I was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1945 to a nonreligious Jewish family. In those days everybody made a bar mitzvah, even the nonreligious, and the joke was that the bar mitzvah of people like us was ninety-nine percent bar and one percent mitzvah.

In 1963, I went to University of Michigan and learned philosophy for four years, graduating with a bachelor’s degree. In the course of the four years I spent at the university, I managed to throw away the one percent of mitzvah that I had in my bar mitzvah and, at that point, I used the other ninety-nine percent of “bar” literally—I became a barroom singer in the university town, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Then Then came a day when a well-known professor who had taken massive amounts of LSD appeared at the university.came a day when a well-known professor who had taken massive amounts of LSD appeared at the University of Michigan. I went to see him along with thousands of people—the place was mobbed, standing room only. He spoke about the importance of taking this new psychedelic drug, opening up new vistas in your soul and becoming who you really are. And he said that whoever was enlightened in this way would not hurt anyone. He said that there’s only one evil in the world.

I was sitting at the edge of my chair, waiting to hear what that one evil was. I was thinking that, as soon as he finishes speaking, I will take some LSD, which was the answer to all the world’s problems.

And then he named that one evil in the world—theistic Jews and their jealous G‑d.

Now, I didn’t really have any Jewish identity to speak of – I was minimally aware that I was Jewish.I didn’t really have any Jewish identity to speak of—I was minimally aware that I was Jewish. But this person was saying that of all the peoples in the world, of all the races and the religions, Jews were evil.

So, instead of taking his word for it and taking LSD, I decided that I was going to figure this out for myself. This man had said that Jews were evil, and I wanted to understand what he found in Jews that was so bad, and how he knew that.

To find out about Jews, I read the Bible and I was amazed to see—reading the Book of Genesis—that the Bible is totally not biblical. I mean, Abraham didn’t do any miracles. Isaac and Jacob didn’t talk about heaven; they didn’t talk about hell. They didn’t give any sermons. They didn’t have any rituals. These are the things that religions are made of, and there wasn’t any of this here.

So I became obsessed with understanding Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All the other religions I could understand—I had studied comparative theology in college, especially Eastern philosophy, and I knew that religions typically promised you new powers and revelations, or new pleasures and enlightenments. But here there were no promises at all. Even some of the promises that G‑d did make to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He didn’t fulfill in their lifetimes. Moses never got to the Promised Land. So I didn’t understand what Judaism was all about, really.

To get answers, I went to a lot of different rabbis and to a lot of different synagogues. I went to a lot of different rabbis and to a lot of different synagogues. And nowhere did I find answers that satisfied me . . .And nowhere did I find answers that satisfied me, until 1971, when I met a Chabad chassid. This was Rabbi Itche Meir Kagan, a wonderful person. I asked him my questions and he said, “You have to see this man,” and he pointed to a picture of the Rebbe. And so I did. It was a twelve-hour car ride from Michigan to New York, but I went.

I found myself at a farbrengen at the Chabad headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway, and when I walked in, there were something like 500 to 700 chassidim there, singing a beautiful chassidic song. I loved music—I was a professional musician—but I had never heard music like that. This music put me in a whole different state of mind, open and positive.

And then the Rebbe started speaking. He spoke for about two hours in Yiddish, which I didn’t understand at all, but I was watching him and I was watching the chassidim. I saw that the Rebbe didn’t talk like a guru; he didn’t try to put people into a trance. Instead, he was engaging the audience. The whole atmosphere was something I had never really experienced before. It wasn’t spiritual. It certainly wasn’t physical. It was something that was very real.

I started thinking to myself: I started thinking to myself: Who is this man? This cannot be a regular person. And then it hit me—he is a Jew just like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.Who is this man? This cannot be a regular person. But he’s not an angel or some sort of a mystic. So who is he? And then it hit me—he is a Jew just like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And I said to myself, “He is a Jew, and I’m a Jew. I’m staying here.”

And this is what I did. I stayed to learn how to be like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, how to make the world a better place. I learned at a yeshivah called Hadar Hatorah. I really threw myself into learning day and night. But I still had one burning question—one thing that bothered me very much.

And then I had an audience with the Rebbe, which was called yechidus, meaning “together in oneness.” Its purpose was to awaken a level of your soul, which is that part of your soul that wants to get things done in this world, to fix this world and make it a better place.

When I saw the Rebbe, I confided in him my big problem. I told him that Eastern religions never appealed to me. Their philosophies—about enlightenment and nirvana—were interesting, but basically they were selfish religions, concerned only about the self and not about the wellbeing of others. But Christianity was different. Christians followed a man who said, “Throw away everything, trust only in G‑d, and this way you will find holiness.” So I said to the Rebbe, “This idea keeps haunting my mind. What should I do?”I never, for a second, thought that this man was G‑d, but I did think that he had a new and important message. So I said to the Rebbe, “This idea keeps haunting my mind. What should I do?”

And the Rebbe said, “Your job is to learn Torah and completely forget about this thing. Any truth that might be found in that religion is all taken from the Torah.”

I asked, “If I learn the Torah, will I be able to prove Christianity false?”

The Rebbe replied, “No, that’s not your job. Your job is to concentrate on what is good. You must learn Torah, and you must learn the Talmud, and Jewish law and chassidic teachings.”

As soon as the Rebbe said that, I became calm. It was as if I became a different person. It was as if, spiritually, he strengthened something inside of me, and I realized that happiness was not going to come from this direction. With just a few words the Rebbe lifted a huge burden from me, and from then on, I could concentrate on being a Jew.