- Posted by tisrael
- On January 29, 2019
- 0 Comments
The story I’m about to tell you is one that is deeply personal to me and one that is still unfinished. Those of us who come home to Judaism later in life are from a smorgasbord of backgrounds and come with many different experiences. Although there may be similarities between your story and mine, I also realize that each person is on her or his own unique path and on their own time.
I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and religion didn’t play much a role in my life. My family and I never attended any churches or prescribed to any organized religion. My entire childhood and into high school I never considered myself a spiritual person and couldn’t foresee that changing in the future.
That all began changed a few years later. In college it came time for the dreaded language course requirement. By chance I had heard someone speaking Hebrew and decided I liked that way it sounded. Hebrew was going to be the language for me. I learned quickly that studying a language like Hebrew was not done in isolation. The language was tied to a country and by default a religion, rich with customs and traditions. I made friends in my Hebrew class and they became like an adopted family. All this time spent with my new friends. I began to learn a little more about Judaism. They introduced me to many new concepts. I was invited to Shabbat dinners, I made shofars for Rosh Hashanah, I attended seders for Pesach. I loved every minute of it. It was one of the first times in my life that I felt myself instinctively drawn to something bigger than myself. Although it is hard to put into words, I loved being part of something that had so many customs and rituals. I began to feel a connection to the people, the practices, and the beliefs. I would continue to pursue these long after college had ended.
My Jewish education continued after moving to Boston in 2010. After finishing graduate school my first job was at the JCC in Brookline/Brighton. During my year of working there At the JCC, in addition to a regular pre-school hands on curriculum, there was also a strong Jewish curriculum. Every Friday we would celebrate Shabbat together as a class. We would light the candles, bless the challah, and grape juice. And again I just felt a connection to it. I wanted to be part of it.
It was around this time that I signed up for the Introduction to Judaism course offered at a synagogue here in Boston. I was excited to learn more about Jewish practice and in particular life in a synagogue. However, as I sat for my first class an old unwelcome feeling crept up again. This feeling that I was an odd man out. Although the class was full, I was one of only two people who were not taking it because of a Jewish partner or spouse. It made me wonder
what type of roll I could possibly play in Judaism without all these family and community connections that other people had. As the months progressed I enjoyed learning more about the religion. Topics such as the difference between Torah and the Talmud, how to go through a siddur, and of course celebrating Jewish life cycle events were some of my favorite topics. I also discovered a great affinity for Jewish liturgical music. I found that there is a real power in music. It has been my experience that during a variety of services, it is the music portion that draws me in the most. It is the music that helps me feel connected to other.
After competing the class I started to attend services throughout the Boston area. In large settings and small. As the high holidays approached in 2016 I came across the Riverway Project page. I booked tickets and attended the services. Although I had been to many services by this time, I felt something very different that night. As Rabbi Gubitz led the service, I found myself looking around. I realized that after all these years, I could imagine myself feeling comfortable somewhere. I did find a community that I would like to be part of and grow in. A few days after the high holidays ended I contacted Rabbi Gubitz and told her of my desire to convert. It finally felt like it was the
My year of study with Rabbi Gubitz was extremely rewarding and challenging. There are so many things that I love about Judaism. I love lighting Shabbat candles at home. I love singing songs, I love in the middle of service looking over and seeing a look of happiness and contentment on the faces of my fellow congregants. Above all, I love the challenges it provides to me. Judaism has helped me live a more mindful life. In particular the weeks leading up to Yom Kippur this past year really challenged me in terms of thinking of how I was
living my life. I love that Judaism isn’t just something to slog through; it is really something that requires engagement and reflection.
The day of my conversion was probably the most nervous I had ever been in my life. I remember feeling incredibly excited, scared, and pensive. I’m happy to say the whole process went very smoothly. It didn’t feel like a “test” it felt like a conversation and an opportunity to tell my story. Although I’m very happy with the path I have taken I of course still have some fears. Without a Jewish upbringing or partner, I do still feel alone some times. Community is so important and I have to be proactive about building mine. However, I feel very grateful to be part of a community such as Temple Israel with lots of opportunities to get involved, classes to attend, and events to be part of. A few weeks ago I go to spend my first Shabbat in Jerusalem with a friend from TI. It was a wonderful experience and one that I won’t forget. Thank you so much for taking time to hear my story today. If you ever have any questions or just want to say hello, please feel free.