Okay. This was extremely hard to write without tears forming in my eyes. It means that much. The first assignment of our packet was to write a spiritual autobiography. It would be appropriate I’d find my answers as my vacay is coming to an end. Here goes….
Going on an extended vacay to my hometown—to revisit where I was born and spent my first 21 years growing up—has really helped me clarify that I am exactly where I need to be on my Jewish journey: to embrace fully—to learn, to live and breathe Judaism—for the rest of my life.
While on my flight, I read Elie Wiesel’s book “Night” where he wrote of his experience of being in the Holocaust. After landing, I went to my favorite sandwich shop near the mall, then I ran over to the used bookstore. The first time I went in there with no agenda and just looked around. I accidentally found two books by Harold Kushner and two books by Elie Wiesel. The following week I went back to the bookstore with a list and found a book by Philip Roth, a Holocaust book, and two books by Leslea Newman. All of my life I have read so much of everything but only had a few favorite authors….and now—thankful to this journey—that list is growing.
There have been a few very uncomfortable moments on this trip to do with my choices of food and toward my newly found religion and lifestyle. There seemed to be a slight interest in my journey, then twice the slight rude remark. After mentioning several times that I stopped eating pork since December 2018, ribs were put on my plate and bacon was cooked. I refused both. I stood my ground—for faith and health reasons. I know I made the right decision, considering I had a flash back to my childhood where I was pushed to eat some of the most unhealthiest foods that still remain valid in that hometown life. For the umpteenth time, I was forced to go to a church for a faith in which I have never believed, and was told “no” when I wanted to go to the local synagogue to honor Shabbat. Even though I have a long ways to go with Hebrew, I missed hearing the prayers and songs. I missed the way it feels walking into a synagogue vs a church. I miss how happy and full of life everyone seems to be in a synagogue.
Even though I’ve have to deal with those issues, I have not let them get to me too much. I have been able to relax, gain strength of my mind once again, and have time to think.
Every aspect of my life has become richer since following, studying and living Judaism. I can’t explain it. 2018 was the best year of my life: the people that I met last year are the best people I’ve ever met in my entire life and they’re no longer “friends” —they’re all family. The activities I either started or continued has made such an important impact on my life that I’m trying to figure out how to make it all tie in with Judaism. The art I’ve created, the Instagram account and blog where I write have been outlets for me to not only document my journey but to express major love towards my new life and share it with the world.
There have been several surprises along the way: such as finding out my favorite song from high school choir “Go Down, Moses” plays an important role in Jewish life at Passover, or finding out that my favorite cartoon in the entire world that I watched obsessive as a child—Rugrats—has a Hanukkah and Passover episode. I often felt like the new year should start in the fall, and I have always had a horrible feeling around March or April (which happened again this year—and once Passover was over—I felt better). I have always had a connection with the Holocaust, and my feelings for wanting to preserve the memory get stronger as the days go by. There’s been a connection with me and trees, little symbolism in daily life, feelings that are exposed after reading Jewish books (ones I hadn’t thought about in a long time or saying to myself ‘well, now that makes sense as to why I felt that’), and so on. I have always loved Fridays more than any day of the week. I say “oy vey” more than I probably should. And, to top it all off, I used to really strongly dislike “chicken soup” until I discovered matzo ball soup…and game on.
Not only have I found favorite authors, books, magazines and subscribed to a million of newsletters around the US, but I have discovered some of the best TV shows, and they’re chocked full of Jewishness… and guess what? I actually get the references or jokes, and I am so giddy inside when they mention something I know. I’ve also become that person who wants to download music to a specific holiday, or go absolutely nuts over the snacks that are served around that time. Over the past year, I have participated in a lot of the holidays, but my favorite was Purim – due to being in the Purim Spiel. I really embraced that with everything I had, and I didn’t stop talking about it for days. Also, Mitzvah Day, should be a holiday because that’s how special it was for me.
Building a relationship with G-d on the basis that G-d is the light within all of us, and in everything that we do, is something that I believe in. In the last year, I have tried to build my choices around that fact: doing good deeds, saying no at times, trying to become a better person, becoming healthier in the heart/mind/soul, and so on. As someone who is converting, I feel that I should walk the walk and not not just talk. I have to be that good example, and help others follow.
My journey—for the most part—has been about experience. The holidays or moments I experienced were the best, because I could: see, feel, hear, touch, smell…. then document about it later in some form. It is a very emotional connection for me. Everything about it.
While I don’t know where I’m going at this point—other than forward, all the way—with this journey, I am excited in seeing what’s in store for me because I am completely open at this point. I know there are things I want to improve on, such as attending more services, being able to fully read Hebrew, continuing making way in my schedule to attend more Jewish functions and keeping Kosher. There’s also wanting to learn just about anything and everything that I can by experiences, reading and traveling around to Jewish places and sharing it in some form. Since the Holocaust has been so important in my life, I would like to be that future of Judaism that helps keep the memory of those who we lost. And one day, I hope to publish the several Jewish-type stories that I am writing, including my own journey.
We all have a story in us, and we need to share it before it’s too late. Being a writer myself—I believe that is one of my purposes, and I hope that I can achieve that goal not only for me, but help others do the same….all by that light that stays lit within the soul.