John Desser has a rich Jewish heritage that includes a maternal grandfather who participated in the First Zionist Congress, which led to the formation of modern Israel.
His father studied at an orthodox Jewish seminary in New York City. When he was in medical school, he donated blood on Shabbat to a Gentile, an infraction under the Jewish code.
“While he knew this wasn’t right under the law, it felt right in his heart, so he went ahead and did it,” Desser says on a One For Israel video. When he consulted rabbis later about his decision, he received a tongue-lashing. It was disillusioning.
“He walked out of the yeshiva, bought a ham sandwich (also prohibited for the Jew) and was never going to look back,” Desser says. “Because if the laws aren’t true, then God’s not true. My father’s heart was broken.”
As a result, Desser was raised in a secular Jewish home and never attended synagogue. “We had a Christmas tree growing up because my father wanted us to be Americans,” he recalls.
When Desser finished college, he decided to get involved in politics, so he moved to Washington D.C. where he was hired on the staff of a little-known freshman senator, John McCain.
“While I was working with the staff of McCain, I was invited by another staff member to a breakfast, and another man pulled out a book, and began reading it and as he was reading it, the thought crossed my mind, ‘Is that the Bible?’” he remembers. “‘Is he reading the Bible in front of all these people? Is this a Bible study?’”
When a friend asked Desser what church he attended, he responded curtly: “I DON’T!”
Next, he was invited to a National Day of Prayer breakfast. Because he admired one of the speakers, Secretary of State James Baker, he went.
“He got up in front of 3,000 people and said, ‘It’s pretty neat being Secretary of State to the wealthiest nation in the world, and it’s pretty neat being chief of staff to the most powerful man in the world, and it’s pretty neat being Secretary of State to the most influential country in the world,’” he remembers. “‘But the thing that’s really getting me up in the morning these days and I’m excited about is Jesus.”
Desser was flabbergasted.
“Did he just say, ‘Jesus?” he thought at the time. “Why would James Baker talk about Jesus as something that’s interesting to him?” Read the rest of Jew who found Jesus in politics.