The Journey I grew up with virtually no religious background, in what was a non-religious family. They weren't atheists. It is just that God was never a part of their lives, and never a part of their conversations, except in an occasional profanity. Despite this background, even as a child I had an interest in religion and God. I never discussed this with my family, because an unspoken rule said that "religion" was a taboo subject. For instance, I loved my grandfather very much, and occasionally wanted to find out what he believed, but never did. Eventually he died. A couple of years later, I asked my grandmother (his widow) what my grandfather believed about God. She told me that she didn't know - she never felt comfortable enough about the subject to ask! And they lived together for half a century!

     When I was a child, I saw the movie, Diary of Anne Frank. At the time, I had a hard time understanding the movie, because I knew very little about the Holocaust. Eventually I began asking questions and reading about the Holocaust until I had a fairly good understanding of what it was. Until this time, I'd had interest in Christianity. However, as I learned more about the Holocaust, my interest in Christianity waned. I began to blame Christianity for many of the evils in the world, although I still had an interest in spiritual things, particularly the occult and supernatural.

     The decades of the 1960s and early 1970s were a time of social upheaval, largely fueled by the so-called "Baby-boomers" who were born in the years following World War II. Having been born in 1947, I was part of this generation. In many respects, the 1960s and 1970s was a "revolution." It wasn't a revolution in which people were seeking to overthrow the government. It was more of a social revolution. The "old" values didn't seem important anymore. The "old" morality was being replaced by the "new" morality. Despite the excesses, there was a great deal of idealism among the young people. It seemed like we "young people" cared more about our fellow man, but the "older" generation only cared about material possessions, with little interest in the poor and oppressed. The music group "Fifth Dimension" came out with a song called The Age of Aquarius, which to me epitomized the spirit of the new age in which the "Establishment" would be overcome. It would be an age of harmony and understanding between races, peoples, and nations. Peace and justice would reign!

     Some of the other "values" that were adopted by my generation were "drugs, sex, and rock & roll." Our revolution had the seeds of its own destruction. Despite the idealism, there were also many self-centered attitudes among the young people of my generation. Anything was "moral" as long as you didn't hurt someone else.

     The "Establishment" religions were looked upon as being lifeless and hopelessly out of touch, and many times this perception was accurate. Eastern religions moved in to fill the spiritual void, despite the pain and suffering that these religions brought upon their own countries.

     Now the "Baby-boomers" are going into retirement. In many respects, our "revolution" was only too successful. We became the "Establishment." Many of the "values" that we promoted are now part of the "Establishment." Sex outside of marriage is no longer considered sinful. People are no longer sent to prison for simple drug possession. Homosexuals are no longer persecuted; they are celebrated! People are free to "do their own thing," whatever that is.

     What are the by-products of this "Revolution," which has seemingly succeeded? Even the most vile pornography is seen as "freedom of speech." Rape and violence against women, and children of both genders, has become common. We have many unwed mothers, who usually became pregnant as teenagers, which is also a major predictor of poverty. The family is under attack. Many children are growing up with a different "daddy" every year or two. Co-habiting and divorce are epidemic. Drugs are destroying lives and neighborhoods and fueling a crime epidemic. It is obvious that the "revolution" has gone sour. This is inevitable when man tries to transform a society without transforming the individual. This can only occur when we receive new natures. Only YHWH can change the people from within.

     Curiously, even before coming to belief in the Messiah, my heart was being prepared for Messianic Judaism. Way back in 1971, I saw an episode of All in the Family, a popular sit-com in which the major character was Archie Bunker, a rather loveable bigot. One day, his best friend died - Stretch Cunningham. Because of his close friendship, the family asked Archie to come to deliver the eulogy at Stretch's funeral. Archie arrived at the address, and was surprised to find that it was at a Jewish funeral home.

     Archie walked in, and was handed a kippa to put on his head. He was then directed to go to the front of the room to deliver the eulogy for his close friend. It went something like this: "I'm am honored to be asked to give the eulogy for Stretch. But I had no idea that he was Jewish. How can Stretch Cunningham be a Jewish name? Not that there is anything wrong with being Jewish! Even Jesus was Jewish, until his Father took him aside, and said, 'No more of that!'"

     I got a real good laugh out of that, but then it occurred to me that yes, Jesus was Jewish! And yet the religion about Jesus - Christianity - had historically become anti-Jewish. It also occurred to me that Jesus didn't come to start up a new religion; He came to be the Messiah for the old religion, Judaism. However, I didn't have any idea about what to do with this little piece of information.

     Then in 1973, my wife and I went to see the movie Jesus Christ Superstar. Yes, I know that this movie got a lot of bad press from Evangelicals. It was a rock opera, with many terrific songs. This movie began to turn on some lights in my brain. For one thing, it was all beautifully filmed in Israel! And secondly, it was the first Jesus movie I ever saw that showed Jesus as a Jew. It also showed the dilemmas faced by the Jewish leadership, as they tried to cope with life under Roman occupation, and the dangers they faced if this Jesus revolution got out of control. And for the first time, I thought that Jesus was cool! The other thing that impressed me was the crucifixion. In other Jesus movies, Jesus would be crucified, and he would be hanging there on the cross. But there was no agony. This movie showed a rather graphic view of the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus. The agony was very much apparent. Some later Jesus movies did a much better job in presenting the historical Jewish Jesus, but this was the first one to do it. Now let me go back a few years...


I was drafted into the US Army in 1968, where I met Miriam, a young lady from Colombia. Our daughter was born to us in Germany, only two months before my separation from the army. I introduced by wife to the "counter-culture," including the drug scene, which for me included primarily marijuana and LSD. I managed to continue using drugs relatively unscathed. My wife wasn't so fortunate. After being hospitalized three times, she knew that the wanted out of this lifestyle.

     Miriam wanted me to go to church, any church. She felt that we needed something beyond ourselves, whereas I felt that the answers lay within myself. Eventually I gave in to my wife's demands on a hot July morning in 1975. I agreed to go to a church with her, but it would be the closest one, and I would go just as I was - shorts, long hair and beard, and "stoned." I felt that the people would reject me, and that I would be free from my wife's nagging me about going to church. The church turned out to be an old-fashioned Pentecostal church filled with very loving old ladies, who showered us with love and acceptance. There was also tongues and prophesying, which frightened my wife, but attracted me. The tables were turned! I wanted to go back, but Miriam wanted to stay home! She finally agreed to go with me the following week.

     When we went back, there was a genuine move of the Holy Spirit, not the "Charismania" that is so often manifested in many congregations. The pastor gave what was an "altar call," but I didn't recognize it as such. He simply said, "If there is anybody who wants more of God, please come forward." Well, I knew that these people had something that I didn't have, and I knew that I wanted it. What happened next surprised me. I found myself almost falling onto what they called an altar, which was a laminated board extending almost the width of the sanctuary. There I laid my head and wept as the Holy Spirit cleansed me and changed me. Nobody "prayed" me through salvation. I lost all track of time and place. When I arose, I discovered that I was the only one in the church. Everybody had left, including the pastor and my wife and daughter. I walked home a different person than had walked into that congregation.

     This is not the end of my testimony. A new life had just begun. "If any man be in Messiah, he is a new creature: Old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new." [1] My wife (Miriam), daughter (Lisa), and I received a good beginning in this church. However, God was calling us to the Jewish people. I was a very unlikely candidate. Many teachings we received were hostile to Torah, and I swallowed them hook, line, and sinker. I heard a pastor say, "Jesus kept the Law, so I don't have to." Having lived a fairly lawless lifestyle, I liked what was said, and repeated it like a stupid parrot. The Tanakh (O.T.) was valued primarily for prophetic passages pointing to Jesus as being the Messiah, and for Psalms and Proverbs. I proudly stated, "I'm a New Testament Christian." I had no use for the "harsh" Mosaic laws.

     As I look back on my early walk, I'm truly amazed at my ignorance. However, YHWH put a real zeal in our hearts to study His word. Miriam and I moved simultaneously into a genuine Messianic Jewish vision. We began attending a non-Messianic synagogue, while also attending the church. This confused my Christian friends, who asked, "Are you still saved?" The people in the synagogue were perhaps confused about us, but were welcoming. And we were confused, as we didn't understand Hebrew or much of what was going on. However, we felt that this was closer to the worship of those in the First Century than what we found in the church. We then started studying Hebrew through courses in the synagogue, which was a great help in our walk.

Transition into Messianic Judaism

We became in effect "Messianic Jews," without having any contact with Messianic Jews. We met some Jews who were attending churches. However, they were basically Jews who had become Christians, and had for the most part left Judaism. They considered themselves free from the "bondage" of Judaism. They and we were moving in opposite directions.

     Our stay in the church became a source of irritation to some. I remember one time the congregation was singing, "Oh, to be like Jesus." I wondered out loud, "Do they realize that Jesus was a Torah-observant Jew?" Such verbalizations do not please most Christians. Miriam and I became avid readers of the Bible. We were in the young adult Sunday school. Often the teacher (the pastor's wife) would give some theological opinion, which we would see actually contradicted the Scriptures. We would occasionally point out such discrepancies, which again was not endearing to others. We loved the people. However, we ended up leaving, somewhat tearfully. "How can two walk together unless they be agreed?" [2]

     Modern Messianic Judaism had taken some baby steps in the 1970s, and fell down often. Many of those involved were carrying around denominational baggage from various Christian denominations, which added to the disunity of many aspiring Messianic congregations. Petah Tikvah Kehilah was birthed in 1979. I became the spiritual leader in 1984, a position I have held ever since. We also began publishing Petah Tikvah Magazine, which initially was a fellowship newsletter. However, as interest in it grew, it became a magazine. Petah Tikvah is part of the UMJA ( However, we maintain no denominational ties. This has enabled us to speak out on what we perceive as truth. Our "boss" is the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth (Rabbi Yeshua), and we seek only His approval.

     We are pleased that the magazine has taken off so well. It reaches well beyond our original goal of reaching the Messianic Jewish community. We also have many enthusiastic readers in Christian churches, particularly those involved in the "Hebrew Roots" movement, and among Christian Zionists. There are also some readers who are in the Sacred Name movement, as well as SDAs, and some traditional non-Messianic Jews are also on our mail list. We have readers in six of the word's seven continents. (No readers in Antarctica!)

     We have been surprised at the interest that prisoners have in Messianic Judaism. We now have several hundred inmates on our mail list. Perhaps many of them lived fairly lawless lives. They read their Bibles, then hear about Messianic Judaism. It somehow clicks and the lights come on. They recognize the Torah foundations of the faith, and identify with Messianic Judaism as being their faith, even though many of them may have no Jewish ethnicity.

     We have learned much over the years. Obviously, we have gained a real appreciation for the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. We have also gained an appreciation for much of the wisdom from traditional non-Messianic sources and rabbis. In our biblical commentaries, we often draw on traditional Jewish source material. However, we do not regard such sources as being without error. Some traditional Jewish Midrash, etc., is fanciful, and could be called Jewish fairy tales. However, much of it is very good, and worth quoting.

     We look forward to the day when our traditional Jewish friends come to finally recognize Yeshua, not only as one of their own, but also as their Messiah. As Messianic Judaism spreads, we see that day approaching. Yeshua said to the Jewish people, "For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'Baruch haba b'shem Adonai - Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord.'" [3] When we share the Good News of the Messiah with Jewish people, we are in effect hastening the return of Messiah Yeshua. At that time, He will set up the Messianic Kingdom, reigning over the world from Jerusalem, which will, in effect, become the capital of the entire world! Even so, come quickly, Messiah Yeshua!

[1] 2 Cor. 5:17.

[2] Amos 3:3.

[3] Matthew 23:39.