An Adventure with Jesus. By Marcia R. Rudin Present Tense, the Magazine of World Jewish Affairs. Summer 1977, Vol 4 (4).

An Adventure with Jesus. By Marcia R. Rudin
Present Tense, the Magazine of World Jewish Affairs.
Summer 1977, Vol 4 (4).

"An Adventure with Jesus"
It is 6 p.m. on a beautiful spring Saturday, moments before Jack Hickman's "Havdalah" service--which, among Jews, marks the end of the Sabbath and the beginning of the new week. Young men carrying walkie-talkies are standing guard around the Lutheran church in East Meadow, Long Island. Inside, other boys, at approximately six-foot intervals, line the walls of its large gymnasium.
About 500 people are there, nearly everyone sitting on the floor. Men and women are segregated. All the men wear yarmulkes; many of the women wear Mogen David necklaces or mezuzas.  One little girl sports in her pierced ears tiny dangling Mogen Davids which match her Mogen David necklace.
The crowd consists primarily of the teenagers, college students and young families with small children. Mothers with tiny babies look down on the proceedings from the glass wall of the nursery room above. (Colored letters spell out "An Adventure with Jesus" on the the nursery wall.) Small children are held on their mothers' laps or sit alone, dispersed throughout the crowd. There are some middle-aged, but only one or two old people. The group is middle-class, wholesome, clean-cut' it contains one black girl and a smattering of Orientals.
Everyone listens raptly and participates enthusiastically in the nearly two-hour service, most faces reflecting joy. Clearly, practically all of these people have been here many times before and know the procedure well.
In the center of the room are a temporary Ark, and a large square platform which functions as a bema, decorated with blue candles at each corner. A band plays Hebrew folk songs; everyone sings along and claps enthusiastically. Dancers leap onto the bema and perform Israeli-style folk dances.
Reverend Jack (Abba) Hickman begins his sermon. He is a heavy-set, bearded, middle-aged man, in an open necked sportshirt. His approach is causal and informal. Several young girls pull out Bibles and notebooks. They take notes as he begins his talk.
Hickman starts with a scripture reading from the New Testament, then rambles on for a half hour. God is a Living God, he says, working miracles in the world. (He frequently refers to God as "Ha Shem" -- "The Name.") God promised that the living Spirit would come into the world, and he has kept that promise. The Commandments and the Law are a means to an end only. One must believe and have faith. God is an exciting God--we never know quite what he is going to do-- "whether he is going to send us to the ovens or part the Red Sea for us." God's purpose can't be realized within the Christian Church or by Jews, but only by people dedicated to His Purpose. We must be ready to do whatever had to be done for the Plan, we must be ready to make any sacrifice, to give ourselves completely, to "proceed with absolute faith."
Jesus is mentioned only once, and then Hickman refers to him as "Yeshua." (Nor are Jesus, or "savior" or "Messiah" mentioned elsewhere in the entire service.)
After the sermon the singing resumes again, and then the audience forms small clusters, holding hands, their arms around each other. They close their eyes and being to pray. Hickman puts a large talis over his head and circles the bema. Then he blesses a large container of wine, and aides pour it into smaller goblets which are passed along to the group. A young man distributes pieces of a huge challah. All eat and sip together communally.
Hickman loudly sings a sort of chant praising and reciting Hebrew names for God. Individuals spontaneously repeat his phrases. One person offers an informal prayer, another quotes a scriptural passage. Everyone sways, eyes closed. Some people hum. Faces reflect ecstasy.
All then turn to face the Ark. It is thrown open; one glimpses the Torahs inside. The band once again plays joyous Hebrew songs. Everyone sings and claps, then raises his arms to the Ark. There is a loud cheer.
The service is over.
Friends greet each other; there is much chatting and laughing. They seem very close. No one approaches to welcome me, an obvious stranger--nor am I given material about the group or solicited to join it. I see a long line and follow it to table containing four bowls, two for general contributions and two labelled "tithes." The bowl is overflow with checks.
Outside, people are still lingering. Children romp on the ample church lawn. The sun is beginning to set.

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