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Jewish Literary Review
At Level Ground
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Tuesday, July 03, 2007
The Essayist: How Jesus Made Me a Better Jew
A neurotic Jewish stand-up comedian (are there any other kind?) sees the light (in the form of a perky Christian coed) and baptizes himself to mixed results.

From our July/August 2007 issue

Jesus first came to me in sixth grade through my friend’s older sister’s breasts. The apostles were perfectly perky, nineteen years old, and of Italian descent. (I don’t keep up on Catholicism, but I believe they were just canonized.) I know a lot of people see Jesus in oil-stained hamburger wrappers, or in oddly shaped corn chips. For me, it was the juxtaposition of two events: my friend showing me a picture of his older sister flashing a camera; then, the very next day, while giving me a ride home, her asking me if I knew Jesus.

“Did you know Jesus can save you from all your sins?” She asked me this like someone asks, “Did you know turpentine can clean paint off of the sidewalk?” It was simply informative. Little did she know that her very vessel had been one of the leading inspirations of sin in my life for months. However, at twelve years old, I didn’t know from sin. She was simply beautiful, and spreading the good word. This combination was like Jesus had come unto me saying, “Hi, I am a great pair of breasts.” To which I replied, “Okay, you’ve got my attention.”

Breasts aside, I was a prime candidate for receiving a Christendectomy. As a kid, being a Jew meant going to Sunday school instead of playing with my friends. It meant missing football practice and games during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Until I graduated high school, Judaism was a religion based on separating me from my friends — me from who I wanted to be.

Additionally, I was part of a statistical reality only now becoming well known: Meshugener-ass Yid parents are the number-one cause of Christianity among Jews. Forget Tay-Sachs; we should be screened for parents who check your teeth for ham particles after having Christmas dinner at Scott Carlson’s house.

I love my parents. I know they only wanted to protect me. That’s why we had double-bolted deadlocked doors in what was probably the safest suburb in Northern California. You never know when crooks from Brooklyn are going to find where you live and fly three thousand miles just to break into your house.

Thirteen years passed between Jesus’ first titillation of my soul, and my thinking I was a Christian.

Before finding my true path of writing about and making fun of people, places and things, I pretended to work in technology. My first job out of college was for a technology company that was going to revolutionize the way people thought about oil changes. Sounds crazy now, but in the late nineties, if you weren’t trying to revolutionize something, you weren’t worth the armrests on your Aeron chair. My manager, Chris, had just promoted me and become my mentor. Chris was smart, confident, and wealthy. While never saying it directly, he made it clear that his abilities came from a personal relationship with Jesus. “Jesus, huh? I’m going to check this dude out.”

I should mention that I have a rebellious, paranoid mind. This is good for creativity, but sometimes allows me to draw conclusions that have no basis in reality. It was no coincidence that Christ came to me through someone named “Chris.” In fact, I now had reason to believe that all people named Chris or Christine were Jesus’ messengers. As such, every Chris or Christine was listened to like Moses taking notes from the burning bush.

Soon it became clear that I had a personal relationship with Christ (how could I not? My buddy Chris Williams and I talked all the time, but mostly about comedy and alcohol).

If my friends ever asked me why I didn’t go to church, or why my act was unfit for the pulpit, I had Jesus in the person of Soundgarden front man Chris Cornell reminding me to “blow up the outside world.” I was perfectly insulated in my world of Chris and Christine.

To show my appreciation for Jesus, I decided it was time to get baptized. While doing shows for the U.S. Military in Bahrain (an island off the coast of Saudi Arabia), I filled up the tub with Arab water and dunked myself, sure I would emerge made in the image of cool, confident Chris. However, after coming up for air, I obsessed for fifteen minutes about whether I’d stayed under long enough for Jesus to find me. Not exactly what I was looking for.

That water-dunking, combined with sunlight and fertilizer (of which I had plenty), finally burst my Christian seed through the dirt. Later that year I sent an email telling my family, “I am a Christian.” My parents weren’t exactly proud.

So how did I eventually become the good Jewish guy I am today? I actually have Jesus to thank for bringing me back to the Tribe. The minute I pronounced my Christianity on stage, Jesus revoked the usual cult-leader-like connection I have with audiences. I seemed like a foreigner on stage. It was like trying to do a love scene with a booger peeking out.

I knew I loved God. However, I began to realize that Jesus was made of fabric that caused me to rash (I know, I know, I should’ve shopped in the garment district all along). For months I felt “off” both personally and professionally. I liken it to an organ transplant that didn’t take. Slowly, I was brought to the realization that I am Jewish. Let me repeat: I am Jewish.

About a year later, Jesus decided to break up with me via email. Following a show, the following note arrived in my inbox: “Dear Jeremy, I saw your show last Friday. You are no Christian! Sincerely, Christine Salters.” From the mouth of Christine herself, I had been sent the final message.

I’ve been getting my Jew on for about four months now. Like Job, God has tried me, and restored me. I am now thankful. I would never know how great it is to be a Jew without my Jesus detour.

They say if you drop the Torah you’re supposed to kiss it. I think you should also thank God for making the gravity that caused it to fall. Maybe when you pick it up, it will have opened to a page you are finally ready to read.

-- Text by Jeremy Greenberg / Illustration by Joseph G. Suico
posted by Benyamin | 12:34 PM | Link | |
best article i've read all day
Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah and that the one we need to follow to get to Adonai.
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