18 Tishrei 5782 / Friday, September 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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Finding Out I Wasn't a Jew    

Finding Out I Wasn't a Jew

I was ready to move to Israel, join the IDF, make a new life, observe the Torah and marry a lovely Jewish girl, G-d willing. That is, until the rabbi told me I wasn’t Jewish…


My heart was already burning with a passion for Torah. It was the beginning of a whole new world of feeling spirituality. The light was bright and everything in life seemed to make sense. I was ready to move to Israel, take on a new life, observe the commandments and G-d willing marry... That is until the rabbi told me I wasn’t Jewish.


The news hit me and even though I was kind of expecting to hear something along these lines, I knew in my heart that it wasn’t true. That I was certainly a Jew even though my halachic status said otherwise. Like many other millions of young Jewish people, I would not be considered Jewish according to Torah Law. My mother may G-d always bless her, went through a reform conversion before she was married. She took classes with a reform Rabbi for a number of months and in the end went to immerse in the ritual bath known as a mikva. But at the end of the day the conversion doesn’t hold because it wasn’t a conversion that was concentrated on accepting and adhering to the Torah and Rabbinical ordinances, and since a person’s religion is determined by the mothers’ side, I was born technically not a Jew. Ouch!


My whole life I had Jewish identity.  I loved the IDF, had a bar mitzvah, and also went to Sunday and Wednesday school (even if it was mostly to just flirt with the girls.) After becoming a bar mitzvah I was considered a serious Jew by going to the ‘confirmation’ retreat. That trip confirmed for me that Reform Judaism was not real. Our rabbi told the boys there, “Practice on the non-Jewish girls but marry a Jewish girl.”




On that same trip we all had a meeting where we sat around in a circle and the Rabbi passed a Torah scroll around for each of us to hold. He then asked us to say what we feel while we held it. Some didn’t know what to say, others said something quick to relieve themselves of getting too deep… and then I grasped the Torah and said “This Torah is holy, it’s older then America, it’s older then all of modern society, if it has lasted this long... and survived so much torture, maybe we should respect and try to learn it and do our best to pass it on...” Not bad for a 15 year old.


Unfortunately that was the last time I was involved in Torah/Judaism for a few years. But later on in college my soul was reignited with burning questions about life, mostly due to drug use and pondering G-d, not a good combination J … “How is it that Judaism is true? There are billions of other people that believe in the other religions, and how can we be the truth!?!?” My mind pondered.  Luckily I found a campus Rabbi, and he sat me down for Starbucks Coffee every week to discuss life’s purpose. He was a miracle, and helped me taste the Yeshiva life at Aish HaTorah in the Old City through one of their Essentials programs.


My experiences in Israel that summer gave me clarity about life. I was learning Torah in the land destined for us. When I returned and began to fill out application forms to make Aliyah, they contained a section where you need to prove you are Jewish. I brought this section to a local rabbi to sign and he said with reluctance that I wasn’t a Jew. It didn’t stop me.


After several weeks I had found a way to make Aliyah being recognized as a reform Jew. Then someone told me about a conversion program in Israel. It was in Jerusalem and designed for people who have always thought they were Jewish but found out later in life that according to the Halacha they aren’t! I went through the process and after about year of learning and being connected to the Rabbis I went to the Beit Dein and then to a mikva in Tzfat. The joy that you feel when you go through a process like this is unlike anything you can experience.


Everything is for the best. If you are in a similar situation, don’t get angry. Take action. What seems now total darkness is actually what will lead you to great success if you decide to convert. Although it’s not easy, by converting according to Halacha you will be ensuring a Jewish future for your children, especially if you move to Israel. You will reconnect to all of your ancestors and ensure that Judaism is passed to the next generation. Don’t be afraid.

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  Kol HaKAvod Doug!
David Ben Horin8/8/2016 11:48:40 AM

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