[note: I met Michel a year ago. Without telling his story, I was so bless to find out that my book, written primarily for Gentile believers, was the final straw that brought him to faith. I asked him to write his story. You will be blessed.]
y name is Michel Gutman. I’m 47, born and raised a Jew (both parents Jewish) in Great Neck, NY. My mother is Israeli, from Hod Hasharon in central Israel. She moved back to Israel 25 years ago after my parents split, and she currently resides in Tel Aviv. I spent every summer of my childhood at my grandparent’s house in Hod Hasharon, and I speak fluent Hebrew. There is one thing that I have always known – I was born a Jew, and I will die a Jew.
Because my mother is Israeli, I have always had dual citizenship – an American passport as well as an Israeli one. In 2009, I moved to Israel, where I lived for several months, before coming back to the US. The time just wasn’t right. I moved to Arkansas, but I believe I will eventually come back “home” to Israel.
Here in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I met a wonderful woman, and we were married. She was not Jewish, but that didn’t matter. We began to attend a church called River of Life. As it turns out, they go on frequent mission trips to Israel, and have a great love for Israel. They knew that I was Jewish but have always shown me incredible love. I found it to be very fascinating, but I was quite confident that they’d never “convert” me.
I began to learn about Yeshua, but I refused to believe, mostly out of a concern for my family’s feelings. My (now deceased) grandparents lost their entire families in the Holocaust. They would’ve been devastated at the notion of me becoming a “Christian”.
Two years ago, my son, living with me in Arkansas, came to faith in Yeshua. He was scared to tell me, because he thought I would be hurt. But I actually felt proud that he made this decision. His convictions were genuine, as was his faith.
Yet, I continued to resist. But I kept attending church. I didn’t know this at the time, but my wife was praying for my salvation. My church friends prayed for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the church experience. I wanted to sit up front, and I wanted to learn more. This was not the first church I’d ever been to, but it was the first time I’d ever heard a pastor who was intent on his congregation understanding the Jewish roots of the faith.
Last year, a sequence of events occurred that would change my life forever. My fascination with Christianity’s Jewish roots led me to discover Maoz Israel, and a book called Identity Theft: How Jesus was Robbed of His Jewishness by Ron Cantor. I was fascinated by the title, so I ordered it.
Right around the same time, a man named Dr. Jack Sternberg, a retired oncologist and a local resident who serves on the National Board of Jews for Jesus, held an eight week lecture series at my church, called “Christianity – It’s Jewish Roots.” I found these classes to be very interesting and informative, and I really soaked up everything, and began to open up to the possibility that I didn’t necessarily have all the answers.
A couple of weeks into the lecture, I received Identity Theft. This book instantly grabbed my attention. Just like Dr. Sternberg, Ron Cantor was a Jew, and he was a believer in Jesus! That was two encounters within a couple of weeks! In my 47 years, I’d never met a single Messianic Jew, and suddenly I found two! God certainly orchestrated this, from right here in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
I couldn’t put Identity Theft down. I always resisted Christianity because I couldn’t understand why Christians seemed to ignore the laws of the Old Testament. I couldn’t understand why Christians “changed” the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. It didn’t make sense to me that Christians didn’t celebrate Jewish holidays like Passover. I couldn’t understand why Christians didn’t follow Kosher dietary laws. There was so much that didn’t make sense to me, and no one ever seemed to be able to answer my questions. Until I picked up Identity Theft. Every question I ever asked was answered, with actual Biblical and historical facts. And I found all the answers in the Old Testament, my Bible!
Because my pastor, Ben Wiles, embraces his roots, he decided to talk about Rosh Hashanah on September 16, 2012. He talked about the New Year, and new beginnings, and he called for anyone who hadn’t yet fully committed to Jesus to come up to him and make the commitment. I grabbed my wife’s hand, and practically ran up to him. He and I embraced for several minutes, with tears flowing down both our faces. This glorious moment disrupted the entire service. Overcome with emotion, he was not able to preach the sermon he had planned. I suddenly found myself surrounded by every member of the church, with hugs, tears, congratulations and a lot of love. Everyone was so excited. I was born anew!
You can’t make this stuff up. A New York Jew, with roots in Israel, ending up in Arkansas, and discovering Yeshua because of three men I didn’t even know. This is how God works.
But here’s the best part. I am still a Jew! Until I read Identity Theft, I never thought it would be possible to believe in Jesus and still be Jewish. Now I realize that I’m more Jewish than ever before!
I owe thanks to these three men. My pastor, Ben Wiles, is a genuine man of God, who patiently and lovingly helped guide me in this journey. Dr. Jack Sternberg meticulously dissected the parts of the Old Testament that pointed to Yeshua.
And last, but certainly not least, Ron Cantor, who wrote Identity Theft. From the introduction until the very end, I felt as though the book had been written for me, by someone just like me. Mr. Cantor was able to relate to me because he understood exactly where I came from. Identity Theft played such a huge role in lifting the veil from my eyes and showing me what I’ve been missing my whole life.
I love this book with all my heart, because it changed my life. I have since purchased multiple copies, because I feel like I must share it with others. I recently gave it to an Israeli friend who lives in California, and I’m so excited for the day when he knows what I now know – that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah, and that through Him (and only Him), we can all have Eternal Life.