"What are you?" was a question I was often asked in New York City. At first, I did not understand. Having grown up in San Antonio, Texas during the Jim Crow era, there was no doubt in my mind. During Jim Crow, Americans were defined by their skin color. I was not Black, but neither was I white. Therefore, I reasoned, I must be Mexican.
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Even before I finalized my conversion to Judaism, I was preparing to celebrate my adult bar mitzvah. In a sense, my conversion preparation became a precursor to bigger plans: for a bar mitzvah and a Jewish vow renewal ceremony with my wife Laurie later this year.
On Shavuot, many of us study the Book of Ruth. Lauded by Rabbinic tradition as a righteous convert, Ruth’s story continues to resonate with the experiences of many Jews-by-choice today.
I’m feeling very peaceful today. I went to the mikvah this morning. I was a little nervous, just because official rites of passage can be a little scary. But I knew everyone was going to be super nice and supportive (and they were!).
My grandmother once told me about her father's family, and we bonded over learning about one of our most famous ancestors, Mary, Queen of Scots. Years later, I did some genealogical research while on maternity leave to keep my mind sharp and give me something to focus on outside the realm of taking care of a newborn.
Our tradition teaches that once someone has converted to Judaism, they are as Jewish as a Jew by birth and we are not to speak of it again with them, or with anyone else. It should be as if they have always been Jewish. To not speak of it is to fully honor the person who chose Judaism by not making any distinctions between them and the born-Jewish members of our communities.
As I stood at the top of the steps of the pool of warm water, I could feel my feet tingle with anticipation. The feeling slowly enveloped my body, moving steadily up my legs, to my core, my heart and my mind. The feeling did not agitate or annoy, it was like a blanket of calmness and serenity. I stood at the top of the steps looking down into the mikvah. I took a breath and descended slowly until I stood fully in the water.
Grace (they/them) is an alum of the URJ's JewV'Nation Fellowship LGBTQ+ cohort. Our writer sat down with Grace to talk about gender and Judaism.
Judaism is a religion, but it is also a practice. I choose to practice my Judaism by expressing my love for the Jewish people and my becoming one of them. I practice by immersing myself in Jewish wisdom and participating in the conversation of Jewish philosophy.
This campaign aims to help dismantle systemic racism by educating, inspiring, and empowering individuals and communities to look inwardly to make communal change and outwardly to win legislative change.