By Elliot Klayman
I did not choose to be born to Jewish parents into a modern Orthodox home in Cincinnati, Ohio. Nor did I choose to be circumcised the eighth day; or even to attend Cheder (Jewish Day School) and become a Bar Mitzvah – but this was my childhood. I had a strong Jewish cultural identity championed by my maternal grandparents, who came from Lithuanian shtetl life. This was a very positive experience, although there was always a bright line between them (the non-Jews) and us, the Jews.
Like many teenagers, I began to stray from my early upbringing, and at age fifteen I left the synagogue in search of something more satisfying. After completing law degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Harvard, I was still not ready to realize my goal of helping the underprivileged. There was an emptiness within me for which I was seeking fulfillment. My good friend had told me about Yeshua (Jesus), and that He lived and died for me – but I could not identify with the Gentile Jesus.
Fulfillment came in the summer of 1970 on a trip through Western Europe, when I was lost in the woods in Finland. It was then and there that I clearly saw the pattern of unsatisfying elements throughout my life: weight training, health fanaticism, motorcycles, higher education and the eastern religions. As my life passed before me, it seemed like I was stranded in quicksand when I cried out to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I remember saying to God, “I am not interested in the things of this world; I want to serve You.”
This declaration prompted a faith that grew to believe that Yeshua died for me. I ran out of the woods and my whole life was changed as I sought a closer and closer walk with Yeshua.
Upon returning to the States, I discovered that Yeshua was Jewish and that I was a Jew who had found my Messiah. I practiced law in Cincinnati for seven years and moved to Columbus with my wife and son in 1977 to teach law at Ohio State University. While there, I accepted the call to become the congregational leader of Beth Messiah, a Messianic congregation.
Recently retired from law, I continue to be active in the Messianic movement, primarily in the area of education, teaching Jewish history and rabbinic literature courses. I also volunteer at two interfaith law clinics. Life for my family has been filled with ministry to our Jewish people. I may not have chosen the path; but for me and my family it is the way, the truth and the life!