I’m not going to lie: Walking into that first Introduction to Judaism class, I was nervous.
For the last five years – since falling for the love of my life, a beautiful Jewish girl named Felicia – I’d become increasingly immersed in Jewish culture, attending High Holiday services with her family, exchanging Hanukkah gifts, reading books on Judaism, and consulting “Rabbi Google.”
Still, I felt like an outsider – self-conscious and keenly aware of my “other-ness.”
Though I’d decided I was interested in conversion, I worried that, on some level, I’d always be thought of as an impostor – that my marriage into a Jewish family would somehow be seen as diluting the stock of the Jewish people. Absolutely none of this came from Felicia’s amazing and welcoming family, mind you, but I still couldn’t shake my own insecurities. I hoped that an introductory Judaism class would allay these fears and help me feel more comfortable, but as we walked into class that first evening, I was still overwhelmed with trepidation.
Once Felicia and I got settled and the session got started with introductions around the room, I began to relax. My classmates were friendly and eager to learn, and l quickly realized that almost everyone was going through their own particular trials. Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein, our teacher, was warm and approachable, with a knack for exposing the subtleties of multifaceted concepts (which, in Judaism, is nearly every one of them!) Subjects that initially seemed downright daunting for a neophyte like me were broken down methodically and analyzed from every angle. Rabbi Bernstein presented multiple viewpoints on each of the topics, complementing the diversity of experience within our group.
The students were a mixed bag: prospective converts, significant others, Jews who wanted to reconnect with their faith and ancestry, and those who simply wanted to learn about Judaism. Together, we examined not only a wealth of information on all aspects of Judaism, but also the diversity of opinion and experience that contributes to its richness.
One of the course requirements was writing a weekly journal entry. Each week’s entry prompted deep introspection and served as a catalyst for personal discoveries that we also discussed in class. I considered new viewpoints and ideas, and in this inspirational climate, I began to question some of my own firmly held beliefs. I rediscovered and reexamined aspects of my personality and worldview that I had long ago dismissed as steadfast and unwavering, even as I discovered parts of myself that I never even knew existed. I found that the more I learned in class, the more I learned about myself.
This class helped to facilitate what I know will be a deep, lifelong engagement with Judaism. My newfound enthusiasm for Jewish culture and tradition carries over into my relationship with Felicia and into our home, where together we have become more engaged in Jewish practices.
Thanks to one Introduction to Judaism course, I overcame hesitation and self-consciousness to confirm wholeheartedly that conversion is the right choice for me. Soon, I will enter the mikveh (ritual bath) and join the Jewish people, and I know that the transition from using “they,” “them,” and “you” to using “we,” “us,” and “I” in my conversations about Judaism will feel completely natural.
Interested in learning more about Judaism? Find an Introduction to Judaism class near you.