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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jones

Public Jew Debut Wrap up

Wow. I’m really lacking for words today. Last night was amazing, simply wonderful. I’m still totally buzzed–even though I haven’t had much caffiene over the last day and barely a glass of wine last night. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of presence of the my friends–not presents (although I am well outfitted in judaica now, thanks guys!) but presence.

It maybe wasn’t the number of people, but the people who chose to be a part of my public Jewish thing. After a year, I would think that my friends might be sick to death of hearing me talk about Judaism. Instead, they all welcomed the opportunity to see what I’ve been talking about. I think it has to do, in part, with where we are in our lives. Most of us hover between 28 and 35, a time of settling into adulthood, perhaps setting more in stone the people we will be in our lives, in our communities. If we were raised in churches, we aren’t active now. We are collectively spiritual and curious about a higher power, but not actively seeking it.

I think that is why my friends have been so supportive and curious. What is it that had the power to grab me out of secular, agnostic, cynicism and find me at home in a religious community. Two or three years ago, it would have been very different. But I am blessed to have so many friends and family that supported my decision to come home to judaism.

I hoped my non-jewish friends wouldn’t hate services, but didn’t expect them all to be so moved. It helps that our Rabbi is amazing–my “one foot” description is that he is your favorite college professor with a dash of Billy Crystal. My college roommate said she felt very comfortable, that the service was familiar, and it was heartwarming in a way she didn’t expect. Another said she loved the words in the prayerbook (Gates of Prayer). Another felt more moved last night, than ever before in a religious service.

If you weren’t there, the answer to your burning question is, “No. I didn’t drop the Torah.” But my shoulder is still quite sore from the trek around the sanctuary. I didn’t mess up on the candle-lighting blessing or the she’ma, or even the surprise kiddush at the end. Hebrew–no problem. What I did stumble over was the english in my speech. Holy cow–what was I thinking? single spaced? 12 point font? That sucker should have been double spaced in 22, minimum. If not on a teleprompter. I’ve never tripped over more english words in my life and never stared at a podium more–didn’t I used to do stand-up? Didn’t I used to give speeches? I’m not sure you could tell, cause I felt shaky and tongue-tied.

The sermon/discussion part of the service, which followed my speech, was about whether or not congregations should ask non-jews if they want to convert. Not chasing people down, but asking the involved non-jews–have you thought of converting? It was a great conversation and many of the JBCs spoke up, as well as many born Jews. A couple of my born jewish friends, said that when they first talked to me they said, “What are you crazy? You want to be a jew?”

After services, I was in a whirlwind of hugs, kisses, congratulations, and mazel tovs. Or would that be mazelot tovot? A few people I’d never talked to before, said that they had been greatly moved by my speech. Forced to look inward and decide if they took Judaism as seriously as I do. It was amazing and unexpected. Whirlwind is the only way to describe it.

Then I got home and the party was already in full effect, a packed house. It helps to have a tiny space, but it was wonderful. My advance team got the place set up and let people in while I finished shmoozing at the synagogue. I was barely able to eat or drink–not my food thing, but just this unbeleivable energy. It is starting to wear off, so I hope to be able to eat soon.

I think that is a fair description of the night. Thank you to everyone who came and thank you for folks who couldn’t make it, but were there in spirit. It was been a great journey so far. And the next step? Jewish Boyfriend, straight Jewish boyfriend. That is your task, now get to it.

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