On the Full Moon before I got married, April 27 2021, I sat before the Beit Din & submerged myself in Mikveh, consecrating my choice to live a Jewish life. This is my story of how I got there.
April 2021 — the month that I finally became Jewish. This marks the end of a long road travelled, one that began before I realized I was walking down it.
Some of my earliest memories of Judaism begin with The Jewish Community Center in my hometown of Longmeadow, MA. I would go there to attend my friends’ Maccabi Games, my sister’s art class, or to join the gym when I came home from college holiday breaks. I distinctly remember the smell that would meet you as you walk through the front door; the display cases housing various Judaica that enticed you to come admire them — which I later on learned to be Mezuzahs, Shabbat Candles, and the “Yad” (or Torah pointers).
It never struck me that Judaism was “separate” from me until I turned 13 and realized that I wouldn’t be able to become a Bat Mitzvah. There was a lot of commotion in my school as some of my peers prepared for their coming of age ceremony, and anticipation around the invitations you would — or wouldn’t — receive. Then, there was the celebration itself: listening to my friends chant in Hebrew; seeing inside various Synagogues and admiring the ornamental chambers that housed the Torah Scrolls; and of course, all of the fun that would ensue in the themed afterparties.
These were my initial experiences of Jewish life: a focus on community, education, family, tradition, and spirituality. And despite my disappointment in not having a Bat Mitzvah celebration of my own, my experience overall was one of belonging.
I find this sense of belonging to be a Jewish quality, as Judaism strikes me not as exclusionary but as something that has open doors for anyone. I think of the Passover Seder, which extends the warm chair for any stranger at the dinner table. I think of Israel — which I have yet to go to — but that I understand as a place of “welcoming home” for so many people, Jewish & otherwise.
I am someone who has been blessed and cursed with a hyper-sensitivity to where exclusion takes place and the impact this can have on…