I’m God‘s parrot, faithful to the Catholic Magisterium. Rabbi Yeshua said, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” Lk 10:16. What I hear Rabbi Yeshua say through the Catholic Church, I also say.
For many years I’ve had this parrot image on my main computer’s startup screen to remind me every day to serve Rabbi Yeshua as his parrot. With this 2016 rewrite of Second Exodus I decided to share it with my visitors.
Humility leads us to focus always on Rabbi Yeshua not on ourselves. However, I’m inviting you to radical transformation of your life, so this page is “something about me.” I also would like to share with you Why I Believe. A magazine article from the 1990s, A Kosher Ham Finds Christ, also a telling of my journey to Calvary, is part of my magazine article collection so I keep it on the site as well.
The Early Years
At the beginning of my life I believed in God because my parents were moderately observant Conservative Jews in a Bronx neighborhood so Jewish that there were four synagogues, two of them Orthodox, within walking distance of our apartment. I had a pretty good Jewish education in preparation for my bar mitzvah. At the time, I knew the Catholic Church existed because growing up I had a close friend whose family was devoutly Catholic, but overall my world was Jewish. For me, Jewish meant God and Torah.
I grew up in the Bronx, in the then intensely Jewish Pelham Parkway neighborhood. But, when I was ten years old, one Catholic family had moved in, and I became best friends with their 10 year old son. Their apartment was filled to overflowing with Catholic crucifixes, sacramentals, holy water fonts, and statues and images of Christ and the Blessed Virgin. They went to church every Sunday morning no matter what. I remember one Sunday morning when a blizzard had left the streets piled high with snow. I thought surely they wouldn’t be able to go to church, so I walked over to see whether Robbie wanted to come out and look at all the snowdrifts. I found him and his father digging their car out so the family could go to church. Even if they got their car out, I didn’t see how they could drive on the snowy streets. But Robbie’s father said with determination that he would get his family to church and back with Jesus’ help and sheer force of will. He did. I thought the Catholic Church must be something extraordinary if this family would go to so much effort to get to Sunday Mass.
At 16 God saved my life. I had been working at a summer camp in Massachusetts. The camp employed twelve teen-age boys as maintenance, waiters, and dishwashers. Of the twelve, nine of us liked to go out after supper and drive around the area. Bobby’s mother worked as the camp nurse, and she had a car, a 1958 Pontiac nine-passenger station wagon. Those were the days of Detroit’s “horsepower race.” The big Pontiac had a 300 horsepower engine. The nurse allowed Bobby to drive the car after hours, so most evenings we’d drive around. One day we were cruising along a country road at 110 mph. I was sitting in the second row middle seat and had a perfect view of the car’s instrument panel. Suddenly the road had a down hill. The car was momentarily airborne. We thought it was glorious until the car landed again and we saw, just ahead, the road curve sharply to the right. Ahead of us was a stand of tall mature trees. Instantly we all realized that we were going way too fast for the curve and in another few seconds the car would hurtle straight into the trees and explode. My instant thought was, “So this is how it ends for me, just 16 years old.” Bobby said, “Goodbye, fellows.”
Bobby decided to spend the last seconds of life trying to save us. The car snapped around the curve like an amusement park whip. At the time I had a mental image of nine guardian angels pushing the left side of the car keeping it on the road. After that the road was straight again. Bobby slowed the car and stopped at the side of the road. For ten minutes we all sat there trying to catch our breath. Then someone said, “Did that really happen?” I remember saying, “Yes, it did. God wanted to save the life of one of us, and for the sake of that one he saved all nine.” After a while Bobby drove us back to the camp, slowly. That evening I knew, absolutely knew, that God was real. We confirmed it the next evening when we went back to that same road. Bobby drove the curve at 35 mph, and the tires squealed a little. When he went back and tried it again at 40 mph the tires squealed a lot. We all agreed that trying the curve at 45 mph would have been fatal. From that day my belief that God is real has been absolute.
Around 1960, when I was a young amateur “ham” radio operator, I made radio contact with a Franciscan friar named Brother George who invited me to visit him at his monastery, Graymoor, in Garrison, New York, about 40 miles north of where I lived. Graymoor was built on a mountain. At the very top of the mountain was the Holy Ghost Chapel, where four of the friars had a ham radio station. Brother George brought me up to the chapel where I met Father Vic, a Franciscan priest. Father Vic showed me around the station, and pointed out its main antenna, which was mounted on the side of the chapel. As I looked at the antenna, I realized it was nearly impossible that it should be located there. The roof from the chapel to where the antenna was, was so steep it did not seem that a man could possibly survive on it, especially with the constant wind at the mountaintop. At the same time, it was impossible to have installed it using a ladder from the ground, as the ground on that side sloped steeply away from the chapel. There was no place to set a ladder.
When Father Vic mentioned that he had installed the antenna, I asked him how he had done it. He told me that he had gone out on the peak of that very steep roof, made his way to the end of the building, and hung over the edge as he installed the antenna. I remarked that there was a breathtakingly high risk that he could have fallen off the roof to his death on the rocky ground below.
Father Vic explained that his objective in setting up the ham radio station at the highest location on the monastery grounds was to have a “2 meter” radio signal that would reach hundreds of miles in all directions and evangelize the surrounding area. He knew that he could die painfully in the effort, but said that if so he would go to heaven as a martyr. He said that just before beginning the effort he had gone to Confession and then celebrated Mass, so that if he fell his soul would be shining clean and ready for Christ. I was impressed beyond words. This man believed. I was Jewish then, and would remain Jewish for nearly 30 more years, but I knew that the Catholic Church must be very important if this priest in his brown Franciscan habit was willing to risk his earthly life for it.
Music of My Youth
During my mid-teens, a Sabra friend introduced me to the Cafe Cassit, an Israeli hangout, then on Broadway and 98th St. in Manhattan. Many prominent Israelis came to the Cassit to sit and talk long into the night, the ones I remember mostly were the musicians. They would show up after 11:00 pm, when their shows closed for the night. The Cassit had a back room where the musicians could store their instruments. Theo Bikel would come in about 11:30 pm and order something to eat. We would all give him a decent amount of time to eat, usually a falafel, in peace. Then, around midnight, someone would call out, “Theo, a song!” He always enjoyed singing most of all, for his mishpucha, family, but in his humorous Jewish way he would grumble that a man should be allowed to eat and talk in peace. Then he would go into the back room, take up his balalaika, and into the wee hours of the morning he would sing. 38:56
Usually, other Israeli performers were there, and each would sing for a while to give Bikel time to rest. The one I remember especially was Geula Gill of the Oranim Zabar troupe. Martha Schlamme also came often to give Theo a break. Sometimes they would teach us songs and we would all sing together. Sometimes, instead of singing, they would tell us stories. How they grew up in the Holy Land, how they came to live in New York City, their lives, their shows, Jewish history, art, music, anything that came to mind. Usually by about 3:00 am I could stay awake no longer, so I walked to the nearest subway station and made my way back to my Bronx apartment. Only once, by sheer force of will, I stayed up until the Cassit closed about 5:00 am.
But there was other music I loved. Especially I loved The Wayward Wind. I liked to imagine myself the Wandering Jew, walking across the centuries without a land to call my own, a restless wind that yearned to wander Mt 8:20. Even then, thirty years before Rabbi Yeshua called me into his fulfillment Mt 5:17, I sensed that something was missing.
And yet, I treasured a recording of the Jewish-sounding Jascha Heifetz playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (1st movement) conducted by the Catholic-sounding Arturo Toscanini. The combination just sounded right to me.
Two opera-enthusiast friends and I would often take the subway from the Bronx to Manhattan to the old Metropolitan Opera House. There we would join the standing room line, as we certainly could never have afforded the seats. But for two dollars we could stand at the back of the theater. Sometimes someone in an Orchestra seat would only stay for the first act. Everyone who left before the opera was finished would let us know that he would not be back and give one of us his ticket stub, so the person he spoke to could take his seat. Invariably, after the performance we would go around to the stage entrance and try to get past the guard. Most of our ruses were successful, and we became friends with the star singers. After a while it was easier because when the guard checked with the singer she would recognize the name and tell him to let us in. Once after a performance of La Bohème the second soprano sang Musetta’s Waltz again just for the three of us.
During that time I also became interested in hi-fi music systems as a hobby. I soon became well known around New York City’s Radio Row on Cortlandt Street, then Manhattan’s little electronic neighborhood where dozens of stores competed to sell knowledgeable enthusiasts the most advanced electronic equipment. I actually did some of the early psychoacoustic research. As far as I know, I was the first to discover that omni-directional speakers in a stereo array could present a broad sound front, rather than the “ping-pong” effect of the early stereo systems. After I convinced several Cortlandt St. stores, the industry began to emphasize a broad sound front as being more like real music.
Also about that time I became interested in amateur (“ham”) radio and loved having conversations with other amateurs world-wide. I believe this was also part of the “wandering Jew” movement still in my soul. These ham radio conversations were unusually interesting because I always asked provocative questions like, “What do you do for a living?” God has a reason for every gift he gives us.
Ham radio taught me humility. As a teen-age boy who loved fast cars, I imagined myself an expert in everything relating to cars. Once I got into a conversation with a man who said something about designing highways for maximum safety. I told him flatly that he was wrong, and proceeded to explain ”how it really was.” The man thanked me for my insight and added, “It’s sad. 40 years in the profession and I really haven’t learned even the basics.”
My ears picked up that “40 years in the profession” as a warning sign. I asked him what he did for a living. He was a road safety engineer for the State of New York. After every accident, he or another engineer would be sent out to evaluate how the accident occurred and what design measures could be taken for future highways that would minimize that type of accident. I quickly said, “Perhaps I didn’t fully understand your explanation. Would you tell me again?”
My favorite amateur radio experience from those days was meeting the hams at Graymoor. But there were many hundreds of lively experiences. I’ve been a licensed amateur operator for more than 50 years now, though now I’m no longer active.
Then God gave me my beautiful Irene as my companion on our lifelong journey to the Cross. Marrying her in 1967, the year the old Met was razed, was my Cana moment Jn 2:5. It ended the days of my youth, and set me on a long journey toward Rabbi Yeshua.
My beautiful Irene always prayed that someday I would be baptized into the Catholic Church, but patiently accepted my idea that I had been born a Jew and would die a Jew. But her deeply Catholic faith, in the context of my early experiences with Robbie Jazwin, with Graymoor, with St. John Paul II in Poland, and with Irene’s own quiet but similar determination to get to Sunday Mass no matter what, that again the Catholic Church must in some sense be God’s representative on earth.
My beautiful Irene negotiated international treaties, so she was often overseas for a week or more at a time. At such times, I liked to walk from our home in northern Virginia a half mile to a local shopping plaza, where I would buy a newspaper and something to eat, really just part of the very pleasant walk, and then walk back home. Midway between was Irene’s parish church. I had taken that walk many, many times. As I walked I would always think about something, a conversation I was planning to have with someone, a conversation I’d had with someone, where I would take Irene to celebrate her safe return home, but always something.
Then, one day in 1986, I began the walk and was startled to notice a blanket of peace over me. I couldn’t think about anything. Then I heard an interior voice saying gently, “I love you. I have always loved you. Come home.” I knew that somehow it was coming from Irene’s parish church. As I continued walking toward the church it became stronger. When I passed the church the voice became weaker, and by the time I got to the shopping plaza it was gone, and the blanket of silence lifted. I immediately wondered what this could be. A book I’d read long ago? A conversation I’d had with someone? I searched my memory for all the possibilities and found nothing.
I thought it was over, but during my walk back home the same thing happened. I said nothing to Irene when she returned, but on her next trip the same thing occurred, in both directions, and again I let it pass without responding. Then, on her next trip, it happened again, both ways. At that point I began to think of, “Samuel! Samuel!” 1 Sam 3:4 and wondered, “Could this be a call from God?”
I didn’t want to say anything to Irene until I was more certain, but I told her I was curious to know what she believed as a Catholic. She was always extremely perceptive, and immediately realized that something was stirring. She brought me the books I asked for, enrolled me in a parish inquiry class I asked for, and answered my questions. At the end of the inquiry class, as Easter Vigil approached, the deacon who was teaching it asked who wanted baptism. All eyes were on me, because I’d asked a great many questions in the class, but I said no. By then I knew Irene would be concerned for my soul and wanted very much for me to be baptized. But I kept wondering whether I was doing this for God, or to please my beautiful wife. It had to be between God and me.
I decided to “do a Gamaliel” Acts 5:38 and wait a year. If this was of man it would drift away, but if of God it would stay with me. It did stay with me, and a year later I remembered my decision to test the call. It was God’s call. But I had always belonged to the Father, and I knew Catholics worshiped Jesus. So, walking on the Ellipse in Washington, DC, I prayed, “Father God, for 46 years I’ve been a Jew for you, but now I’m sensing a call into the Catholic Church. Father, I’m yours, but Catholics worship Jesus. If you give me to Jesus I’ll go happily, knowing that in serving Jesus I’m serving you. But if you don’t give me to Jesus I’ll remain yours as a Jew. Show me your will, Father God, and please, let it be so clear that I will not be wracked by doubt.”
The instant I dropped my eyes from heaven I saw a vivid vision of Jesus walking beside me, dressed in a simple shepherd’s robe but transfigured, clothed in the purest white light. I had just enough time to think, “Oh my God, I never expected an answer so soon or so vivid, but this is it!” Then I felt the same blanket of peace that I’d experienced three years earlier, and heard the same interior voice, this time saying, “I love you. I have always loved you. Welcome home.” It was exactly the same statement, but with one syllable added. Instead of “come home,” it was “welcome home.” I thought, “Oh my goodness, this is really Jesus. I felt that I had to be friendly, appreciative, say something, but could not think of anything.” Then I heard him again, “It’s okay. You don’t have to say anything. I know. I understand.” I thought, “Yes Lord, but I still have to be friendly and appreciative.” Again he reassured me, and again I struggled to say something worthy of the moment. Finally, Jesus smiled and said, “Clear enough?” I remembered that I had prayed for a clear revelation. My tension broke. I smiled and said with enthusiasm, “Clear enough, Lord Jesus!” At that moment the vision disappeared.
I hurried home as fast as I could. Irene had arrived back from an overseas trip an hour earlier, so she was already home. When I walked in my first words to her were, “Irene, call your priest. I want to be baptized now! She asked what happened, and I told her. She called the parish and got an immediate appointment with Father Sal, the pastor. We hurried over. Father Sal asked, “What can I do for you, my son? I said, “Father, I’d like to be baptized.” He asked, “What led you to this?” I told him. He said, “You’re ready. Boy are you ready! When would you like to be baptized?” At that point the Holy Spirit spoke for me. I was about to say, “How about right now?” But I heard myself saying, “Father, you know so much about this faith and I know so little. What is the most appropriate time for me to be baptized? At that point Easter was only a few weeks away so he said, “Easter Vigil Mass.” I asked why then, and he replied, “Christ died for us and rose anew in glory on Easter Vigil. You will die in your sins and rise anew in Christ.” I said, “Father I love it. Yes, Easter Vigil! Write my name on your calendar!” He assured me, “Oh, we don’t forget things like this.” I told him, “Father, I’m not getting up out of this chair until I see you write my name on your calendar for baptism.” He smiled, said, “Okay,” and wrote my name on his calendar. And on that night, March 25, 1989, I was baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We saw once more the grandeur of something which we take too much for granted in our daily lives: the fact that God speaks, that God answers our questions; the fact that, with human words, he speaks to us personally. We can listen to him; hear him, come to know him and understand him. We can also realize that he can enter our life and shape it, and that we can emerge from our own lives to enter into the immensity of his mercy.
He had put into concise words an experience that I had sensed every day since I entered the Church. My earliest awareness of it came right after my baptism. My first book, How We Communicate: The Most Vital Skill, had been published right about the time of my baptism. A few weeks after my baptism I was sitting in my living room. A copy of my book was on the coffee table. I began to reflect on my extraordinary journey into the Church and I prayed, “Lord Jesus, you did so much to lead me into the Church. There has to be a mission. Whatever it is, I’d like to get started. Tell me, Lord, what’s the mission?” I distinctly heard in an interior locution, “Communicate my Word as far and wide as you can.” It was an echo of his command for us all, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8.
I replied, “Lord, I’ve only been a Catholic a few weeks. How can I communicate your Word? He led me to look down at the book and replied, “Of course you can. You wrote the book on communication!” He had me. But I said, “Lord, you gave me a gift for communication, but how will I know what to say?” I interiorly heard him smile as he replied, “Moses had the same concern.” He brought to my mind the memory of Moses’ protest against his mission and his response, “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” Ex 4:12. I replied happily, “Okay Lord, we’ll do it together!” That was the “You shall receive power …”
Soon after that, at the office where I worked, I discreetly began several conversations about the Faith with friends in various parts of the building. My supervisor knew that my work was always done on time, I never left when he might need me, and I was never gone too long at any one time, so he wasn’t concerned about my leaving the office every so often. I answered many questions about the Catholic faith, and was leading several people toward the Church.
On several occasions I didn’t know the answer to a question, but felt that admitting it might compromise the faith the person had in me. So I would pause a moment and pray interiorly, “Jesus, need some help here right now!” And I found myself giving an explanation I myself had never heard!” The first few times it happened I hurried home afterward and checked with my beautiful Irene, whose Catholic knowledge was rock solid, and discovered that the explanations I gave were always right. Jesus was keeping his promise!
I was excited about all this and began to ask Rabbi Yeshua to send me more people to teach. I never heard a response, but soon after that more people began seeking me out. That happened two or three times, until I had more people than I could handle discreetly while still making sure my office responsibilities were met. Then I prayed, “Lord Jesus, I can’t pray for fewer people and I can’t sustain this pace much longer. Now what do I do?” Again I sensed a smile as he replied interiorly, “Pray for a flock you can handle.” I said, “Okay Lord, I pray for a flock I can handle.” I heard no answer, but soon afterward several people stopped calling me, and the situation settled down.” After a time I prayed again, “Lord, you did it! You gave me a flock I can handle. But why did you first overload me?” His answer, as usual succinct and interior, was: “I want you to see that I answer your prayers.”
I live on a rural northern Arkansas hilltop, far from the big cities where I grew up and lived my career. The view from my south-facing windows looks over seven miles of scenic country hills. The little structure protects a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
God called me to this beautiful and peaceful place, and here I will stay until he calls me home. I’m well past 70 now, and after an extraordinarily colorful life I’m committing the rest of it to this web site as a gift to Rabbi Yeshua that will live after me, God willing for a very long time. And of course to whatever else he calls me to do.
I’m a Jew. Always will be. Jews love bargains, and I found the best one of all. Rabbi Yeshua, also a Jew, said, “Salvation is from the Jews” Jn 4:22. And, oh boy, does Rabbi Yeshua know how to offer a bargain. Look at it: “Every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” Mt 10:32. I’m acknowledging him as fast as I can. I evangelize consecrated religious, priests, bishops, even the senior Vatican cardinal who’s now my mentor! He radiates Catholic faith much more brilliantly than I ever could, but he knows I can’t not evangelize. But when I meet Rabbi Yeshua face to face will absolutely follow the Blessed Virgin Mary‘s advice, “Do whatever he tells you” Jn 2:5. I will absolutely do whatever he tells me!
The Catholic Church has three great states: The Church Militant, also called the Barque of Peter, shepherds the souls in this life across the centuries of salvation history. The Church Suffering serves the souls in purgatory. And the Church Triumphant rejoices in heaven proclaiming Rabbi Yeshua‘s glory to come. The Catholic Church is Rabbi Yeshua‘s road to eternal joy in heaven 1 Cor 2:9.
I am a soldier for Rabbi Yeshua in the spiritual war, a joyful warrior. Joyful? Yes, there is joy in the Church Militant. We are trained to fight like sheep because we know how sheep can be more powerful than the strongest tigers 2 Cor 12:10.
I have crossed the line. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back down or be still. I am finished and done with earthly life for its own sake. I no longer need prosperity, promotions, or popularity. I lean on Rabbi Yeshua‘s presence. I live, love, and write in the power of God’s grace.
These days I walk slowly with a cane, but my pace toward heaven is fast. My road is narrow, my companions are few, my mission is clear. When I eat in a restaurant, often alone, I always ask Rabbi Yeshua to bless all the food in the place, on my plate, on everyone else’s plate, on the buffet, in the kitchen. I won’t give up, shut up, let up or slow up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and spoken up for Rabbi Yeshua.
I am a disciple of Rabbi Yeshua. I am a Catholic. I will go until he comes, give until I drop, speak out until all know, and work until he stops me. And when Rabbi Yeshua returns for his own, he will not need to ask for my baptismal certificate. He will see the Holy Spirit’s fire in my heart Acts 2:3. I am a joyful warrior.