Starting Holiday Traditions As A New(ish) Jew

It is that time of year again! As the High Holidays get closer, I find myself thinking back to my days as a gentile and how I missed out on such a beautiful, yearly experience back then. The feeling of joy and the sweet treats of Rosh Hashanah. The people approaching at services to wish me “Shanah Tovah” with a smile. These are two of the things that I am so glad that I get to experience now as the years go on.

As a father to an 18-month-old (who entered the mikvah on the same day as me), I love being able to grow as a Jew while raising my daughter as a Jew. Building on my knowledge and faith while building family rituals and experiences with her and my wife brings me so much happiness. Reading her PJ Library books about the holidays is wonderful because she will go through her whole life knowing all about the days and living a Jewish life while I missed out on it over the first 30 years of my life.

This year, I will be spending my Rosh Hashanah in Orlando. Luckily, like my congregation here, Shir Tikvah, there is a congregation down there with an open-door policy and no need for purchased tickets, so I will be able to welcome the new year while on my extended weekend away from the Twin Cities. Orlando is a place where I really started to feel an increased urge to follow my heart and get going toward conversion, living in a part of the metro area with a large Jewish population and a beautiful JCC that I would pass daily to and from work, occasionally stopping by to visit the Jewish history and Holocaust museums that were on the property.  In the few years that I lived down there, Orlando became the place that feels like home even to this day, so it will be wonderful to be able to celebrate such an important holiday there for the first time as a Jew.

I will be back in town in time to observe Yom Kippur locally, which makes me feel good because, as someone who chooses to fast, and is still a novice at it, if I pass out I know that any medical attention I receive will most likely be considered “in-network” by my insurance company.

I wish you all a Shanah Tovah and can’t wait to share more with you in the New Year!