Retired CWI Field Worker David Bond recently interviewed Benjamin Hersch, a Jewish pianist, composer and evangelist, at a Jewish Awareness Day held at Kensit Evangelical Church. Ben shared how coming to faith in Jesus has changed his life and gave an insight into the impact it has had on him as a Jewish person.
Tell us about family and upbringing in a Jewish home
I was brought up in a typical dysfunctional, wealthy liberal Jewish household. I suffered a lot of abuse and trauma within my family. We kept all the festivals and went to synagogue regularly. I was Bar Mitzvahed, at a late age of 15 as opposed to 13. We used to read the Seder every morning and kept Shabbat. My father would wear tefilin and I would wear tallit. As I was brought up, my identity was very much very Jewish and anything Christian was definitely a no-go area.
Did you experience any anti-Semitism as a young person?
I experienced anti-Semitism at school. My brother and I were sent to a convent and I remember on one occasion the nuns stood us up and said, “Look at these two children they put Jesus on the cross.” The nuns also told my parents that because a well-known Christian worship program was coming to film the school it wasn’t right to have two Jewish children as part of the filming and would only agree to have my brother and I in the school for two terms. That was my first experience of anti-Semitism but there were many other experiences at various schools. Children would draw pictures of me with a big nose and teachers would also make anti-Semitic remarks.
Can you tell us about some of the different ways you tried to find spiritual fulfillment and meaning in your life?
As a child I would always ask my rabbi questions such as, “Who is God?” I wondered why the Holocaust happened. My Grandfather was part of the liberation and we lost a lot of family in the war, so this was a question I would ask the rabbi but he couldn’t answer it. I began to research the occult as I got older and got involved with a variety of New Age activities such as tarot cards, astral projection, Buddhism, Shintoism, you name it I tried it but none of it gave me the fulfillment that I eventually found in Jesus.
So how did you eventually become interested in the message of Jesus?
I think my interest in Jesus, when I became an adult, was the result of some seeds that were sown when I was a child. My friend took me to a Christian meeting where I heard a story about Jesus feeding his disciples with many fish. I also went carol singing with my brother who wanted to get some money for Christmas. He knocked on one door and a lovely Christian couple answered. They asked us whether we knew what Christmas was about. My brother answered “Yes, it’s about presents!” They told us it wasn’t about that and went on to explain who Jesus was. We also met other Gentiles along the way who witnessed to us.
When I became an adult my wife got quite ill. I used to teach piano and one of the kids I was teaching told me that we should meet his minister. He was very passionate for the gospel. My wife ended up giving her life to the Lord. He told me that I also needed to give my life to the Lord as well. He took me through the Psalms and the prophecies in the Bible. I was overwhelmed by the message of the Messiah Yeshua and eventually I ended up giving my life to the Lord as well!
A few years previously, while I was into tarot card reading, astro projection, New Age and the occult, I had a dream and a man appeared in white. He called me by my name and said to me “There is enough food for everyone” and talked about ‘the bread of life’. I later realized that this was Jesus, the Messiah that the Jewish people had rejected.
None of the other religions had helped and I wanted to change my identity but when I gave my life to the Lord I found it very difficult to go to church. I would see the cross and feel I had betrayed my Jewish roots, my parents and my ancestors so it took me many years as a believer before I felt I had come into the fullness of knowing Jesus Christ.
How did your family react?
It’s an understatement to say they weren’t very happy. They found the fact that I believed in Jesus as offensive. My mother asked how I could do such a thing. She also, as a child, went to a convent and was told that she killed Jesus so my faith hasn’t gone down very well. They are okay as long as I don’t promote my faith to them, which I did do when I became a believer, they were very, very upset about it.
What does your Jewishness mean to you now?
My Jewishness is very important to me. About five or six years ago I was told by some very well-meaning people that I wasn’t Jewish any more. I began to get a desire to take up Hebrew again so I contacted a Messianic believer and he explained to me that I was still Jewish and a completed Jewish person. I used to ask my grandmother when she thought the Messiah would come to which she would reply, “Not in my time dear!” When I came to know Jesus as my Messiah and Saviour I realized that He was the fulfillment, he was the Messiah that Jewish people were waiting for and it was wonderful to know in my heart that I didn’t need to wait any more , the Messiah had already come.
How are you now seeking to serve the Lord? Are you still a pianist?
After finishing at All Nations, my wife and I began reaching out to Jewish people through hospitality and friendship evangelism. As I was a musician and a pianist, I have taken that up again and use it as a way to reach out to Jewish people and bring the gospel to my unsaved Jewish brothers and sisters. I also incorporate it into teaching and preaching in churches as a way of teaching other Christians about the Jewishness of the Bible. I thank the Lord that through my Jewish Messianic concert at Woodberry Downs Church, one of our Hassidic contacts decided to give his life to Yeshua.