The Beginning: A preview of the 2017 Hanukkah that lead me down the path towards Jewish conversion.

TODAY marks the two year anniversary of seeing the light that lit up my soul. Wow. Two years, and a lot has happened in those two years. Once again I am writing this from memory and pictures. I almost feel like it’s more authentic in a way. Here goes:

I don’t really remember what time it was, but it was getting dark. I remember lounging on the couch reading The Gabber and reading that there was going to be the lighting of the menorah at the park by the local synagogue. I noticed the time and I only had a few minutes to get there if I was going to go. Something within me told me that I absolutely needed to be there. So, I put on a jacket and walked out the door. (Mind you: I remember feeling lost and unhappy with life and like something was still missing…and Christmas hadn’t felt like it belonged to me for a few years at that point. Something was amiss.)

When I arrived at the park, I stayed back a good distance because at the time I knew nothing about being Jewish or Judaism, and I didn’t know if it was kosher for me to even be there. A few people said hi to me. They said the prayers, sang, and lit the first (outdoor) candle.

I still can’t explain it… but, that first candle being lit? It lit up my soul. I was never the same after that.

I stayed there for a while collecting my thoughts as to what I just witnessed–both inside and out–as I was listening to them sing. Then, I headed home thinking to myself: get home fast, girl, you’ve got some research to do.

This is me… with purple hair… and oh how I miss my long hair… this is also a face full of “what just happened?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?” and a boost of inner happiness.

Can you believe that I still have the screenshots of what I researched on my phone? Here’s what I looked up:

-Jews by choice: in relation to reincarnation of where in Judaism the Jews-by-choice were once Jewish but born into a non-Jewish family and then finding way back to Judaism.

-Kabbalists / Reincarnation

-You might be a Jewish soul, if: G-d felt more real and made more sense than any other, related to Jewish people more, reacted more towards the Holocaust than others, the values are what you possess…

-Becoming Jewish is like falling in love (an essay)

-The Pirate Rabbi Samuel Pallache (for fun, because I was really into Pirates in 2017, ha.)

-I also took a screenshot of some books from someone that was also studying Judaism so that I knew some titles to read.

Also that same day, I started following every Jewish magazine and newsletter that I could find… including Lilith and Jewish Currents and some others I can’t seem to remember. The Jewish Currents that I ordered sent a calendar as well and it was JAZZ and POETRY. It was such a beautiful calendar. I cried when I saw it. (YES I am super emotional about all of this, thank you very much.) I still love it. Very much art. I also looked up Jews and Jazz and found Paul Shapiro. I looked into what was Jewish in the area, and what schools would possibly have Jewish classes. My research lasted forever.

So, that was basically the very beginning. That first night changed my life forever.

Fast forward though the year: I didn’t tell anyone about my finding of Judaism for the longest time. Aunt Patsy was the first one I told, and I absolutely felt like I had to, before she passed away (so that was all in Jan 2018). Also in Jan 2018, I discovered matzo ball soup. I didn’t attend synagogue until June 2018 (with the exception of attending a random one down south while at a boat show in April) and that is where I bought my chai necklace. I started my class in Oct 2018. In Dec 2018: well, you’ll just have to wait for it.

REFLECTION: Okay, so I’ve deleted what I wanted to say about twenty times now because I clearly can’t form a sentence or even put into words how I feel about this. Simply put: I just can’t imagination my life without Judaism. It’s been the highlight of my last two years. It’s kept me going, and when I converted, I finally felt complete. After 32 years of feeling incomplete and like something was missing…it’s a really good feeling, feeling whole. And it’s almost like being born again. In a way, I feel as if I went from old soul to a younger soul. Can that even happen? It’s hard to explain that.

So anyway, I’m going to post below a piece that I wrote in Feb 2018. It’s a poem that explains better in-depth explanation of how I felt. Also, if you read the previous entry, I was talking about making changes and being scared and knowing it’s the end of the line sort of thing… I took my first step towards that changing today. And tomorrow, I’m going to take another, and another, and another… . and march forward until..

The Very Beginning

Nearly every single day of my 31 years of being an old soul on this Earth:
I have been searching endlessly for what my heart wants,
where my soul belongs, and what my life’s purpose really is.
Reading and questioning everything. Why this, why that? What if this, what if that?
I’ve created this realm of philosophical thoughts that led me
to wondering why this often ignited flame inside me dies out?

I am in a much different place than where I was born..…
I broke away from those roots at 21 with a different mindset
by walking down the road less traveled, and I never looked back.
Growing older—supposedly wiser—only harmed me in some way.
My soulfulness of my wondering youth and the youngness of my mind
was nearly erased by the every day menial problems.

Last year in December, around Hanukkah, my soul was screaming.
After not being successful to distract myself with anything else,
I walked down to the local Menorah lighting ceremony on the first day.
Something about being there was magical—I saw a flame that didn’t die.
A million of my dreams as a teen have been realized, but why, I ask:
during the most fulfilling moments of living….there’s still something missing?

The night before my aunt died, I told her a secret: I discovered Judaism.
I told her she no longer had to worry about my soul. I finally found where it belongs.
This is my journey, the one that I will wholeheartedly embrace,
the one that I will choose to carefully walk—not run, skip, jump, hop—and practice
often, for this is something that deserves my true attention and patience.
I cannot ever take this moment for granted because I have found my spiritual home.

My aunt, being of a different religion, replied “A good place to start your spiritual
journey is Judaism. Jesus was Jewish so you can’t go wrong starting there.
Follow your heart and look to God. He will answer all of life’s questions.”
That answer provided me with the stamp of approval.
I sent my letter out to the universe, to the world, to God himself
that I was ready to take on this new responsibility of finding out who I am.

I’ve spent so much time being blinded and sidetracked by the clutter in life,
and in turn, I have missed some of the best moments that could have been.
There are years shaved off my life that I can never get back.
Depression swallowed me whole in the darkest days of my life,
and what I would have given at that time to close my eyes and never wake.
But, I had forgotten: both the good and bad in life serve us with life lessons.

Just this week, I cut back on TV shows, and looked to finding synagogue feeds online.
I found one in New York and I instantly fell in love with this Rabbi’s sermon:
“Gam zeh ya’avor. This too shall pass.”
How true it is that with every breath we take and move along the day, the moments shift
from bad to good and good to bad, back and fourth like a pendulum…
always leaving room just enough for an action or a reaction.

Time is sometimes a lie that we rarely take seriously, and living in the moment
just doesn’t exist anymore when people’s hearts aren’t pure from distractions.
We think we have time to say what we need to say, or do what we need to do,
but we don’t… and we’re almost always gone, even if we’re there in present day.
I’ve had many people—and moments—taken from me as I’ve come to love them.
It’s the constant reminder that nothing is ever permanent.
And to trust the thought that everything happens for a reason, no matter what it is.

These last few months–My discovery of Judaism and the beautiful Jewish Culture–has lit my life’s candle so full of love and light. It’s such an intense feeling that I’ve never felt or seen before. When a person knows, they know. I know I have a whole lifetime worth of catching up on, but embedded deeply in this soul of mine, I feel like I already know it…that I’ve walked the path before in another lifetime. It brings up a lot of loaded questions, and I’ll still be searching for answers come as they may. I can’t even begin to explain how it has completed the largest missing piece of my life’s puzzle, even in this short period of time, even with as little as I recognize I know, right at this given moment.

Visualize this: it’s like when you read a very good piece of literature and the words start lifting off the page, turn into music, and suddenly, you’re singing a song you felt like you’ve known your entire life….but you don’t know how, because you can’t place ever singing it because it just doesn’t make sense how you would have known it…and then, suddenly, the music turns into the most beautiful piece of artwork that you’ve ever seen–like a sunset–and you’re just so much in awe that you stand there for hours upon hours just staring at it because it takes your breath away. And you just want to grab some glasses, pour a drink or two, and make a toast screaming TO LIFE at the top of your lungs….because you’ve embraced life like you’ve never done before and you truly never, ever, ever want it end. That’s where I am. And, that’s where you’ll find me.

~ Karen Maeby 2.21.18

TO LIFE – TO LIFE – TO LIFE

2 thoughts on “The Beginning: A preview of the 2017 Hanukkah that lead me down the path towards Jewish conversion.

  1. Karen, that is just beautiful about finding your soul. I wish I felt the same way as you do being awed by the reljgion. Taking it all in as you did and devouring it. Being born a Jew I just accepted the religion for that was all I knew. I embrace my religion and love everything about it. I admire you Karen, for taking that first step toward conversion and finishing all the classes and now, you are a Jew by choice or rather your a converted Jew. I want to welcome the new you on your journey.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I am so glad I found it on my own, because like you said, it’s a different feeling being born into it. It makes me sad to see Jewish people losing their religion just because they don’t see it from an outsider’s point of view like my experience. But I do understand (which is exactly what happened to any religion that did show up in my life as I was growing up). I just hope that I can help inspire others to come back or find it on their own like I did and convert.

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