Reports from all around the country tell of a growing movement among Jews toward accepting Jesus as their Messiah. No one knows how many, but certainly thousands have become believers. Here is a true story of one orthodox family’s experience. The names of the principals are fictional for the protection of the family (there is opposition in their area to the Messianic movement among Jews). But all incidents and the names of believers who were used by God to lead them to the Messiah are real. Joe and Debbie Finkelstein, for example, conduct a ministry for Jewish young people in Philadelphia.

The Cohens’ story is taken from the forthcoming Tyndale compilation of Messianic Jewish testimonies by James C. Hefley, entitled “We Have Found the Messiah.” Hefley, a well-known writer, interviewed the family and taped the story in their home.

RACHEL: We were orthodox—strict orthodox. We lit the candles, kept the sabbath strictly, ate only kosher. I was vice-president of the synagogue across the street and was there for everything. But Abe wasn’t so active.

ABE: Well, I did observe the holy days. But not much else. I had reached a point where I didn’t believe much in any religion. I came from Russia and was brought up a good Jewish boy. But after serving in the Army I dropped out of Judaism and fell in with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. After a while I gave that up and tried Judaism again. But it didn’t satisfy.

RACHEL: We have two older sons away from home. We sent them and our girls to Hebrew school. I thought everything was fine until Sarah came home one day and informed me that she believed Jesus was our Messiah. Why she might as well have said, “Mother, I’ve fallen in love with Hitler.”

“I’ll give you two weeks to forget this nonsense,” I said, “or out you go.” Two weeks later, out she went. I couldn’t have someone living in my house, not even my own daughter, who believed in the man responsible for killing my parents.

Jewish kids today don’t understand what persecution was like for their parents in the old countries. When I was a little kid in Poland, the local Christians called Jews “Christ killers.” The big kids threw Jewish children off a bridge and down near a railroad track. When I got old enough to learn that Christ was a Jew I would mock them back and say, “Jesus was a Jew, so whose behind do you kiss every Sunday?”

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But the worst trouble started in 1939, when the Germans came and put the Jews in our town in a concentration camp. They did it in the name of Jesus. I was one of the lucky ones. I did see my parents before they died. I survived and was able to come to America.

I was glad for the freedom, but I didn’t trust Gentile people who thought they were Christians. And I hated any Jew who would become a traitor and go over to their camp. When I was pregnant with Sarah, a Jewish woman handed me a pamphlet on the street. It had a picture of a Jew with a prayer shawl conducting a Passover dinner. When she said the Jew believed in Jesus, I blew up. The Lord forgive me for what I said to her. Then when Sarah was fifteen and joined up with the enemy, I didn’t think I could take it.

SARAH: What my parents didn’t know was that I had been on drugs, just as a lot of other Jewish kids in this neighborhood were. I wanted to stop but couldn’t. Then a girlfriend told me about Bible studies at the Finkelsteins’. I didn’t see how it would hurt to go.

Joe and Debbie showed me prophecies about Messiah right in the Jewish Bible. I could hardly believe what I was reading at first. They told me I could accept Jesus and remain a Jew. One night I prayed for Jesus to forgive my sins and get me off drugs, and it worked. I went home and told Mother, and she laid down the ultimatum.

ESTHER: My sister and I were always close. When Sarah had to leave home, I hated the Finkelsteins because they had taken her away and who did I have left?

Mother wouldn’t let her come home, so I went over to see her. A lot of what the Finks told me made sense. Like the Bible being the inspired Word of God. The teacher at the private Jewish school I attended said it was just a bunch of Jewish fairy tales.

I kept sneaking back, sometimes just to spite my mother. We were having a lot of fights at the time.

RACHEL: I had a tight rope around her, for fear she would end up like Sarah.

ESTHER: I had tried Judaism, astrology, yoga, and Buddhism. Nothing satisfied. There was something about Joe and Debbie and the kids who came to their house. But it was mostly the Bible that got to me. Joe showed me Isaiah 53, which he claimed was a prophecy of the sufferings and death of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. I asked my rabbi, and he said the prophet was talking about Israel. But it didn’t make sense that Israel could forgive sins.

Sarah gave me a complete Bible for my birthday which I kept hidden from Mother. I was afraid to read it, but curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to find where it said “Christ killer.” Then I could say, “See, Jesus doesn’t love me.” When I did open it, my eye fell on Matthew 6:5 where Jesus said, “And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues … that they may be seen of men.” Wow! Was I shook. I would put on a long dress and go to the synagogue just to show how religious I was. But I would wear a mini to the roller rink where the guys were.

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One night I went to a Purim party given by Joe and Debbie and some other Jewish believers. After the party Sarah brought an older believer named Bob over to talk to me. We ended up going upstairs to pray, and I accepted Jesus as my Jewish Messiah.

I was afraid to tell Mother that I believed like Sarah. When she did find out that I was going to the Finks she blew a fuse.

I got in more trouble when I went to school and told my classmates, “Guess what? I believe in Jesus and you should, too.” The principal called me to his office and said, “Esther, I’m very sorry to hear that a nice Jewish girl like you should be fooled by such people, but if you keep quiet, nothing will happen. If you insist on talking about this thing, we’ll have to ask you to leave.”

Kids who heard about my being called in would come up and say, “Do you still believe in Jesus?” My lips were sealed until I read in James 1:8 about a double-minded person. I just had to talk. That’s when the kids from the Jewish Defense League really made it rough. They told the principal that I was causing trouble by saying “Praise the Lord” and stuff like that. He sent a letter home requesting my parents to come in with me. Mother never saw it, but Daddy did and he came.

ABE: My Esther was standing before the principal crying, for she really liked the school. I asked him, “Are kids that practice witchcraft allowed to stay in school?” He said, “Yes.” Oh, did I get angry. “Because she said ‘Praise the Lord’ she has to leave,” I exclaimed. “What’s wrong with praising the Lord?”

The principal just stood there. “That’s the way it is,” he finally said. “If we didn’t know she believes in Jesus, it wouldn’t mean anything. But we know. I’m sorry, Mr. Cohen, but she’ll have to transfer to public school.”

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RACHEL: It’s a good thing they didn’t bring me in on this. Another Jewish mother told me she thought the Finkelsteins were having sex orgies and drug parties at their house and that our daughters were in them. I called the district attorney, but he said nothing could be done without proof. My friend and I parked up the street from the Finks and spied on them with a telescope. Although we didn’t see anything incriminating, we felt sure something terrible was going on.

ABE: I figured I’d better check into it. When I walked in the door they were on their knees praying. Sarah was thanking the Lord for delivering her from the drug habit and asking for strength to keep walking the straight and narrow. I didn’t even know she had been messing with drugs. I was crying and she was crying and we hugged each other. That night I gave my life to Jesus. He became my Messiah.

RACHEL: When Abe told me he believed in Jesus I was really bitter. “Okay. You’re all dead to me,” I said. “I lost my first family in the concentration camp to Jesus lovers and my second family here.”

I packed my bag and called our lawyer. When I came to America, his father had helped me get my first decent job and taught me my first word in English. He said, “Rachel, you can’t do it. As soon as you leave the city, you’ll be picked up for desertion of minors.”

All during the conflict I had been running back and forth to our rabbi. I told him I wanted to leave my family. “It’s against the law of God,” he said. “Not that you should stay for the sake of your husband. He’s dead. But your daughters might recover their senses and repent.”

I begged Abe to give it up. “No,” he said. “I love you, but I’ve found the Messiah and I’m not letting go.”

I was stricken like Job. “Oh God, how can I be so trapped?” I moaned. “What have I done to deserve the loss of my husband and daughters?”

God was punishing me. Of that I was sure. Okay, I would stay home. But I didn’t have to be a wife to Abe. I cooked the meals and shoved the food at him. I treated him like an animal.

They went right on loving me. Sometimes the girls would bring friends home and take them upstairs to their rooms. One evening I caught them praying. “Get out!” I screamed. “I won’t have you praying to that man in my house.”

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But I couldn’t help noticing the manners of these kids. Some were hippy types. Yet they were as respectful of me as if I were the queen. “Can we help you with anything, Aunt Rachel?,” they’d ask.

Once I heard Sarah sass her father. He turned her over his knees and spanked her. Her—sixteen, and she took it. That had never happened before in this house. The girls and their father were kind and loving to each other and to me, and I was a monster to them.

They would leave Bible verses and little notes on pillows, in corners of mirrors, on the TV. For a while I threw them in the garbage. Then my eye caught Isaiah 9:6, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” I looked it up in my Yiddish Bible and it said the same. The next day Sarah left me Isaiah 53. One of her friends put Psalm 22 in a note. I ran across the street to the rabbi.

He tried to explain the first two passages. But when he came to Psalm 22, he just said, “Oh, Rachel, we don’t bother with those things. That was slipped into the psalms by some scribe.”

My mouth hung open. “What?” I declared. “Hold it, Rabbi. If this psalm was just put in to fill the pages, then we might as well take out Leviticus. And why I should keep a kosher house, separate dishes, silverware, and everything, I don’t know. Why do I light candles on the Sabbath? Why? Why? Why?”

He got mad. I mean he really got mad. He shook a finger in my face and called me a “Gentile girl.” And I didn’t even believe in Jesus then.

My husband invited over a Jewish couple. The man said he was a pastor who preached Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah.

“For real?” I exclaimed. “How can you be a Jew and believe in Christ?”

“Why don’t you try it and help Jeremiah’s prophecy come true?” he invited. He read Jeremiah 31:31, “Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel.”

“Oh yeah,” I answered. “Just like the milkman said in Fiddler on the Roof: ‘Lord, we are the chosen people, but why don’t you choose someone else for awhile?’ ”

“Well, how about coming to our Friday-night services? Just to listen. You don’t have to do anything.”

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“Ha!” I laughed back. “If I come in the middle of your services you’ll have Jesus Christ for dessert.”

Oh, I was terrible. I didn’t have a good word for any of them.

SARAH: May I tell this, Mom? It was about this time when Father had his heart attack. The eve of Rosh Hashanah, our Jewish new year. I was at the airport to meet a friend coming in from Cincinnati when a Jewish believer called me and told me he had been stricken. When I got home, you were in a panic. I started crying and said, “Look, Mom, if God wants him, he’ll die. If God wants you, you’ll die, but not until you surrender to him.”

RACHEL: I remember. I went to see him in the intensive-care unit in Lincoln Hospital. He made me promise to go to the Friday-night service of the believers. The doctor didn’t think I should refuse him. So I promised.

I asked the rabbi to say a special prayer for Abe. He refused. Now the rabbi had made me mad before, but this time he hurt me down deep. “Rabbi, my husband is sick,” I begged. “He needs all the prayers he can get. I have worked and slaved for this synagogue and you’re not going to pray for him?”

He chilled me all over when he said, “No, your husband is dead. He believes in Jesus Christ. To pray for him is against all my beliefs.”

I was still a Jew. I attended Rosh Hashanah services in the synagogue. Then I went to the believers’ services with my daughters. I had hardly sat down when Ed Singer, the leader, said, “Now let’s pray for Brother Abe who is in the hospital.” Why, I hadn’t even asked!

You’d better believe I listened to what Ed had to say. He made it so clear about Jesus fulfilling the prediction of our prophets and making atonement for our sins. But I wasn’t ready to accept this yet. It would be going against the grain of everything I had been taught from infancy. But I did see that the people who had persecuted and murdered my family were not true believers in Jesus.

Four days later the doctors couldn’t find a trace of evidence that my husband had had a heart attack. The hospital was in an uproar. They couldn’t understand the difference in the cardiograms. I knew immediately the explanation was God.

But I still wasn’t ready to cross over to Jesus’ side. It was just too much for this stubborn woman to swallow.

Then Debbie Finkelstein called and said, “A millionaire named Arthur DeMoss is having all of us for a meeting at his house. We’ll have a delicious meal. How about joining us?”

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I said to myself, “When will I have another chance to see how a millionaire lives?” “Okay,” I told Debbie, “I’ll come.”

What a surprise. Mr. and Mrs. DeMoss acted just like plain people. They even had a phony painting hanging on a wall, not an original. Just like the one in my living room.

After dinner they showed a film called Dry Bones, about the rebuilding of Israel according to Ezekiel’s prophecy. I got up and started walking up and down the hall like an expectant father. I didn’t know why.

Debbie, that sweet girl I had so mistrusted, came over and put her arm around me. Then Arthur DeMoss came.

“Rachel, couldn’t you pray and accept your Messiah?” he asked.

“What kind of prayer? What are you talking about?” I was plenty nervous and wishing they would let me go.

So this millionaire said, “Well, could I pray?”

And I replied, “I don’t care if you stand on your head.”

With his arm around me, he started praying. Then he stopped and said, “Rachel, won’t you ask Jesus to come into your heart?”

“Look,” I said stubbornly, “it was five years for me in the concentration camp. I was born a Jew and I’ll die a Jew. You can’t change the spots of a leopard and you can’t change me from Judaism to Christianity.”

He refused to give up. “Well, won’t you pray anyway? You’re a religious woman. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. You have nothing to lose.”

He and Debbie held me tight. At last I said, “Okay, God. If you really had a Son and your Son”—I was choking on the words—“was Jesus Christ, and if this brings peace into my heart, then give me peace.”

Praise the Lord! It was like scales falling off my eyes. A heavy weight slipped away and a sweet peace came that I can’t describe. It was like what happened to Rabbi Saul when he was going to Damascus to kill all the believers.

Slowly I became aware there were other people in the room. They were crowding around me and praising the Lord. I was so filled up I could hardly get a word out.

It was after midnight, mind you, when about ten of us packed into a little car and started driving toward our neighborhood. Joe and Debbie Finkelstein were along and Sandy She-skin, who had come over from Washington for a meeting with young Messianic Jews. We were singing at the top of our lungs and sitting on top of one another.

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When we came into our house, Sarah and Esther squealed, “We know! We know! Mama is a believer! Praise the Lord!”

That’s when I learned they had had a prayer chain going for months. Why, one had been calling another at the exact hour I started walking up and down the DeMosses’ hall. Oh, were they plotters. Were they snakes. But I love them to death for it.

We had breakfast about two A.M.Nobody slept the rest of the night. We were all so happy. And I was the happiest of them all.

When I told the rabbi, he just shook his head in puzzlement. “I don’t believe it, Rachel. Anybody but you. It isn’t possible.” He didn’t try to argue. He was just dumbfounded that I would do such a crazy thing.

That was a year and a half ago, and I’m still believing. I’ve resigned my place in the synagogue. I’m studying and trying to prepare myself to talk to the rabbi. I hope and pray he’ll listen.

I have only one sister left from my family in the old country. We love each other very much. She hasn’t accepted Yeshua, but I’m praying she will. It’s the same with my two sons, whom we’ve claimed for the Lord.

Our house is Grand Central Station for believers. Jew and Gentile, short hair and long hair, are all welcome in the name of Jesus our Messiah.

Our little variety store keeps the wolf from the door, though we must struggle to make ends meet. But we’re richer than millionaires in love and faith and believing brothers and sisters. Sarah is attending college. Esther is a high school senior. Both girls are the delight of our lives.

Abe and I are happier than we’ve ever been. We’re more Jewish than we ever were. We ought to be: we’ve found the Messiah.

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