TUPELO – A small crowd of friends, family and readers gathered at St. Luke United Methodist Church on Wednesday to talk to author Nancy Petrey about her memoir, “Jewish Roots Journey: Memoirs of a Mizpah.”
In the book, Petrey recalls her experiences as a “Mizpah,” or “look-out,” for the Jewish faith, despite her Methodist beliefs and upbringing. She has traveled to Israel three times: in 1996 on a mission trip, in 1998 on her own, and in 2002 on a prayer tour, at the height of suicide bombing in Israel.
“I saw and learned so much there,” she said, “but I was never scared because I was the center of God’s will.”
Petrey, a former Tupelo resident, earned a master’s degree in Religious Education in the Middle East from the Arkansas Institute for Holy Land studies, and is an expert in the journey of the Jewish people through history. In her book, she posits that the church began distancing itself from its Jewish roots when it began adopting a “Western mind-set and Greek philosophy,” which drew the religion away from its birthplace and changed the interpretation of scripture from literal to allegorical.
“Only with the understanding of Christianity as being Jewish can we learn the Bible from the correct point of view,” she says. “(Jews) are like our parents!”
Consequently, the book that she originally intended only for her posterity contains equal parts humanity and theological understanding.
While Petrey’s book is solid with history and theology, it is balanced with striking and humorous events from her life in which her faith truly made a difference, such as an event in which she confronts a man who robbed her.
Petrey says she received much of her inspiration from the book “Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom, another memoir about a family that protected Jews during the Holocaust. Originally, her book was intended to be a sort of life story for her children, but the book was picked up by Energion Publications of Gonzalez, Fla., and quickly gained steam.
“I was amazed that so many people were interested in my life,” she said.
Petrey currently lives in her hometown of Luverne, Ala., and plays piano for the South Luverne Baptist Church.