On this day, four years ago, I stepped into the mikvah at Tiferet Israel as a conversion student and when I came out, I started my life as a Jew-by-Choice. Last year, I celebrated this anniversary at the Kotel, experiencing a powerful moment as I touched the ancient rock and tucked in my handwritten prayer into a crevice. This year was a quieter celebration as I took a moment this morning to acknowledge the meaning of this day.
It’s hard for me to overstate just how important and transformative my decision to convert was. I think of the person I was six years ago, when I started the journey, and I barely recognize her. Back then, I was struggling with my depression again, working at a job that left me very unfulfilled, and unconvinced that my future held anything meaningful.
But now? Now I am proud to say that not only has my depression has been stable, I’m accomplishing much more: pursuing leadership opportunities, volunteering for social justice causes, writing every day, finding myself at a crossroads with many different paths, each leading to something wonderful. My life is fuller and, on most days, I am at peace with myself. Judaism opened the door for me to embrace life in a way that is meaningful to me.
Truthfully, this past year has been the most difficult of my young Jewish journey. I’ve found myself questioning why I’m involved in the community, wondering if I am actually a part of the community, even breaking down and crying as I felt like I had no place in the community I worked so hard to join. Still, not once did I ever feel any regret about my decision to convert. Maybe that’s because Judaism, via my talks with Rabbi Stern, gave me the space to be angry and feel betrayed, to feel despondent and not feel like I was expecting too much. I never felt guilt about struggling with my Judaism, which is dramatically different than when I questioned the Christianity I grew up with. Judaism simply stood in the background, giving me the space I needed while also providing comfort as I thumbed through siddurim and pondered my role in the community. I am grateful for that.
I am still struggling with my Judaism, I can’t lie about that. But I have never regretted my decision to convert and I never will. Being a Jew is as intertwined in my identity as being Hispanic and Filipino is. Who would I be without it? Where would I be without it? I don’t ever want to know.
This is my community.
Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.
The Book of Ruth