I was born in New York City in 1901 and brought up in the Jewish faith. By faith, I mean that I believed in God, having heard many Bible stories from my father who read to us and taught us Jewish history. And yet, when I asked Papa the many questions which children are likely to ask about God, I found that our faith was in the Jewish people and in the general belief that there was a God. Religion, as such, had little place in my family’s life.
I married Sydney, a good Jewish man, and we raised our family of five after the pattern of our own upbringing. We sent our children to Hebrew School and taught them to believe in God, but that was the extent of our religious concern.
The way I ultimately found a more personal faith in God was marked by illness and sorrow.
It began in 1938, when we moved from New York to California. I became acquainted with a Jewish woman who gave me a book entitled The Nazarene, by Scholem Ash. The author’s forceful narrative aroused within me a strong, yet undefined impression that Jesus must have been more than a prophet of old. His words and his deeds were so authoritative; they seemed to come from God himself. Like a tiny seed buried deep within the ground, that thought remained hidden in the depths of my mind.
In 1941, World War II broke out and my eldest son enlisted. I was not to see him again for two years, when I was seriously ill with angina attacks. George was given leave to come home for a brief visit. That was the last time I saw him alive.
It was during my illness that I began to have strange dreams. In them, I was chased by a giant armed with a sickle. I ran over hills and mountains trying to escape him, until there was no place left to run. Suddenly, the sky opened, a beautiful blue and pink sky. In the midst of it, there stood a man clothed in a white robe with a beard as white as his robe. I can still recall how he stood with his arms outstretched saying, “I will save you.” I ran into those arms and the giant disappeared.
In my waking hours, I reasoned that the man in white must be my grandfather. After all, I thought, he was such a good, kind and loving man; he surely would be in heaven.
The dream repeated itself night after night. I became worried and nervous. I finally consulted a doctor out of fear that I might be losing my mind. He prescribed medication to relax me. I also inquired of a Christian friend, “What could this dream mean?” She replied, “You have described Jesus and your dream is showing how Jesus saves those who believe him.”
I listened to her words but they seemed to be meant for someone else. How strange to think a Jew could believe in Jesus. It should not have affected me, and yet I was unsettled.
Back in New York, when something troubled us, we would go to the synagogue, make a donation and ask the rabbi to say a prayer. In Sunland, California there was no synagogue and no rabbi. Instead, I consulted an elderly Jewish woman, hoping she could provide the spiritual guidance for which my heart yearned. She gave me a Hebrew and English prayer book, some kindly assurances and a bit of advice: “Forget about the dreams,” she said.
I prayed morning and night, but remained restless as the question haunted me: “Why should I dream of Jesus?”
In another dream that I had during that period, I was asked to identify some boys who had been killed. After seeing the last one, I said, “No, that’s not my son.” Then my dream switched to a scene of sailors all smartly dressed and lined up in a neat row. I thought perhaps I was about to see a military wedding. Then there were flowers and marble–and a crypt.
I wondered at the vividness of this dream and why I should remember such distinct details of the physical surroundings involved.
By this time, I had recovered from the angina and returned to work. One day a sudden chill swept over me and the feeling was so strange that I had to stop singing. (I always liked to sing while working.) The girls around me, having been cheered by my voice, asked why I had stopped. I had no answer.
When the commander of the Coast Guard came to our door, I knew what the chill and the dream had meant. Our son George had been killed.
I learned that many of the details of my dream matched the circumstances of our son’s death, including what he was wearing when he was killed and where the accident occurred. The sailors I had dreamed of lined up at the all-too-real cemetery for the final salute to George.
George was temporarily interred at Hollywood cemetery in a crypt which was nothing like what I had seen in my dream. But when I was shown a picture of the building which was to be constructed after the war, I saw that George would ultimately be brought to the place I had seen in my dream–before it had been built.
Since everything in this second dream had come to pass, I was anxious to find out what my first dream, with the threatening giant and the man in white meant. I felt certain it had spiritual significance, so I started to search the Scriptures.
I read what some call the “Old” Testament. I did not know that there was such a thing as a “New” Testament.
People started coming to my door inviting me to Bible studies.
We moved, and still I met people who spoke to me of the Bible. One kind woman to whom I shall always be grateful introduced me to the rest of the Bible, which spoke not only of the prophets, but of their fulfilment. I began to read the Bible daily.
One Saturday, I attended the Wilshire Temple in Los Angeles with a friend. As the rabbi read from the Book of Isaiah, my eyes fell upon the fourteenth verse of the seventh chapter: “…Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.” I whispered to my friend, “Doesn’t this mean Jesus?” Shocked, she replied,
“Sh! Don’t speak of Jesus here.”
Upon returning home I took my Bible and began to search the Scriptures anew. Passage after passage seemed to say to me: “This refers to Jesus.”
We moved back to Sunland where my Christian friend invited me to hear her pastor teach. I asked him to tell me the difference between a Gentile and a Christian, which I had always considered synonymous. His explanation helped me to understand the difference between a cultural upbringing and a faith-based decision.
I discovered that not all Gentiles were Christians. Still, all the Christians I knew were Gentiles, and I could not imagine a Jewish believer in Jesus. Nor did I really understand what Christians believed–until I met Mike Friedman.
Mike was invited to speak about how and why he was a believer in Y’shua (Jesus). Here was a Jewish man, telling about Jesus as the Messiah who is our atonement, our Kapporah. I felt as if he were speaking directly to me. This was familiar–this I could understand! And I knew it was what I had been waiting for. I knew I could trust my life to Jesus.
Mike and I prayed together and the heaviness I had carried was lifted from my heart. I experienced a joy and a peace of mind that I had never known.
My husband found his Messiah, Jesus, in March of 1955, about two years after I had. Then followed the happiest days of our life together.
Sidney has gone on to be with the One who gave his life for us. I am now 88 years young and have written this for those I cannot tell in person.
Yes, I can still recall those outstretched arms from my dream, but it no longer mystifies me. I know with certainty that Jesus, the Messiah, has opened the heavens for me and for any Jew or Gentile who will trust him.