My Journey to Judaism
It is hard to pin-point the spark that initiated my fondness for Judaism, its people, its history and its culture. Born into a French-Canadian Catholic family of Irish descent, I certainly did not have anything resembling Jewish in my environment.
I had an abnormal interest in the Old Testament: this according to three of my teachers in grammar school, and I was the one with the embarrassing questions about certain rules, practices and even divinities that simply did not make sense to me. I kept asking why we went to church on Sunday, since the last day of the week was Saturday! And I kept questioning the idea of confession, and the saints, but all I ever got for answers was “Just believe.”
My paternal grandmother was the one who would make me feel good about questioning things, and she actually encouraged it. Little did she know that after her death I ventured into my family genealogy and found out that her father was a Jew, from Holland.
He died when she was only eight years old; this explains why she never liked pork!
So a tiny little bit of Jewish blood was running in my veins.
Most of my friends during high school were Jewish.
But it never occurred to me to convert. I always had the assumption that you needed to be born Jewish, not only born but that it had to come from your mother.
I remember in my senior year in high school, I saw a poster asking for volunteers to go to Israel for a year and work on a kibbutz. I got the form and needed my parents’ signature. They did not agree or approve; it was not an option. I needed to go to college and that was that!
So life happened, and the thoughts of Judaism went onto the back burner.
Then one gay pride parade day, what do I see?…A float from Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom.
I took down the information but still did not act on it.
A client at my store started telling me that she was in the process of converting. I was astonished! I hounded her with several questions, and she was happy to answer all of them.
So I finally made the call, or should I say, sent the email, to Rabbi’s secretary
On a mid-December morning, I met Rabbi Grushcow in her study. I didn’t know what to expect and still remember my first entrance in Temple. I was stunned by its grandeur and the warm acceuil. Rabbi was welcoming, and she listened to and answered my questions. So I decided to take the step and registered for the Judaism 101 class.
I made myself a promise: I would not pressure myself and if, at any point, I didn’t feel comfortable, I would simply leave. But that wasn’t the case. The more I learned, read and participated, the more I felt at home. I completed the class and headed to Judaism 201.
I admit that I really found the written exam time consuming and challenging, but in the end, it forced me to confirm the teachings I had received. In August of 2015, I made my way to the Mikveh and I became a Jew. I will always remember Rabbi Grushcow’s words: “once you have converted, you are a Jew and that’s all you need to say.” Today, I am a Jew and proud to be a Jew by choice.
I am at the start of my route and am looking to find ways to incorporate God in my daily life. I had a very deep relationship with God as a youngster. I use to have great conversations with my Grandmother about God. She was the first one to introduce the notion that God wasn’t necessarily masculine, but I sort of lost my relationship with God because of all the teachings I got from my Catholic upbringing, but we are back together and I will never leave this feeling again. That is what Judaism has done for me. I also got to meet incredible people, and I have formed my new Jewish family, made friends with the most loving people. I am in my place.
To finish, I would like to share an anecdote. On the day of my mikveh, I was leaving for Nova Scotia afterwards. Once all was done, I started to head home but was stuck in this incredible traffic, as it always is in Montreal. Being rushed by adrenaline, I wanted to get home fast to pack up the car and leave for vacation, so I finally got out of the traffic and headed towards a side street. Once on that street, I had to wait again because a garbage truck was doing his job! I looked towards the heavens and screamed, “are you f…. kidding me! I haven’t been a Jew for more that an hour and this is what you are sending me!” All of a sudden, I felt the answer, “Yep my friend, this is the road, so deal with it!” I just started to laugh and realised that everything is always going to be okay!
I have had great support from Rabbi Grushcow and the whole Temple community, great support from my children who have not only encouraged me but have also participated with me, and last Chanukah, I received a “Happy Chanukah” card from my parents. Life is good!