HENRIETTA — One night, author Roy H. Schoeman dreamed that an “authority figure” came to him, asking a simple question.
“It’s your choice,” the figure said. “You can go skiing or work for the Second Coming.”
An avid skier, Schoeman nonetheless opted for the latter choice, and has devoted his life to spreading his beliefs about Judaism’s role in the establishment of Christianity. Author of the 2003 book Salvation is from the Jews: The Role of Judaism in Salvation History from Abraham to the Second Coming, Schoeman told the tale of his conversion to Catholicism to about 200 people who came to hear him speak at the RIT Inn & Convention Center on March 25.
Schoeman’s parents were German Jews, Holocaust refugees who settled outside New York City. He said he grew up deeply interested in Judaism, studying with some of the country’s most notable Conservative and Hasidic rabbis. Yet Schoeman said he fell away from his faith as a young man, entertained atheism and agnosticism, and found himself in his late 20s unfulfilled by life, even though he was a Harvard Business School professor.
“I knew that there had to be some real meaning and purpose in life,” he said.
He said that during a visit to Cape Cod, he received a spectacular vision, which he likened to seeing life after death.
“In an instant, I saw exactly how I’d feel about everything after I die,” he said, noting he could see both the times he did well and the times he did nothing of value in God’s eyes.
“Every moment of our life has potential moral content that will matter for all eternity,” he said. “I saw that I would be grateful for all eternity for every moral action that I had done.”
Nonetheless, he said it would still take time before he would realize that it was the spirit of Jesus behind this vision and the religious dreams he had as well. In the 1980s, he consulted a New Age mystic who told him about a book listing the 100 greatest miracles of all time, including the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, Portugal, and the miracle of the spinning sun reportedly seen by tens of thousands of people — including atheists and agnostics — at Fatima on Oct. 13, 1917.
Schoeman said this story and a dream in which Mary told him Jesus was “everything” led him to visit Marian shrines, including one at La Salette, France, where he became snowed in during a ski vacation. It was there he heard the authority figure tell him to choose between using his ski poles or serving his God, and in 1992, he was baptized a Catholic.
However, Schoeman insisted that he didn’t convert, but “just came into the fullness of true Judaism.” He said he continually sees links between Judaism and Christianity, and noted that the State of Israel is home to a number of congregations of Messianic Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah.
When asked how his family reacted to his joining the Catholic Church, Schoeman chuckled. “They were really good about it for the first three years because I didn’t tell them,” he said, adding that his family since has accepted his Catholicism.
“They think I’ve kind of gone crazy, but it works for me,” he said with a laugh.
Schoeman’s speech was sponsored by Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Diocese of Rochester’s chapter of Magnificat, a national ministry for Catholic women. The local chapter has about 500 members on its mailing list, according to Kathy Murty, treasurer.