Rabbi Harold Vallins – Born April 6, 1941, Died June 2, 2009
Rabbi Harold Vallins died in his room at Gracecourt Aged Care, in Kew, Melbourne, Australia, on Tuesday June 2nd, 2009.
Note regarding the Funeral for Harold Vallins: Memorial Service for Rabbi Harold is Tuesday 8th June at Beit HaMashiach congregation, 206 Bambra Rd, South Caulfield
This tribute to the Life of Rabbi Harold Vallins includes an article published about him in the July 2000 issue of Alive Magazine followed by his own testimony.
Rabbi Harold Vallins became a follower of Jesus Christ as his Messiah in February 1998.
Consequently people referred to him as a “Christian Rabbi”, but he preferred to identify himself as a “Completed Jew”.
This summary of the moving story of Rabbi Harold Vallins was originally published in the July 2000 issue of Alive Magazine.
What happens when a modern-day Jewish rabbi accepts Jesus into his life? For Rabbi Harold Vallins of Melbourne it caused great suffering-the loss of his wife, his congregation and many of his friends. Yet it has also brought about the deep-seated feeling that through taking Jesus as his Messiah his Judaism has been fulfilled.
And he has found his suffering and loneliness more than offset by the love of Jesus. “I now have more friends than ever before,” he notes. “I have more sense of purpose and direction. Whatever pit you fall into, Jesus provides something to hang on to. I’ve gotten past the pain.”
The story of Rabbi Harold Vallins, 59, is a profoundly moving one, an inspiring example of the hand of God at work in the life of an individual, the life of the community and the life of His church.
It is a story that is increasingly being heard, as Harold responds to a growing number of invitations to speak at churches in Australia and abroad. Many more people have been exposed to his testimony on tapes or via the internet. (Parts of this article are drawn from that testimony.)
Born in Britain during World War II into a Jewish family, Harold was to develop something of a love-hate relationship with his religion. He spent much of his teenage years as – in his own words – a “confirmed fanatical atheist”. But a young and dynamic rabbi who showed him how Judaism could be open, wonderful and loving brought him back into the fold, to the extent that he enrolled for eight years of full-time study at the Leo Baeck Theological College of Judaic Studies in London. This culminated in his ordination as a rabbi in 1970.
Service in several London synagogues followed, and then in 1981 he responded to a call to move to Australia and to lead a congregation in the southern suburbs of Melbourne. Sadly the move was not good for his marriage, and he was divorced in 1983. There were further challenges, as differences with his colleagues led to his being voted out of his position. He helped form a new synagogue, Bet Hatikvah (House of Hope), and he also remarried.
He formed a strong friendship with a neighbouring Church of Christ minister. Through the exchange of ideas and philosophies he sometimes came to feel he had more in common with this man than with his fellow rabbis. Blessed with an ever-enquiring mind, he also began to explore Eastern religions.
Then in late-1997 he noted the “complete change of character” of a member of his congregation, transformed into a soft, kind and compassionate man. It transpired that this person had joined a morning prayer group made up of followers of Jesus. Harold pestered to be allowed to attend.
“What really impressed me about this group was their sincere and impromptu prayers, not read from prayer books”, writes Harold in his testimony. “After a few weeks I was asked to conclude the breakfast with a prayer, and I freaked out. I had no prayer book with me and not the faintest idea of what to say.
“I desperately tried to remember some of the prayers I had heard so I could use their words. At the end I found myself concluding with the words, ‘Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.’
“It took me a week to recover from that. I didn’t dare tell anyone what I had done. I had been brought up never to mention the name of Jesus and now I had prayed to Him. I decided the best thing to do was to stay quiet about the whole thing and not say a word to anyone.”
But God’s plans were to become most clearly evident some weeks later, when Harold travelled to Washington DC with members of the prayer group for a five-day prayer and worship convention. On the evening of the third day something startling occurred.
“As the prayer was being recited I felt as though I was being transformed onto another plane of life. I suddenly knew that Jesus was in the room with us. I could actually feel Jesus come and stand behind me and put His hand upon my shoulder. And I could hear myself saying, inside my head, ‘Jesus, you are my Messiah, my Lord, my Saviour.’ I felt tears in my eyes and felt my whole body was trembling.”
The next day a lady suddenly approached and said the Lord had instructed her to hand Harold a piece of paper. On it was written “Jeremiah 1:4,10“. Harold, who had written his main rabbinical thesis on “The Life and the Personal Inner Struggles of the Prophet Jeremiah”, felt sure that God was calling him to renew and reform his religious life.
Then, on the following day, during a visit to Washington’s Holocaust Museum, another woman abruptly drew near, with another slip of paper. She said the Lord had urged her to pass on a message. On the paper was written: “Jeremiah 31:31-33“. Recalls Harold: “It was obvious to me now that God was directing me along a completely new path. I went back to the hotel and prayed and thanked God.”
The climax to this extraordinary sequence of events came on the final night. “I felt something stir inside me. I suddenly found myself walking onto the stage and right up to where the speaker was speaking. He finally gave me the chance to address the audience and I told them that I was a rabbi and that I had just become aware of who Jesus was and that I accepted him into my life as my Saviour and Messiah.
“I also remember announcing that I had become a disciple of Jesus but that I needed their prayers as I had to go home and tell my wife and family, synagogue and community. I was very emotional and all I can remember is that everyone was standing and that this incredible love was being poured over me.”
His homecoming was difficult. He was forced to resign his position, leaving many in his congregation feeling betrayed, and he lost many of his dear friends. His wife – pregnant with their second child – was devastated by the news, and the marriage collapsed.
Yet amidst the pain was some joy. He learned that his brother in Canada had also accepted Jesus into his life. More recently, his son from his first marriage has begun to follow Jesus. At critical times individuals or organisations have come forward with crucial financial support. “So far, Jesus has been a most fantastic employer”, he says.
He is also learning that God’s plans for him may not be what he first expected. “I used to think I had one ambition – to bring Jewish people to Jesus. But since going around many churches I find a lot of Christian people have a very simplistic view of Jesus and what He’s done for them.
“A lot of Christians automatically ask me, ‘When did you become a Christian?’ But I’m not a Christian. I’m a Jew and will always remain a Jew. I’ve become a Jewish follower of a Jewish Messiah. I’m a fulfilled Jew, a completed Jew. My Judaism has become far more complete. Love has been added. Jesus added love to Judaism. I am sure if you had asked Paul he would have said the same. Jesus helped fulfil his Judaism. He made it more complete. I don’t think Jesus talked about setting up a new religion.
“The things I say are often more meaningful for Christian people than for Jews. When Christians hear me talk about Jesus and see how He really enhanced Judaism they see more value in their own walk with Jesus. So when I go to churches now I don’t just talk about my own background. I talk about the Jewish background of Jesus and how He affects all our lives.”
His message is varied. For example, he has written a “Passover Haggadah“, a 24-page booklet to help Christians understand-and participate in-the traditional Jewish Passover ceremony, called the Seder. He often visits churches to lead congregations in a Passover celebration.
“Christians may take communion, but perhaps only 10 per cent realise that communion comes from the Passover meal,” he notes. “When Jesus drank the wine and ate unleavened bread he was taking part in a Seder. It must have been so significant for Him that His last supper was a Passover celebration, which is a meal of freedom. When I lead a Seder Christians see how Jesus is in the Passover, and therefore in the communion.”
Harold notes that through His death on the cross, Jesus completed Judaism by making it possible for God to forgive us.
“A Jew can hope and pray to be forgiven of sins, but is never certain of this. It is only through Jesus’ death that we can be sure of God’s forgiveness. Many Christians believe Jesus died on the cross just to prove He could beat death. But it wasn’t only that. When Christians learn about the Jewish attitude to forgiveness they understand Jesus much more deeply.”
Harold is also able to explain to Christians about the manner in which so many of the prophecies of the Old Testament, especially those of Isaiah, point to Jesus.
“It is so plain and stark how Jesus was being prophesied,” he says. “But also so evident is the intransigence of the Jews in not believing this. Which is what I used to do. Thankfully my eyes have been opened.”
Personal Testimony of Rabbi Harold Vallins.
I was born on the 6th April 1941 and for the first four years of my life, I, and my brother Michael, (less than a year younger than me) lived in Wales. Sadly my father died when I was only four years old and the family then moved back to London in 1944.
My mother married again and the family moved to Ilford in Essex just outside of London. It was here that we stayed for the rest of our childhood. My family belonged to an Orthodox synagogue although they we were not Orthodox in practice. We attended the Synagogue on the main festival days and little else. My brother and I attended cheder (religious classes) and there we were taught to read Hebrew as well as learning about Jewish customs and rituals.
After the war, news filtered through that the Jewish population of Europe had been decimated we began to see the horrific photographs of the concentration camps. We blamed Christianity for the Holocaust. So it was no wonder that we grew up not wanting anything to do with Jesus or Christianity.
I had my Bar Mitzvah at the age of thirteen, but because of the terribly cruel way my Rabbi treated me, I left the synagogue and vowed never to return. For the next seven years, I remained a confirmed “fanatical atheist.” Then I met and fell in love with a girl who asked me to accompany her to a dance that was being held at her Synagogue youth club. I told her that I had vowed never to enter a Synagogue again. She gave me a choice: “Come with me to my club or we don’t go out together!” Well, being a man of high principle — I went to the Synagogue with her!
It was a Reform Synagogue and it was there that I met a young and dynamic rabbi who showed me that Judaism could be open, wonderful, loving and kind. Rabbi Dow (pronounced Dov) showed me a God who was kind and merciful and he got me talking with God again. I was so impressed with this Rabbi and synagogue that I eventually took over the running of his youth group and four year later I enrolled at the Leo Baeck Theological College of Judaic Studies in London. After eight long years of full time study, I was finally ordained as a Rabbi in 1970.
My first synagogue was a bad experience. I found the congregation to be very reactionary and very hostile to people who wanted to convert to Judaism. It came to a head when one member of the congregation asked me to conduct a funeral service for his son who wanted to marry a non-Jewish girl. I refused and a furious disagreement broke out that eventuated in my leaving.
I was truly broken, angry with God and disillusioned and very depressed. In October 1972 I returned to London and was admitted into hospital with a nervous breakdown. Later, after being threatened with electric shock treatment, I discharged myself from that hospital. I then met a wonderful therapist Irene Bloomfield, and the next two years of my life were among the best I can remember. With her kindness and her wonderful knowledge, I discovered many of my weaknesses and my strengths and I eventually trained with Irene to become a counselor myself.
In 1974, I took a position as Rabbi in a synagogue in the East End of London. At the same time, I married my first wife, Naomi, and we settled down and had two children Daniel and Nina. In 1981, we responded to an invitation to move to Australia and lead a congregation in the southern suburbs of Melbourne. Sadly, the move to Australia did not have a good effect upon my marriage and my wife and I were divorced in 1983. However, we remained good friends and we agreed to share equal custody of our children.
It was during this time that I met Rev Gerald Rose, a minister at a nearby Church of Christ. We met regularly and established a very close friendship. Gerald came to speak at my synagogue and he invited me to speak in his church. It was a very nourishing exchange of ideas and philosophies. Truly, I began to feel as if I had far more in common with Gerald than I did with my own Rabbinical colleagues.
These differences with my own colleagues eventuated in my being voted out of my congregation. However, the families that supported me asked me to start a new synagogue and in 1991 the Bet Hatikvah (House of Hope) Synagogue was formed.
It was here that I met and married Johanne in 1992 and in 1995, God blessed us with a beautiful boy called Akiva. It was during this time that I began to explore alternative religions and philosophies. I met with a Japanese group called Sukyo Mahikari and an Indian group who followed the teaching of Sai Baba. These groups taught me about humility and the universality of religion.
It was in November 1997, that I noticed my friend and member of the congregation, Brian, undergoing a complete change of character. He had been a very hardheaded businessman and I began to see a much softer, more compassionate person emerging. When I asked him what was causing the change, he was somewhat reluctant to discuss it. I pestered him about it and eventually he told me that he had attended a Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC and that as a result he was now meeting with a group of men once a week for breakfast, Bible-study and prayer.
This interested me a great deal and I asked if I could come. Brian said, “No!” I pestered him for a few weeks until he finally relented and let me attend a meeting. I found the group was made up of followers of Jesus, which was why Brian had been a little reluctant to invite me. But instead of being turned off, I really enjoyed the experience and became a regular attendee.
I now found myself being forced to confront all my earlier concepts about Jesus. I had already begun to question my inner-feelings about Jesus through my friendship with Gerald Rose, but these remained inner-questions and I had never publicly expressed these thoughts.
What really impressed me about this group were the sincere and impromptu prayers that they offered and which were not read from any prayer-books. This was strange to me for Jews have always read their prayers from a prayer book. Impromptu prayer in Judaism, was a rare event. But these men recited their prayers from their hearts, as if they were “chatting” with God or Jesus rather than reciting.
After a few weeks, I was asked to conclude the breakfast with a prayer. I freaked out! I had no Prayer Book with me and I had not the faintest idea of what to say. I desperately tried to remember some of the prayers I had heard and used as many of their words as I could. As I came to the end, I found myself concluding the prayer with the words, “Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
It took me a week to recover from that! I didn’t dare tell anyone what I had done. I had been brought up never to mention the name of Jesus and now I had prayed to “Him!”
I decided the best thing to do was to stay quiet about the whole thing are not to say a word to anyone.
Some weeks later, I was invited by the members of my prayer group to go with them to the U.S. Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. It was to be one of the most significant journeys I had ever undertaken.
On the 3rd day of our visit we met up with all the other delegates from our region and we had a wonderful meal after which we all sat around in a circle and each person gave some of their background to the group. At the end of the evening, we all stood up and held hands as we were led in prayer. As the prayer was being recited I felt as though I was being transformed onto another plane of life. I suddenly knew that Jesus was in the room with us.
I could actually feel Jesus come and stand behind me and put His hand upon my shoulder. And I could hear myself saying, inside my head, “Jesus, you are my Messiah, my Lord, my Saviour!” I felt tears in my eyes and felt my whole body was trembling. It was such a unique and awe-inspiring moment. But I still did not tell anyone. I was unsure? Unconvinced? I guess I was very afraid.
The next day, as I was coming into the hotel, a lady came up to me and gave me a piece of paper. She said that the Lord had urged her to give it to me. I opened up the folded sheet and on it was written: Jeremiah 1: 4-5 & 9-10.
Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” She could not have known that I had written my main Rabbinical thesis on “The Life and the Personal Inner Struggles of the Prophet Jeremiah.”
I felt that this was a message from God. He was calling me to pluck up and pull down, destroy and overthrow all that I had learnt so far about my religious life. Only after that would I be able to build and to plant. I experienced a little of what Moses had felt that day he stood before the burning bush; how Jeremiah felt when he was being called. I was very anxious and worried.
The next day, I decided to go to visit the Holocaust Museum. I felt that it was a chance for me to get back in touch with reality; with my Jewish roots. After all, the Holocaust was one of the prime causes of much of the animosity felt by the Jews towards the Christians. Perhaps I would feel the same?
Whilst I was walking around the museum another woman, a complete stranger, came and asked me if I was the Rabbi from Melbourne. When I told her who I was, she also gave me a piece of paper saying that the Lord had urged her to give me this message. I opened up the folded piece of paper and it read: Jeremiah 31:31-33.
The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD.
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
It was obvious to me now that God was directing me along a completely new path. I went back to the hotel and prayed and thanked God. God was putting a new heart in me and was showing me a new path, a path that I was to walk with God’s son, Jesus. Strangely, I felt somewhat numb, as if this experience was not supposed to happen to someone like me. I wasn’t at all sure how to react and I was still very anxious. I had accepted Jesus as my Messiah and my Saviour, but what was supposed to happen next?
The next day I took myself off to the Holocaust museum again. I had this strong urge to know and understand why I had grown up blaming Jesus and Christianity for the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Holocaust, and yet here I was, willing to accept Jesus as my Messiah. The whole history of persecution that the Jews had suffered came pouring into my brain. Where was Justice? Where was Goodness? Where was Love? Where, oh where was God?
On the last night of the Presidential Prayer Breakfast they held a special “Family Dinner”. I found my mind wandering and I began to see those terrible scenes I had witnessed at the Holocaust Museum. But then, I felt something stir inside me. Amidst all the euphoria of the Family Dinner, I had received just small glimpse of why it all happened and I had a great urge to tell everyone what I had come to realise.
I suddenly found myself walking on to the stage right up to where the speaker was speaking. He finally gave me a chance to address the audience and I told them that I was a Rabbi and that I had just become aware of whom Jesus was and accepted him into my life as my Saviour and Messiah. I also explained to them my struggle with the Holocaust and that I had just come to realise that what had happened was that too many people, across the face of Europe, had removed God from their lives. When a whole community, country remove God and Jesus from their lives, they become capable of inflicting the most indescribable evil upon each other. Life without God has no meaning, no value and therefore, human beings also come to have no value if the propaganda is skilfully used.
I also remember announcing that although I had become a disciple of Jesus, I would need their prayers as I had to return home and tell my wife and family, Synagogue and community. I was very emotional and all I can remember is that everyone was standing and that this incredible love was being poured over me. It was truly overwhelming and has been ever since.
The next day I had to begin my journey home, such a changed person from the Harold who had come to Washington. On the way home to Australia, I stopped off first in London to see my mother. However, try as I might, I just could not bring himself to tell her. She was not in the best of health and I was afraid that at her age, she would find it too much of a terrible shock. So I left London without telling her.
I then went to Toronto to visit my brother, Michael. I spent a whole day praying that Jesus would give me the right words to say. Just after dinner I finally announced, “Michael, I have to tell you that I have accepted Jesus into my life as my Messiah and my Saviour and that I am now a follower of Jesus.” Mike, his wife, Chris and their three children all jumped up and exclaimed, “Halleluyah! We have been praying for this for years!”
I was dumbfounded and asked: “What do you mean?” He replied, “I’ve been a believer for over twelve years!” “How come you didn’t tell me before?” I asked. Mike quickly answered: “I should tell my brother, a Rabbi, that I believe in Jesus? Well, we all laughed and celebrated and gave praise and thanks to the Lord. It was an amazing week I spent with them.
However, when I returned to Australia and told my wife, Johanne, she was devastated. Johanne is very committed to Judaism and her pain was compounded by the fact that she was the cantor at the Bet Hatikvah Synagogue. When my congregation found out, they felt they had no alternative but to ask me to resign. They were very bewildered and hurt. They felt betrayed and thoroughly let down. I lost many friends within the congregation and more as the news began to spread.
It was amazing though, that one of the members of Bet Hatikvah, Ike, offered me a job because he knew I would have no income. Without Ike’s generosity and altruism, I would have been in serious difficulty and I praise the Lord that he moved Ike in such a way.
It was soon after this that I first heard the term, “Messianic Jews” and I found myself attending a conference of Messianic Jews in America. It was a great experience and I discovered that it was not only possible to remain Jewish and still have Jesus as my Messiah, but that it was also highly desirable. After all, Jesus was a Jewish Messiah and all His early followers were Jewish. Jesus did not come to abolish Judaism but to fulfil it. When the blindfold is removed, it is just awesome to see Jesus prophesied in the Old Testament; and to see Jesus in each of the Jewish festivals giving them new meaning, new life. In other words, I have not ceased being a Jew, but now, I am a complete Jew believing in a Jewish Messiah.
I have now found a wonderful family in the ministry of Celebrate Messiah and in the congregation of Beit HaMashiach. I have met a wonderful man, Lawrence Hirsch, who is the director and founder of Celebrate Messiah. He, His wife Louise and their children, Asher, Sarah, Jesse and Liorah are very special people and they have given me so much love and support. It is a real pleasure and a great joy to be working with Lawrence and Louise.
I have dedicated this year to learning more about Jesus and my new-found faith. I have become a student at the Tabor College and am studying two subjects this semester; Christology and Introduction to the New Testament. So far the lessons have been all that I could have wished for. It is a lot of hard work, essays to write and much reading to do but it is great to be at college and even better to be able to share the learning with so many other students.
Johanne does not wish to see the possibility of coming to Jesus; He is just not a part of her life. She wishes to remain Jewish and has involved herself with a conservative Jewish Synagogue. She states that she has a wonderful relationship with God and has always had so throughout her life. Thus she has no desire to change her religious status, now or at any time in the future.
Johanne gave birth to our baby daughter on April 28th and her name is Shiree (it is Hebrew and means, “My song”) I see Akiva and Shiree regularly and I must say they are such beautiful children and I derive so much pleasure from them and I feel blessed by them. Johanne and I remain good friends and we will always be so.
Although this last year has had much pain and sadness, I am excited about my journey with the Messiah. The pain and suffering I have experienced has made me a better person, certainly, more able to understand the suffering that Jesus experienced. I am now blessed by the fact that Jesus died for my sins; that Jesus saved me by dying on the cross and thus He has given me so much purpose and direction in my life. I have much hope and expectation for the future. I really feel “called” by Jesus and I feel just a great sense of awe that He has chosen me for a task that He has set aside for me.
I earnestly seek your prayers that no matter what the task may be, I will be able to serve the Lord and thus help to bring His kingdom to our world.
Harold R. Vallins