Even though I grew up in a Hindu household and was exposed to other polytheistic religions throughout my childhood, I always found myself praying to one God. This innate pull toward one God foreshadowed my eventual conversion to Orthodox Judaism. I was introduced to Judaism during my training as an auxiliary police officer for the NYPD. From there, my circle of Jewish friends increased and they introduced me to Jewish holidays and Shabbat. Religious services in shuls had a sense of purity for me, something I never felt in the houses of worship of my youth.
As I delved deeper into Judaism and started to daven, I felt a strong connection to God. Judaism sets itself apart from all religions with prayer. It’s the only religion I know of where we thank God for everything from waking up in the morning to the foods we eat to seeing a rainbow. It is so meaningful to me that we show appreciation for everything we have.
While I may still have questions about some Jewish concepts, the most important thing to me is solved – I regularly see Hashem’s hand in my life. Once on Shabbos not too long after I had converted, it was raining really hard and it started to flood. My car was parked outside on the street and I was nervous that it was going to get destroyed or float away. I kept going back and forth between wanting to move the car and not wanting to break Shabbos. For a few minutes, I was struggling with what to do. Then I resolved to not break Shabbos – I had made a commitment to these laws. Not even a second later, my downstairs neighbor knocked on my door and said, “I know you are Jewish and can’t move your car so I’ll move it for you.”
Besides my connection to God, Jewish values also resonate with me deeply. The secular world today is very different than in past generations which didn’t sit well with me as I consider myself to be old-fashioned. From dating to marriage to how people dress, the standards felt shallow. People focus more on the physical aspect of dating instead of actual compatibility. My parents’ generation took marriage seriously while today’s generation either holds off on marriage until they have established their careers, or practice common law marriage, doing everything that a married couple does without the commitment. I didn’t fit into that mold. I was shocked to find that everyone around me was living a very fast-paced life, lost of their innocence. While many people say that the secular world is great because of “freedom,” that freedom comes with a price that I didn’t want to pay.
Another thing I admire so much about the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle is that it is more family and community-oriented. There is a respect for marriage. In Judaism, you have a community that looks after each other’s needs, like charity organizations that help provide food, shelter, clothing, medical assistance, job opportunities and more. Judaism has holidays with true meaning behind them.
We constantly see people in the media being celebrated for leaving Orthodoxy and while I don’t judge them for their choices, it’s a shame that they blame whatever challenges they underwent on Judaism. For a person who has seen the world both ways, I can say firsthand what a blessing a religious Jewish lifestyle has brought me.