Review of Stories of Jews for Jesus
Reviewed by Rachel Friedlander
In the most comprehensive collection yet, Matt Sieger compiles 19 testimonies in Stories of Jews for Jesus. This colorful cast creates episodes of laughter and tears, comedy and tragedy, each with an inspirational ending. Although this multitude of testimonies creates an intimidating page count, the pick-and-choose buffet format allows for each chapter to stand on its own.
Between the pediatrician who survived the concentration camps of the Holocaust, the bodyguard who has protected Ariel Sharon, and the lawyer who won a Jews for Jesus case in the Supreme Court, readers will be both captivated and challenged. Instances of drug addiction, family separation, deaths and disease tarnish these shining accomplishments, creating testimonies that are accessible by every human, Jew and Gentile, believer and unbeliever.
Despite their impressive nature, these testimonies are not told in an auditorium. There is no aura of professional sterility. Instead of a podium dividing the reader from the writer, it is a coffee table. With each story, we are invited into the living room of the author to hear their personal triumphs and failures. This "dear diary" format of full disclosure allows readers to discover the emotions, motives and viewpoint behind the stories.
Although the cozy, living room-feel of the collection provides insight, this strength also proves to be a weakness. Much like the nostalgic relative, the occasional testimony becomes thick with fond memories, and teatime begins to run long.
In complementing contrast, three teaching sections provide a fruitful finale to the collection of accounts. The juxtaposition of personal testimony and scholarly considerations satisfy both the right and left-brain readers. The teachings, written by Efraim Goldstein, Gail Simonowitz, and Susan Perlman, address the chapter of Isaiah 53 and the identity and nature of the Messiah.
In addition to providing substantial grounding for the discoveries made in the testimonies, these teachings also create a skillful segue into the conclusion: a call for unbelievers to receive salvation. In the final words of his testimony, Tuvya Zaretsky encourages readers to set aside their fear and pick up the search, because "Truth remains what it is, whether we choose to believe it or not."