I Have a Jewish Friend
Especially for Young Readers
Hi my name is Amy, and I believe that Jesus died for my sins and rose again. That makes me a Christian. I know I’ll go to Heaven when I die. My mom says the word Christian means “a follower of Christ.” That’s what I am.
I have a Jewish friend. Her name is Rachel Rosenberg. I didn’t understand what it meant to be Jewish, so I asked Rachel.
She said that she was Jewish because her mom, dad, and grandparents were Jewish, and all her great-grandparents before them were Jewish. The very first Jewish people were grandchildren of Abraham, and they lived in Israel. In the Bible God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. This nation is Israel.
Rachel said that Jewish people do certain things because they have always done it that way. I think it’s called “tradition.” I asked her to explain some of these Jewish traditions.
She said that they believe and study the Torah which is the first five books of the Bible. The Torah has the laws that Jewish people are supposed to obey. They also believe the rest of the Old Testament.
They go to a synagogue which is the Jewish house of worship. The rabbi teaches there, and he is an example for the people. When Rachel’s father and brothers go there, they wear small caps on their heads called yarmulkes All men and boys have to wear them there.
Rachel told me when her brother turned 13 he had a bar mitzvah, and then he could start doing some of the things men do in the synagogue, like reading from the Torah. The girls have a bat mitzvah when they are 12.
At Rachel’s aunt’s wedding, the bride and groom stood under a huppah, which is a canopy, and the groom had to smash a glass with his foot as a reminder that even at a happy time they should remember the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
When her grandmother died, they sat shiva with the family, which is a time of mourning.
Rachel also told me about some of the Jewish holidays. Around Christmas time they celebrate Hanukkah. It lasts eight days. Each night they light a candle on a menorah which is a candelabra with eight candles and a head candle. They get a present every night during Hanukkah.
Hanukkah began back even before Jesus was born when the Jewish people led by the Maccabee family won a battle over an evil man named Antiochus Epiphanes, who was king of Syria. He tried to ruin the Temple and destroy their religious beliefs.
Hanukkah is sometimes called the Festival of Lights because when the Maccabees entered the Temple after defeating the enemy, they found only enough special oil to last one day, but it burned for eight days. That’s why they light one candle each night of Hanukkah.
Rachel plays with a spinning top, called a dreidel at Hanukkah. It has Hebrew letters on it. Her family eats potato pancakes called latkes The oil used to fry them reminds them of the oil that lasted eight days.
In the early spring they celebrate Purim which comes from the Book of Esther in the Bible. A wicked man named Haman tried to have all the Jewish people killed, but Queen Esther had the people spared, and Haman was killed.
The Rosenbergs eat good pastries, like tarts, called Hamentaschen, which are shaped like Haman’s hat.
Close to Purim is a holiday called Passover which is celebrated around Easter. This helps the people to remember when God saved the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt through Moses. They are told how to celebrate it in the Old Testament.
Do you remember the Bible story of Moses and the ten plagues on Egypt? The tenth plague was the death of the firstborn child in every home. The angel of the Lord “passed over” the homes of those Jewish people who had killed a lamb and spread its blood on their doorposts. After the firstborn in all the Egyptian homes died, Pharaoh finally let the Jewish people go free instead of keeping them as slaves.
To celebrate Passover, Rachel’s family has a dinner every year called a seder. They invited me last year. It was a regular dinner, but her dad read from a book called the Haggadah.
Instead of a centerpiece on the table, they had some food they called “the elements.” On small dishes were an egg, salt water, parsley, an apple and nut mixture called Heroseth, some wine glasses, a shankbone of a lamb, and a tray of matzo which is unleavened bread (a flat cracker-like wafer). After supper Rachel had to open the front door to see if Elijah would come. They even set a place for him at the table. Then all the kids got to look for the matzo that their dad had hidden, called the afikomen. The one who found it got a prize!
All the food had to be kosher. Kosher meat is meat that is slaughtered in a special way, soaked, salted, and rinsed to make sure there is no blood left.
In September and October they celebrate the high holy days beginning with the Jewish New Year, called Rosh Hashana, and ending with Yom Kippur ten days later. This is the Day of Atonement. In Temple days, this was the only day the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies to make a sacrifice for the sins of the people. On Yom Kippur the Jewish people think about their sins and hope their names are written in God’s book so they can go to Heaven. It’s also a time when they’re supposed to forgive those who have wronged them.
Rachel’s family is proud to be Jewish. On all the doorways of their house they hang mezuzahs. A mezuzah is a small, metal ornament with Scripture from Deuteronomy inside. In Deuteronomy God said to hang His Word on the gates and on the doorposts. That is why they do this.
My friend Rachel is Jewish and has a lot of traditions. But, just like everyone else, Rachel needs to believe that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again for her sins so she can go to Heaven. Dad says Jewish people usually believe that they can get to Heaven by doing good deeds. But the Bible says in John 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Ephesians 2:58–9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Jewish people say they don’t believe the New Testament. But Jesus, who is Jewish, can also be seen in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 53:5–6 it says, “he [Jesus] was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; … All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” In Isaiah 64:6 it says, “all our righteousness are as filthy rags.” That means no good works are good enough to get anyone to Heaven.
Jewish people like Rachel need Jesus, just like everyone else, but some Jewish people are afraid that if they believe in Jesus, they will not be Jewish any more. This is not true. I am Italian and believe in Jesus, and I’m still Italian—an Italian Christian. If Rachel, who is Jewish, believed in Jesus she would be a Jewish Christian—a Jewish “follower of Christ.”
I have a Jewish friend. Her name is Rachel. She needs Jesus. I need to tell her.
If you have Jewish friends, you need to tell them about Jesus, too. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek [non-Jews].”