Doug bar mitzvah

A Jewish Young Man Meets His Messiah –
The Testimony of Douglas Carmel

Doug
Doug

I was born in New York City to a newly immigrated Israeli man (Sephardic) and an American Jewish woman (Ashkenazi.) Their marriage lasted only two short years. My mother eventually left and went back to her mother’s house. It was under the care of these two Jewish women that I received much of my traditional Jewish upbringing.  We also attended a Conservative “Shul” in New York City and I attended Hebrew School there for several years preparing for my Bar-Mitzvah.

My mother had to find work to support us which meant that much of my time was spent with a dear Jewish immigrant from the old country affectionately known as my grandmother. She spoke fluent Yiddish and as a result I learned to understand much of the old country language.

My grandmother’s sense of Jewish tradition burned bright against the NYC gentile background. We kept two sets of silverware: One for milk, and one for meat. We lit annual Yortzit candles in memory of her husband, my grandfather. We always observed the Jewish holidays in the Spring and Fall. We attended Seders.  I loved looking at our Shul’s  Sukkah. We celebrated Hanukkah.  We even took vacations to Collins Ave in Miami!  We were a very typical Jewish family in New York City!

While most of my friends were allowed to play ball on the street almost every October day, there were two specific days during that month that I, as a Jew, was not to participate in such activity. It was not under the threat of mom’s punishment that I abstained, but rather from a sense of belonging to my people. On the Jewish Holy Days of Yom Kippur and Rosh HaShanna I simply did not act as the gentiles did. Why? We had to attend synagogue for special services.  In synagogue, I was told that Yom Kippur was the day that we were to fast. God would forgive us of our sins on that day for the year. We were not to engage in any normal activities that day – not even turning on a light switch! You can imagine how difficult this must have been to this ten year old boy, but we were Jewish… And if this is what God wanted us to do…

As I entered my teens I began to ponder the meaning and value of these and other traditional observances. This idea of just fasting one day a year for the forgiveness of my sins raised perplexing questions in my heart and mind. How could I fast just one day a year and the rest of the year do whatever I wished? No one in synagogue ever spoke about avoiding sin. And then the question of forgiveness began to loom greater and greater as time passed and I progressed into areas of life that I inherently knew were not pleasing to God.

I graduated from High School at the age of sixteen and went on to college, becoming fascinated by a lifestyle that would eventually shape all of my activities during that period of time.  The life of wine, women and song. Rock music and my large collection of albums and tapes became a kind of inner haven as the rock musicians seemed to strike chords deep within my soul. I was also lured by the beauty of women in different girlfriends, videos, etc – all the time trying to keep things hidden from my parents.

I recall one day at college noticing a button on a girl’s jacket which stated, “Sin now, pray later.”  The impact of that statement I will never forget, because I thought, “That’s me!” My religious Jewish upbringing was still there, buried deep under outer layers of sin. I still respected God and His standards.  In retrospect, I believe that by God’s Holy Spirit, the button on that rebellious girl’s jacket was used gently by God to convict me of my sins that day.

I graduated from a NY State University (SUNY) in 1985 at the age of 21. In May of 1986, I was up in the late hours of the evening watching television (as was my habit then) when I heard a slight rumbling sound outside possible coming from the sky. I went to our seventh floor apartment window and stuck my head out, but saw nothing. It stopped. I went back to the couch and watched TV.  A few moments later, the low sounding strange noise outside occurred again. It almost sounded like the sound a plane leaves when it takes off from a runway, but this was at about 2AM and there were no planes taking off nor did we live near a runway.  Also, it did not just fade out, but had a definite start/stop moment.   I went over to the window once more but saw nothing in the sky… And then suddenly a thought crossed my mind for a few seconds that changed my life and eternity…. “This is it! The Christians are right! JESUS IS COMING BACK and it’s tonight!!” For a few seconds, my eyes were riveted to the sky as I waited for horses to appear in the sky and for this Jesus to return as I knew the Christians said he would do one day.

Even though I was Jewish, I had listened to a few TV evangelists growing up, and obviously something had stuck with me. The Messiah obviously did not part the clouds that night, but His Spirit DID begin to penetrate through my heart. I suddenly realized that night how afraid I was of dying (because I knew that was a sinner) and on that couch I told God that I would give up things that I knew were wrong, that were sin. The fear eased, but…..

Forgiveness. Real forgiveness.  How does one really get it? That was now my question. It consumed me.  Deep down I knew there had to be something more than just Yom Kippur (that one day of fasting a year,) but what was it? Somehow the TV evangelists had impressed on me the fact that somehow forgiveness and Jesus went together. I also knew vaguely that Jesus was Jewish.  That week I was very much passionately driven to understand how it all worked. There was no putting this off any longer. As the girl’s button had said, “Sin now, pray later,” but now I knew for certain that God had not promised me that there would be a ‘later’.  I sought out how to be forgiven with all my heart. The synagogue I attended had never spoken clearly of any afterlife and I didn’t want to walk into the foreign territory of a church – I was Jewish! But I remembered an organization in Manhattan that was made up of Jewish people who believed in Jesus. (Messianic Jews as I now know they are called.) I called information and got the phone number.  Obviously there were other people who are Jewish and believed in Jesus.  I needed to speak with them.

I called their offices and told the man on the other end that basically, I wanted to be saved. He offered to meet me downtown. When we met, he answered some of my questions and gave me some good Bible literature to read that had information from the Hebrew Bible (commonly called the Old Testament) which pointed to the Messiah. One of the pieces included a prayer on how to receive the Messiah. I think I prayed it on the subway while returning home. I also called “The 700 Club” and prayed to receive Jesus into my life with a phone counselor.  She assured me I was forgiven, saved and heaven bound.

My behavior changed drastically after that, not because anyone told me, but I inherently knew it was right.  Needless to say my family was NOT pleased with me.  I was now breaking up with my girlfriend, breaking all my rock albums, etc…  No one told me to do this, but I wanted to please God now.  I was ushered in to see our family Rabbi, and then a family counselor, then a psychologist and then two trained anti-missionaries. These were top men in the NYC area trained in how to bring Jewish children “back” to the Jewish faith.  One of them (Gerald Sigal) gave me a copy of his book and invited me into his home.  I visited him there and we had many discussions.  But even with all his words throwing me into confusion, God still had His hand on me. The more I studied their writings, the more I realized what they (the Jewish community against Jesus)  wrote was ultimately not in line with what the full picture of the Hebrew Bible was saying.  One Friday, at a Shabbat Messianic service in Manhattan, I heard a tremendous message by a Jewish believer in Jesus named J’han Moskowitz. God used that message and the man mightily in my life, and that night all my doubts and fears began to literally melt away. I knew for a fact that Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah, and I responded during the invitation / rededication. 

I began reading all that I could about the Messiah and the Bible.  I went back to Gerald Sigal to say goodbye and to show him how the messianic prophecies in the Jewish scriptures (like Isaiah 53, Daniel 9:24-26, etc.- tons more) pointed to Yeshua (Jesus) so clearly! That if Jesus did not fulfill all these prophecies then no one in future history could fulfill them.  Of course he wanted nothing to do with it. 

Each day I grew closer to Yeshua, and eventually I was asked to leave my family’s apartment. It was causing too much stress.  This was just before my sisters’ Bat-Mitzvah.  I was very upset at this, however, it worked out for the best. I was able to move in with another Jewish believer in NY and slept on his couch. Then I began to read the scriptures like never before – without fear of having my Bible confiscated this time (like my mother used to do.)  As I studied more, it became so very clear that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel who fulfilled the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures.  The prophecies of the suffering Messiah are fulfilled in Him.  The prophecies of the reigning King Messiah will be fulfilled when He returns.  The rabbis said in their writings there were going to be two Messiahs – a suffering servant and a reigning King.  I now see there is really only one who will fulfill both roles.

Since then, the Lord has been with me.  Married with five children and sharing the message of the Jewish Messiah before evangelicals for over 24 years now.  I have shared and taught about Jesus in the Feasts of Israel and similar topics in over 900 services.  I have traveled to over half of the United States sharing my story and teaching. I have been a part of the Rock of Israel Ministries since 1995.

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