Mazel Tov! You've Found Jesus!
"Mommy, why don't we believe in Jesus?"
My question startled my Jewish family. We'd recently watched Ben Hur and Spartacus, and the movies had kindled my desire to know more about Jesus. The people at my temple acknowledged Jesus as some sort of radical rabbi, but my mom didn't know if she believed in his existence. My dad wasn't even sure God existed, let alone Jesus! The answer I received from my relatives and the rabbi was always the same: "That's just the way it is. You'll understand when you're older."
It's not that I didn't want to be Jewish; I just felt that accepting Jesus as more than a long-ago teacher or rabbi could somehow fit into the picture of being Jewish. We were the only Jewish family in a predominantly Irish-Catholic neighborhood, and my two best friends were Laurie, who had twelve brothers, and Kathy, whose mother insisted on serving milk with meat during my dinner visitsa Jewish taboo. One time, I traded Laurie my diamond-studded Star of David necklace and came home wearing her gold cross. I'll never forget seeing our two mothers rush across the street to exchange them!
Kathy's parents always had a big, thick Bible on their table, showing me there was more to the Bible than the traditional Jewish Old Testament, or Torah. The thought that I might be able to read the whole thing intrigued me.
But then we moved away from that primarily goyesh (gentile) neighborhood, and I attended Hebrew school, which took place a couple of days a week in the late afternoon. There I learned to speak Hebrew phonetically and heard the main "stories" of the Hebrew tradition: Abraham and Isaac, Moses leading the people out of Egypt, David and Goliath, Esther and the evil Haman. When I was bar mitzvahed at age thirteen (a Jewish girl's confirmation), I dutifully stood in front of two hundred people and read the appropriate portion of the Torah for the season of my birthday. But after that, I dropped out of Hebrew school.
My parents, Jewish by birth and tradition, only attended worship services out of respect for my grandparents. My grandfather was the glue that held the true Jewish faith in my family together. When he died, my father finally admitted he was an atheist. We only went to temple services on Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, and for weddings and bar mitzvahs. Holidays such as Hanukkah and Passover were celebrated as traditionalnot spiritualobservances. There was no knowledge of having "a relationship with God."
After starting high school in a Jewish neighborhood, I soon forgot about wanting to know more of Jesus. There, the attitude was, If Jesus were a mighty Savior, he would have gotten himself down off the cross and ridden into town on a white steed right then and there. Thoughts of Jesus never crossed my mind again until I was thirty-six. What happened in between is another story.