December 12, 2000
I was born into a Jewish home in Montreal. My first ten years of life were uneventful. My parents sent us to afternoon Hebrew school and Sunday morning religion school at the Temple we belonged to. In those early years, the subject of God and religion was not big in our home. Yet we remembered the Passover, and lit the Chanukah menorah.
Three days after my tenth birthday my father passed away. Our lives were put into instant transformation. My mom now had to go out and work to support us. She also began to attend a support group for widows about a year later, at the Jewish community centre. There she met a man who was divorced. They began to see each other regularly. He was different. He wore a yarmulke all the time. He was orthodox in his Judaism. After about a year of their dating, my mom told us one morning that she was to be married again. However, we had to change our household, and lives, over to orthodoxy. What an experience! I learned so much. My stepfather also took over my bar-mitzvah training. It became a more rigorous one than my older brother had experienced. Unlike my brother’s experience, my training did not end with my bar mitzvah. I was sent to the rabbi, each “shabbos” afternoon, for “teaching.” I was fifteen and resented it, but was compelled to go. I did not realise what was truly in store for me, down the line.
After three years, my mother’s second marriage ended. Our lives returned to what they were previously in Judaism, but it seemed to me to be even less. My mother became a successful real estate agent in Montreal and worked incessantly. It was the late 1960s and times were indeed changing. I identified with my era. I took up the guitar, grew my hair, and began playing folk music in small clubs in Montreal. My desire outdid my true talent for songwriting. I had rejected God and become an atheist. The world was hell, and heaven was when you died and you went to nothingness. I can recall vividly the night Apollo 8 circled the moon and sent back live television. Man had done it all. We had conquered the heavens. I was dumbfounded when I heard those astronauts read from Genesis 1. How could these “scientists” read this fairy tale of creation?
As I continued in my “music career” I encountered people who dabbled in the occult. I attended a ouija board sitting one night and experienced that there is a spirit world. I remember running home that night thinking I was being followed, with no one around me. I did not realise what was truly going on.
I met Hilary in my last year of CEGEP [college] in Montreal. We both worked for the same Jewish community centre. I worked as a substitute high school teacher, but had an opportunity to study social work with a scholarship from the Jewish community services in Montreal. I completed my studies, but along the way had an interesting experience. I saw the movie on the Manson murders of 1969. 1 was so intrigued that I went out to buy the book. Reading so many Bible verses, I decided I needed to read a Bible. I went out and bought one. I read from it for three years, while Hilary and I dated. I remember vividly the first verse I read in that Bible, and being so scared by it. However, being an ordered and structured person, I began to read at the beginning. I found it dry and empty, but plugged along for three years. That third year was my last year of university. Hilary and I were to be married.
I had a job lined up for when I graduated. Our friends were all going “under the dome.” Jimmy Carter was President and everyone and their dog seemed to be born again in Washington. Something was going on. During that time, the Cold War heated up and the world seemed a foreboding place. One week after returning from our honeymoon, Hilary and I went to visit our friends George and Gerrie. George and I have known each other since high school. If anyone was level headed it was him. To my initial shock, I was told he had also come “under the dome.” He then took me to a Scripture verse that had finally convinced him. It turned out to be the first verse I had read in my Bible that I had bought three years earlier. George had no idea I had been reading The Bible. Before he could say anything else, I told him that he could stop; I believed Jesus was the Messiah. We prayed and I became born again. Hilary and I were only married 12 days at the time. Now her Jewish husband had accepted Jesus. Oy vey! Within 50 weeks, she too accepted Jesus as Messiah.
Being a believer in Jesus is not an easy thing, whether you are Jewish or Gentile. Being a Jewish believer has its issues. I learned soon how my earlier training in Orthodox Judaism had given me a foundation for my new faith. I also knew that I was now free from ritualism and religion. I began to see what it really means to be free from sin. Orthodoxy points you to many “do’s and don’ts.” Faith in Jesus frees you to appreciate God’s grace and love. You want to worship and study the Bible because you realise what God has done for you, not because of what is required of you.
God has done great things for us. I often reflect on Psalm 16:10-11… “For you will not abandon me to Sheol, or let Your faithful one see the pit. You will teach me the path of life. In your presence is perfect joy; delights are ever in Your right hand.”
God has indeed given us joy in knowing He has a future for us. As the psalmist wrote, we are not abandoned. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob still reaches out to His people, Israel, and has provided a way to know Him personally through Jesus the Messiah.
For more information, please contact:
Jewish Awareness Ministries of Canada
Box 47031, Blackburn P.O., Ottawa, ON, Canada K1B 5P9
Phone: (613) 830-3831
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