Coming to Faith
I was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1957. I grew up in a Jewish home, but only went to synagogue two or three times a year. At the time, Iran was a secular Muslim nation with a Jewish population of roughly 70,000 centered in Tehran. Though Iran was friendly to Western culture, the nation never embraced the Jewish people. I remember watching my fellow Iranians in the streets chanting “death to the Jews” before a soccer game in which Iran was to compete with Israel. Today, only a few thousand Jews remain.
In 1975, I moved to the United States to attend college. There, I met Eliezer Urbach, then a missionary with Chosen People Ministries. I was intrigued by the idea that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and even attended a meeting, but left uninterested. Some students followed up with me and showed me unconditional love as they explained the Gospel and Jesus’ fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures. Not only did I come to faith in Messiah Jesus, but I became even more interested in my Jewish heritage and continued to celebrate the biblical holy days.
I soon told my parents, who were still living in Iran, of my new faith. Though they initially showed indifference, as I witnessed to them, they became nervous. They spoke with a rabbi in Israel who explained that I had been brainwashed by Christian missionaries. My parents became extremely concerned and demanded I return to Iran. I agreed, but hid my passport and return ticket after I arrived for fear they would take them from me.
Tried and Tested in the Faith
In Tehran, and later in Jerusalem, my parents took me to two rabbis in an attempt to talk me out of my beliefs. Ultimately, they decided to enroll me in a yeshiva (a strict Orthodox Jewish school) for troubled youths in New York.
The yeshiva was designed to be totally self-sufficient; students had very few reasons even to go outside, and quitting school was out of the question. Still, despite their efforts to change my mind, I only became more convinced of my faith and resolved to leave the yeshiva.
While in New York, I became friends with Sam Nadler, a Jewish believer who later served with Chosen People Ministries. In order to move out of the yeshiva unnoticed, I began slowly to move my belongings into Sam’s home. Finally, one weekend, I left and never went back.
Once back in Colorado, I told my parents what had happened. They cut off my financial support. I kept my address hidden from them and worked my way through college. I eventually moved to Los Angeles, met my wife, and participated in an Iranian church.
After the Iranian Revolution, my parents moved to Los Angeles. Seeing my continued love for my Jewish identity, their hearts softened toward me, my family, and my faith. Today, my family and I participate in outreaches to Iranian Jews and Muslims in the Los Angeles area.