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I was raised in a Jewish home, with American-born Jewish parents, and lived in the Westchester District of Los Angeles, CA during the time period 1962-1969. My parents and I attended a local Conservative Jewish Synagogue, and I attended almost daily (Monday through Thursday) Hebrew School and Confirmation classes conducted after public school, and also Shabbat/Sabbath worship services held on Friday evenings and on Saturday mornings. I had my Bar Mitzvah there in April 1966. I found that the Rabbi, though very learned, preached boring and spiritually uninspiring messages. The Cantor was very gifted musically and had an outstanding operatic voice, which I appreciated since I was also studying the violin. Sadly, the Hebrew School curriculum and quality of the instruction was very poor. At the time it also seemed to me that every young itinerant Israeli transiting the Los Angeles area, and in need of employment, found a teaching position at this Synagogue regardless if he or she could teach. They also did not understand the nature of energetic American kids who, after having been confined in public school all day long, did not wish to be further confined at Hebrew School or confirmation classes for several more hours each day.
After my Bar Mitzvah I was confronted by my parents with an unpalatable choice of leaving public school and attending either a private full-time Hebrew High School in Los Angeles, or remaining in public school and attending three years of confirmation classes at the same Synagogue. I wanted neither. In order to maintain my existing social connections with my long-time friends at public school, and to maintain my ongoing training in the violin and participation in the public school orchestra, I opted for the confirmation classes as being the lesser of the two “evils.” I found that the confirmation classes I attended for three years after Bar Mitzvah were very disjointed. They focused not on teaching the Scriptures, but on imputed rabbinic interpretation of certain “sanitized” Scriptures, and the study of Kabbalah. There were 15 teachers associated with the confirmation classes during that three year time period. I disliked the classes intensely. Notwithstanding my having expressed my dislike of the classes to my parents on numerous occasions over the years, my complaints fell on deaf ears, and my attendance continued until confirmation completion in May 1969.
Although I came away with a strong Jewish historical and cultural identity, I knew very little about the Scriptures since other than the Torah, they were neither studied in the synagogue nor taught in the classroom. I truly did not know what was being “confirmed.” While the musical aspect of the Cantor’s chanting of the liturgy could on occasion be made beautiful, the worship services were usually a matter of wrote memory recitation of the Hebrew liturgy, devoid of spiritual feeling or meaning. Each prayer was seemingly recited at the same time every Shabbat morning such that one could literally set his watch accordingly. Sometimes the services were extended if that day and another Jewish holiday coincided, which resulted in added liturgy. I couldn’t wait for the services to conclude! The copy of the Jewish Publication Society Hebrew Scriptures (JPS 1917) presented to me by the congregation at my Bar Mitzvah was totally incomprehensible and sat on my bookshelf for many years. Since my experiences were so overwhelmingly unpleasant and frustrating, I wanted nothing to do with God or Judaism after confirmation. Although I was married in a Conservative Jewish Synagogue in 1974 in Anaheim, CA, nearly 20 years passed before I set foot in any house of worship again.
During the 1988 to1995 time period I was employed by the McDonnell Douglas Corporation in Southern California. During that time I became good friends with a young gentleman with whom I pursued several after-work mutual hobbies and interests. My friend is an avid student of the Bible. He enjoyed discussing the Hebrew Scriptures with me. He discussed the teachings in the Jewish Scriptures concerning sin and repentance, and concerning the Scriptural qualifications for the Jewish Messiah. He challenged me from the Hebrew Scriptures how I someday would stand in front of a Holy God and justify my entering God’s kingdom. I responded by saying I was a good, moral person. My friend showed me from the Scriptures that God didn’t provide that option. He showed me in the Hebrew Scriptures that God loves us and desires a relationship with each and every one of us, but that we are all sinners and that God is a Holy God who cannot fellowship with us in that condition of sin. According to the Scriptures good deeds and moral behavior don’t address atonement for sin. Leviticus 17:11 in the Torah teaches, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” In Old Testament times atonement for sin was addressed on a regular basis via the shedding of animal sacrificial blood in accordance with the requirements contained in the Levitical system. After the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., atonement has been impossible to accomplish. Late in the 1st Century the Rabbis reorganized Judaism into a “works” based faith involving the performance of good deeds, charity, and prayer. While these may all be well and good, as such, Modern Rabbinic Judaism has no means of Biblical atonement as required by the Torah in the Jewish Scriptures.
All of this information and knowledge made me extremely uncomfortable and presented me with a dilemma. I found myself at a complete loss to engage my friend in intelligent conversation on the subject. I was very offended and upset that my friend, a “Goy,” (a Gentile) knew more about MY BIBLE than I did! In college at U.C. Riverside I had been involved in the combined orchestral and choral music performance of Handel’s “Messiah,” and of Vivaldi’s “Gloria.” Exposure to the words of Scripture in these works also made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I didn’t realize, until years later, that most of the Scripture used by Handel was actually from the Jewish Bible!
In an effort to disprove and counter my friend’s arguments, and to resist God, I secretly purchased a copy of the Holy Bible (which contains both the Tanakh/Hebrew Scriptures and the Brit Chadasha/New Covenant). As I began to read I very simply asked God to show himself to me as being real. He did. I studied the writings of our prophets and sages concerning the prophecies of the coming Messiah (both the Messiah ben Joseph or suffering Servant, and Messiah ben David or reigning Messiah). I began to see and conclude that there was only one person in history who met the requirements for Messiahship, which include but are not limited to the following: 1) Born in Bethlehem; 2) Born of a Virgin; 3) Born as a direct descendant of King David; 4) Born before the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed; 5) Died violently by crucifixion and for the sins of the people; 6) Died without his bones being broken; 7) Rose from the dead in accordance with the Jewish Scriptures. Speaking of Moses, the Jewish Scriptures also teach concerning the Messiah in the Torah at Deuteronomy 18:15, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” That one person also fulfilled these and nearly 300 other prophecies. I believe with all my heart that person is Yeshua (Jesus). The name Yeshua means “salvation” in Hebrew, which the Scriptures teach Yeshua claimed was His mission and purpose. His shed blood was and is the more perfect atonement provided by God for us. In seeking to disprove my friend and God, I came to realize that the Bible is in fact God’s Truth.
On October 14, 1993 I was led by God’s Holy Spirit (the Ruach HaKodesh) and I prayed a very simple prayer of repentance to turn from my sins and ask God’s forgiveness, to accept as a matter of faith Yeshua’s sacrifice of atonement, and to receive His gift of eternal life. I believe that Yeshua is the Messiah for the Jews and Gentiles, as prophesied by our ancient sages and the Hebrew Scriptures. I believe that He is God come in the flesh, and I believe that He rose from the dead and appeared to over 500 persons for a 40 day period between Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Pentecost).
The Brit Chadasha teaches of God’s love for us at John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” On the basis of the teaching of the Scriptures I know that when I pass from this world that my sins have been forgiven by God, that I will never be separated from Him, and I will be in God’s presence FOREVER. What a wonderful hope and promise offered so freely to all who will accept this gift!
Since that day there have been several major changes in my life. I have read the entire Bible, cover to cover, several times. I continue to read the Bible daily and uncover further truth with each reading. I spend time in prayer with God daily. I attend very musically and spiritually edifying worship services, fellowship with other Believers, and teaching from the Scriptures on Shabbat at a Messianic Jewish congregation in Orange County, CA. I look forward to attending services, and am distressed when I am unable to attend. I now fully understand the true meaning of and observe the Jewish Biblical holidays described in Leviticus 23 throughout the year with a complete and full understanding of the meaning of each. I am a living example that one can maintain his Jewish identity and also believe in Yeshua.
Michael Kutner shared the following with those in attendance at Diane's funeral on February 26, 2015: