From Jew to Catholic, author finds his path a natural one - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

From Jew to Catholic, author finds his path a natural one

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Posted: Saturday, July 14, 2007 3:09 pm | Updated: 6:25 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Once a Jew and now a Roman Catholic, Roy Schoeman says his spiritual journey follows much the same transition as Christianity’s development from the seeds of Judaism.

Once a Jew and now a Roman Catholic, Roy Schoeman says his spiritual journey follows much the same transition as Christianity’s development from the seeds of Judaism.

“I haven’t converted to another religion,” he explains. “The Catholic Church is the continuation of Judaism. They are one and the same religion — the thing is the religion changed with the incarnation (God coming to earth in the human form of Jesus). It was always going to change.”

Schoeman, author of “Salvation Is From the Jews: The Role of Judaism in Salvation History From Abraham to the Second Coming,” will speak during the Arizona Marian Conference Aug. 24-26 at Doubletree Scottsdale Paradise Valley Resort. His talk to a Catholic audience is titled “Witness Testimony and God’s Plan for the Jews.”

Raised in a Conservative Jewish family where both parents fled Nazi Germany, Schoeman received solid Jewish instruction. His hometown spiritual leader was Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, a foremost American Conservative rabbi, and his religion teacher was Rabbi Arthur Green, who would head the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. And for several months, he lived in Israel with Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the late famed Hasidic rabbi, singer and well-traveled songwriter and teacher.

“Growing up, I was quite devout about my religion,” he said. Schoeman enrolled in Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he encountered a “very intellectually arrogant attitude that 'we know better than to believe in God, and we have scientific explanations for everything.’ ” He went on to earn an MBA at Harvard Business School and later joined the faculty. During those years, he said, “I basically fell into sin. I adopted the kind of normal ’70s college lifestyle, and under those influences, I basically lost my faith.” He regarded himself as a Jewish agnostic.

Schoeman said his life hit bottom. “There was no meaning and purpose to life, and there was nothing more to look forward to,” he recalls. Then while walking on an empty beach in 1987, he suddenly felt God’s love and presence. It triggered a deep quest to pursue knowing God. The following year, he had a long dream in which the Virgin Mary spoke with him and answered questions. He ended up realizing it was Christ who had come to him in the beach encounter — “and that I was now a Christian,” Schoeman recounts on his Web site.

“This completely consumed me when it happened.” He left teaching and devoted himself to writing and speaking about bridging the two monotheistic faiths.

With his realizations, Schoeman studied theology at several seminaries, began hosting a talk show on a Catholic TV network and wrote two books, his latest, “Honey From the Rock: Sixteen Jews Find the Sweetness of Christ.” He explains that his book, “Salvation Is From the Jews,” sought to help Christians hold a deeper understanding of Judaism as both a religion and “a central component of Christian salvation.” It seeks to show the “importance which Judaism has as God’s own religion and the unique and central role it has in the destiny of all of creation.”

Schoeman acknowledges that it is “least common” for Jews to choose Catholicism when opting to become Christians.

“Over the past few decades, the Catholic Church has tremendously backed off of anything which hints at the evangelization of the Jews,” he said. “This wasn’t always the case. There used to be various organizations in the Catholic Church to evangelize the Jew, to pray for the conversion of the Jews.” But in wake of the Holocaust, in which the Vatican was faulted for being silent and even abetting the Nazis, the Jewish community grew more resistant to Christian evangelization, he said.

“They obviously see it as a threat,” Schoeman said. “They see it as an apostasy and a threat to honoring God, but they also see it as a threat to their community and their integrity.” The church “backed off” from such recruitment and is saying “such ridiculous things that the church has no mission to the Jews” or “there is no reason for Jews to enter the church” or “they already have their original saving covenant with God and they don’t need Christianity,” he said.

Schoeman said he grew up hearing the “black legends around the Catholic Church,” including those related to the Inquisition, torturing of Jews and the Holocaust. “I had a negative attitude to all of Christianity, but particularly to the Catholic Church. It was like the epitome of the enemy.”

There are no easy answers as to why Jews have rejected Jesus as the Messiah, he said, but it’s known that a sizable number of them became Christians in the period after his death.

“Obviously the story told in the Gospels to Jewish authorities, by and large, was very hostile to the claims of Jesus, in part, because of their own selfish motives, the position they were trying to protect,” he said. Schoeman pointed to Romans 11, that “God cast a veil over the eyes of the Jews so they would not recognize Jesus until the full number of the Gentiles come into the church and then they will raise the veil from the eyes of the Jews, and they, too, will accept Christ.”

In his “ideal world,” he said, “Jews would convert to Christianity because basically, every Jew who ends up in heaven will have converted to Christianity by definition. There is no heaven without Christ.”

“God will bring about the conversion of the Jews at the right time — we know we are to do everything we can” in keeping with the “Great Commission” to make disciples by taking Christ’s message to all ends of the earth, Schoeman said.

He supports the work of Jews for Jesus, a Messianic Jewish group strongly criticized by the Jewish community. “They find problems with me, I don’t find problems with them,” he said.

“I love the Jews for Jesus because they are doing what I want to do, which is to share the good news with my fellow Jews. They are burning with the zeal to bring other Jews to the joy, the fulfillment and the knowledge of God, which they have because they recognized Jesus the Messiah.”

Schoeman emphasizes that the Catholic Church has evolved from Judaism’s liturgical heritage. “The very first Mass was a Passover Seder” and “mirrors the structure of the Jewish liturgy to some extent.”

“So it isn’t as if I had become Buddhist or something. It is not apples and oranges. It is a nature progression and evolution,” he said.

Arizona Marian Conference

When: Aug. 24-26

Where: Doubletree Scottsdale Paradise Valley Resort, 5401 N. Scottsdale Road, Paradise Valley

Cost: $50 before July 27, $60 afterward (no meals)

Information: (480) 964-6111 or mirarizona.org

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