I’d like to share the Journey of my choosing to become Jewish and to my day of immersion at the Mikvah. It was the year 2016, 5776
After getting our instructions from the (super, cool) Mikvah Lady, we all went into our separate changing rooms and one by one, we waited for our turn. Standing behind the door waiting, I was taking deep breaths. I had been a little anxious that I might cry and not be able to recite the Blessings, but in fact, instead, I was filled with the most unusual blend of nervous excitement and complete calm that it’s difficult to find words to describe it, even now.
My Turn…. FIRST IMMERSION
I knew Rabbi Grushcow, Rabbi Greenspan and Rabbi Lerner were in an adjacent room, and after I descended the seven steps into the Mikvah – warm, calming, I heard Rabbi Grushcow’s voice. She asked me to think, as I did the first immersion, and was under the water, of my life up until now and how it had brought me to this moment.
So I was filled with gratitude for my parents, and took such comfort in the certainty of how happy they would be for me – because everything they were ABOUT, their values, everything they had given me, in all the ways that REALLY matter, had prepared a path for me to be here, immersed in this water.
I grew up in a place where I had never met a Jewish person – that I know of! It was a very small town surrounded by the countryside. When I was small, the Headmaster of our Elementary school began each day by reading from – as he called it in his booming voice – The Old Testament! (Our Bible). I loved it. He made this very meaningful; there was always a lesson, a message. It was a beautiful way to start the day and it sparked a great curiosity.
I had a very happy childhood, a loving family and spent a great deal of my time outside in nature. I felt however, totally unconnected to the faith of everyone else I knew. Being in nature was my holy place. Not in the church, but in the woods and fields behind it.
When I was 18, a friend asked if I would like to go to Israel with her as her Aunt worked at a Kibbutz in Eilat. I was beside myself with excitement! When her boyfriend made her change her mind, I was devastated; there had been such a feeling of longing to go. An indescribable pull. I made up my mind I would get there one day.
Later, when another friend suggested travelling to Canada with her, I thought “Why not?” It was only for a year.
That year turned into many, and I was blessed by the joy of having children and developing wonderful friendships. My closest friends just kept on being Jewish! I felt so at home with all the things I learnt about this religion – personal responsibility was my favourite.
A few years ago, after probably the most difficult year of my life – (my Mother died, my best friend died, my marriage ended, I was going to have to move house) – I decided – “You know what? I am going to start over by doing something entirely and only for me.” For my own soul’s journey. I had thought about this for a long time. I sat, alone in my studio one night and lit a candle and said “God, I believe I’m Jewish. Could you please help me find a way to do this?”
Then I began Googling “Converting to Judaism Montreal” What I read there made me feel very depressed…… “You’ll be refused – at least 3 times, there’s a prohibition if you’re recently bereaved, there’s a prohibition if you’re recently divorced”
Certainly I understood this was a precaution against people making rash decisions while vulnerable and perhaps not in their “right mind” so to speak. I had never been more in my right mind. So I Googled some more.
Now I read that according to some teachings, in Judaism there is a prohibition against despair! (In oneself or others) So what to do?
I decided to share my hopes with 3 Jewish friends….. Funnily enough, Temple Emanu-El was the suggestion of all of them. I called. I met with Rabbi Greenspan. And here I am.
So now for the SECOND IMMERSION
Rabbi Grushcow’s voice telling me “This time, when you immerse, think only of Now. This moment”. And so that “Now”, that Moment – became Forever, because I will always remember it.
The THIRD IMMERSION
Rabbi calling out to think this time, as I immerse, to think of my future as a Jewish woman and how I would like to create my new life as a Jew. So this part was now pretty amazing and I had a LOT to think about.
When I first began my Conversion Journey, this future was myself and my non-Jewish children – who were fully supportive of me. How to make sure this was a Blessing for everyone. I expected to learn as I went along but my life felt complete.
Then something very miraculous happened and someone very special came back into my life after many, many years. This special Someone and I were married last year by Rabbi Grushcow; Rabbi Greenspan was there too and Noa, singing so beautifully.
So my Jewish future is still unfolding and – I am still learning as I go along. Recently I learned that there is even a Hebrew word for what I had done my whole life- going and being in Nature and talking to God – “Hitbodedut”.
It’s such a privilege to belong to this Temple Community. From the first time I walked in here, I was welcomed so warmly. If I could describe how I feel after converting, it’s as if I came Home.