The fact that I am choosing to share something that is extremely private and personal to me is a huge deal. I mean becoming Jewish, in my eyes, is similar to a birth, matter of fact it is rebirth. It’s like someone telling the story of coming out of their mother’s vagina (if you were “born” Jewish) a million times. You got me (slang for do you understand)? For some people their journey to Judaism starts simply with a glass of wine, some frisky parents and an egg and a few sperm (I just laughed out loud, forgive me) followed by 9 months and a few pushes (cue Mazel Tov), for me it came when I trusted myself long enough to allow the universe to do what it does so that I could be who I am.
My story really isn’t that special, at least to me anyway, considering the fact that I’m not as famous as one of the conversion trailblazers (by the way can you stop calling me and people like me converts, after mikvah, it’s just plain old basic jew….thanks) Ruth.
This story is one of following the heart (my new last name) and aligning the spirit and body together.
I was raised a really modest (I know it’s hard to focus because I’m so open and always naked) young lady in a religion called Jehovah’s Witness. My mom didn’t start out that way. Her parents were Methodist and Catholic. One day, someone came to her door (she actually opened it this time) and I guess she decided to drink the kool-aid (she bought into what they were selling). For her, she found something meaningful (I totally get it) and decided to switch faiths and raise her last two of nine children this way.
As a child, I had a lot of questions and questions was something you just didn’t do in the above faith. It seems so sad because I have always been a spiritual person (even as a child) and my soul needed to be fed. Now it all makes perfect sense to me. I was in the wrong place all along. I was going to a Kingdom Hall when I needed to be in a Beit Knesset.
I left the faith at 18. I am now 43.
I left because I wanted to find a place I fit in spiritually, but to be honest that was so low on my Christmas list (I mean I was 18, what do you want me to do), oh wait, I didn’t have a Christmas list because Jehovah’s Witness’ don’t believe in it ( you know it’s Pagan right). Just imagine the Grinch who steals ALL of the holidays except wedding anniversaries ( I seriously considered getting married at like 8 years old just so I could celebrate something). So I grew up without holidays which I now find hilarious because as a Jew I’m always on Chag overload because duh, we have tons of things to celebrate. We have the new month. The new moon. The new year. The new rabbi. Shabbat. Brit Milah ( Bris if you are about that Yiddish life). Pesach. Birthday of the world. The trees. The wine ( L’ Chaim). The…. oh wait, where was I? Oh yes I remember.
I went through life as what I call an undocumented Jew. I have a son whom I named Noah ( yup, he’s Jewish too). I got married under what I think resembled a chuppah . I lived my life to be what I now know to be a Jewish one (whatever that means but just go with it for now). Let’s be honest, Jews are a tribe anyway and I don’t really know where my people are from because being Black (African American if you want to be politically correct) sometimes means being a product of you guessed it, Slavery. So while half of the world will ask me in shock why I chose Judaism, the look on my face that I give them is a death stare and I simply state… WHY NOT?
Speaking of looking at things, I tend to look at my life and my journey and realize that Hashem hand-picked me to officially be part of the tribe and to me that is the ultimate definition of CHOSEN. Before you get your panties in a bunch please understand that this is my story and it’s narrated by me and this is my personal feeling. If you don’t agree with me I’m okay with that because the relationship I have with my creator isn’t about you and neither is my narrative.
You may wonder if I had to jump through hoops. Of course I did but I understand why those hoops are in place and I respect it so it didnt hurt as bad when I was turned away by my rabbi the typical three times and yes he made me study like I would one day be a doctor (and no that was not me trying to make a Jewish joke) and yes I went to the mikvah. Once I made my decision, nothing could keep me from the feeling that I have the honor of feeling everyday. A feeling of truth and purpose.
My journey has not been an easy one or a smooth one. It is still a choice for me. I am still growing. I am always finding ways to be closer to Hashem. For instance, I didn’t always keep kosher (that’s very personal too ) and although I rest on shabbat I choose what is meaningful to me because that is what it is all about. We say the Shema and it is for that moment and that prayer that I live for.
Regardless of how you got to Judaism, you still have to choose it and yes I hear some of you saying well I was born Jewish so I don’t have to really do much. And for that I say absolutely nothing because we all choose to do what is right for us individually.
Part of my conversion was to write something to present to the Beit Din and I will share it with you…
With each piece of material item that I shed I never felt more exposed but more confident in my decision.
More at peace with who I am and with whom I will now identify myself with as a people. As I drive in to that special place I touch my neck and no longer feel my 2 necklaces that I wear daily ( a star and the shema) and as I look at my left arm not to see the bracelets that I wear that support many causes I see only my skin that is lighter in color because it has not at all been touched by the sun. As I look at my hand I don’t see the ring I was given that binds me to my husband forever but I see clarity and strength. I take a final look in the mirror to see a lone piece of jewelry hanging on that will be the last layer I shed as I enter the mikvah and bare my soul. This is who I am and this is who I will always be!