Tony Cummings reports on Messianic believer and singer/songwriter
Benjamin Hersh is a singer, songwriter and classically trained pianist. But he is much more than these things. He is a Jewish evangelist with a powerful testimony of coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Benjamin's debut album, 'Fulfilled Promise', has just been released. Produced by Phillip Goss at Appletree Studios, it is a powerful showcase of Messianic music. Benjamin, who lives in North London, spoke about his music and ministry. "I was brought up in a typical dysfunctional, wealthy liberal Jewish household. I suffered a lot of abuse and trauma within my family. We kept all the festivals and went to synagogue regularly. I was Bar Mitzvahed at a late age - 15, as opposed to 13. We used to read the Seder every morning, and kept Shabbat and other Jewish festivals. My father would wear tefillin (a phylactery) and I would wear tallis (prayer shawl). As I was brought up my identity was very much very Jewish. Anything Christian was definitely a no go area."
Benjamin's aversion to Christianity was understandable considering the anti-Semitism he experienced at school. He recounted, "My brother and I were sent to a convent and I remember on one occasion the nuns stood us up and said, 'Look at these two children, they put Jesus on the cross'. The nuns also told my parents that because a well-known Christian worship programme was coming to film the school it wasn't right to have two Jewish children as part of the filming and would only agree to have my brother and I in the school for two terms.. That was my first experience of anti-Semitism but there were many other experiences at various schools. Children would draw pictures of me with a big nose and teachers would also make anti-Semitic remarks."
As a child Benjamin would ask searching questions of his rabbi. "I'd ask him questions like 'Who is God?' I wondered why the Holocaust happened. My Grandfather was part of the liberation and we lost a lot of family in the war so this was a question I would ask the rabbi but he couldn't answer it. I began to research the occult as I got older and got involved with a variety of New Age activities such as tarot cards, astral projection, Buddhism, Shintoism; you name it, I tried it."
Benjamin continued, "I think my interest in Jesus, when I became an adult, was the result of some seeds that were sown when I was a child. My friend took me to a Christian meeting where I heard a story about Jesus feeding his disciples with many fish. I also went carol singing with my brother who wanted to get some money for Christmas. He knocked on one door and a lovely Christian couple answered. They asked us whether we knew what Christmas was about. My brother answered 'yes, it's about presents!' They told us it wasn't about that and went on to explain who Jesus was. We also met other Gentiles along the way who witnessed to us.
When I became an adult my wife got quite ill. I used to teach piano and one of the kids I was teaching told me that we should meet his minister. He was very passionate for the Gospel. My wife ended up giving her life to the Lord. He told me that I also needed to give my life to the Lord as well. He took me through the Psalms and the prophecies in the Bible. I was overwhelmed by the message of the Messiah Yeshua and eventually I ended up giving my life to the Lord as well!
"A few years previously, while I was into tarot card reading, astro projection, New Age and the occult, I had a dream and a man appeared in white. He called me by my name and said to me, 'There is enough food for everyone' and talked about 'the bread of life'. I later realised that this was Jesus, the Messiah that the Jewish people had rejected. None of the other religions had helped and I wanted to change my identity but when I gave my life to the Lord I found it very difficult to go to church. I would see the cross and feel I had betrayed my Jewish roots, my parents and my ancestors so it took me many years as a believer before I felt I had come into the fullness of knowing Jesus Christ."
Benjamin's conversion received a pretty negative reaction from his mother. He remembered, "My mother asked how I could do such a thing. She also as a child went to a convent and was told that she killed Jesus, so my faith hasn't gone down very well. They are okay as long as I don't promote my faith to them, which I did do when I became a believer. They were very, very upset about it."
Today Benjamin emphasises how his Jewishness is very important to him. He explained, "About five or six years ago I was told by some very well meaning people that I wasn't Jewish any more. I began to get a desire to take up Hebrew again so I contacted a Messianic believer and he explained to me that I was still Jewish and a completed Jewish person. I used to ask my grandmother when she thought Messiah would come to which she would reply 'not in my time dear!' When I came to know Jesus as my Messiah and Saviour I realised that he was the fulfilment, he was the Messiah that Jewish people were waiting for and it was wonderful to know in my heart that I didn't need to wait any more. The Messiah had already come."
After studying at All Nations Bible College Benjamin and his wife Chiara began reaching out to Jewish people through hospitality and friendship evangelism. Music too has become a key vehicle to communicate the story of Jesus. He explained, "I use music as a way to reach out to Jewish people and bring the Gospel to my unsaved Jewish brothers and sisters. I also incorporate it into teaching and preaching in churches as a way of teaching other Christians about the Jewishness of the Bible. I thank the Lord that through my Jewish Messianic concert at Woodberry Downs Church one of our Hassidic contacts decided to give his life to Yeshua."