was earning a living as a guitar player in a band of ‘music scholarship musicians’ from a local college, and I decided a musician/entertainer would be my career.
During this time, my sister Debbie, who, like me, also had strong ties to our synagogue and our Jewish identity, told my family she believed in ‘Jesus’. Oy! Although I no longer attended synagogue and was ‘far from G-d’, I was shocked. I had a deep disdain for ‘Christians’ and especially towards ‘Jesus’, and I told her to never speak to me about ‘Him.’
During my early 20’s, I became interested in Eastern philosophy, reading books by Carlos Casteneda, Krishnamurti and others, and also studied Korean martial arts, attaining a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Still something was missing, and my interest in whether or not a “Supreme Being” really existed began to take hold of me. Somehow, I had the sense that a person, though sincere, could be wrong in their beliefs, and when they died end up in a place they wouldn’t want to be.
One day, as I was walking on the beach, about to go surfing, I remember looking up to the sky and asking aloud, “If You are really there, please show me. The Christians say that “Jesus” is the only way, the Buddhists say “Buddha” is the enlightened one, this person says this, that person says that; how am I supposed to know? Whatever it is, I just want to know the truth because I don’t want to be wrong.”
My career as a musician continued, I was teaching martial arts, and at 23, I married my wife, Laurie. After year and a half I discovered that I didn’t want all the responsibilities that came with marriage. I wanted out. I told Laurie that I wanted a divorce, but she was raised with strong values and didn’t give in to my request. Unbeknownst to me, she began to cry out to God in prayer.
Our marriage continued to get worse, until one day I woke up and out of nowhere, this question popped into my head—“What IF “Jesus” is the Messiah?” As the day went on this question began to bother me to no end. As days passed, being the analytical person that I am, I began seriously considering what this meant and its ramifications. In fact, I became consumed with the prospect. I knew that if “Jesus” truly was the Messiah, then I, as a Jew, should believe in Him. If He really was the Messiah then whatever He said concerning this life, the world to come, and how to get there, had to hold the greatest weight of any words that have been spoken. But was He the Messiah, or not? I needed to know.
One night I began to relate to Laurie that ‘Jesus’ was bothering me and I began asking her questions. She suggested I speak to my sister, Debbie. The next night Debbie and I went to work out at a local health club. When I saw her I said, “Debbie, Jesus is bothering me 24 hours a day. I can’t get Him out of my head!”
She said to me, “David, I can prove to you that Jesus is our Messiah.” I said to her, “if you can prove to me that ‘Jesus’ is our Messiah from my Hebrew Bible, then I’ll do whatever it takes to believe in Him. Just don’t try to show me from your ‘Christian Bible.’ (I had always believed the Christians had changed the words in our Bible. I was actually scared of the ‘red letter’ passages I had seen.) Debbie proceeded to show me passages of Scripture from my Hebrew Bible. I was astounded!
I finished my workout and went to sit in the sauna. As I sat there, I reasoned to myself, “On one hand, if I put my trust in “Jesus”, I stand to lose my family and friends, but, on the other hand, it was clear to me, from my own Hebrew Bible, that He has to be the Jewish Messiah. At that moment I opted for Messiah, and as I sat alone in a sauna at a martial arts center at 2 a.m., I confessed to G-d that I had gone my own way and not His, that I had sinned against Him, and I asked “Jesus” to come into my life. I told him that I believed He was my Messiah and that He rose from the dead on the third day.
Afterward I saw Debbie and said, “Well, I did it. This doesn’t mean I have to start telling everyone about “Jesus” and go to a church, does it?” She laughed.
The next day, I told Laurie what I had done. Later that week, Laurie also prayed and placed her faith in Messiah. As that week progressed, my life became radically different. Suddenly I saw Laurie in a way I had never experienced before—I had such a love for her.
It was as though I was seeing her through someone else’s eyes. As I write this, we have been married for going on 25 years. This has been wonderful G-d’s work in our lives. We have also been blessed with two wonderful children, Julie and Daniel, who have become Bar and Bat Mitzvah, and are also Jewish believers in Messiah with a strong sense of Jewish identity. We’ve been members of a Messianic Jewish congregation for 20 years, and the musical talent G-d gave me I’ve been privileged to use over the years as a worship leader. My love for Yeshua, and for my heritage as a Jew, is passionate.
G-d answered the prayer I prayed on the beach over 20 years ago, for Him to show me the truth. I discovered that Truth is a Person, as Yeshua stated about Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Me.” He has done a truly amazing work in my life, and for this I am eternally thankful.
I was born into a Jewish family of Hungarian and Turkish origin in Uruguay, South America. Both of my parents had been raised in all the Jewish traditions but, by the time I was two years old my parents had divorced, and by the time I was eight, both had remarried to non-Jewish people. My sister and I lived with my mother and her husband, who also was Catholic, and unfortunately, an anti-Semite. Throughout my childhood and adolescence I was raised between teachings of my Jewish heritage and agnostic/anti-Semitic ideas. My paternal grandmother was an incredibly loving ‘Idische-mame’ (Jewish mom) and leader of the family. She wanted to preserve the traditions of our Jewishness, as opposed to an ever increasing secularizing of our family through my father’s agnosticism and my step-father’s ideas of the supposed evil nature of anything Jewish.
Until I was approximately eighteen years old, anytime I was asked about my religion, I simply said ‘I was nothing’. While I wanted to fit in with my school mates, I didn’t understand all the rites people went through in mass. I couldn’t be one of ‘those’ who had killed my people, and I certainly didn’t believe in Jesus. At the same time, once in a while I attended the Jewish festivities (which I didn’t understand either) to fit in with my family. I felt lonely and out of place, and thought no one could understand me. It seemed that no matter where I went I just didn’t fit in.
In 1984 my grandmother passed away and with her most of the family traditions. Sometime after that I was on a trip and although I had not told anyone that I was Jewish, I was invited to a Passover Seder. That night I felt so much at home that I realized that I really was Jewish.
This, however did not go much further until a catholic boyfriend insisted that I convert to Catholicism. At that point, something inside of me cried out, no! I will not convert, I am Jewish, and happy to be Jewish!
In November 1996 I met Andy and immediately fell head over heals in love with him. As our relationship evolved we started talking about God. I felt very disappointed with the apparent focus on ‘the money making’ of many churches. At that time I was anti-church and almost anti-Christian. I felt the apostle Paul should be taken out of the Bible and I had no intention of joining a congregation, much less trusting in this Jesus. As we were planning on getting married, Andy told me he missed his spiritual life and would very much like to regain it with me. Because of my love for him I said I would try, but once again I didn’t think I would fit in, especially in a church.
In 1998 we got married, had our party and settled in Charlotte, NC in July. Somehow a copy of “The Schmooze Letter” (WMM’s newsletter) fell into our hands and I found myself very interested. Although skeptical, I was intrigued to find out about this congregation which was both Jewish AND believed in Yeshua (Jesus).
Looking up the Word of Messiah site on the internet, we found out they were having a service for Yom Kippur and decided to go.
Once there, one by one the walls that had separated me from trusting in Yeshua were crumbling down and my eyes were opened. I realized that Yeshua had died so that I could live. I understood the indescribable love He had for me, that caused Him to give His life. With such an awesome God asking to come into my life and release me from the chains that had bound me to sin and give me the true, eternal life, how I could not let Him in my heart? There was a feeling I could not describe, although now I know it was the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) upon me. Before I knew it, I found myself crying and praying to the Lord along with Sam Nadler, asking G-d to forgive my sins, accepting His death as an atonement for my sins, and asking Him to come into and be the Master of my life!
After that many changes took place. When I tried to find the passages of Paul’s writings that I didn’t like I couldn’t find them, and I began to see my entire life from a whole different perspective. My priorities became different. I found myself feeling a kind of love I had never felt before, and being able to I had never been able to before. I also found a peace that has changed me forever, a peace with God and through Him, a peace with myself.
Four years ago, Yeshua began working in my life and making many changes. I feel I have become a little better but there still are so many areas of me that still need to be fixed. I only know I must be patient and keep on trusting in the Lord. He will continue day by day to complete the work He has begun in me, just as He has promised. Shalom.
Many of you are praying for your Jewish neighbors and faithfully sharing the Lord as God gives you opportunity. The following testimony is from a young mother who found her Messiah in a matter of months as some of her neighbors were “praying for her behind her back”. I trust you will be encouraged as you read Stacy's story “In her own words”. - Miriam Nadler
This is my testimony of how Yeshua came into my life, touched my heart and changed my life forever. First, let me tell you that I am Jewish and was raised in a Conservative Jewish home in the greater Washington, DC area. I went through Hebrew school and was Bat-mizvahed at the age of thirteen. Looking back now, I don't think I ever understood what it meant to have a relationship with God. I went through the motions, but never really understood why.
Flash forward fifteen years where I now live: the “Bible Belt” of Charlotte where most of my friends seem to be Christians (at least Gentile). My two best friends, who are Christians, never really talked to me about what it meant to be a believer, but I could see they were absolutely amazing women. I thought they represented how a “Christian” should be: caring, truthful, dependable, loyal and not overbearing. But for some reason I actually appreciated the absence of faith in our conversations.
Enter One ‘Nutty’ Friend
I did have an acquaintance of sorts who I thought was a bit on the overbearing side: Tammy*. Tammy and I have daughters who play together, and one day last December we began talking on the telephone about how we were raising our girls. Tammy is home-schooling so she incorporates God and the Scriptures into her child’s education.
So I said to her “That is not what the real world is about. My daughter, Anna, will know about concrete things like reading and social studies, and we are raising her to be a good honest girl. That is what is important.”
Tammy then said to me “Stacy, how can you think eternal life is not important?!”
Well, this actually struck me as a humorous question because at that point Tammy seemed to be “ off her rocker.” I thought, “I’ll have some fun with my “meshuggenah” (“nutty”) friend”, as we began going back and forth about God. I had my views and she could not sway me, but it was amusing to hear her get frustrated! That is, until I had had enough. “Look Tammy,” I said, hoping to end the conversation and put her in her place. “I am Jewish and my family is Jewish, and If I ever did anything (like accept the Messiah) I would break my family’s heart. So I’m sorry, but, that is how it is and we will just have to agree to disagree.”
“Well that’s a shame,” she said. “But, you know there are a lot of Jews that have converted.”
Now it was not so humorous anymore. What I heard her say was “I am sorry you are going to spend eternity in hell, but you can join my team and admit that ‘being Jewish’ is wrong.” Our phone conversation ended on bad terms. I was so mad at her that I started reading anything I could on being Jewish. “ I am not going to buy into this ‘Jesus thing,’ I thought to myself. So I bought The Idiot’s Guide to the Bible and read the entire book. At that point, I started feeling like, “Well maybe this Jesus did do some pretty amazing things, if you actually believe it at all.”
A New Testament Experience
In the beginning of March, a friend invited me to her church. She explained that a Jewish man would be speaking. I accepted the invitation, and to my surprise, it was awesome. There was an amazing atmosphere of love and joy as I saw Jews and Gentiles worshiping the same God together. The speaker said that even if you believe in Yeshua, you are still Jewish. Well, this was a concept that I had never even considered. It reminded me of being able to get a ticket at the amusement park for that exciting ride I always thought I was too short for.
After the service I told my two friends how interested I was in learning more. Though they did not show it, they were really excited. They later told me of all their prayers for me, and that they had been praying for me “ behind my back.” Thank God for them!
A few weeks later my friend took me to Hope of Israel Congregation. I found the service interesting and with Passover coming up I decided to celebrate with my family. I learned that Sam Nadler had written a Messianic Passover Haggadah that showed how Yeshua actually celebrated Passover. So I stopped by his office to get a copy to celebrate Passover that evening. Sam and I spoke briefly about what it meant to consider Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel. Miriam actually offered to meet with me the following week to go over any questions. That was, in my eyes, so generous and great that I eagerly accepted.
A Brand New Life, In Messiah!
The next day was Saturday, April 2nd and I decided to visit Hope of Israel Congregation again. What can I tell you? The Lord touched me through the service, and when Sam invited those who wanted to accept Yeshua as Messiah to pray, I prayed the ‘sinners prayer.’ My life has not been the same.
It was truly an overwhelming experience. (Sort of like taking a first time bungee-jump and winning the lottery all at once!) But as my head began to clear, I began to fully understand what had happened, I realized that I was still Jewish, and now I had the Messiah of Israel with me! There are no other words for it other than I was ‘born again’.
Last year at our Yom Kippur service God used the message in a very special way in Joelle’s life. Here is her story in her own words.
Growing up on Long Island, NY, I never received any formal Jewish education. We celebrated the high holy days with family get-togethers, and the only time we ever attended synagogue was for a special event, such as a Bar Mitzvah. Even though I never had a deep understanding of my heritage or faith, being Jewish was still very important to me. My mother instilled in us to always be proud that we were Jewish, because it was a special gift. She did everything she could to maintain a Jewish identity in our home.
Deep in The Heart of Texas
It wasn’t until I left New York and moved to Texas that my spiritual restlessness--lasting almost 10 years--would begin. I was officially a Jew living in The Bible Belt, and most people that I met were strong believers in Jesus. Questions began to come to my mind: Who was Jesus? Why don’t we Jews believe in Him? If there is one God, then why does there seem to be more than one way to get to Heaven? Which is the right way? Besides, I’m a good person, so why wouldn’t I go to Heaven?
Later I moved to North Carolina, where I found even more enthusiastic Christians, who truly believed that the only way to Heaven was through Jesus. So I searched. I read about why Jews don’t believe in Jesus, but I never really got a clear cut answer. There seemed to be great arguments from both angles. I just wished I could go back to Jesus’ time and see what actually happened myself, then I would be able to make up my own mind about it.
In my late 20’s I met my future husband, Marc. He had been raised Catholic. Though I thought that this relationship would never work due to our religious differences, still we felt a strong connection, and believed that God put us together for a reason. Our relationship developed very quickly over the phone. Within two months we were engaged, two months later we were married, and then pregnant two months after the wedding. Suddenly it was extremely important to us to find a spiritual base for our family. Both of us were searching. Both of us believed in God, we just did not know how to worship God together. On Friday nights we attended Jewish services and alternated with some churches on Sundays, but each of us felt very alienated in the other’s place of worship. We didn’t know where to turn. So when a friend told us about Messianic Judaism, we wondered if this might be something that would work for us.
About a year later we moved to Charlotte where we found Hope of Israel Congregation, located just a block from where we lived. We decided to attend services hoping this congregation would satisfy our spiritual needs. I felt comfortable worshipping in what was obviously a Jewish congregation, and Marc was happy that Messiah was at the center of everything. We attended for about a year and I listened and learned a lot about the Bible, but I still felt just as confused about Jesus. I prayed to God to reveal truth to me. Honestly, I really was looking for a big sign, a bolt of lightning or maybe Jesus himself telling me--something!
The Final Yom Kippur Sacrifice
Last year as Yom Kippur was approaching I planned to attend the service. Marc stayed home with our babies, and I went by myself. At the Yom Kippur service there was one thing that spoke strongly to me. Sam Nadler was speaking about how in biblical times during Yom Kippur, when an animal was given for sacrifice, the scarlet thread tied to the Temple door would turn white. This would signify to the people that God was pleased with their sacrifice and atonement was provided for another year. Sam then went on to read a portion of the Talmud* that said 40 years before the destruction of the Temple in ad70, when an animal was given for sacrifice on Yom Kippur, that same scarlet thread no longer turned white. Sam pointed out that this 40 year period would have begun at the time that Jesus gave Himself as the atonement for our sins. Hence the ribbon would not turn white because atonement had already been made by Messiah Himself. Sam cited scriptures such as “not through the blood of goats and calves, but through [Messiah’s] own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption....For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 9:12, 10:4).
I was stunned. First of all, the Talmud is Jewish! And it said that? This was just too coincidental for me. After the service, I immediately went home and searched books and the internet to learn more of what Sam was talking about. It seemed pretty clear cut, however I still found arguments against it. I kept praying for a sign that would give me obvious proof that Jesus was in fact the Messiah. After days of reading and searching, it finally occurred to me to just read the New Testament and see what it said. So I began with the Book of Matthew, and after I started I could not put it down! I read it day and night, any chance I got. I felt myself completely immersed in Jesus’ life and was amazed by all the things He did. I also felt as though I was defending Him and His teachings; I was on His side when the Pharisees were against Him. So, as I continued I felt a strong sense of truth in every word I read. I came to the point where I asked myself the question I had asked so many times before: do I believe that Jesus, Yeshua, is the Messiah? My answer was, “Yes, I believe.” At that moment the weight of the world was lifted off my heart. I finally felt as though I had found purpose and direction in my life, for myself and my family. My restlessness was now replaced with the peace that Messiah promised: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). I am so thankful to God for revealing His truth to me, and bringing me, as a Jew, to my Messiah!
Marc and Joelle are both chiropractors in the Charlotte area. WMM Publications Director, Natalia Fomin has been discipling Joelle over the past year. Recently, Marc and Joelle joined Hope of Israel Congregation, and followed Messiah through immersion.
*Tractate Rosh Hashanah 31b in the Babylonian Talmud.
Though I went to synagogue growing up, I never found satisfaction and peace in religion, Jewish or otherwise. I was a 36-year-old Jewish man and my life was a complete disaster. I was now a drug addict, drowning in a sea of pornography, profanity, perversion and selfishness. My wife, daughter and I were all going in separate directions. The worst thing of all, though, was that my heart had become hardened, bitter, empty and getting worse day by day. I was incapable of giving or receiving love, and I was certain that my situation was hopeless. Little did I know that with the Lord, nothing is hopeless. My wife, Maida, a Gentile believer for 3 years, had been diligently praying for my salvation.
Through her gentle and quiet spirit (l Peter 3:4), and the life of another Gentile man "provoking me to jealousy" (Rom 11: 11), I decided to try this “religion thing”. That's when I met Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah. I said to the Lord, "Yeshua, I can't help myself. I've tried almost everything except you. Everything I try seems to make it worse. Help me, Lord!" I admitted that I was a hopeless sinner and asked Him to come into my heart. I said to Him, “Please do for me what You say You can do”, and amazingly He did! At the very moment of salvation, two amazing things happened to me. First, He removed that bitter, hardened heart of stone, replaced it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26) delivering me from the just penalty for my sins (John 3:36). Secondly, it seemed a ‘faucet’ was turned on in my heart. Slowly at first, drop by drop, my empty heart began to be filled with faith, hope and love.
Today, that faucet is a constant, steady stream.Within two weeks of accepting the Lord, I was delivered from all of my outward sins. That was three years ago. My life is completely changed since I have received Yeshua. I can now freely give and receive love. I am a 'new creation' in Messiah with a heart burdened for lost souls: just as I use to be. Though I’m constantly dependent on Messiah’s grace and forgiveness, I’m now a Jewish believer who lives to study His Word, to follow His will and to testify to His love. As Yeshua provides the opportunity, I hope to study to “show myself approved” and bring the message of Messiah to our people the world, that they might know "Shalom b' Yeshua": 'Peace in Jesus', our Messiah.