Sarah Urbach was a pioneer, one of the first Israelis to follow Yeshua in the 1950s. She was resolute, unshakable in the insistence that "the stone the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone." No shrinking wallflower overshadowed by her dynamic husband, Eliezer, Sarah was a fearless and devoted evangelist in her own right.

Connie and I first met the Urbachs in 1975. Through them we were nourishe by the rich Jewish roots of our new found faith in Yeshua. They also became for us a bridge to the past, a link to the vanished world of Eastern European Jewry. The vicious, systematic eradication of that world left lifelong scars. Those deep Holocaust scars made Sarah's discovery of the redeeming scars of Messiah all the more dramatic.

I want to honor Sarah's life and her memory by introducing her to you in this article. To tell her story I am including excerpts from the eulogy delivered with wonderful humor and devotion by her daughter, our friend Nechama.

Like others in the Labor Zionist movement, (my grandparents) Nachum and Tova, had a tremendous concern for the welfare of their people - which was later transformed into a spiritual burden for the salvation of Israel, in their daughter Sarah's heart.

Poland between the two World Wars, was characterized by a rising tide of anti-Semitism, which was an omen of the bad things to come. I remember Ima reminiscing: "The Poles and the Ukrainians hated each other, and both hated the Jews even more." In this poisonous environment, Sarah spent her early years. Always a very sensitive person, in childhood as in old age, her cultured home, her violin lessons, and her extensive involvement in the Zionist enclave did not shelter her from the damaging effects of this hate-filled atmosphere. But no doubt, the most scarring event was a traumatic personal experience of anti-Semitism in the Polish public school, where, for no good reason, a Jew-hating headmistress, made the sensitive, introverted child stand in front of the entire class, accused of something she had not done, calling her the Polish equivalent of a "Jewish runt".

In 1937, just two years before the Holocaust, Nachum ... took his family to Zion - an economically backward little strip of desert, then known as Mandatory Palestine, policed by the British. This small country ... intended as the refuge for the Jewish people, was already the scene of escalating gunfire between Jew and Arab. My mother's sense that this world is not a safe place - a sense, which accompanied her throughout life - was strengthened when, as a 17 year old on her way to school in Jerusalem, some Arabs sprayed her bus with gunfire.

Already an Israeli for ten years, the Jewish girl from Poland was discovered and married in Tel Aviv in 1947, by an intrepid young Holocaust survivor. Eliezer Urbach fled certain death in Poland, only to endure endless months of hiding, sickness, the Soviet army, and prisons. With the determination that characterized their entire lives Sarah and Eliezer began building a life together in the old/new land of Israel. Their early poverty-filled years in the newly reborn country did not add much hope. True hope did not come until the unlikely discovery of Messiah in distant Brazil. Can we imagine the resilience and the strength of will required to weather so many storms, one after another?

In 1954 we emigrated to Brazil, where Abba's two great uncles were living, in hopes of improving our family's financial fortunes. Alas, from a financial perspective, Brazil turned out to be the wrong portion of the Americas. But it was there that both our parents found the greatest fortune of all, the Pearl of Great Price, Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel. Sarah finally found her True, Lasting Refuge.

Our introverted, home-body mother, who hated risk, and abhorred wild adventures, then schlepped after her adventurous husband, back to Israel. There they were discipled by the Plymouth Brethren. From this struggling body of pioneering believers in Israel, Ima learned to treasure her Bible, and her Daily Light, a collection of daily Scripture readings. These both became great sources of comfort throughout her life as a servant of God. Our Ima also drew great comfort from conversing with her Lord in prayer, day and night. He became her constant companion, to whom she brought her heartaches, complaints, and petitions, just like King David had done.

Another quality which helped her get through life was her great sense of humor ... Even recently, experiencing Alzheimer's disease, that famous dry humor was still there. "How are you feeling, Ima" I asked. "There is room for improvement," she said ... Ima had insight into human nature, and "did not suffer fools gladly." She loved authentic people and things, and I am eternally grateful for her legacy.

Was following Yeshua any easier than growing up in anti-Semitic Poland, starting a family in Israel's 1947-49 war and poverty-torn society, or making a new life across the world in the Brazilian jungle? It certainly was not, fifty years ago when she returned to Israel as a new believer. In that Israel no one - neither her family nor a society built on the ashes of the Holocaust - could fathom the connection between Jesus and Jewishness. Once again, Sarah found herself, with pioneer Eliezer and two Israeli children, battling for existence.

Their faith took root in the very beginnings of the modern Israeli Messianic movement, with the Jaffa fellowship led by Solomon Ostrovsky. It was not easy. As Eliezer wrote in his life story, Out of the Fury (Zhera, 1987), "Jewish believers lived on the edge of fear and disaster. There were so few of us in Israel, we all knew one another, and quickly learned of the consequences that befell our members when they were found out - firing from a job, eviction from an apartment, harassment from the Orthodox religious community.(p.191)" At that time (and still today) "Jesus was referred to as 'Yeshu,' a derogatory acronym which meant 'may his name and memory be blotted out.' ... Jewish believers were forced to conceal their faith to be safe and protect their families. I saw a Bible bookstore burned and destroyed. (p.197)"

Seeking a home with greater religious freedom in which to grow their family and their faith, the Urbachs set sail for Canada. Finally, in North America, came a measure of peace. After stints in Toronto and New York City, Eliezer and Sarah settled in Denver, Colorado. It was 1970. Thus the Rocky Mountains, where most of us came to know her, became Sarah's turf. Here, with firmly set jaw, she challenged unsuspecting passengers at the Stapleton Airport outreach table, boldly confronting skepticism and unbelief in her trademark Polish-Yiddish flavored English. "Vaht? You tink you know so much? Vy don't you stop kidding yourself and admit you need a Savior?"

Sarah was a results oriented person who brooked no showmanship. "So, Shishkoff, how many Jews are coming to the Lord there in Haifa?" she would ask me, never reluctant to place a bottom line in front of us. Her son, Chaim, a Messianic leader whom I deeply respect, observed "Mama grabbed people for Yeshua. She lived with a sense of urgency. There was no time for small things. Ima knew this world was not her home. Heaven was not a vague hope with her; it was a guaranteed reality. Because of her assurance, we are assured ... I urge you to get to know Sarah's God."

Todah (thank you) Ima Sarah. You endured to the finish. You have fulfilled your difficult days with a redeeming end. We will not forget you. You will always be dear to us. Shalom.

By Eitan Shishkoff


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Comments:
17:48 05Oct05 Jeff Evensen -
Wonderful! Thank you for sharing this story.

22:44 05Oct05 anonymous -
Thank you for this article. It is always inspiring to learn about the saints that have gone before us and paved the way.

18:04 21Oct05 Diana Bailey -
I am stunned by this article, as it has re-connected me with a long-lost family. I kept looking at the woman pictured and thinking, "I know this face, she is probably someone famous", and as I read the article, I realized I HAD met her ... many years ago at the First Baptist Church in Littleton, CO, when her husband Eliezar, endeavored to teach us Hebrew. I still have the book we used, and it was nearly 30 years ago. He would always kid us that we were learning Hebrew with a Polish accent, and mixed with our American "accent", maybe no one would understand our Hebrew words at all.
Eliezar looked like one of the Patriarchs, with his long, flowing beard. His eyes sparkled with the joy of one redeemed. In the late 1980's when we lived in the foothills west of Denver, he was gracious enough to come up the mountain and teach our congregation about Yeshua in the Passover. That was the last connection I had with the Urbachs until now. What an encouragement to read the testimony of Sarah -- this great woman of faith. Certainly, she IS famous in heaven!!

11:24 22Nov05 Richard Cleary -
There are few people who take the time to honor the aged like you have with Sarah here. I believe this is part of the heart of God breathed into me. Thankyou for this example of faith.

09:40 18Mar05 Cindy Anderson -
Hit on a treasure. I am leading a small home school group next month on missionaries, and I wanted to choose some from different backgrounds and time periods. I chose the Urbachs and was doing research on thier lives. The children will greatly benefit from this very personal article.

19:19 02Jun08 Steven L. Poetzl -
Sarah and Eliezer spent many a night in our house in Black Forest, Colorado as they came to minister at our church by preaching, teaching, and serving Passover. My wife and I's greatest priviledge came on a cold spring night when Eliezer and Sarah led a secular Jewish women and her Mormon husband to the Lord at our diner table at midnight. Eliezer insisted that they be baptized the next day as the couple was moving back to Utah in a week. So Eliezer baptized them in Palmer Lake which was half covered in ice. Everyone got a cold but Sarah watched from the shore assuring everyone that the ice bath was well worth it!
To this day, almost 30 years later, at bedtime my wife and I imitate the exchange between Sarah and Eliezer that we witnessed each time they spent the night at our house. Sarah always wanted to go to bed way before Eliezer and would pull him by the arm saying "Let's go to bed." Eliezer would say, "Go to bed, Sarah, go to bed!" Now for sure Sarah has gone to the ultimate rest not in a bed but in arms of Jesus.

18:27 07Sep09 Joyce Myers -
I met Eliezer Urbach in the 1970's at his booth on the Campus of CSU. I would stop and talk to him whenever he was there. He left such an impact on me and I will always regard him as a great man of God. He almost seemed like a prophet of old to me with his long grey beard and his deep wisdom. He gave me some advice about the group I was in at the time (Mercy Farm) and he was right. I was invited to Denver for the Festival of Lights service and found myself surrounded by groups of Jewish people speaking Yiddish and Hebrew. It was amazing to see the work of God in their midst. I still remember him and knew that I was talking to a very great person in the Kingdom of God. I still have his card after almost 30 some years.

18:45 043Oct09 Helene Dallaire -
Thank you for giving tribute to this precious woman. Today, October 3rd 2009, her husband Eliezer Urbach went to join his wife and the rest of his family in the presence of the Lord. What a reunion and celebration must be taking in place in heaven at this moment. Please pray for Eliezer's 2nd wife Jan, for Eliezer's son Chaim and daughter Nechama.

10:46 06Oct09 anonymous -
The story embodies the depth of Sarah. Her devotion to her husband too was a testimony. What a pioneer and what a lover of our Savior. Blessings all over you with much favor for sharing.

13:23 06Oct09 Cheryl Yarusso -
Thank you for detailing Sarah's amazing life. I met Eliezar in the 70's here in Boulder. He came to my home wearing a Jews for Jesus jean jacket. He came to witness to my husband. I then was invited to dance at a Christ in the Passover presentation he was doing. What a marvelous man of God. I only met Sarah on other occasions so I didn't get to know her. But now they are both in the heavenly Kingdom. May God bless everything they did in this life with continuing power to draw people to Jesus.

15:18 10Jun11 Joyce Myers -
I too was helped and inspired by Eliezer Urbach and his ministry on the CSU campus in Fort Collins. He was very wise and I felt prophetic in the way he spoke. That was over 30 years ago that I was impacted by him. Today I am still very much interested in Israel and I try to keep abreast of what is happening. I am amazed that history will eventually culminated in the same area that it originated. I have his book "Out of the Fury" and hope other people will learn of the work of this man.