I had a relatively normal childhood for a relatively unnormal child. I was bored by school and finished high school at age twelve while attending a school that allowed me to work at my own pace. Because my parents believed me to be too immature to attend college, they did not allow me to graduate and enrolled me in a public junior high school where I was forced to do work I had done the previous year. The result is that I did not do the work and appeared to be an average student.
I have always been a square peg person living in a “round-hole” world. I have never quite fit in. Dissatisfied with life in the real world, I created my own. My own world did not resemble life on this planet. In fact, it did not even take place on this planet. As a teen, I retreated into this fictional world whenever possible and left the real world to those who had an interest in it.
At an early age I discovered I had a talent for writing and authored many short stories. Most have been lost to the ages. I also demonstrated an ability to write poetry, which I did prolifically as a teen.
All in all, my parents struggled to give me a typical life that, frankly, I refused to live. It simply did not interest me. As an adult, I abandoned my Conservative Jewish background and drifted to a more Orthodox philosophy. In May, 2004, my life took an abrupt turn.
I suppose that by the time May, 2004 rolled around, I had suspected that Jesus was the Messiah promised to Israel. I had read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell. I admired the logic with which these men had presented their cases, and their arguments made sense. But I believed the rabbis when they said that if one believes in Jesus, he is no longer a Jew. Being a Jew was very important to me.
In May, 2004, I was in Atlanta, learning from a famous rabbi, when an acquaintance invited me to see a movie with him—The Passion of the Christ. I knew the content of the film, and as an Orthodox Jew, had no interest in it. Still, the gentleman prevailed, and I saw the film.
Those in the theater were sobbing during the film. I sat stunned, mouth open and eyes wide. Before me, in living color, the words of the holy prophets unfolded. As we left, I walked in stunned silence. As we got into the car, my friend asked what I thought of the movie. I said, “I can’t pretend any more that Jesus isn’t the Messiah.” “What are you going to do about that?”, he asked. “I don’t know what to do about that.” I returned to contemplative silence which continued the entire trip home.
Later that evening, I sat at a picnic table thinking about the movie. My friend came out and joined me. I didn’t notice he had his Bible with him. (I still didn’t realize I had been set up.) He asked me again what I thought about the movie, and I gave him the same reply: “I can’t pretend that Jesus isn’t the Messiah anymore.”
Again, he asked me what I was going to do about that. I replied, “I don’t know what to do about that. If Jesus is Messiah, then He is King. But I don’t understand why He died.”
Confidently, my friend said, “I know why He died. Do you mind if I explain?”
I said, “Sure.” I was prepared for him to go to Mat- thew or another one of the Gospels. I would have listened patiently and then told him that was the Christian Bible. Instead, He went to Leviticus and explained the crucifixion in light of the Passover lamb and the sin offering. He then led me in a prayer in which I accepted Jesus as Messiah.
This, then, is the story of my re-birth. It caused prob- lems. I lost all my friends and family. It is the story of my re-birth, but not of my conversion.
At the time, I would not allow anyone to call me a Christian. In my mind I was a Jewish man who believed Jesus was the Messiah. Since I knew nothing about my new life, I kept Torah with a vengeance. It was the only way I knew to serve God.
August 2, 2006, that began to change. I went into a Catholic church for the first time. A friend so close to me that I regard her as my sister (and hereafter I will call her my sister) took me to the church in the town in which we lived. It was a First Friday, and His Sacred Heart captured me.
As she showed me around the church, she took me to the “most special room in the church”: the Adoration Chapel. She sat me down and pointed to the monstrance. She said, “Trust me. I will explain it later, but that’s Jesus.” I can’t tell you why, but I believed her.
As we left the church, she asked if I would be interested in Mass the next day. I went. Five minutes into the Mass, I asked if they knew how Jewish the service was. By the end of the Mass, I knew I would become Catholic.
The Hebrew Catholic, No. 89, Winter 2011-2012
I began researching Catholicism and stumbled on the As- sociation of Hebrew Catholics. I found the phone number and talked with David Moss several times. David helped alleviate my fears regarding Catholicism. At the time, I thought Catholics were all anti-Semitic. David helped bring me into the Church.
The following week, I went to Adoration every day. My sister and I went to Mass again the next Saturday, and afterwards I signed up for RCIA.
It would be nice at this point to say, “And the rest is history.” Unfortunately, there were some special problems associated with my conversion.
At the time I began attending the Catholic Church, I was wearing my kippa and my tzitzis everywhere. This did not bode well with many at the church. Though no one said anything to me, and despite the fact that I frequently talked about converting, the priest did not take me seriously.
One day, he called me into his office. After he asked if I was “born that way, or if I took it upon myself”, he or- dered me not to wear the kippa and tzitzis if I was serious about converting. He told me that if he saw it again, he would not allow me to be confirmed. Reluctantly, sadly, I stopped wearing them.
One day, the Knights of Columbus had donated a pork roast to RCIA. It was set on the snack table along with an assortment of vegetables. When I returned to my seat with only vegetables, they decided it would be good for me to eat pork. A large piece was selected for me and served. All eyes watched as I looked down at the plate. Since I could find no way out, I put a small piece in my mouth—the first time pork ever touched my lips. I cried the rest of the week because of the guilt I felt.
Other similar situations occurred, including someone insisting I needed an indult to become Catholic because “you killed Christ.” I was told I was no longer Jewish and that there was no such thing as a Hebrew Catholic. One man regaled me with every anti-Semitic sentiment he could bring to mind.
Not all challenges to my conversion came from Catho- lics. I was attending a Protestant university at the time, and some of my friends were alarmed at my direction in Christianity.
An example of this came one day in the dining hall while my friends and I were eating lunch. A young man informed me that I was going to Hell. I asked him why.
“Because you are Catholic.”
This was before my conversion process was complete, so, strictly speaking, I was not yet Catholic. I let this de- tail go. “Well,” I replied, “I am in good company, then. There are all the Apostles and all of their disciples…and all of their disciples. In fact, pretty much all Christians until about 1500.
“But what really surprises me is that you hate Catholics so much, yet you have a Catholic book. In fact, you read this book every day and believe every word in it.”
This he adamantly denied. I explained to him how the Bible took its present form of seventy-three books through the process of three Councils called to discuss the matter. “Every time you read the Bible as the infallible, inerrant Word of God,” I told him, “you acquiesce to the authority of the Catholic Church.”
The discussion ended immediately with his departure.
Another very humorous episode occurred a few weeks later. Again, in the dining hall, a young woman sat across from me and told me she was very concerned about me be- cause I was “turning Catholic,” and to the end of rescuing me, she had obtained a book she wanted me to read. This writer, I was told, was spot on Biblically. She believed that reading this book would show me the error of Catholics and save me from a terrible mistake.
She told me if I would read the first chapter right then, she would make me a milk shake. I looked at the title and author and agreed.
As I approached the end of the first chapter, she pre- sented me with the promised milk shake and asked me what I thought.
I replied, “Well, G.K. Chesterton was a leading Catholic theologian in the early twentieth century, and this book, Orthodoxy, is supposed to be one of his best. It is a privi- lege to read it.”
Each of these things threatened to keep me from finishing the conversion process. None succeeded. My resolve only strengthened. I believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and there was only one place to find it — the Catholic Church.
On May 9, 2007, following a hospitalization for a hem- orrhagic stroke, I received the Sacrament of Confirmation and First Communion. As I stood there with my sponsor, another Hebrew Catholic, and the priest imposed his hands on my head, I reflected on the journey. I thought it had concluded. It had only just begun.
Not very long after accepting Jesus as Messiah, it oc- curred to me that with my background and training, I was in a unique position to help Christians understand the Jewish roots of Christianity. I built a website and called it Torah’s Light Ministries (http://www.torahslight.org). At the time, I intended it to be only an internet ministry. I wrote articles and posted them and smiled at the good job I had done.
About the time that I was becoming Catholic, my “fame” as a Jewish Christian began to grow. A few student groups invited me to speak, and I was invited to some Protestant churches to speak. Though few in number, I found that a flame was beginning to flicker in my soul. Before long,
it became a raging inferno driving me to do more than simply write and post articles for the internet site. It was a burning desire to teach about the Jewish Jesus Who had come to redeem not just Israel, but the whole of humanity.
When I moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and sub- sequently Steubenville, Ohio, I was again greeted with enthusiasm in regard to my being a Jewish Christian, and people were interested in hearing me explain the Jewish roots of our faith. After conferring with my sister and my friends — and many hours before the Blessed Sacrament — I decided to incorporate Torah’s Light Ministries as a 501(c)(3) corporation in the state of Ohio.
With David Moss’s help, I was able to have Torah’s Light Ministries incorporated in the state of Ohio. We now have a board of directors, including a priest whose job it is to make sure we act within the doctrines, dogmas, and practices of the Catholic Church.
Today, Torah’s Light Ministries reaches people globally through seminars, conferences and retreats and through its daily email devotional, Thought of the Day. Recently we were invited to Kenya for a conference there. Torah’s Light Ministries considers itself a partner of the Association of Hebrew Catholics (AHC), serving different aspects of the same mission — to exalt Jesus and provide support for Hebrew Catholics. We recommend AHC’s website and mission everywhere we are invited. More information can be found about Torah’s Light Ministries at http://www. torahslight.org or by contacting me through David Moss.