By Jamie Cowen
I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, where politics was front and center. My father was deeply involved in the political process, working in campaigns and in other forms of political activism. I helped him on campaigns when I was as young as twelve. Although ours was a traditional Jewish home – we attended both Conservative and Reform synagogues – in reality, politics took the place of religion. By my high school years, I considered myself an agnostic.
That changed when someone invited me to a high school group, and I began attending. There I met a number of fellow students who challenged my thinking, and I was also confronted with the possibility that Yeshua (Jesus) was the promised Messiah of Israel. After reading the Scriptures and sensing something in His life that I had been longing for – and seeing that life in the believers around me – I became convinced that it was true.
After I received Yeshua as my Messiah, my life changed dramatically. Like many of my peers, I had been engaging in some self-destructive behavior-but the peace I discovered in my Messiah took away the need for those distractions. Yet as a Jewish believer in Jesus, I was confused. I felt my Jewish identity was an unresolved issue. I knew nothing about Jesus’ Jewishness and the essentially Jewish character of His message until the following year in college at Penn State. There, I met another Messianic Jew who taught me a great deal. For the first time, I realized I could be a follower of Yeshua and still be truly Jewish.
Following college, I went to law school in Washington, D.C. and did graduate work in economics. After graduation I worked as counsel to a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and later as chief counsel to a U.S. Senate subcommittee. My responsibilities included drafting legislation and overseeing investigative and legislative hearings.
After ten years of working in Congress and a stint as a partner in a consulting firm, I sensed a call to another form of service. In 1988, I went to seminary and became a Messianic rabbi, leading the congregation Tikvat Israel (Hope of Israel) in Richmond, Virginia. God has also shown me a way to integrate my training in a life of service for Him. In addition to leading the congregation, we formed Russian Immigration Services, assisting Russian Jewish immigrants with legal and social services. I am currently a member of the Maryland and D.C. Bars and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
I knew I wanted to use the practice of law to help those who were at a disadvantage, in response to Yeshua’s teaching to love the poor. Today, I strive to serve the needy and to show them the reality of Yeshua the Messiah.