It’s a far leap from growing up an atheist to starting one of the largest Messianic Jewish communities in Berlin. For Rabbi Vladimir Pikman, it was a jump that required a lot of faith.
Pikman was raised in Ukraine, and although his family identified as Jewish culturally, they were atheistic.
“We kept some Jewish traditions, celebrated what was comfortable for us, but no belief in God,” Pikman recalled.
As an adult, Pikman was on a mission of self-actualization. He followed his Jewish roots and moved to Israel, hoping he would find happiness and fulfillment. While he initially saw it as a dream come true, he soon realized he hadn’t found the happiness he was seeking.
One day, Pikman ventured to the Wailing Wall, located where the city of Jerusalem once stood, and placed his hand on the ancient structure.
“I touched it, and became a believer in God,” Pikman said. “It was like lightning had struck. I left the wall that day with the clear understanding that God did exist.”
With his newfound belief firmly instilled in him, he began to ask God for guidance, placing a prayer in the cracks of the Wailing Wall, and was surprised with his answer.
“In this note I asked about his guidance and promised I would never complain about anything,” Pikman said. “It was a foolish promise because he sent back to Ukraine the next day and I was complaining about it the whole way.”
However, two momentous events happened on his return trip. The first was when Pikman received his first copy of the New Testament. The second was when he met another Jew who started talking to him about his belief in Jesus.
While Pikman struggled and argued the concept, a few months later, after a lot of prayer and contemplation, Pikman came to a decision.
“I prayed to Jesus to forgive me, and he did,” Pikman said, “and that changed the rest of my life.”
His acceptance of Jesus changed Pikman entirely, including his profession.
“I couldn’t stop talking about Jesus to others, especially with other Jewish people. I came to a Messianic Jewish community in Kiev, and I found so many,” Pikman said. “It was a calling. Jesus gave me sense in being Jewish. I became a vocational minister.”
Since 1992, Pikman has been sharing the message of the Gospel to Jews and Christians in Berlin. In 2000, he was ordained as a Messianic Rabbi. In more than 20 years, he watched as one congregation grew to around 20.
As a part of Chosen People Ministries, Pikman’s congregations reach out to the almost 300,000 Jews in Berlin, including many who have immigrated to Germany from Russia. Chosen People Ministries, which was founded in 1894, serves sixteen countries in evangelizing and educating people on Jesus as the Messiah.
While Pikman has been working on earning his PhD in New Testament Exegesis, he has spent much of the past year as a guest professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary. The bimonthly visits don’t stop his mission to teach the Gospel. During his stays in Dallas, Pikman regularly engages in gatherings and conversations with local Jews and Christians.
With the establishment of a Messianic Center in Berlin, he has gathered a self-sustaining congregation. Whether it’s through prayer, or some leadership role, each member of the congregation contributes to the ministry.
“I’m still involved,” Pikman said. “I’m running the ministry in ways that I can. It’s really unbelievable, because they love us and they want me back, but at the same time, if I am gone, the congregation lives on and prospers.”