Title – From Judaism and Law to Christ and Grace
Author – Arthur U. Michelson
Publisher – Los Angeles: The Jewish Hope Publishing House, 1934
This is a fascinating window into early Jewish evangelism in America before World War II and the establishment of Israel as a nation.
Arthur grew up in an orthodox Jewish household in Germany. He recounts the passion that his father displayed for the festivals, prayers to the dead, and continual repentance for sins. He shares his childhood struggles, the yearnings for peace, his marriage, his intersection with Roman Catholicism, his diligence in his law career, his encounter with Jesus Christ that changed everything, and his persecution by orthodox Jews.
Here is an example of family persecution. Philip in Brooklyn, New York told his mother in Germany that he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. Five months later, she mailed him these words:
Philip: You are no longer my son. We have buried you in effigy; we mourn you as one dead. And now may the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob strike you blind, and deaf and dumb, and damn your soul forever. You have left your father’s religion and the synagogue for the imposter, Jesus, so now you may take your mother’s curse. Jane
Three weeks later, from his heart, he wrote this moving, poetical testimony to his mother:
- Far away from home, my mother,
- Daily will I pray for thee.
- Why should I be cursed, my mother?
- Why such a message sent to me?
- Once convinced of sin, my mother;
- I cried and Jesus set me free.
- I am happy, now, my mother,
- Christ, the Jew, has died for me.
- Him you taught me to hate, mother,
- Him you still impostor call.
- Died for me on Calv’ry, mother,
- Died to save me from the fall.
- Let me lead you to him, mother,
- While I pray on bended knee,
- “Jesus, now accept my mother,
- Loving Jesus, set her free.”
- Be persuaded, dearest mother,
- Do not now so hardened be.
- Jesus Christ, the Jew’s Messiah,
- Surely died for you and me.
- Can you spurn such mercy, mother?
- Can you turn away your face?
- Come to Jesus, come, dearest mother,
- Fly, oh fly to His embrace.
Eventually, God brought the Michelson family to America. In 1928, Arthur founded the Hebrew Evangelization Society in Los Angeles, California.
His advisory board consisted of the following pastors: H. Eilertsen, Alfred Inwood, O. D. Ironmonger, E.B. Joseph, Wm. Kirby, E.A. Lacour, H.B. Macrory, W. F. Ploat, A. J. Smith, Oswald J. Smith, Jacob Stocker, and John W. Underwood.
Jewish ministry progressed. Arthur wrote,
When the Lord called me into His work He gave me the vision of establishing a Hebrew Christian Synagogue in order to bring Jews and Gentiles together, in the brotherhood of love which Jesus Christ proclaimed. I had spoken with several ministers about it but it seemed to them an impossibility and I found no encouragement. One day, while working in the Jewish Ghetto on the east side of Los Angeles the Lord led me definitely to an empty corner on Michigan and Chicago, and while looking at it, the Holy Spirit signified to me so plainly that this was the place for the Synagogue. We prayed and the Lord made it possible for us to buy the place. In March 1931, we moved out to our new headquarters, at 2209 Michigan avenue, and built a temporary meeting place which was dedicated as the “First Hebrew Christian Synagogue,” on the 24th of May, 1931, by a converted Jewish rabbi, Max Wertheimer, who came from Ada, Ohio, for that specific purpose. Songs of Jews and Gentiles filled the place and the glory of the Lord was present.
Several years later, the permanent Synagogue was completed.
Proper arrangements were made to complete the Christian Synagogue which we finished the beginning of March, 1934. The dedication of the completion took place on the 11th of March, which was a great service. It was the first time in the history of the church that such a Christian Synagogue, in such form and structure, was established, because it combines in its architecture Judaism and Christianity.
Arthur Michelson integrated Judaism and Christianity thus:
- “It seems hard to make a Jew understand that to believe in the Gospel of the Messiah is to believe in the real and true Judaism.”
- “But as a matter of fact, Judaism and Christianity are not different, they are one and the same. Christianity is Judaism fulfilled; Judaism is Christianity promised; Christianity is Judaism unfolded; Judaism is the root and Christianity is the fruit; what is concealed in the Old Testament is revealed in the New. The one is supplemented by the other.”
The latter half of the book shares encouraging gospel testimonies by Miss Frances Stein, Harry Epstein, Mrs. Rose Klein, Isadore Rohr, and Judge Chas. F. Cook.