My Journey Into The Jewish Faith


By Alexa Nathan, Associated IMPACT and Couples Committee Member

Alexa Nathan

My journey into the Jewish faith began after meeting my husband Jeff. Personally, I had never grown up aligned particularly closely to any singular religion. My upbringing was Catholic, but only insofar as I attended Catholic day school as a youth (like most other kids around me) and I enjoyed opening Christmas presents (like every other kid around me).

When I met Jeff, one of the first aspects of his character that I became drawn to was his sense of identity around his Jewish heritage. I admired the way he would reminisce on his youthful days at his synagogue, or his joyous Bar Mitzvah celebration among his friends. Above all, he would not stop raving about Jewish summer camp, as if it hadn’t been almost 13 years since his volunteer days as a counselor.

When I began dating Jeff, my mom encouraged me to learn about his holidays, customs and traditions. I know now that a Catholic mother coaxing her daughter to immerse herself in all things Jewish isn’t so unusual, but I had absolutely no idea then.

Her gift to me shortly after Jeff and I started seeing each other was a copy of the venerable book, What To Do When You’re Dating a Jew. Of course, like any good and proper Shiksa, I devoured it entirely. Thus, what started as casual web surfing about holiday traditions and Jewish customs (why are there so many questions with no answers?) became more than a passion project for me pretty quickly.

I witnessed how close Jeff was with his temple and camp friends who, he would attest, had a special bond that withstood the test of time and geographic distance. Judaism was also a commonplace conversation piece amongst his family during events, with his mother frequently embarrassing him by calling attention to his confident Torah readings as a kid. I knew early on that I wanted that feeling of religious identity as well, and I began taking steps toward finding it.

Jeff returned from military service in Korea, and we immediately moved across the country to Washington state. We joined a local Reform synagogue, and I continued exploring. I even worked for an Early Learning Center affiliated with the temple. Over the next couple years, I listened, learned and participated as much as I could. The more I learned, the more I realized this was the path meant for me.

Fast forward 2 years: Jeff and I moved across the country (again), this time to Harford County, MD. He had completed his military service and found a job as a government civilian, and I was certainly eager to continue my Jewish exploration. Neither of us had friends or family in the immediate area, so we were keen on becoming part of the community.

We began attending (Zoom) services at the local Reform synagogue, and we quickly grew to admire the Rabbi and congregants. To augment this experience, Jeff and I enrolled in the Miller Introduction to Judaism Course, hosted by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore in conjunction with the Baltimore Board of Rabbis.

Over the ensuing four months, I learned about all things Judaism, with deep dives on the history of the Israelites, the meaning behind the customs and holidays and insights into keeping Kosher and maintaining a Jewish household. I found myself fully engrossed in the teachings of the many rabbis who lectured during the class, and spent additional time outside of class on the voluntary readings. By the time the course concluded, I was more than certain that I wanted to formally convert.

Soon after, I contacted our rabbi and we initiated a year-long conversion curriculum. This included question and answer surveys on various Jewish thematic material, select religious readings and monthly discussions with the rabbi. As of this writing, I am approximately four months from completion of the program, and I could not be more excited to stand in front of the Beit Din and declare my commitment to the faith.

To those who are considering this rewarding path: make sure to do your research, ask plenty of questions, do not rush and, most importantly, enjoy every minute of the journey to discover your Jewish identity.


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