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Eugenio Zolli’s Path to Rome (Chief Rabbi converted after mystical vision of Jesus Christ)
Insight Scoope ^ | Stephen Sparrow

Posted on 10/10/2008 1:57:10 PM PDT by NYer

It’s little wonder that biographer Judith Cabaud considers Eugenio Zolli one of the most remarkable men of the twentieth century.

Born in 1881 in Ukraine, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Zolli's baby boy was given the first name Israel. Sixty years later he was chief Rabbi of Rome. In 1944, while in the synagogue celebrating Yom Kippur, Zolli experienced a mystical vision of Jesus Christ. Within a year he was baptized a Catholic at which time he changed his first name from Israel to Eugenio, the same Christian name as Pope Pius XII. He did this to honor the Pope for the help he gave Jews trying to escape the Nazi's extermination program during World War II.

The First Act

Let’s backtrack and look at the life of this Central European Jew whose restless and courageous mind enabled him to step beyond the Old Testament and become a follower of Jesus Christ. That long path from Judaism to Catholicism was also taken by Madame Cabaud, who likened it to "wanting to see the second act of a play of which we have attended only the first act."

The late nineteenth century provided the backdrop for Israel Zolli’s formative years. It was a particularly turbulent period in Europe. France was reeling from a prolonged bout of political instability exacerbated by military defeat at the hands of Prussia. The philosophical and scientific theories of Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer were starting to blur Europe’s Christian perspective, while inside the Russian Empire anti-Semitism was on the march. The Zolli family had substantial business interests in what had become Russian controlled territory. The Russian Government classified the Zollis as foreigners and being Jewish made them even more vulnerable, so it was not unexpected they lost virtually everything to a confiscation order issued by Tsar Alexander III. Like many Russian Jews, the suddenly poverty stricken family moved to Poland where the older children had to leave home to find work. However, young Israel was sent to a strict Jewish school where the students spent much of their time studying the books of the Pentateuch.

That young restless Jewish mind had been agitating about God’s inner life since the age of eight. "What did God do before He created the world? And why did He create it?" Questions, questions: the answer must lie somewhere. One of Israel’s classmates at the school was Christian and when visiting this boy’s home, Israel had been deeply affected by the sight of a crucifix hanging on the wall. Who was that man? What had he done to deserve such a punishment? Surely he couldn’t have been bad? But then maybe he had been and so deserved crucifixion! But why was that image treated so reverently? Perhaps the man represented truth? Israel eventually concluded that the man on the cross was good and had been wrongly punished.

During his teenage years, the image of that crucifix sparked Israel’s curiosity so much that he began secretly studying the New Testament, often taking a copy into the fields where he would read quietly and contemplate. He found delight in Christ’s sayings, especially those from the Sermon on the Mount: "But I say to you: love your enemies," and "blessed are the pure in heart." And from the cross: "Father, forgive them." The New Testament really was a new covenant crammed with messages of extraordinary beauty and importance.

For Israel Zolli the teachings of Christ truly marked out the Kingdom of Heaven, as a place reserved for those persecuted, who in eschewing vengeance had loved instead. From then on the Gospel would prove an irresistible attraction and when studying the Old Testament for the Rabbinate he read further on into the New, regarding it as the natural continuation of the Old. Many years later, Zolli’s daughter Miriam would tell Judith Cabaud that her father had once taken her to the Sistine Chapel in Rome and used the prophets, apostles, and saints painted on the ceiling to explain the bond uniting the Old and New Testament. But in Israel’s youth the clue connecting the two was how closely the man on the cross matched the identity of the suffering servant from Isaiah. That Zolli would hit on the idea that the Gospels were inside the Old Testament from the beginning was seemingly inevitable.

Naturally enough Judaism exerted a powerful pull on Israel Zolli. For his family, it was a way of life tied up with community, a cultural identity that tended to steer religion away from any personal relationship with God. His mother had always wanted him to be a Rabbi and she scrimped and saved to pay for his studies. And still the young man fretted about the years of hard study ahead and the purpose of the 613 commandments of the Torah. "Surely," he thought, "it would be better for the Torah to be lived?" He felt isolated from the talk and ideas of other young Jews and his thoughts returned many times to the crucifix in the home of his friend Stanislas. The person of Isaiah’s suffering servant of God continued to provoke questions about God, suffering, and, of course, the identity of the servant referred to by Isaiah.

Rabbi in Rome

Israel fell in with his mother’s plans and began studying, first in Poland, then Vienna and ending in Florence where he completed his rabbinical studies. Next he gained a professorship at the University of Padua. In 1918 he was appointed chief Rabbi of Trieste in Italy. It was the period between the wars and the political scene in Europe was rapidly assuming a sinister look. Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini took charge in Italy in 1922 and Hitler came into power in Germany eleven years later.

Just as World War II broke out, Zolli moved from Trieste to Rome to take up the post of the city’s chief Rabbi. The Jews of Rome were confident they could survive any fallout from Fascism and Nazism and observed no safety precautions. But Zolli, knowing what was happening in Germany, predicted Hitler would soon occupy Italy. His warnings to Jews to destroy their records and go underground went unheeded. While the Italian army fought alongside the Germans things went reasonably well, but then the Allies invaded Italy and it wasn’t long before the Italian military called it a day.

With the collapse of Mussolini’s regime in 1943 and Italy’s defection from the Axis, the Nazis immediately seized control of all Italian territory not in Allied hands and occupied Rome. The Nazis quickly established their usual routine: find the Jews, squeeze them for their wealth, and then deport them to death camps. Enter Colonel Kappler, a senior German officer who saw a chance to line his pockets. Kappler issued the Jewish community an ultimatum: either hand over 50 Kg of gold or, failing that, deliver 300 named hostages – a list headed by none other than Zolli himself. Within a short time the Jews managed to scrape together 35 Kg of gold but it was insufficient to satisfy Kappler’s monstrous appetite and so, on behalf of the Jewish community, Israel Zolli was deputed to approach the Vatican for the shortfall. This was his first contact with the institutional Church and it took place in secret since the Gestapo watched all Vatican City’s exits.

Zolli met with the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Maglione and appealed to him saying, "The New Testament cannot abandon the Old." Maglione immediately approached Pius XII to help with the needed gold. The Pope agreed to the request and Zolli was told to return later for the "package." Not only did the Pope act with alacrity, the Catholic parishes of Rome hurriedly gathered together a further 15 Kg of gold, something Zolli found out about from his daughter when he returned home. For the time being, the hostage crisis was averted.

That Pius XII played an enormous role in saving Jews from the Nazis was well known to Zolli. He was aware that monasteries and convents in Rome and all over Italy had opened their doors to Jews at the urging of the Pope. In addition, thousands more were being sheltered by ordinary Italian Catholic families, and both the Vatican and the Pope’s summer residence in Castel Gandolfo were filled with Jews who had nowhere else to hide.

Zolli, who met Pius XII, was impressed with the Pope’s open attitude and willingness to help. The Zolli family lived underground during the Nazi occupation of Rome and saw first hand the charity of the Church in action, inspired as it was by the personal courage of the pope, who did more than anyone else at that time to frustrate the arrest and execution of European Jews. Official Jewish sources cite a figure of 850,000 Jews saved as a result of the direct intervention of Pius XII, a fact that flies in the face of the current media smear campaign directed at Pius over his alleged failure to speak out publicly against Nazi Germany’s race policy.

The Second Act

In June 1944, an agreement was reached between the German and Allied High Commands; the German Army withdrew from Rome and the Allies occupied the city without a shot being fired. At the time the Jewish Community Council in Rome was full of collaborators and the American military wanted them out and Zolli back in control. But the very day he was asked to resume leadership of the Jewish Council, he confided to his Jesuit priest friend Father Dezza that he had other plans. "How can I continue living in this way when I think very often of Christ and how I love Him?" Zolli was then sixty-five years old, weary and wanting to retire.

Four months later, while in the synagogue for the feast of Yom Kippur, Zolli received a vision in which Christ spoke to him saying, "You are here for the last time: from now on you will follow Me." For Israel Zolli there would be no going back. Relaxing at home that evening he was at first reluctant to mention what had happened but when he did his wife admitted that she to had seen the same vision of Christ standing next to him. Miriam, their eighteen-year-old daughter then told her parents that she had recently seen Jesus in a dream. Zolli saw it all as confirmation of what he should do and immediately resigned from the synagogue. He and his wife took instruction from a priest and were baptized within a year: Israel taking the additional step of changing his first name to Eugenio, the same Christian name as Pope Pius XII. Miriam converted a year after her parents.

The Chief Rabbi of Rome converting to Catholicism was a big story in Italy, but the secular media tried to rationalize the matter. In his autobiography, Before The Dawn, Eugenio Zolli refuted all assertions that his conversion was out of gratitude to Pope Pius XII. Certainly he was extremely grateful for what the Pope had done to protect Jews, but the singular reason behind his conversion was his attraction to the person of Christ the Messiah – an attraction that had been growing steadily since Zolli’s childhood.

Fifty years have elapsed since Zolli’s autobiography was first published in English and only within the last four years has Judith Cabaud’s well-researched book, Eugenio Zolli, Prophet of a New World (de Guibert, Paris 2000), been available, but not yet in English. However, in a recently published interview, Cabaud provided this perceptive insight into current relations between Jews and Christians.

"Zolli's experience certainly has a great significance for Jews today, but also for Christians. In the first place, through his exegetical findings, we are led to understand that we do indeed have only one religion – the Judeo-Christian faith. It began with Judaism, in the Law and the Prophets: it continues today with the Catholic Church. The pivot is Jesus Christ, the Messiah for whom all religious Jews at that time were waiting and whom all Christians recognize as the Son of God it is indispensable for the Church and her members to be more fully aware of their Jewish inheritance. It is in this way that Christianity assumes its permanence in the world. If not, we are only poor orphans who strive for good and truth without knowing who our parents were."

"If we listen to the message of Rabbi Zolli, I am sure that in searching for Truth on both sides, we could mend many of the wounds which have created this cruel separation between brothers.

The quest for Truth will and can enfold us together with all our diversity in the loving arms of our One and Eternal God."
After his conversion, Eugenio Zolli was given a post at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. Early in 1956 he contracted bronchopneumonia and was admitted to hospital. The week before his death, Zolli told a nun looking after him that like Our Lord he would die on the first Friday of the month at three o'clock in the afternoon. On Friday, March 2, 1956, after receiving Holy Communion in the morning, he drifted into a coma and died as he predicted, at 3.00 p.m.

TOPICS: Catholic; History; Judaism
KEYWORDS: rabbi; zolli
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1 posted on 10/10/2008 1:57:11 PM PDT by NYer
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To: Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...

Eugenio Zolli
2 posted on 10/10/2008 1:57:57 PM PDT by NYer ("Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ." - St. Jerome)
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To: NYer

Fascinating. BMFLR.

3 posted on 10/10/2008 2:04:31 PM PDT by Kevmo (McCain's learning from Palin how to win a national election. Palin's learning from him how to lose 1)
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To: NYer

Great story. Thank you.

4 posted on 10/10/2008 2:05:38 PM PDT by Pamlico (Fred's the real deal)
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To: NYer

I’m touched. Thanks for posting.

5 posted on 10/10/2008 2:11:03 PM PDT by marron
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To: NYer

No offense but I dont think the Rabbi knew his Torah very well, nor Tanach. No orthodox Jew who knows Torah and Hebrew would ever convert...unless he is not in control of his faculties....

6 posted on 10/10/2008 2:12:02 PM PDT by blasater1960 ( Dt 30, Ps 111, The Torah is perfect, attainable, now and forever)
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To: blasater1960

Oh, give me a break. Don’t question his intelligence nor his mental health. This man accepted the truth of the Gospel. Is all you can resort to are insinuations?

7 posted on 10/10/2008 2:13:49 PM PDT by Pyro7480 (This Papist for Palin ask everyone to pray the Rosary for our country!)
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To: blasater1960

Or he knew it so well he saw the work of God through the Church...

8 posted on 10/10/2008 2:19:02 PM PDT by thefrankbaum (Ad maiorem Dei gloriam)
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To: NYer


9 posted on 10/10/2008 2:39:14 PM PDT by TASMANIANRED (TAZ:Untamed, Unpredictable, Uninhibited.)
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To: blasater1960

Did Jesus know the Torah? And St. Paul?

10 posted on 10/10/2008 2:55:15 PM PDT by Brian S. Fitzgerald
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To: Brian S. Fitzgerald
Did Jesus know the Torah?

Yah'shua is the Torah.
shalom b'SHEM Yah'shua
11 posted on 10/10/2008 3:05:54 PM PDT by Uri’el-2012 (Psalm 78:35 And they remembered that God was their ROCK, And the Most High God their Redeemer.)
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To: blasater1960

Then I guess I am not in control of my faculties.

12 posted on 10/10/2008 3:09:45 PM PDT by MeanWestTexan (Wish it was Palin/McCain)
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To: XeniaSt

I’m getting hit from both sides. Hard to carry on an objective discussion.

13 posted on 10/10/2008 3:14:49 PM PDT by Brian S. Fitzgerald
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To: blasater1960; Pyro7480
No offense but I dont think the Rabbi knew his Torah very well, nor Tanach. No orthodox Jew who knows Torah and Hebrew would ever convert...unless he is not in control of his faculties....

Allow me to introduce Roy Schoeman.

Roy Schoeman's Conversion Story


My parents were observant Jews in Europe who fled to the U.S. to escape the Holocaust. I was raised as a "conservative" Jew, and was rather pious by nature and very enthusiastic about the religious instruction I received and the religious activities I participated in.

Roy Schoeman

I went to my synagogue's after-school Jewish religious education program ("Hebrew School") all the way through grammer and high school.  By high school it was the main focus of my identity and activities, even though by that point there were only about a half-dozen of us who had continued in the program.  I was very close to my rabbi and to several of the seminarians who were my Hebrew school teachers.  As Providence had it, my hometown rabbi was Arthur Hertzberg.  One of the highest-profile rabbis in the U.S., he was president of the American Jewish Congress, advisor to several presidents, and wrote a number of best-selling books on Judaism and Jewish history.  My favorite Hebrew school teacher, with whom I was particularly close, also became a very prominent rabbi who later headed the largest Jewish rabbinical seminary in the U.S..
Growing up I was unusually devout and passionate about God and Judaism, although the suburban conservative context I was in did not really support a life of piety, faith and prayer. In my senior year of high school I met a very charismatic "mystic" Hasidic Rabbi (Shlomo Carlebach) who used to go around the country giving "concerts" which were really prayer meetings over which he would preside, playing guitar and leading Hasidic worship songs, interspersed with religious story-telling and teaching. He had a large following among Jewish hippies and college students.   I fell in with him, and spent the following summer traveling with him in Israel in his entourage.  I wanted to live my life for God and with God, and while in Israel I considered abandoning my plans to go to M.I.T. in order to stay in Israel studying at one of the Jerusalem yeshivas (which are schools where young men devote their time to prayer and religious study, the closest thing Judaism has to religious life).  But I was turned off by a certain sterility and coldness which I saw in them, and which did not speak of real intimacy with God.

So I returned to the U.S. and started at M.I.T.  I felt very lost, because anything which did not have God at its center seemed to have no point or meaning, yet there was nothing I could "do" which did have God at its center.  The former Hebrew school teacher with whom I was close had also by then moved to Boston, where he started a kind of counter-culture, hippie-oriented Jewish seminary/commune.  During my first few weeks at M.I.T. I considered dropping out, but he encouraged me to stay, and I did, spending much of my free time at his seminary/commune.

Although I tried to maintain my religious orientation, there was a fatal flaw in it which soon led me astray.  I had no understanding of the relationship between religion and morality, particularly sexual morality.  So my religiosity soon became mixed up in the drug and "free love" culture which was rampant, and soon degenerated into the immoral, vague hippie "spirituality" of the time.  My thirst for God became, for a long while, sated by the false consolations and delusional spirituality of that environment.

For the next fifteen years, I lived my life in a tremendous inner tension.  I had a yearning for transcendent meaning, and a refusal to let go of that yearning for more than short periods, but had no knowledge of what that yearning was truly for, and hence no sense of a direction to go in.  Because a conventional engineer's life in the U.S. had no "meaning", I moved to Denmark, because I sensed, in the deeper relationship which Danes had with life and family, a greater spiritual meaning, but once there it was obviously not my real life so I returned.  For a few years after my return, while working as a programmer, I lived for rock-climbing, with the excitement and sense of danger and accomplishment which it produced providing an anesthetic for my thirst for meaning.  In 1978 I went back to school, to Harvard Business School for an M.B.A., but the momentary feelings of success which that produced did not assuage my desperation for real meaning for long.  Anything which I tried, whether a career switch or a romantic relationship, only produced a momentary illusion of purpose which soon faded, leaving me with the desperate sense that there must be something more.  That is why I never settled in to a career, or married.

At Harvard Business School I did extraordinarily well, winning most of the available awards in my class, and graduating among the top few with "High Distinction."  Shortly after graduation I was invited to join the faculty, and did so, teaching the core marketing course in the M.B.A. program.  Yet even the success of being a Harvard Business School professor, and a very popular one at that, at thirty years of age did not assuage my sense of pointlessness.  I loved the teaching and the students but did not find much interest in the subject matter itself.  After teaching Harvard offered to support me (very generously) while I completed a doctorate so that I could qualify for tenure, but once into my dissertation my lack of genuine interest caught up with me, and I went back to consulting.

It was around this time that I got involved with my last "false consolation", my last false direction to provide meaning to my life.  As a child I had been an enthusiastic downhill skier, but I gave it up when I went to college.   I now took it up again with a vengeance, supporting myself with consulting while spending most of every winter skiing in the Alps. I became very good, and my skiing companions in the Alps were all professional skiers, "circuit" skiers,  Olympic hopefuls, etc.  For a few years I lived for skiing, finding enough consolation in the physical excitement, the speed, the aesthetics, the sense of accomplishment, the camaraderie, to dull the thirst for meaning in my life.

Of course God was using everything in my life to bring me to Him, and it would soon bear fruit.    It was when I was in the spectacular natural beauty of the Alps that I became aware of the existence of God for the first time since college.  I remember the scene — I was high up on the mountain, still well above tree line, shortly after sunset, with the sky glowing a soft red and the snow and granite glowing blue in the twilight.  My heart opened with gratitude, and I knew that such beauty had been created by God.   It is worth noting that the area of Austria which I was in was still deeply and piously Catholic, with beautiful crucifixes everywhere, both inside the houses, hotels and restaurants and also along the roads and even trails.  Even in the ski town the Church was packed for Sunday Mass. (In fact, in the bed-and-breakfast where I was staying a carved wooden crucifix, with corpus, hung over my bed.  Every evening when I returned to the room I would remove it and place it in a drawer — I had no desire to sleep under a cross! — and the following day I would find it had been rehung over the bed,without comment,  by the devout, elderly woman in whose home I was staying).
After a few years of living for skiing, that too began to pale, and I became more and more despondent.  The only relief I could find was spending time alone in nature, trying to recapture a hint of the consolation which I had felt in the Alps.  During the spring of 1987 I took a few days off from work and went to Cape Cod to spend time in the nature there.  I was walking in the early morning, in the woods just back from the beach, when God intervened, dramatically and distinctly, into my life to pull me back and put me onto the right path.  As I was walking, lost in my thoughts, I found myself in the immediate presence of God.  It is as though I "fell into Heaven."  Everything changed from one moment to the next, but in such a smooth and subtle way that I was not aware of any discontinuity.  I felt myself in the immediate presence of God.  I was aware of His infinite exaltedness, and of His infinite and personal love for me.  I saw my life as though I was looking back on it after death, in His presence, and could see everything which I would be happy about and everything which I would wish I had done differently.  I saw that every action I had ever done mattered, for good or for evil.  I saw that everything which had ever happened in my life had been perfectly designed for my own good from the infinitely wise and loving hand of God, not only including but especially those things which I at the time I thought had been the greatest catastrophes.  I saw that my two greatest regrets when I died would be every moment which I had wasted not doing anything of value in the eyes of God, and all of the time and energy which I had wasted worrying about not being loved when every moment of my existence I was bathed in an infinite sea of love, although unaware of it.  I saw that the meaning and purpose of my life was to worship and serve my Lord and Master, in whose presence I found myself.  I wanted to know His name, so that I could worship Him properly, so that I could follow "His" religion.  I remember silently praying "Tell me your name.  I don't mind if You're Apollo, and I have to become a Roman pagan.  I don't mind if You're Krishna, and I have to become a Hindu.  I don't mind if You're Buddha, and I have to become a Buddhist.  As long as You're not Christ, and I have to become a Christian!" (Jewish readers might be able to identify with this deep-rooted aversion to Christianity, based on the mistaken belief that it was the "enemy" which lay behind two thousand years of persecution of the Jews.)

Not surprisingly, He did not tell me His name. Obviously, I wasn't ready to hear it — my resistance at the time was still too great.  But I knew, from that moment on, the meaning and purpose and goal of my life; and that sense has not faded or wavered, although the immediate state of perception did.

When I got back home, everything was different.  I remember calling my mother and telling her "Mom, I have good news!  It's all true! You don't ever die..."  only to be met with a sort of stony silence.  It had never occurred to me that she might not believe me — after all, I knew from my own direct experience!  Although I went back to my consulting, everything was now different, and I set out on a focused search to find my Lord and Master and God whom I had met on the beach that day.

Because I interpreted the experience as a "mystical" one, I initially looked towards mysticism, which led me to a lot of blind alleys.  Prior to my experience I had not had any interest at all in mysticism or any of the New Age religions or meditative practices or occultism, and those are what I first came across.  I spent a number of months looking in that, essentially Hindu although disguised, direction.

Yet every night before going to sleep, I would say a short prayer to know the name of my Lord and Master and God whom I had met on the beach.  A year to the day after the initial experience, I went to sleep after saying that prayer, and felt as though I was woken by a gentle hand on my shoulder, and escorted to a room where I was left alone with the most beautiful young woman I could imagine.  I knew without being told that she was the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I felt entirely awake (and my memory is as though I had been awake), although I was dreaming.  I remember my first reaction, standing there awed by her presence and grandeur, was wishing I knew at least the Hail Mary so that I could honor her!  She offered to answer any questions I had.  I remember thinking about what to ask, asking the questions, and her answers.  After speaking to me a while longer, the audience was ended.  When I woke the next morning I was hopelessly in love with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and I knew that the God I had met on the beach was Christ, and, and that all I wanted was to be as much of, and as good a, Christian as possible.  I still did not know anything about Christianity, nor the difference between the Catholic Church and any of the hundreds of Protestant denominations.  It took me another two years or so to find my way to the Catholic Church, guided by my love and reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I will just touch briefly on some of the milestones which led me to the Catholic Church.  After the dream of Mary, I started going to a local Protestant Church, but left when I asked the pastor about Mary and he made a disparaging remark.  I started hanging around Marian shrines, particularly a shrine of Our Lady of La Salette which was in Ipswich, Mass., about 40 minutes from my house.  On a winter ski trip to the Alps, I decided to visit the real La Salette apparition site (in the French Alps), and ended up spending the rest of the "ski" trip there, in deep prayer (more details on that stay can be found here).  Someone I met there recommended that I make a visit to a Carthusian monastery, and I ended up doing so, spending a week there, on a kind of solitary "come and see" although I was still Jewish!  There I became aware, for the first time, how the Catholic Church was itself an outgrowth of Judaism.  It was unavoidably obvious, given how the monks spent many hours a day chanting the Old Testament psalms, with their continual references to Israel, Zion, Jerusalem, the Jewish Patriarchs, and the Jewish people, visibly identifying with the "Israel" of the psalms (that is, the Jews).  A small illustration: One day when I was working alone in the fields, an elderly monk came out to speak with me.  He approached and shyly asked, "Tell us, if you don't mind — We couldn't help noticing that you do not receive communion, so you must not be Catholic.  What then are you?"  When I replied "Jewish", he grinned and with a deep sigh said "That's a relief!  We were afraid you were Protestant!".  At the time I had no understanding at all of the difference between Protestants and Catholics — they were just meaningless words to me describing Christians — yet I was deeply struck by the fact that in some mysterious way this monk identified with Jews as opposed to Protestants.  I later realized that in his eyes Jews were "elder brothers in the Faith" who had not yet received the grace to recognize the Messiahship of Jesus, whereas Protestants had once had, but then rejected, the fullness of the truth. 

During that week I grew to feel Mary's central, penetrating presence in the Catholic Church. I also started to be deeply distressed at being unable to receive communion.  It was my desire to receive communion which, more than anything else, drew me to the Baptismal font.   I had sought out a Jewish priest, Father Raphael Simon, (referred to me by the Carthusian Prior) for baptism.  He was a former (Jewish) University of Chicago Philosophy professor and New York City psychiatrist, who became a Trappist monk (his conversion story is published under the title The Glory of Thy People.)  When I first met with him he asked me why I wanted to be baptised.  Since I knew that I couldn't truthfully say (at the time) that it was because I believed in all of Catholic doctrine, I angrily blurted out "Because I want to receive communion and otherwise you won't let me!"  I thought he would throw me out on my ear, but instead he nodded sagely and said "Ah, that's the Holy Spirit at work..."

So in early 1992 I was baptized and confirmed  (by a different priest, as it turned out), just in time for another more extended stay at the Carthusian monastery, to discern whether that was my vocation.  It wasn't (although the Prior continued for many years to be my spiritual director), but the fanaticism which characterized my pre-conversion life has served me well, now that I have found the true direction for my life.

Although I have no religious or priestly vocation, there is (please God) nothing in my life which is not for Him and around Him.  In a number of small ways I am active in the Church, with daily Mass and prayer being at the center of my life — writing, teaching or speaking whenever asked, producing and hosting a Catholic TV talk show.  I have just completed a book on the role of Judaism in salvation history, Salvation is from the Jews, which is being published this year by Ignatius Press.  It should give Christians a deeper understanding of Judaism as the religion which God created to bring about the incarnation of God as man, as well as the religon into which He incarnated. To Jews it should reveal the full glory and importance of Judaism, a glory which can only be recognized in the light of the truths of the Catholic Faith.  My hope is that by illuminating Judaism with a deeper meaning and significance than Jews see from within their own faith, their pride in being Jewish will draw them towards, rather than away from, the Catholic Church. (More details on the book are given elsewhere on this website)

I will never know, this side of Heaven, whose prayers and sacrifices purchased the graces for my entirely unsought after and undeserved conversion, but I can only thank them profoundly, and exhort others, too, to pray for the conversion of the Jews; that the people to whom Jesus first made Himself known may come into the truth and into the fullness of their relationship to Him in the Catholic Church.  How tragic that we to whom God first revealed Himself as Man should be among the last to recognize Him! In the words of the Postulatum from the First Vatican Council, signed by the Fathers of the Council and endorsed by Pope Pius IX (but never formally promulgated due to the Council's premature termination upon the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War):
"The undersigned Fathers of the Council humbly yet urgently beseechingly pray that the Holy Ecumenical Council of the Vatican deign to come to the aid of the unfortunate nation of Israel with an entirely paternal invitation; that is, that it express the wish that, finally exhausted by a wait no less futile than long, the Israelites hasten to recognize the Messiah, our Savior Jesus Christ, truly promised to Abraham and announced by Moses; thus completing and crowning, not changing, the Mosaic religion.

…the undersigned Fathers have the very firm confidence that the holy Council will have compassion on the Israelites, because they are always very dear to God on account of their fathers, and because it is from them that the Christ was born according to the flesh…

Would that they then speedily acclaim the Christ, saying ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed be He who comes in the name of the Lord!

Would that they hurl themselves into the arms of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, even now their sister according to the flesh, who wishes likewise to be their mother according to grace as she is ours!

Our Lady of Zion, pray for us!

To hear a 15 minute extract containing Roy's conversion story, click:

for windows media (should stream automatically)
here for mp3 (might stream automatically)



Roy Schoeman. "Roy Schoeman's Conversion Story." from Christ to the World (July-August 2002): 253-260.

This article reprinted with permission from Roy Schoeman.


Roy Schoeman was born in a suburb of New York City of “Conservative" Jewish parents. Midway through a career of teaching and consulting (he had been appointed to the faculty of the Harvard Business School) he experienced an unexpected and instantaneous conversion to Christianity which led to a dramatic refocus of his activities. Since then he has pursued theological studies at several seminaries, helped produce and host a Catholic Television talk show, and edited and written for several Catholic books and reviews. Roy Schoeman's first book is Salvation is from the Jews.

The purpose of Salvation is from the Jews is to give the Christian reader a deeper understanding of Judaism, both as a religion in itself and as a central component of Christian salvation, and to reveal to the Jewish reader the incomprehensible importance and glory which Jews and Judaism most truly have; a glory and importance which is only revealed in the light of the Catholic faith. It traces the role of Judaism and the Jewish people in God’s plan for the salvation of all mankind from Abraham through the Second Coming, as revealed by the Catholic faith and by a thoughtful examination of history, showing the infinite nobility and importance which Judaism has as God’s own religion, and the unique and central role it has in the destiny of all of creation. Repeatedly it demonstrates that rather than debasing Judaism or Jews, true Christianity ennobles them to a far greater degree than even Judaism itself does. It documents that throughout history attacks on Jews and Judaism have been rooted not in Christianity, but in the most anti-Christian of forces.

The structure of the book is chronological, tracing the interaction between God and man which takes place through Judaism and the Jewish people. The analysis is woven around the interplay of God, the Jewish people, the Messiah, the Gentiles, and the adversary of man’s salvation. Central themes include the Messianic expectation in Jewish theology, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust in the economy of salvation, and the roles played by the State of Israel, Islam, and Arab anti-Semitism in the Second Coming.

Copyright © 2004 Roy Schoeman

14 posted on 10/10/2008 4:13:16 PM PDT by NYer ("Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ." - St. Jerome)
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To: blasater1960

Few religious Jews convert, but it does happen every once in a while.

15 posted on 10/10/2008 4:28:30 PM PDT by vladimir998 (Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. St. Jerome)
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To: NYer

Thanks again. You made my day.

16 posted on 10/10/2008 5:08:45 PM PDT by marron
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To: Brian S. Fitzgerald

I believe Jesus did know the Torah. Not Paul.

17 posted on 10/10/2008 6:21:00 PM PDT by blasater1960 ( Dt 30, Ps 111, The Torah is perfect, attainable, now and forever)
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To: Pyro7480
No, I question his exegesis of the Hebrew scriptures and /or his his mental state.

Give his peculiar position and such I can see how something like that could happen but again, not to offend, I just dont believe it was a mystical event with Hashem....

18 posted on 10/10/2008 6:27:54 PM PDT by blasater1960 ( Dt 30, Ps 111, The Torah is perfect, attainable, now and forever)
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To: NYer

I read a book of his called “The Nazarene,” which included several essays on topics of Biblical interpretation. He was incredibly erudite, and there was a true sense of holiness, that God was the center of his existence and everything else on the periphery.

19 posted on 10/10/2008 7:15:14 PM PDT by Tax-chick (GUNS are what real women want for Christmas.)
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To: blasater1960
No offense but I dont think the Rabbi knew his Torah very well, nor Tanach. No orthodox Jew who knows Torah and Hebrew would ever convert...unless he is not in control of his faculties....

He knew his Torah and Tanakh perfectly well enough, and saw in Christ their perfect Fulfillment. In a spirit of charity, I will ignore the insinuation of the inherent irrationality of Christianity in your last phrase.

20 posted on 10/10/2008 7:15:19 PM PDT by magisterium
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