London, March 30th 2016
After all these years: I am officially a Jew.
Yesterday was a big day.
It felt as if my whole life had been leading up to that moment.
Well, at least the past eight years.
You see, eight years ago, Judaism came into my life.
I didn’t ask for it. I wasn’t out there looking for a purpose, a meaning, or something to hold onto on this rocky ride through life.
Judaism came to me and I was vacant, open, and welcoming.
Five years ago, I contacted my (then) local synagogue and asked about conversion. I received a very dry and common response that put me off a bit, to be honest.
A year later, I spoke with the new rabbi and he said there would be a conversion class beginning nine months later.
Well, a lot happened during these months. Suddenly the rabbi was out of the picture, and I was told that a new conversion class would — possibly — start a year later.
I didn’t like this word: possibly. And I didn’t want to wait another year.
I got a bit depressed and did what I always do: I bought a ticket to Israel.
There I was, on the beach in Tel Aviv, wondering what my next move would be.
I met a friend who told me his spouse had converted in Copenhagen. ”You travel back and forth and you read a lot of books in between.”
I got back to Stockholm — where I was living at the moment — and a couple of weeks later I was on my way to Copenhagen to meet with the rabbi and the congregation. And boy, did I feel I was where I was supposed to be? Yes. ”This is my rabbi and this is my congregation!”
Then followed an intense period of traveling from Stockholm to Copenhagen (I’ve seen a lot of Danish hotel rooms!) — and studying. The list of books I’ve read since then is long. And I’ve loved every page of them as much as I’ve loved the classes and the synagogue visits and the holidays.
Then, a year ago, I was supposed to finalize my conversion, but I had just had a hell of a year, including a failed marriage and death, and I decided to resettle in Finland. My rabbi and I decided it would be wise to postpone things.
And here I am, a year later, with the Certificate of Conversion in my hand.
I went to the Beit Din yesterday, here in London, and it was a scary, beautiful experience.
My brain easily gets blank when I am under pressure — and blank my mind went yesterday.
The rabbis were impressed with my motivation, but not with my Hebrew (and I really try, but I must try harder!).
I felt the tears burning in my eyes as I listened to the rabbi saying:
We have examined and inquired and found him worthy to be accepted and numbered among the righteous converts of the Jewish people.
We welcome him and pray he will know the protection of the Divine Presence. Henceforth he is one of the family of Israel in all respects.
Have you ever heard anything so beautiful?
Then there was the mikveh. I’m not exactly known for loving skinny-dipping, but I did it and I said the blessings and I got the Mazal Tov. It was all very emotional and I have had a huge smile on my face ever since.
I’m with my people now.
And my Hebrew name is Eliakim.