Welcome to “Who the Folk?!” Every week on Monday we feature a new member of the community as our “Person of the Week.” Last week we got to know Mark Divine. This week meet Liv Augusta Anderson! We asked her these questions mere hours after she officially converted to Judaism! Know someone we should feature? Nominate them by sending an email to [email protected].
Liv: Well, my first moments of being Jewish felt very wet and adrenaline filled, but that’s probably because I was in a mikvah and terrified I was going to mess up the prayers and be banished for life. But now that my hair has dried, it feels pretty much the same as I did before, but a little bit happier because now I can live completely as myself.
TCJ: What was your background previously? What made you want to convert to Judaism?
Liv: I grew up Lutheran until junior high when my family became Catholic. My mom had been Catholic before marrying my dad who, before I was born, was a Lutheran minister. The short version of the story that I read to the beit din took three, single spaced pages to write out, so I’m not sure I can do it justice here. But it’s pretty much your classic girl meets boy, girl gets engaged to boy, boy breaks up with girl, girl goes to Israel, girl falls in love with Judaism story.
TCJ: Can you give us some jewcy details on the conversion process?
Liv: Oh man, it’s so jewcy. If jewcy means getting naked in front of a friend.
Basically I told my story to a beit din led by the rabbi I studied with, in my case Rabbi Michael Adam Latz. After that they asked me follow up questions and my witness choked up a lot and I had a hard time getting through it because of all the happy emotions. Then after they voted me in came the mikvah part. Oddly enough, even as an improviser, I was so nervous about getting through my story and the whole talking part that getting naked in front of my friend, Carin, who served as my witness was not even remotely nerve wracking. I think because of that, the mikvah part was super relaxing and pleasant. A warm tub is pretty nice, even when you’re dealing with finding your glasses so you can read the prayers in between immersions. There’s something incredibly grounding about knowing that the practice I was partaking in has been in existence as long as Judaism.
Then after we took care of paper work and took a bunch of pictures with my dripping hair (after I had put my clothes back on), Carin and I grabbed a glass of wine and that was that.
Liv: Besides scheduling converting in early May, I also am graduating from the Humphrey School at the U on the 18th. I believe in putting all major life events into a couple weeks, so don’t be surprised if I get married, move, buy a house, start a business, and get elected to office in the next seventy-two hours or so as well. At the Humphrey I served as a board member of the Humphrey Students of Color Association. I’m also involved in the regional strategy team for an organization called Leadership for Educational Equity.
TCJ: If there was a showdown between all the Jewish summer camps, who would you want to win?
Liv: This isn’t the best question for someone who has been Jewish for less than a week. But I did work at the Summer Musical Theater Institute at the Sabes JCC the summer after high school, so I’m going to say I’m #TeamOlami.
TCJ: What’s your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?
Liv: Being an improviser, I often am performing on Friday evenings, which sucks—especially when I have a show the same night as First Fridays at Shir Tikvah. I love going to services and then making a homemade dinner with friends. First Fridays remind me of my all time favorite Friday nights when I lived in New Orleans and would celebrate shabbos at the Moishe House there. Also, I love when I can work from home and spend all day Friday baking challah. Even when I wind up performing, I’ve been known to bring a loaf of challah to eat with my team after a show.
TCJ: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
Liv: Shabbat. I was told once to “keep calm, Shabbat is less than a week away.”
TCJ: Who is the coolest Jew?
Liv: If you had asked me before 3 pm on May 1st, I would have said Will Berkovitz, one of my favorite rabbis in the world. I wish I had a pocket version of him to consult whenever I need advice. If they made social justice action figures, he would have one.
But it’s after 3 pm on the 1st, so now I’ll say me. Because I’m Jewish and pretty cool.
TCJ: Have you been to Israel? What is your favorite memory?
Liv: I have!!! My favorite memory is the moment I decided to convert. We were in Ein Gedi and Avraham Infeld said “you don’t call converted Jews ‘converted Jews’ for the same reason you don’t call adopted children ‘adopted children,’ because once you’re in the family, you’re in the family.”
TCJ: What’s your favorite thing to do in the Cities?
Liv: The State Fair. I grew up walking distance from the fair, worked there for seven years of my life, and have only missed one year (even though I’ve lived outside of Minnesota for six years of my life). It’s just the best. My dad volunteers for the foundation, my mom does incredible seed art pieces that always garner a lot of attention, and I’ve gotten to spend the past two years selling ice cream with my brother.
TCJ: What else do you do for fun?
Liv: Does running count as fun? I hate running, but my brother and I have gotten in to running the RunDisney races. So far we’ve done one 10 mile race together. In August we’ll be doing the Dumbo Double Dare (a 10k followed the next day by the Disneyland Half Marathon) and in October we’ll be doing the EPCOT Wine and Dine Half Marathon so I can earn my Coast-to-Coast Medal (where you do a half marathon in each US Disney Park). The best part is that we run in coordinated costumes. So far we’ve done Tinkerbell and Peter Pan (which will be reprised in Disneyland). You’ll have to wait to see the rest of the awesome costumes we’ve got in store.
TCJ: Give us one more reason why you are folking awesome!
Liv: I have two amazing cats, Zasha and Anya. One is over twenty pounds and the other is about eight pounds. They are the greatest because they love me even when I am having a rough day.Click here to nominate your favorite TC Jew to be featured on our weekly Who the Folk?! series!