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A Jew by Choice

The most fitting way I can find to begin the new blog is to highlight one of the biggest changes my family is going through.

Whereas most of my online presence has focused on christianity and our tendency to be conservative, all of that has drastically changed over the last few years... and while this is one choice I tried to keep a little more private, it seems to have backfired. When you stop and think about it, it's actually kind of humorous. I have been accused many times throughout my adult life of trying to "get attention" for choices I make and the fact that I am, by nature, very open about myself. Yet the one time I don't overshare, I seem to have confused many people who are now trying to work out exactly what is going on with me. I feel like trying to keep something private for once may have been a mistake. I obviously wasn't put on this earth to have a personal life without sharing it.

Let's go back to Easter of this year. I had been really struggling with how many things seemed to be falling apart in my life, and a lot of that was fallout related to chronic emotional abuse from my husband's family. It was very hard to come to terms with the view everyone had of them being the "perfect" examples of christianity when behind closed doors, they exhibit severely controlling and narcissistic traits. It's difficult to rationalize them putting on the standard christian mask for the public while they were treating me so horrendously that I was becoming suicidal.

All of this coupled with my ever-changing mindset about many social justice issues ended up being the straw that broke the camel's back. I realized that I could not continue to walk the path of the christian church while feeling like the entire religious movement stood for things I did not stand for.

Now, just to clarify, I am not saying by any means that I entirely walked away from christianity because of my in-laws. Seeing how they could be praised as these amazing christians definitely showed me that there is a frightening level of appearances meaning more than actions in the church, and that was a big piece of the puzzle, but it was not the only piece.

That being said, everything I had been working through emotionally culminated in the realization that this was a wide-spread issue in the christian community. You don't have to be a good person or even be remotely decent to live the facade of being "christ-like." And I no longer wanted to associate with any of that in any way.

I still held a firm belief in God but I wasn't sure where I was headed spiritually. Now, don't laugh at this part because I have actually discovered that this is not at all an uncommon occurence.

I took to google and sought out a "what religion am I" quiz. I honestly was not expecting it to tell me much, but on the heels of praying to God to light some path for me, it was sort of a last-ditch effort to solve my own spiritual crisis. The Belief-O-Matic revealed to me that the majority of my beliefs aligned with, of all things, reformed Judaism.

I can't even tell you how hard I laughed at that result. In hindsight, I had less than zero understanding of Judaism. When I thought of the Jewish faith, I basically thought of nothing. To be quite honest, I had so many misconceptions - and my ignorance of it all is perhaps a bit frightening. It was the kind of thing that since you find it inaccessible, you don't bother to think of it at all. I hadn't been born a Jew, and so that was the extent of my thought process on the subject. Why form an opinion of something that does not, nor will it ever, have anything to do with me?

Of course, the next logical step was to look into the core beliefs of Judaism. In doing so, I was completely shocked to find that it all really did resonate with me. Even little things like tolerance and acceptance of those who are different and the flexibility that you can be Jewish and technically not even believe in God at all made me feel nearly sold on the idea from the get-go. I was tired of the judgement and crucifying of all people who didn't fit the christian mould and truthfully, I didn't know there was a religious outlet that allowed one to simply worry only about themselves.

If I were to really get into it, this post would be an entire novella in and of itself. I will make a long story.. er, less long and cut to the chase. Reading up on Judaism quickly progressed into studying Judaism which again, quickly progressed into a full-blown Jewish education. I didn't want to pressure my family by any means, but they were already expressing the same hesitancy at christianity that I had been previously. As I casually shared the minor tenants of the Jewish faith that struck a chord with me, my family seemed to be in total agreement about it all. When I told them we were going to start practicing things like Jewish holidays and seeing what Shabbat feels like for us, I absolutely didn't want them to feel obligated to participate but it was a strangely seamless transition. I was so adamant about keeping my path to myself that I didn't even really ask them about where they stood on the issue. Yet every time it would come up in discussion, it was obvious that they were connecting with the path I was on. It didn't take long for Ender Dean, who is only four, to start asking, "how many days until Shabbat?"

The time came where I felt like I had meddled long enough, and with the support of family I began to actively seek out a way to formally convert. In the beginning, I felt that I would have my family by my side but I had not asked them how they felt about conversion. Once my conversion process was underway, however, my husband and all of my children began to confirm that they, too, wanted to be Jews by choice along with me. It was a huge relief as interfaith marriages can occasionally complicate things and let's face it, the Jewish life is all about family. I truly never felt like we had an interfaith family though. I may not have asked where they stood on conversion but I never felt like they were in any degree of opposition with me. The Jewish faith seemed to take hold deep in their hearts just as it had for me, and I am very thankful for that.

Under the guidance of my Rabbi, I am slowly working through the full life cycle to become a Jew by choice and when the time comes, I already know where my (and their) Mikvah will take place. I have warned the whole family where we will have to take what they affectionately think of as "skinny-dipping baptism" and we are looking forward to that as much as we look forward to every loaf of challah that we sing over ritualistically every Friday night.

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