One of the most beautiful and exciting moments of my life happened some weeks ago, at Conservative shul in São Paulo. When the Sefer Torah was removed from the ark and taken to the members of the shul, I wasn’t just able to see it closer than I usually do from the women’s section at my Orthodox shul, I was able to touch it!
That was the first time in my life that I touched the Torah scrolls. I was so happy and proud. I could feel the water in my eyes. I could feel myself flying with the clouds. I couldn’t stop smiling. Until that moment, I thought that my happiest moments as a (soon to be) Jew (and a woman in the Jewish Orthodox world) were my days at Synagogue Shira Chadasha in Jerusalem.
I know it is a silly thing, specially for those jews familiarized to non-Orthodox synagogues, but for me, it was a powerful moment. I felt truly Jewish, equal to everyone else in that shul. Things like that are very important to jews by choice. It was an experience different from everything. I went to the shul without fear of judgment (something common for a “soon to be” Jew), I wasn’t afraid of make mistakes, I was relaxed and had a self-confidence of someone that was born Jewish. I had the self-confidence, that natural Jewish identity that I saw on the girl without a name.
Despite the fact that was hard for me to follow their prayer style (I use an Ashkenazi siddur, but my synagogue is Sefardi, so I’m not used to the sound of the Ashkenazi prayer style) and it was weird to be the only woman without tallit (and the only one with an "Orthodox tznius fashion style"), I felt normal and happy.
I simply have no words to describe how happy and in peace with myself I was during my first experience in a Conservative shul. Most of all, there are no words to describe what it meant to me, to be able to touch the Sefer Torah, the man who was caring it through the shul stopped so I could touch it.
To the Halacha folks who are prepared to yell “women can’t touch it because it will let it impure for men!” or “you haven’t officially convert!”, please allow me to clear some facts: the Torah scrolls was covered, therefore, I didn’t touched it directly, which means it is not a big issue if I’m not a Jew (yet) and it was an egalitarian minyan.
Now, forget for a minute the technicalities and look at the big picture. That moment allowed me to feel equal to everyone else, I touched the most important object in Judaism. I felt unquestionably Jewish. Officially, it was the most strong, passionate and surreal moment of my conversion process!
Inside of that beautiful Ashkenazi shul, they offer an conservative Jewish experience. Between those egalitarian walls be jewish is not a title that makes you or allows you to be better than any person inside or outside the Jewish world. I felt that they practice a judaism that isn’t a chain surrounding your wrist, but the air you breathe and makes you happy.
I desire in such a strong way that a shul like that could exist in my state. I love my synagogue and I’m grateful by the incredible opportunity they gave to me. The opportunity to live inside the Jewish world. However I must say, it’s wonderful to take a “vocation” from the politically incorrect Orthodox Judaism and travel to the politically correct beach of liberal judaism.
Liberal Jews (Conservative or Reform) are not “less Jews” or practice “incorrect Judaism” as many in the Orthodox world like to say. I think they are fascinating and bold, because it is necessary to be bold, to have a strong personality and a great certainty of one’s Jewish identity to be this kind of Jew in Brazil. Therefore, they have my admiration.
I had never felt so Jewish as that Conservative synagogue allowed me to feel.