My conversion story started out like many others. Non-Jewish starts dating Jewish boy. While the Jewish boy wants to date the non-Jewish girl, he can’t imagine marrying a non-Jew.
Non-Jewish girl is hurt, stunned, and doesn’t know what to do. She’s a secular atheist with English and German blood who loves bacon, after all. She doesn’t want to change for anybody. She thinks: Why would anyone subscribe to religion – something that is antiquated, backwards, and just has way too many rules? Why not just face the facts: you live and then you die, and that’s it. That’s no imaginary man in the sky who cares about you. It’s all fairy tales.
Here’s the thing, though. The girl and the boy are very much in love and they want to stay together. They agree to play things by ear. In the meantime, they are young and broke and living in New York City, and this organization called Chabad does free Friday night dinners. Boy asks girl, “Do you want to go?” Girl, hungry and desperate for a home-cooked meal, emphatically agrees.
And it’s at that Chabad that she eats warm challah and delicious kugel and listens to a nice speech by the rabbi and meets some very lovely Jewish people and sees that perhaps her worldview is wrong. Maybe being an atheist wasn’t working out so well for her. Being a Jew seemed like a much better way of life. She craved meaning and the Torah had plenty of it.
She knew she wanted to convert.
And so after that fateful dinner, I (the girl), started on a five-year conversion process and brought my off-the-derech boyfriend Daniel (now husband) back to a Torah lifestyle. Now, I’ve released my first children’s book, “Jewish Just Like You,” which tells my personal conversion story and encourages our daughter to be happy about the fact that she is a Jew.
I wrote the book because it didn’t exist. I also wanted our daughter, who is now one-year-old, to be able to read about her parents’ story and understand why I chose to convert. In the book, I talk about why she should respect the traditions of grandparents on both sides and how no matter what, they love her all the same.
This book is really for the children of any convert, no matter what the exact story is behind their parents’ conversion. Though I keep it lighthearted, there are certainly challenges of converting. It takes a long time – it took me five years because we weren’t ready to get married, but it usually takes more than a year – and you pretty much have to change your entire life.
I’m glad I took five years to do it because becoming Shomer Shabbat and kosher should be a gradual process. I couldn’t just go from using my phone and going to the movies and driving on Shabbat to giving up all of it, or from eating bacon and Philly cheesesteaks to being kosher. Becoming observant should not be like a crash diet, because then you’re more likely to be unsuccessful. The rabbis ensure conversion takes a while for a reason.
There are other challenges with being a frum Jew, of course. It’s definitely more expensive than being secular, especially if you live in a big city. Kosher food is pricey, too, and so are the holidays. Plus, they’re a lot of work. As we Jewish mothers say, we make Thanksgiving dinner every Friday and holiday.
But the benefits far outweigh the challenges. One thing about the book is it goes from a sepia tone to full-on Technicolor once I dip into the mikvah. That’s because my life went from being pretty sad and meaningless to being happy and full of meaning when I took on Judaism. Before I converted, I woke up most days feeling blue. The more observant I became, the more excited I was about life. Learning to trust in G-d instead of believing everything is in my control really makes my life a lot easier and healthier and joyful.
“Jewish Just Like You” encourages readers – children and adults alike — to feel positive about being a Jew with the line “Proudly hold your head up high, and sing out, ‘Am Yisrael Chai!’”
I’m certainly happy I converted, and that I now get to share my story with the world.
“Jewish Just Like You” is available for purchase here.