Rabbi Joseph Teischman

From Rabbis meet Jesus the Messiah – a collection of 24 biographies and testimonies of Rabbis encounters with Jesus the Messiah

© Messianic Good News.

Joseph Teischman was born and raised the son of an Orthodox Rabbi in New York City. He followed in his father’s footsteps by also receiving smichah (ordination) as an Orthodox Rabbi. But unlike his father, Joseph also earned a doctorate in the field of psychology. When he found himself unable to continue believing the teachings of Orthodox Judaism, he decided to leave and join the Conservative movement. His wife refused to leave the protective Orthodox community. She and their young children remained in Brooklyn, while Joseph went to California and eventually became the Rabbi of the Conservative synagogue in Fresno.

Some time later, Rabbi Teischman moved to Reno to take the pulpit of the Conservative synagogue there. In that neon lit town of gambling and instant weddings, Joseph became friends with a former pastor who began ministering to him.

With the help of one or two others, Joseph made a definite decision for Jesus. He began to study the New Testament and grow in his faith. Sometimes he would quietly slip into the back of a church to hear the sermon. But he kept his faith in Jesus a carefully guarded secret … until his urgent meeting with Moishe Rosen at Jews for Jesus Headquarters in San Francisco. He appeared to be in deep distress and confided that he was a Rabbi who believed that Jesus is the Messiah. He went on to state that he served a Conservative synagogue in Reno and had not been able to tell his congregation about his faith and questioned whether he should resign or should he begin preaching about his faith from the pulpit! Joseph was tremendously burdened and admitted that he had for almost two years wrestled with the problem which was wearing him down; but he had to find some relief by confessing to another Jew that he believed in Jesus. He asked for prayer.

The rest of the afternoon was spent discussing the Rabbi’s pilgrimage to faith and his hopes and aspirations for serving the Lord in the future. He affirmed his belief that Jesus is God come in the flesh and that He died for his sin and rose from the dead and he considered himself to be a born again Christian. His favourite book of the New Testament was Galatians and the Rabbi described how he felt about being freed from the Law through Y’shua. Jesus had driven away the doubts which used to gnaw at him about his standing before God. The problem was no longer where he stood with God, but where he stood with the Jewish community. Joseph felt torn. He desperately wanted to grow in his faith but knew that his walk with Y’shua might take him on a path utterly unacceptable to his family, friends, associates and fellow members of his chosen profession. The very real possibility of losing everything he had worked so hard for depressed and frightened him.

After months of visits and lengthy phone calls, Joseph began to consider confessing his faith at his synagogue. He knew this would mean the immediate termination of his career (What an horrific prospect for a man in his mid fifties). His numerous obligations included college tuition for his children, who were so very important to him.

“Jews for Jesus” offered to help the Rabbi attend an evangelical seminary as a believer in Jesus. Joseph knew that he needed the education but remarked that it would be difficult to return to school after so many years as a Rabbi.

Rabbi Teischman truly loved the Lord but could not seem to overcome his struggle to profess his faith publicly. When he was asked how he managed to maintain his silence when people came to him for spiritual counselling, he gave an anguished stare and said that it caused him great personal grief, knowing that Jesus could help the person, but felt that he was unable to tell them so. Yet he still found ways to encourage some people in their pursuit of Y’shua.

An interesting call was received one morning from a Jewish woman who had attended Rabbi Teischman’s synagogue on Yom Kippur. She had received Jesus as her atonement the previous morning, and felt compelled to go to synagogue for the high holy day.

After the service, she felt that she should tell the Rabbi about her decision. She was amazed when he seemed sympathetic to her new faith and gave her “Jews for Jesus” telephone number.

She called to tell them about her decision for Y’shua and to ask if they thought that the Rabbi might be open to the Gospel. All could not be disclosed to her but she was encouraged to keep in touch with the Rabbi and to pray for him.

Concerning his future ministry, once he had finished a year at an evangelical seminary, Joseph expressed the desire to being called to the Gentiles like the apostle Paul; but it was pointed out to him that although Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, he still continued preaching the Gospel to Jewish people first, addressing non Jews once he had fulfilled his obligation to his own people. Joseph became downcast, not that he disliked his people but felt anguish at the thought of how they would reject him. He was an honest and sensitive man. Yet he was ready to endure the pain of the initial exclusion from his beloved Jewish community for the sake of the Saviour, knowing that he could not ignore the need of his own people hearing the Gospel. He continued his struggle with this and began preparing himself to visit the seminary recommended to him, and finally agreed to visit with the dean. Flights had been arranged; but the night he was due to leave he cancelled, admitting that he could not carry through with it. He knew that once he stepped outside, he would be treated like an outsider and he simply could not face the risks in following Y’shua “outside the camp”. He admitted that he could not do what God was asking of him and asked for prayer that one day he would have the strength to do so.

One day, the former minister who had helped Joseph find the Lord called “Jews for Jesus” office. He mentioned that Rabbi Teischman’s sermon for the last Friday night Shabbat service had relied heavily on the New Testament. The Rabbi was said to have been in great distress. That night, Rabbi Joseph Teischman went home and died of heart failure. He was only 57 years old.

There could have been several medical reasons for Joseph’s untimely death. He was not obese, but he was a heavy smoker and perhaps the cigarettes led to heart disease. His regular medical examinations indicated that his blood pressure was a bit high, but the doctors had not warned that a heart attack was imminent: But there was a heart problem that the doctors did not know about. Rabbi Teischman was aching to proclaim that he had become a follower of Jesus. As his faith grew, his need to tell about it also grew. Yet he could not face losing his job, losing the respect of the Jewish community and the possibility that his children might decide to have nothing more to do with him. He was too much of an insider to imagine that his decision for Christ would be tolerated. He was a man with a lot to lose, and he could not bring himself to let go. The pressure was killing him.

The man who had prayed with Joseph was one of several who spoke at his funeral, which was attended by many Rabbis and Jewish community leaders. Rabbi Teischman’s faith in Y’shua was alluded to at that time. It did not seem to surprise many. His friends had known that he had been repressing something. They just did not know what it was until his death.

As far as is known, Rabbi Teischman’s faith in Y’shua was chalked up to “personal problems,” and the lips of his corpse could not declare otherwise. But his death was a profound lesson to those who knew that he really loved Y’shua. For whatever might be said about Joseph, it appears that he died of a broken heart, broken because he felt unable to do what he most desired, which was to serve the Lord.

Reprinted from Jews for Jesus,
60 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 5895

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