- Posted by Guest Author
- On January 29, 2019
- 0 Comments
It was 1994, a few months before our wedding, on a 3 hour drive… David (then my fiancée) shared that he would do whatever it took to raise our kids Jewish. I was surprised and wondered: “you’re not even sure that you believe in God, so how can you say that?”
There were so many things I didn’t know about Judaism. What I did know is that David and I would be together, and had confidence we would figure it out. It was 13 months from meeting to marriage, and as required by our wedding officiant, I committed to raise our children Jewish. We did soon have children! We didn’t really have a plan.
For several years we attend Easter services with my sister’s family. When Adam was three, he saw his older cousin at the communion rail and asked why he couldn’t go up there. I couldn’t it an d realized that I never wanted to be in that situation with my children again. We couldn’t put this off any longer.
We participated in a program in Cambridge called “Raising your children in an interfaith marriage.” By the program’s end we all wanted to continue, so we met weekly for the next two years, exploring subjects such as identity, personal experience with religion, and parenting. The exploration and learning was finally under way!
By now I understood the benefits for our kids to have a foundation in one religion and in a congregational setting. So we searched for a place for our family and we found Temple Israel. My biggest concern was that I didn’t want my kids in a program where they might be taunted by other kids about how they weren’t “real” Jews because their mother wasn’t Jewish. I was reassured to find that there were many interfaith families here at TI. I had “faith,” we joined and enrolled our kids.
As a family we participated Big Time: in services, Youth choir, adult music opportunities, social justice projects, Sunday school and family learning, HHDs, and we made so many friends along the way. By the time our kids completed their Bar and Bat Mitzvah, we bonded with a group of six families that became a chavurah, a close-knit group, connecting and supporting each other in times of celebration, but also through the deaths of parents, and into this new stage of being empty nesters! Along the way, a friend asked me to help with the music at Second Day Lay-led Rosh Hashanah service; while musically trained, it was a lot of work to close the gap in my Jewish prayer and learning experiences; but I have so loved being fully able to connect spiritually through my first and always best connection – music.
Have you noticed that I’ve made no mention of conversion in the telling of my journey? I was not compelled to convert, nor was I against it, but I wasn’t sure it made sense for me, and meanwhile I was fully participating in life at TI.
Eventually though, there came a moment that pushed me to consider the next steps in my own journey:
Each of my kids had been a singer/actor in the Rosh Hashanah skit that Cantor Einhorn organized at the Family service. One particular time, as I listened to my child’s voice, putting themselves out there to bravely sing, I realized that I was no longer okay with being neither here, nor there. I wasn’t interfaith: I was not practicing any other faith and had been practicing Judaism for many years. Yet I couldn’t call myself Jewish. I needed to figure this out, to delve into whatever it was that kept me from landing firmly somewhere. The only thing stopping me was ME.
But I still needed time. I spent a year in a group called “Women Considering Judaism,” a wonderful chance to consider and articulate my feelings. Rabbi Zecher wisely knew I needed space. She did periodically invite me to “take a walk” to talk about it, but she never pushed. As both kids were in college, I had time to focus on myself, and over time with the gift of all of these explorations, I knew I was ready to convert.
Some people asked, “Why now? What changed?” There’s no single answer to that, but what I can share with you are the blessings I’ve experienced in this journey: I had the gift of deep love and acceptance from David, Adam, and Sophia, my in-laws, whose memories are always a blessing to me, my parents and siblings, and dear friends we’ve made here. I also had the gifts of time, space, and acceptance from the clergy, whose progressive attitude toward interfaith families is I believe a true way to allow for growth of the Jewish People. That I was happy and engaged here meant that my kids were as well. I’m so proud to share that both of our kids grew to be leaders in their time here, being fully involved at each stage as children and teens, and each serving as President of the RYFTI youth group. Their growth and involvement might not have been possible if I as their mother and we as a family had not found open and genuine ways to engage and belong here. My journey has unfolded naturally and authentically, and it continues. I’m deeply grateful for all of it.
Finding this congregation which allowed for interfaith space and space for all to grow is what we needed to find our way as a family and as individuals, and for me, as a Jew.