My (Recent) Jewish Journey: Becoming Part of the Tribe

Over the past 14 years, I’ve been wandering. Between moving from Wisconsin, to Minnesota, south to Florida, and back to the Midwest, I’ve craved the community my life lacked. Years later, I’m home.

Though I grew up in a fairly liberal family, joining the Jewish community wasn’t in my life plan. We weren’t what some would label “religious,” but our little Catholic family enjoyed Christmas mass and holiday traditions. My family was open-minded and moderate, so I grew up to be the same. But time passed, and I began to feel less close to Catholicism.

So I flirted… with Judaism. I attended Shabbat services once in a while, explored the meanings behind weekly Dvar Torahs, even bought my own annotated Torah to delve into the unfamiliar text. Rabbi Biatch at Madison’s Temple Beth El reached out to me, and I joined an Introduction to Judaism course. And when I moved to Minneapolis, my Jewish journey continued with Rabbi Latz. No matter where I went, I felt welcomed.

I was on the road of conversion, but something was missing. Despite the Jewish friends, culture and stories of survival, I needed to fill one last hole. I booked a trip to Israel for the winter of 2014 and fell in love at first sight. Between the people, the Jewish energy and the visible history, I felt a spiritual connection new to me. I felt at home.

During my conversion process, I discovered the importance of community to the Jewish people. Each individual Jew is unique. They may enjoy football season, send their kids to day school and summer camp, or appreciate the arts, yet when sundown comes at the end of a long work week, they all know their day of relaxation and reflection has come. The Jewish community is a collective unit bound by history, tradition, and practice. By choosing to become a member of the Jewish people, I am staking a claim in its future while doing my part to connect to its past and observe its rituals and customs. I am Jewish.