My New Jewish Light

When I set out on this religious journey, I did not know where I was going. It was a like going on a road trip without a GPS or a map. Somewhere in the windy path, I found my Jewish soul.
The journey was long, coming from a conservative, evangelical Christian home to a reform Jewish life but it is one that I would never dare trade. When I grew up, G-d and Church were lifelines to held onto in the midst of a chaotic world. Sometimes the chaos was the outside world like bullies and the chaos is the depression and anxiety that takes ahold of your soul.
Through out my awkward teenage years, I tried to hold tight to beliefs that did not fit me, that constrained me. I fought against my soul and the G-d that created me. In college, I went to the Christian university, Valley Forge University, that my friends went to in the hopes of finding the peace and stability that seemed to be ever elusive. I majored in theological studies, specifically in religion and philosophy in hope of finding the answers that I was seeking after. I continued to struggle during my four years in college and with each passing year I realized more and more that this was not the life I wanted to live.
I am not a person that is satisfied living a life that does not give me meaning.
When I graduated from college, I went to a Congregational/American Baptist seminary, Andover Newton Theological School, so that I could expand my religious experiences in the hopes of finding something that fit. While in seminary, I met friends from a local rabbinical school and began to attend synagogue for Shabbat services. I was mesmerized from the first moment. Hearing the rabbi playing the guitar and the cantor playing "Hashkiveinu." Week after week, I continued going and then soon I realized that it was just me still attending on my own.
Judaism was beautiful to me, I loved that no matter what synagogue I went to, there was a common spirit to them all. In Judaism I found a rich tapestry that was continuously being created by diverse people unified by a sacred faith. The greatest thing was that there was a place for me in this tapestry.
I began to seek out new ways of nourishing my soul through Judaism. I wanted to do everything I could to forever bind myself to these people and this faith that had captured my heart.
I transferred to a Jewish graduate school, Hebrew College, so that I could dive in and learn as much as I could. I sought after a rabbi that could help me become a Jew. A friend introduced me to a rabbi who would become my rabbi and my teacher for the next few months.
Every week, I would go to his Shabbat services. Every time I hear "Shalom Aleichem" I can smell the scent of flowers coming in from the garden the voices of the fellow congregants around me, the feel of the seats pressed in the room. I can not help but to smile at the thought. Those were the moments in which my Jewish soul was forged from what had been into what it was becoming.
Soon after, I had move back home for mental health reasons and it was very hard to leave. When I found my current synagogue, Temple David, I rejoiced. My synagogue has been a sukkah of peace and joy. When I became a Jew this past October, I was welcomed into more than just a religion but into a family. A family that has surrounded me through some of my darkest storms and rejoiced with me during some of my happiest moments.
This past weekend, I attend an overnight Shabbaton with my synagogue and I lit the Shabbat candles for the first time with my community. It was such a precious memory that I think I will carry with me for a long time.
It's easy to take for granted the little things but as a new Jew, the little things seem to be the most exciting for me.
I look forward to writing this blog because I want to share with you, much like I share with my synagogue, what my experiences are. In my blog, I will be discussing topics that are important to me, and what I think are important to you as well.
As a Jew and as someone with depression and who is a survivor of rape, I think it is important to share our stories. As a Jew, I believe it is important for all voices to be heard, I think that is one of the most beautiful things about Judaism, that we all have a voice and an equal place at the table.