Evidence of a fulfilled promise

Singer, song-writer, classically trained pianist and composer, and Jewish evangelist, Benjamin Hersh was recently interviewed by retired CWI Field Worker David Bond at a Jewish Awareness Day held at Kensit Evangelical Church (see notebook for information about upcoming Jewish Awareness Days). Benjamin 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, liberal Jewish household. We kept all the festivals and went to synagogue regularly. I was Bar Mitzvahed at a late age – 15 as opposed to 13. We used to read the Siddur (Prayer Book) every morning, and kept Shabbat and other Jewish festivals. My father would wear tefillin (small leather boxes containing parchments scrolls) and I would wear tallis (a prayer shawl). As I grew up my identity was very much Jewish. 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 that on one occasion the nuns stood us up and said, ‘Look at these two children. They put Jesus on the cross. Jewish people caused the death of our Lord Jesus Christ’. That was my first experience of anti-Semitism but there were many other experiences at school. Children would draw pictures of me with a big nose and teachers would make anti-Semitic remarks. Can you tell us about some of the different ways you tried to find spiritual fulfilment 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 provide me with an answer. As I got older I began to research the occult 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 fulfilment I eventually found in Jesus.

So how did you eventually become interested in the message of Jesus?

I think my interest in Jesus, after 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.

A number of years ago my wife got quite ill. I used to teach piano and the mother of one of the kids I was teaching told me that we should meet her minister. He was very passionate for the gospel. My wife ended up giving her life to the Lord and 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, I had had a dream in which a man in white appeared to me. He called me by my name and said, ‘There is enough food for everyone’ and talked about ‘the bread of life’. I later realised 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 really offensive. My mother asked how I could do such a thing. She had also been to a convent as a child 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 that I was still Jewish and that in Jesus I was a completed Jew. I used to ask my grandmother when she thought 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 realised that he was the fulfilment of the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures, he was the Messiah the 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?

After finishing my studies at All Nations Christian College, my wife and I began reaching out to Jewish people through hospitality and friendship evangelism. Also, as I was trained in music, 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 sister. 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 at my Jewish Messianic concert at Woodberry Down Church one of our Hasidic contacts from Stamford Hill, with whom we have worked  for the last two years, decided to give  his life to Yeshua. 

Benjamin’s album Fulfilled Promise is available from the CWI shop for £8 inc p&p.

This article first appeared in the Summer Herald 2013

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