Patricia’s family had lived a privileged life, surrounded by servants and the comforts of their aristocratic lifestyle. Her father, Jose, was a distinguished man from a long line of Spanish settlers who had arrived in Peru in the early 1500s. Her mother, Hilda, was also descended from Spanish immigrants who had arrived in Peru in the 1800s.
In the 1970s, the Peruvian government went through radical political changes, and the family decided to seek a better life in the United States. They settled in Passaic, New Jersey, and Patricia was sent to a Catholic school to ensure that she was not influenced by the public school environment.
It was a chance encounter that led Hilda to befriend a conservative Jewish family. Initially hesitant to interact with them, Hilda had been raised by the surrounding culture with negative perceptions of the Jewish religion and its people. However, she soon realized that her preconceptions were unfounded. The family was warm, welcoming, and kind, and Hilda found herself drawn to their community and their way of life. Hilda even entered into a business relationship with the Jewish family. The family shared with her Jewish knowledge, food, and other items from the holidays. They even gave Patricia a Jewish Star as a present, which intrigued her. But what was even more peculiar was that Patricia had always been discouraged by her mother from wearing a cross, a long-standing tradition on the maternal side of the family, not to wear the cross. Surprisingly, throughout her middle and high school years, she never wore one even though she attended a Catholic school.
In her late teens, Patricia began to question her Christian beliefs and the story of Jesus. Despite her doubts, she feared that the Jewish community would not accept her if she were to convert. Despite her fears, Patricia’s burning curiosity about the Divine and her desire to connect with the Creator led her to explore. She was plagued with questions about God’s nature, His relationship with the world, and the purpose of life. While attending a Jewish wedding at the age of 18, she was overwhelmed by the cheerful joy and beauty of the ceremony.
Meanwhile, Patricia’s father had started to explore his artistic side. Though he was Catholic, he was drawn to painting rabbis, which further intrigued Patricia. “Why is my father painting rabbis?”
Patricia’s quest for understanding and meaning continued to consume her. She was fascinated by the Jewish faith and its teachings, but she also struggled with the fear of rejection and the unknown.
As she entered her twenties, Patricia began to feel a restlessness within her. She wanted to see the world and explore new cultures and experiences. She landed a job as a dental professional in Germany, and it was there that she began to feel a sense of freedom and independence that she had never experienced before. She spent her days working in the dental clinic, but in her free time, she explored the city and visited its many museums and historical sites.
It was during this time, on one particular day, that Patricia began to feel a greater sense of clarity and purpose in her spiritual journey. It was January 27th, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day, many countries, including Germany, hold commemorative events and ceremonies to honor the victims of the Holocaust and remember the atrocities committed during World War II. In Germany, there are often television programs and documentaries aired on this day to promote education and awareness about the Holocaust.
Until that moment, Patricia had never known that six million Jewish lives were murdered. Not in Peru, not in the United States, and not in Catholic school did she ever learn of humanity’s greatest evil. As the images of the countless victims flashed on the screen, she began to feel a deeper connection to the Jewish people and their history, and she began to see her own journey as a continuation of that legacy.
With newfound courage and determination, she had to know what happened in the War. With her great disarming charm and curiosity, she asked her German patients what they did during the War. As a non-Jew speaking to other non-Jews, time and again, the patients would say they were too frightened to stand up to the Nazi machine for fear of being murdered themselves. This answer deeply troubled her. Where was the courage to stand up and do the right and noble act?
This only reinforced her commitment to converting to Judaism some day. The images of innocent Jewish men, women, and children, especially the adorable children, haunted her very being. She had to know why, how, and for what purpose the Jewish Nation was singled out and targeted with such irrational and sadistic hate. Her quest to find G-d, Hashem was now on a new path.”