“I knew I had some Jewish blood,” he said, “because I remembered hearing my grandma speaking Yiddish whenever she was angry. But it seemed pretty irrelevant to me – the kid who grew up going to church and wore a cross around his neck.”
“It all began to change when I was in the 11th grade. Our teacher gave us an assignment: to write a report on the religion of our choice. I had read about Islam before, but it didn’t resonate with me. Christianity wasn’t interesting because everyone was Christian. I knew nothing about Judaism. After confirming with my mom that we did indeed have some Jewish roots, I was intrigued.
“I went to the library and loaded up on every book I could find about the Jewish religion. I read. I wrote. I read more. Something began turning inside.
“My teacher returned my report: 5 out of 5. I asked him if he knew if we had a synagogue in Rostov. He gave me an address.
“That Friday evening, I tucked my cross inside and entered the synagogue for the first time. I was greeted by a rabbi with a huge smile. He gave me a hug and welcomed me. The atmosphere was so warm. I had never experienced that in any church before. I just felt at home.
“I kept coming back, but I knew so little. I had heard that there was a grave of a holy rabbi in Rostov. One Friday night I decided to go pray there. I got in the car and drove over to the cemetery, not knowing that driving was forbidden on Shabbat. I put some coins in the charity box and read some psalms. I was on a high. For some reason, though, every time I tried lighting a candle, the flame would go out. I thought it was odd. The next day, I went to the synagogue and vented my frustration about the candle that just wouldn’t light. That was my introduction to the laws of Shabbat.
“I learned a lot. And I learned quickly. Within a year, I got rid of my cross and had a Bris.
“If you ask me how it all happened, I don’t really know. I just feel like sometimes God takes us by the hand and shows us where to go.”
“The Tzemach Tzedek answered him: ‘When a tzaddik decides at the age of ninety-nine years that he should be circumcised, he deserves that God appear to him.’”Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson