n 1975 we were young believers living in Santa Fe. It had been less than a full year since we moved into the city after our six years as hippie farmers in the mountains of northern New Mexico. That year a man walked into our life whose influence would change the course of our destiny. His name was Eliezer Urbach.

On the first day of Sukkot, October 3, 2009, Eliezer stepped into eternity. This article flows from my desire to pay tribute to a father in the faith who nurtured us and linked us to our ancient covenantal heritage. I am convinced that without his contribution to our walk with God, we would not have shifted our entire focus to Messianic Jewish life and ministry, leading us ultimately to the land of Israel.

HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR

In the infancy of our exploration of our Jewish roots, God sent us a real Jew. A Holocaust survivor, Eliezer fled Poland as the Nazis were coming to exterminate his family. After interminable years, thousands of kilometers, numerous brushes with death, a forced stint in the Soviet army, imprisonment, escapes, and ravenous hunger he arrived in Palestine. Having lived by his wits and by the unseen protection of God through the most dangerous and disastrous era in all of our history, Urbach was now needed by the fledgling state as a soldier, to resist the onslaught of Arab nations attempting to destroy Israel at birth. The full account of Eliezer and Sarah's story is recorded in a compelling book titled "Out of the Fury." I recommend it. You will be touched, inspired and drawn into a portion of the modern Jewish saga that forms the immediate backdrop for our portion of history.

DISCIPLE of YESHUA

The early 1950s were not easy years in Israel. By now Eliezer, his wife Sarah, and their children (Nechama and Chaim) were struggling for economic survival. They sought a new beginning in Brazil, where a relative spoke of opportunity. They did find a new beginning, but it was an entirely unexpected one. Through the kind, patient witness of a Brazilian believer, Eliezer encountered his Messiah. Returning to Israel, the Urbachs took part in one of the first Israeli New Covenant congregations in the 20th century. Fresh relationships always energized Eliezer. That, combined with his newfound burden for Jewish people to know Yeshua led the Urbachs to North America, Bible training and entry into full time ministry.

MENTOR to the MESSIANIC MOVEMENT

Eliezer became a spiritual father to us when we were only beginning to discover the meaning of being both Jewish and followers of Yeshua. The visual epitome of the Jewish patriarch, Eliezer patiently instructed and loved us in his warm, charming way. His passion for accessible authenticity of Messianic Jewish expression and tireless readiness to introduce Jewish people to our Messiah were contagious. We grew steadily in the miracle of Jewish biblical celebration as believers. He gave us our first chanukiah (Chanukah lamp), our first shofar, led our first Messianic Passover Seder and helped us attend our first Messianic conference in 1976. Bringing his own homemade Shabbat wine, this devoted friend created warm and happy memories for our families that became a foundation for decades to come.

These years were also a strategic time in the development of the emerging Messianic Jewish movement. Eliezer impacted numerous young Jews like ourselves, who had searched for spiritual reality in the plethora of alternative lifestyles and religious paths of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Many of these are now leaders in the movement. For those of us who were born in the aftermath of the Shoah, and on the relatively unscarred shores of America, this man was a living bridge to our history as Jews. Eyes heavy with what he had seen, he nonetheless smiled with a redeeming twinkle in his eye. When we were naïve, he did not chide us, but patiently filled in the numerous gaps in our awareness.

SERVING GOD'S PURPOSES

We often use the phrase "lay down your life for Yeshua." Here was a man who truly did that.

Looking back, there was a six year period during which Eliezer left a permanent imprint on our lives. From 1975 until 1981 he visited once a month, faithfully travelling from Denver to the Albuquerque/Santa Fe area. Though Eliezer usually stayed with Russell and Jane Resnik in Albuquerque, a few times he came up to Santa Fe and was our house guest. Those were treasured occasions which included generous attention to our children, David and Hannah. During those visits Eliezer was determined, yet patient, in finding opportunities to speak with Jewish people about Yeshua. These conversations could stretch into hours. It didn't matter.

Through devoted friendship, stories, humor, unfeigned knowledge and a passionate heart for each of us to participate in the redemption of our people, Eliezer left an immeasurable, unforgettable and inspiring example for us to follow. What a valuable life! How much impact one person can have! How many people can be touched by one yielded heart? It is now for those of us in whom Eliezer invested himself, to make ourselves all the more available to the Most High.

For 55 years he served God's purposes, blending a natural attraction to people with an amazing gift for languages (I lost count, but Eliezer could function well in no less than 10). That example stirs me to ask, what are you and I pursuing? Where are our energies and our days focused on? Am I touching the lives around me as Eliezer did? I long to.

This is what Abba Eliezer taught us. But true learning is transformation. It happens through emulating our teachers' lives, not just memorizing their lessons. In the days to come we will need the courage, creativity and consistency with which our brother pursued the calling of the King.

Eliezer Urbach made it possible to know the Jewish saga through the soul of one who traversed our worst tragedy: the Holocaust, fought in Israel's War of Independence to establish the Jewish State out of its ashes, and then took hold of Tikvat Yisrael, Yeshua the Messiah. Now that he has been united with the One he served, my family has a compelling need to express our gratitude to the Living God for placing this man in our lives. What a gift he was to us, arriving just when we needed him the most! May we now follow in Eliezer's footsteps.

 

By Eitan Shishkoff


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Comments:
13:34 04Nov09 Clark Gear -
This is an excellent article of both tribute to the man and praise to his Messiah Yeshua. I was at a cafe recently and I watched as at least a dozen Albanian men of various ages interacted with one another. I longed for such men to be part of Yeshua or for the men in my area to fellowship in such manner. Eliezer must too have seen this need in younger men. In the US our community is fractured and distant, even in the messianic community. My heart is to be such a man, to bring people together in Yeshua.

17:48 04Nov09 Linda Rahaim -
A beautiful article about a beautiful man of God. It was touching.

18:19 04Nov09 K -
My husband and I are young Messianic Jewish parents. My husband is now taking on his role as a Jewish father - and there seems to be no one to lead us - no Jewish couple to look up to and learn from - no mentor to help grow our Jewish souls. We have been in the movement for 9 years and we have grown more studying from traditional Judaism than from other Jews in the movement. There seems to be a 'club' within the movement of those who grew up Jewish - they are in the know. But for those of us who are Jewish biologically but grew up in assimilated homes - we are simply out of luck. We are desperate to take back the beautiful Jewish heritage and calling that had almost been lost for ever in our family line. It seems those who grew up Jewish have already evaluated Judaism, tossed out what they don't like, and leave the rest of us to find out on our own ... how to pray as a Jew, how to lay tefillin, how to create a Jewish home environment, etc. It's no wonder people are flocking to Orthodox Judaism ... there are more 'Fathers' there. Where is our Eliezer? I miss him and I don't even know him! I miss what he represents, the very thing we lack - a Jewish dad ... a Jewish grandfather ... a Jewish family.

07:16 12Nov09 Miriam -
I pray that messiah Yeshua will comfort you in your loss of this remarkable brother. I lost my sister, Naomi Gerstel, in May 2009 - also a holocaust survivor, who was almost 94. She formerly attended Beit Eliahu & had a remarkable testimony, including her baptism in London by Derek Prince & her former association with the Emma Berger group. It's good to know that we'll eventually be seeing them again!

15:56 19Nov09 Patricia J. Kessler -
What a beautiful story and beautiful tribute to a man who overcame tragic events in his life and turned them into jewels for the rest of us to cherish. A lesson in life for us all.


Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Daniel Juster: Rediscovering the Roots that Remain
Marty Shoub: Sasha - He Who Edures to the End
Freddy Intrater: Light to the Nations
Mati