If you have ever attended a Messianic Passover Seder, it is likely that you have found your faith in Messiah transformed in some life-changing way. Perhaps the presentation deepened your understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps it helped you more fully grasp the connection between the promises of the Hebrew Scriptures and their fulfillment in the New Testament. Or perhaps it was at a Messianic Passover celebration that you, like many others, gave your life to Messiah for the first time or rededicated your life to the Lord.
For some of our Russian staff members, Passover has been a time when they have not only encountered Messiah, but also found new meaning in their long-suppressed Jewish identity. Here are some of their stories.
Boris Goldin — Seeing Passover in a Different Light
Boris Goldin emigrated from Kiev, Ukraine to Brooklyn, New York and came to faith in Messiah after his wife, Shulamit, became a believer in Yeshua (Jesus). At first Boris resisted her witness and argued vehemently with her. But after a year and a half of searching, Boris came to understand the truth of the Gospel and received Messiah. Boris is now on staff with Chosen People Ministries, serving the Lord among Russian-speaking Jewish people in South Florida and leading a Bible study at our Messianic Center in Boynton Beach.
“I remember as a boy in Ukraine, we had pieces of matza (unleavened bread) that we kept hidden for Passover — but that’s all I remember about it. Father smuggled it into the house lest the Soviet authorities find out. There was one small synagogue in Kiev and my grandfather took me, but there were never people my age there. I celebrated my first Passover as a believer at a Seder led by Mitch Glaser in Brooklyn in 1993. I was able to recognize the Messiah in the Seder in so many aspects of Yeshua’s life, death and resurrection. The lighting of the candles, the bitterness of the horseradish—I started to see it all in a different light. Before I became a believer, I read Isaiah 53 and it had a great effect on me. Now I was able to see the relationship between the Passover and the Suffering Servant described in that chapter. Probably the most meaningful thing for me was the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the third cup, the Cup of Redemption. This to me is the most sacred part of the Seder; it is like a reenactment of the Father sending the Son into the world as both sacrifice and redeemer.”
Maxim K. — Surprised by Passover
In 1996, Maxim became one of the many citizens of the former Soviet Union who made aliyah (immigrated) to Israel. He came to believe in Messiah in the city of Eilat in southern Israel four years later. Maxim has been a part of Chosen People Ministries for eight years now, working in children’s ministry as well as with young adults. He also reaches out to Holocaust survivors.
“Back in Russia, I knew nothing about Passover. The first time I celebrated Passover was in a Messianic congregation in Eilat. I was surprised to understand the meaning of Passover for the Jewish people, the meaning of the sacrifices on behalf of Israel, and the meaning of the Passover Lamb as a sign of the coming Messiah. For me, as a believer and as a Jew, Passover brings an insight into the sacrifice of Messiah. By learning the story of Exodus, I also understood a deeper meaning of this feast in my own life. When I learned about Yeshua as the Passover Lamb, and compared His sacrifice with the sacrificial lamb of Passover, I was even more assured that the Scriptures are God’s Word and are trustworthy!”
Luda Ford — A Family Celebration
Born into a Bukharan Jewish family in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Luda immigrated to New Zealand in 1979. There she studied English with a woman who used the Bible as a teaching tool, and she became a believer in 1982. Sensing a calling from God to go to Israel, she moved there in 1989. Later, after pursuing Jewish studies at Moody Bible Institute, she joined Chosen People Ministries’ staff in 1999. Luda and her husband, Randall, currently minister among the Bukharan Jewish community in Queens, New York.
“Growing up in Uzbekistan, we were not very religious. I only have a hazy memory that we ate matza at Passover because we were Jewish. After I became a believer, I heard teachings about Passover, but I didn’t have many feelings about it. It was only when I actually celebrated it in a home with believing friends in Jerusalem that Passover became real to me, and I found that it was very beautiful. What is most meaningful to me about Passover is enjoying it as a family celebration. I also see it as a great connection between Jewish believers in Yeshua and the rest of the Jewish people. The message of the Messiah becomes more significant with each passing year, as we speak about it and share wonderful family time when we celebrate it.”
Rita Ivenskis — Coming Home Through Passover
Rita Ivenskis was born in Ukraine and immigrated to Australia in 1979. She came to faith in 1991 through the witness of a good friend. Rita has served on the staff of Celebrate Messiah, Chosen People Ministries’ Australian ministry partner, for the past fourteen years as a missionary and teacher in the Russian Jewish community. Her husband, Elia, is also a believer, and Elia’s father, a Holocaust survivor, received Messiah shortly before he passed away last year. Rita’s parents also came to faith before they died.
“Although I knew I was Jewish, I had no background whatsoever in the observances of Judaism as I grew up in Ukraine. My grandfather was killed in the War and I think that Ukrainian Jewish people of my parents’ generation were simply afraid to live as observant Jews. The first time I celebrated Passover was with Lawrence and Louise Hirsch at Celebrate Messiah in 1996. It was something very special. I felt like I belonged to the Jewish people — that after years of wandering in the wilderness, I had finally come home to God. The Feast of Passover helped me understand my Jewish soul and identity, through my relationship with Messiah. Passover reminds me that Jesus is my Messiah and the Passover Lamb. He is the atonement for my sins and through Him, I have this wonderful relationship with God. I can talk with Him every day — and know that He hears and answers my prayers.”