Jewishness matters to me. God made an eternal covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their children after them. Therefore Jewishness matters to God, and if something matters to God, it matters to me. Assaults and attempts to annihilate the Jewish people are as overt as the Shoah (Holocaust) and as silent as assimilation. I am a victim of the latter. I lost my Jewishness, on my mother’s side, through assimilation and mixed marriage.
My great grandmother was the last one in our family to care enough about Jewish identity that she requested to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. That seemed to be the last breath of Jewish heritage in my family.
My parents were without God, secular, and living regular American lives, but when I was two years old, a Baptist Christian knocked on my parent’s apartment door and invited them to church. They went, and they found God. Our family began on a journey of reconciling back to God. Through Jesus, we came closer to our Jewishness and ultimately desired to reconcile our Jewish heritage as well.
That’s when things started changing in our lives. When I was a teenager, my family started observing Shabbat, studying Torah, and connecting with the local Jewish community. Through these relationships we had the opportunity to formally reconnect to our Jewish heritage through halachically (legally) converting to Judaism. This procedure, much like what Paul did with Timothy, formally recognized our heritage once again within the larger community of the Jewish people.
It’s not an option I would recommend for a believer. Ordinarily, a convert to Judaism must renounce faith in Yeshua. Paul also counsels Gentile believers against conversion. At the time though, I didn’t understand all the ramifications. In our case, we were not asked to deny the Master.
We walked through the door that was opened to us—we perceived this as a miraculous opportunity from God to bring our family back to our Jewish heritage without denying the Messiah.
When a person undergoes an orthodox conversion to Judaism, he must select a Hebrew name. My English name is Chris. I chose the Hebrew name Boaz. My father’s name is Michael. That made my Hebrew name Boaz ben Michael. I have used my Hebrew name ever since and prefer it over my given name.
Some of my Christian friends wonder why we converted. To them it seems unnecessary and, to some, it seems to counter the work of Christ. But Christ did not cancel Jewishness. It matters, and it is a precious thing, as Paul says, “What advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way” (Romans 3:1-2).
There are people who consider our conversion invalid because we retained our faith in Yeshua through the process. They believe me to be deceitful, as if I am only “pretending” to be Jewish. On the contrary, I am Jewish disciple of the Jewish Messiah. I have nothing to hide, and I’m proud of my Jewishness and my Messianic faith. I live a traditional Jewish life and attempt to understand my faith from a thoroughly Jewish framework.
My parents gave me a strong faith foundation to stand upon, and I have grown in my faith throughout the years. It has not always been easy, and I wonder, if I knew then what I know now, would I have participated in the conversion? It’s been a great struggle to wrestle with my identity as a Jew, a Messianic Jew, and as a devoted follower of Yeshua. Ultimately, I believe that it was in God’s hands, and Jewishness matters to me.
I have four wonderful children. As they have begun to establish their own lives and homes it is an honor for me to see them growing and maturing in their Jewish identities. They serve the modern state of Israel, have a zeal for the Messiah, and are deeply devoted to living scrupulous lives in accordance with the Torah.
God has used my Jewish identity for the kingdom. My life’s work, the ministry of First Fruits of Zion, is a leading voice in helping Christians understand the Jewish backgrounds to their faith, the centrality of Israel in God’s plan, and the errors of replacement theology. Our publishing arm, Vine of David creates enduring resources for maturing Messianic Judaism. Both missions attempt to reconcile Yeshua back to his authentic, Jewish context. Like I said, Jewishness matters to me.