Fast of Tammuz

How secure is our world?

Yesterday, the 17th of Tammuz, the walls of Jerusalem were breached. Today, almost 2000 years later, we are fasting for this breach to our sacred space.

How relevant is the Fast of Tammuz to Jews today. In the year 5772 we are fortunate enough to have Jerusalem and the rest of Israel as a free Jewish homeland. In about two months, I will get on a plane to make this Land my home, but today, by fasting I am recognizing the insecurity of the Land both then and now.

All life is so fragile, not only for Jews and not only Israel. In a world where we constantly struggle to obtain more and are seldolmly satisfied with what we have it is easy to forget that everything sits in an instable state of here today and gone tomorrow. It takes an illness or another’s loss to make us step back and count our blessings, but I feel the 17th of Tammuz comes to remind us that life is uncertain and unsecure. We can experience loss at any moment (and will in just 3 weeks with Tisha b’Av), so let us take time to appreciate everything we have today.

Moving to Israel

This past week, I found out where in Israel I will be living for the next year. I was extremely excited and suddenly the fact that I am going to be living in Israel became real. I have been talking and thinking about it for so long, but having the actual location and grant terms in my hands made my heart skip a beat. Immediately, I began to think about how lucky I am that it is written in the stars for me to make Israel my home. I think of the thousands of Jews throughout the centuries who knew Israel was their home but were prevented from living in the land. I think of Moshe, the greatest prophet of all, who also wasn’t able to go into the Promised Land. I count my blessings everyday and now I have a very important one to add, one that can easily be taken for granted. I will try my best to remind myself and be grateful because I am in the minority of the Jewish people throughout history.

I can’t wait to get to Israel.

Yes, I am Jewish

“Are you Jewish?”

My mikvah date was about a month ago. In the time since, I have felt a slew of emotions and spent hours in reflection. One of the most exciting feelings is the urge to shout, “I am Jewish.” I have been waiting to say this for so long. I hated not being able to say it before and although I still have slight anxiety about saying it now, I want so badly to say it.

I have not had a real need to say it out loud because all of my friends and family are aware of the change and have no need to ask. Although I felt like it would come up over and over again in conversation and small talk before I converted (when I had the long explanation of being “in-between religions”), it had yet to come up in conversation until today. It felt like it took forever to come up, and I was just about tired of saying “I am Jewish” out loud to myself, but it was worth the wait.

Today, while working at the Jewish Community Center’s camp, I was coloring with a group of kids. A 7 year old girl looked up at me and asked, “Are you Jewish?”  The question seemed to come out of nowhere. I had waited so long for this moment. I put down my crayon, looked up from my picture of the Star of David, and exhaled a confident, “yes.”

It was a relief. I made it through my first encounter of telling someone I was Jewish.  Yes, she was only 7, but I knew it took a lot of strength to be honest with her and myself. I was finally able to give a one word answer to the question of my religion, and that one word said so much. The “yes” was saturated with the roller coaster of feelings that have accompanied me on the journey of conversion. The pain of telling my family, the fear of losing everything I knew before, the curiosity of my first visit to a synagogue, the courage to make life changes, and the confidence of each  “yes” during my beit din.

All of this and more was in my “yes.” I felt it pour out from my heart and soul and sighed with relief. It was really true. I said it out loud and this time it was not only me that heard it. I smiled.

She casually replied, “Oh. I am not. I am Russian.” And she continued to color. I couldn’t help but laugh. I put so much of myself into the moment before and she was asking for my family’s nationality. When she noticed me laughing she asked what was funny and I had the chance to explain to her that I am not only Jewish, but I am also Hispanic because my family is from Mexico.

I don’t think she was nearly as amused by the situation as I was, but I also don’t think she will remember our conversation next week. For me on the other hand, I hope I always remember the first time I told someone I was Jewish. I also hope that in years from now, when the newness wears off, I can vaguely recall the feeling of answering, “Yes, I am Jewish” with everything I have within me.