How I came to Believe in Yeshua
I was born on a snowy winter’s day in 1948 in Queens, NY. My father and mother were hard-working people: my dad was involved with the Furniture Workers Union after the loss of the family furniture business during the Depression.
Growing up in Middle Village, Queens in the late 40’s and early 50’s meant growing up Jewish. With a synagogue on every block, the choices seemed endless. Where we attended, however, depended mostly on who we were getting along with, during any given High Holy Day season.
I received a normal Jewish upbringing and was eventually Bar Mitzvahed according to orthodoxy, much to the pleasure and relief of my family who were relieved because, even at such a young age, I was ‘religiously resistant’.
You see, I 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, 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? The next morning, since there was no penny under my pillow, I concluded there was no God over my head either.
After my Bar Mitzvah the pressure was off for me to attend synagogue. I was now considered, religiously speaking, 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’d only done to honor my family.
My teen years were spent removing any residual effects of religiosity, and I actually took great pride in talking my friends out of going to church or synagogue (Middle Village in the early 60’s was now becoming heavily Italian). I became, I’m now sorry to say, a source of disappointment to my family.
My life became one of petty crime and local mischief, the police showing up at the door, trouble in High School and the neighbors’ growing suspicion of me in the neighborhood.
Following a stint in Viet Nam, where I developed both a fondness for using and selling drugs, I lived in various scenic locales of California. At first, I traveled around and lived in an old green Econoline van that I called “Wire and Whimsy,” which was held together by just that.
Actually, it was sort of a ‘rolling party’ – but that was pretty limited since life in an elderly van requires one to be more of a mechanic than a poet.
I ended up breaking down in Eureka, California and got a job at the “Snug Saloon”. It was a hippie/fisherman/lumberjack bar 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 there that I met my first born again believers, who were 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 believers: 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 bad for business, so I’d throw out these zealots, with or without the drunks. Nothing personal, but business is business.
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 this had to be the dumbest Jew I ever met, for if there’s one thing any 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 strange thing is, the night of that study I decided to go, on a lark, 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. Those sneaky believers, 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 world I was familiar with and comfortable in.
Things began to change, though. Over the next year, 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.” Until then I figured there was no objective right or 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 it was the wrong spirit!
I saw a spiritual battle for my soul, with me on the losing side! I was thoroughly convinced that I needed a Savior. I needed Jesus.
Though I didn’t know all the right words to say, I cried out, “Jesus save me!” And He did that right there and right then. When I prayed that simple prayer, the Spirit of God came down upon me with power.
I was cleansed, forgiven, and I experienced peace that I had never known before. A peace that surpasses all understanding.
I woke the next morning and in my heart one thing I knew: 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 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’d 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 a Jewish acquaintance, don’t stop. The Lord does answer prayer!
I soon started studying the Scriptures, growing in Messiah, (I discovered His Hebrew name is Yeshua), 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 nearly 50 years. The rest will have to wait to be told at another time. This is my story, and I’m sticking to it!