Finding Judaism (Part 1)

The question I am asked most often is why I converted to Judaism.  It is not an easy question to answer other than to say that I have always felt Jewish.  Since I can remember I have been drawn to Jewish people, entertainers and practices.  I began exploring Judaism further when I moved to Denver, Colorado and lived in a Jewish neighborhood.  In the neighborhood was a Judaica store and one day I went in and asked the woman behind the counter for a good book to read if one wanted to know more about Judaism.  She suggested the book To Be a Jew by Hayim Donin.


I began reading the book and learning about Jewish rituals and practices.  I began implementing some of the practices in my life.  In order to read the Torah I had to walk five miles to the library downtown, which I began doing several days a week.  Besides reading the Torah I also began losing weight from the miles I was walking everyday culminating in my losing 100 pounds.  Although I was reading about Judaism I had not yet been to a synagogue or talked with a rabbi.


One of the practices I implemented in my life was to make sure everyone was fed.  I volunteered a couple of days a week at a food bank as a social worker who provided clients with local resources for all of their needs.  One day I woke up to find it had snowed heavily the night before.  I left early to walk the 7 miles to the foodbank, a distance at the time I was use to traveling by foot.  The food bank closed at 5PM and when I left it was dark.  Dressed in a wool sweater and coat I began the 7 mile walk back home.


As I walked along the bicycle path the temperature began to drop.  That night it was around zero degrees.  I had just moved to a part of town I still was not real familiar with.  After walking for quite a while I realized there were no longer streetlights in view.  I was lost.  The cold began to make me shiver uncontrollably.  In the snow and the dark the local terrain looked much different than it did during the day light.  I turned around and began retracing my steps to see if I could figure out where I had gone wrong on my journey home.  As I walked along the path my shivering got worse.  I did not have a phone, there were still no street lights and I had not seen anyone else along the path.  My teeth were chattering and my entire body was shaking.  I thought I might freeze to death if I did not find the way home soon.  Finally I saw lights and a path that led to a street.  It happened to be my street and I made it home alright.  


When I got home I got in the shower and stood under the warm water until it ran cold.  I got into bed with warm blankets and covers but I was not able to truly feel warm for a few days afterwards.  The near death experience motivated me to seek out a synagogue.  There was one not too far away and the following day I called a rabbi to schedule a meeting with him.