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I converted to Judaism about five years ago. But I still feel a bit like a fraud sometimes. Not in my spirituality, because I thought long and hard about conversion and what it meant for me, and for my family. Not just my Jewish husband and children who were growing up as Jewish, but also my mother, my sister, my aunts – the family that wasn’t Jewish and would be confused and possibly hurt by the decision. In the end, the decision to convert was easy – because I was Jewish, I was raising my kids in a Jewish home, and wanted it to be official.
But I still didn’t grow up Jewish. I grew up in an Irish Catholic family, with entirely different foods, traditions, expressions and holidays. And a dip in the mikvah doesn’t change that. I still feel vaguely… new, and when people slip into Hebrew or Yiddish, I have to nod knowingly and hope nobody realizes I have no idea what they just said. It’s not entirely comfortable, not all the time. But it’s there.
Which is why I’m still somewhat surprised by the fact that I’m the new Sisterhood President at my synagogue. I volunteered for it, because nobody else did, and I wanted to make sure that there was a Sisterhood. I want my kids to see Judaism as something that we do, not just something we pay lip service to once a week. If I want them to have a strong connection to their synagogue and their spirituality, I need to model that. Part of what I love about Judaism is the sense of community, even if I don’t always understand the language or the food.
I’m a little bit in over my head, but I’m swimming. I’m figuring it out, and maybe by the time I’m done, and my two year term is over, I won’t feel quite so out of my element at the synagogue. And my kids will know that Judaism is more than just going to religious school and having challah on Friday nights. It’s about a community being together, raising money and celebrating life’s passages. It’s about friendship and learning and growing together. Judaism will be part of who they are, not just activities that we attend.
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