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I was raised in a spiritually conflicted home. My father, a first-generation Russian American Jew, was determined to marry a good Jewish girl. My mother had spent her childhood being sent to church by parents who wanted peace and quiet on Sunday mornings. By adulthood she was spiritually undetermined and thought that one religion was as good as any other. My father married my mother after she told him that she had converted to Judaism. Within the first few months of marriage, my father expressed disinterest in attending synagogue and having any religious involvement; he simply wanted a Jewish wife. My mother subsequently rejected Judaism, wanting nothing to do with anything Jewish.When I was very young, my mother would read to me from a children’s Bible, but only stories from the Old Testament (Tanakh). When I turned 7 years old, my parents started attending the Unitarian Church. The Unitarian Church at that time was a metaphysical/sociopolitical religion that embraced all manner of spirituality. One Sunday service featured several Hari Khrisna members who taught us how to chant. On a number of occasions, the church hosted Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) courses, which I attended with my mother. My family stopped attending services at the Unitarian Church when I was 13 years old. After that, we did not participate in religious activities together. My father remained uninvolved in any religious activity, and my mother gradually found her way back to various forms of Christianity. They remained religiously divided until my mother died.
My mother’s rejection of Judaism made holidays a tricky matter because my father did not want anything to do with Christianity. Easter was strictly about the Easter Bunny and candy, and Christmas was strictly about Santa Claus and gifts. We never celebrated any Jewish holidays. My mother told my siblings and me that we were not half-Russian or half-Jewish, and it never occurred to me to question her.
My mother was an artist and was very involved in philanthropic groups in the community. For a number of years she served as the Director of the Fullerton Museum, which had a standing exhibit on the theory of Evolution. I came to firmly believe in the theory of Evolution and thought that the biblical account of creation was absurd. However, when I turned 16 years old, I met a Christian girl who was so peaceful and joyful. I wanted to be peaceful and joyful like her. I hung around her and attended the Christian groups that she attended. I came to believe that Yeshua was the Messiah. However, I was very weak in my faith, and my budding interest in boys pulled me away from my walk with God.
By the time I attended a Christian college at 19 years old, I claimed to believe in Yeshua, but lived a worldly lifestyle inconsistent with what I found in the Bible. I spend my 20’s living this worldly way until I got married at 28 years old. However, developing my career distracted me from significantly growing in my relationship with God.
In 1999, I met a young woman who told me about a Messianic Jewish Congregation. I listened raptly; I never imagined that such a thing existed. I thought that Jewish people who believed that Yeshua was the Messiah went to church to worship, and stopped doing anything Jewish. I started attending the congregation and was mesmerized. It became clear to me that the roots of Christianity were Jewish, and I became very interested in learning about my Jewish roots. My mother found this unsettling. After attending services for 18 months, the congregation moved further away, and out of convenience I returned to attending church.
My mother developed Parkinson’s Disease, and her health began to significantly deteriorate by 2001. I experienced a crisis of faith. Why wasn’t God answering my prayers for healing her? I began to question if God even existed. In the last weeks of my mother’s life, I returned to knowing that God is who He says He is, and I felt strong in my faith. My mother died in January 2004.
I longed to return to a Messianic Jewish Congregation. I stumbled upon a notice for Yom Kippur services in September 2004 at Ben David Messianic Jewish Congregation. Though I had never participated in any Jewish religious services with my father, I asked him if he would like to attend with me. It turned out that he already had tickets to a Reformed Jewish congregation’s Yom Kippur service and asked if I would like to attend with him! We went together on Friday night to the Reformed Jewish congregation’s service. We read from the Union Prayer Book together, and it was a moment of great importance for me to participate with my father in the service. The next morning, my father joined me for Yom Kippur services at Ben David Messianic Jewish Congregation. What a difference! Where the previous night’s services had been rote ritual and emotionally dry, this morning service moved both of us to tears. After the service, my father said to me that a Messianic Jewish Congregation would have been the solution to the spiritual division between him and my mother.
I have continued to attend Ben David Messianic Jewish Congregation regularly since 2004. My understanding of God and the Jewishness of faith in Yeshua has grown tremendously, as has my understanding of my own Jewish roots. It has been my privilege and joy to be involved with other believers in Yeshua who understand that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel.