As a child, Paul Liberman was deeply touched by the words from Psalm 118:22 ‘The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.’ “What or Who can be this Stone?” Paul wondered, “Is it that Jesus of Nazareth against whom the rabbi warns us so much?”
No satisfying answer
I was only eight years old when I started to fire questions about God at my parents, but their replies were hardly satisfying. I longed, therefore, to go to an orthodox Jewish school. My father was not happy about it because it was so expensive, but my mother knew how to persuade him. Yet this school didn’t bring a spiritual breakthrough in my life.
Money… my new religion
When I started to earn some money after finishing my education, my interest in religion was pushed aside by the desire for money. For fifteen years that was my religion. Owing to my follow-up study at a liberal university, I even started to doubt if there was a higher Being. As my job didn’t promise much financial success, I decided to give up my economic ambitions and go into politics. This all went well, and anything I did, I was successful. Then I got an interesting job in a business office in Washington, but the joy was short-lived. The man who hired me was dismissed and soon after I met with the same fate.
Raised in a strict orthodox Jewish family, Ceil didn’t want to live under the law any longer and she turned her back on religion. Just then things started to change.
My orthodox foster family
My twin brother and I were born to Jewish parents in Boston. Our mother died when we were less than a year old and my brother and I were placed in different foster homes. When my father remarried a couple of years later, he took my brother out of foster care. I however remained with the Orthodox Jewish immigrant couple that had taken me. They had pressured him into signing legal documents, that later appeared to be adoption papers. He deeply regretted this but felt it was in my best interest. He firmly believed that it was all bashert (meant to be). He had great faith that some day, somehow, we would be reunited.
My adoptive parents were very religious. We observed the Sabbath and the Jewish holidays and we had many other rules besides the kosher laws. I knew that some Jewish people who were more Orthodox than us did none of those things. I also noticed that others less Orthodox than my family did not observe as many rules as we did. Those discrepancies confused me. If all those laws were really ordained of God, shouldn’t all of us Jews keep all of them? If not, why keep any?
As a teenager I began to wonder if God existed at all.
Susan Perlman is one of the founders of and assistant to the Executive Director of the American Jews for Jesus and oversees the organisation’s multimedia outreach. She is the creator of many of the ministry’s dramatic presentations and is writer and editor of numerous publications and articles. She grew up in a traditional Jewish family, but Susan came to believe in Jesus as her Messiah. This is her story:
I was brought up in a traditional Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. We observed the dietary laws, rested on the Sabbath and celebrated all Jewish holidays. I knew it was good to be Jewish. I didn’t really know the God of the Jews, but that did not seem to be of much significance, until my life took a sad turn.
When I was twelve, my father died of a heart attack. It was very sudden and unexpected and our family was in shock. After the funeral, as is customary in the Orthodox Jewish tradition of mourning, our family spent a week sitting shiva. During this period we were not allowed to leave the apartment and I remember we sat on wooden crates in the living room. Many relatives and friends came to visit us, bringing food and recalling their fondest memories of my dad.