My Son, the Christian?!
ONLINE BOOK (1996)
This is a tale of two families, a larger one and a smaller one. The first is the family that gave me my cultural and religious identity, the Jewish nation. The second, fitting comfortably within a small compartment of the first, is the family that gave me chicken soup, a sweet tooth and a barmitzvah, my biological family. The first links me with such luminaries as David Ben Gurion, Moses and Albert Einstein. The second has blessed me with Molly and Grizzles, Great Aunt Busha and Korky the Cat (all nicknames, in case you're wondering). The first gave me a confused childhood, telling me that I was one of the 'chosen people' , but omitting to tell me that the outside world thought differently. The second confused me even more by giving me my own personal Rabbi to get me through my Barmitzvah rituals, rather than sending me to Hebrew Classes, then moaned at me for ending up with more Gentile friends than Jewish ones, during my teenage years.
Yet the debt I owe to both families is incalculable, for providing me with an identity in a society that thrives on individual freedoms and anonymity. To be Jewish is to be a member of a community that could exercise the tonsils of a debating society for a lifetime. But to be both Jewish and a believer in Jesus of Nazareth is to an ordered discussion as a match in a fireworks factory is to a quiet afternoon in the country. This book concerns both families. The first part of this book is a story of two individuals, me and my Yiddishe Momma. It concerns our individual searches, different searches but not incompatible. Through our stories we hope that we can help to shed light on our Jewish family and make sense of our new identity as believers in the Jewish Messiah. The second part of this book concerns our Jewish family at large. It seeks to answer just one question, 'Why do Jews, by and large, have special problems in identifying Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah?' It explores the situation historically and offers two observations, a practical one, that deals with symptoms and a spiritual one, that explores the true root of the problem. Also, as it concerns Jews, it probably poses as many questions as it seeks to answer, so my hope is that it leaves you with a healthy interest in the subject and a desire to seek out the truth for yourself.
We Jews are a strange people. Buffeted and battered by the forces of history, we survive with our senses intact. Our story is perhaps the saddest of all, yet we have helped to give humour to the world! A race that was being systematically slaughtered by Nazi brutes in Europe was, at the same time, entertaining America on stage and screen. A people who have, on the world stage, produced the highest proportion to size of Nobel Prize winners have been persecuted and reviled and forced into Jewish ghettos. A folk who provided Gentiles, in Jesus of Nazareth, with their saviour and inspiration are tortured and killed in the name of the same man.
So many contradictions. Why can't they all just leave us alone - to create, invent, compose and entertain - and find another people to torment? What's it all about? So, the Jews are meant to be different, the 'chosen people'. As Tevya said in The Fiddler in the Roof, 'I know we are the chosen people, but once in a while can't you choose someone else?' Do we feel the same way? Does our chosen-ness mean anything to us now, in the late 20th Century? Sure, it's a source of great pride when we look at the achievements of our people, often against great odds. But we don't like reading and hearing about the other side, the Holocaust and the pogroms. Yet they both work together, they are both part of the same package, like strawberries and cream (or should I say 'smoked salmon and beigels').
This book is an attempt to make sense of it all and to offer some ideas. The Jews have been called 'the apple of His eye', words from the book of Zechariah in the Bible and how God views His people. It compares them with the function of the part of the eye known as the 'pupil', ('the apple'), which is essential for vision and needs to be protected from the outside world. Similarly the Jews are in some way essential to God's purposes and, although the world has always seemed to conspire against them, they have been miraculously protected from extinction. Most of all I want you to see the divine thread that winds its way through history, stretching from Abraham and Biblical times to the modern day and beyond. This thread has remained unbroken throughout its history and, although at times has seemed to function as a noose, has represented and will continue to represent the promises made by God to his ancient and modern people, the Jews. But first, come with me on a journey ...
The Time : a Sunday in February 1987 The Place : The Maltz family home, Harewood Drive
It was a mild day for February, a day suitable for a pleasant walk with a loved one. Just as well really because what I had in mind could only be communicated on neutral territory (the streets of Ilford), well away from the noisy fracas of a family Sunday. My mum was puzzled, usually she had to drag me out for exercise, this was probably the first time I had suggested it. 'Let's go for a walk', I said. 'Just the two of us'. My wife, Monica, an accomplice, had distracted the others, to ensure that there were no unwelcome additions to this 'walk of destiny'. My dad was otherwise engaged, watching the football on TV and the others were either slumped on the armchair (my sister, Michele and her husband, Tonino), nodding off (Nana Lily and Aunt Bessie) or running riot (the kids). So off we went, into the cool February air.
After a few minutes I'd run out of niceties and trivia (I was never one for small talk) and realised that my time had come. We were outside the gates of the primary school that had served my childhood well and, fleetingly, I wished that I were inside those gates, and still 8 years old! 'Pull yourself together', I nudged myself, 'you're a grown up now!' (just). So I turned round to my mum, a Jewish mother in her fifties, brought up with all the traditions and customs, and said,
"Mum, I've become a Christian." ...ShareThis