I w as raised in a Jewish home in suburban Philadelphia. It was a Jewish neighborhood where most of my friends were Jewish. At the age of 13, after attending Hebrew school for two years, my twin brother and I had a Bar Mitzvah. That summer, my parents sent me on a two month tour of Israel with dozens of other Bar Mitzvah kids from all over the country. It was one of the most memorable summers of my life. There, my identity as a Jew was solidified forever. After that, our family remained culturally Jewish, but not very religious.
When I was about 20, my sister and mother both became believers in Yeshua. At first I thought they were crazy. I felt they had abandoned Judaism and embraced a non-Jewish religion. Soon after, they began to attend Beth Yeshua, a Messianic Jewish Congregation in Philadelphia. They finally convinced me to attend a service. It was nothing like what I had imagined it would be – no statues of Mary, no crosses, no priests with white collars. On the contrary it was quite Jewish - Jewish people singing and dancing the hora to Jewish music.
Three things stood out to me - the genuine sincerity of the people, the overflowing joy they had, and the powerful message that Rabbi Martin Chernoff gave. The Rabbi’s words seemed to go right through me as if my sinfulness was exposed. That night during the service my mind and heart flashed back to my trip to Israel and in an instant I knew in my heart this was true. However, I was not yet ready to yield my life to God and ran the other way like Jonah - for 5 years.
After graduating from Temple University, at the age of 25 I was searching for meaning in life and for spiritual reality. One night I had too much to drink and had a serious car accident in which I narrowly escaped. The very next day, early in the morning there were people at my door passing out pamphlets about God. At that moment I heard a voice in my heart say, “Jeff you have run long enough, there may not be another chance.” Suddenly I knew that God had protected me the night before and was again calling me to Himself.
Two weeks later, on January 10th, 1982 while out of town, I attended a worship service. At the end of the service, I fully renounced my sins and received Yeshua as my Messiah. When I did, I felt darkness leave me and was filled with rivers of joy for months following. I knew I had connected with the God of Israel through the Jewish Messiah.
I returned to Beth Yeshua where I began to learn what it meant to follow Messiah and live as a Jew. I met my wife there and we were married in October of 1985. Shortly after that I was asked by David Chernoff to join the staff. David took over the Rabbinate after his father Martin passed away. I was trained by David in ministry and served there for close to 10 years.
Rabbi Jeff Forman