Some people are born into a faith they adhere to their whole lives. The path of their religious development is straightforward: Certain rites at certain ages, holidays celebrated each year, tradition borne of commonality.
I haven’t had that experience, but I’m grateful for the one I’ve had.
My dad is Jewish and my mom is Catholic. At birth, I was set on my first path – Catholicism. And today, I find myself becoming a Bat Mitzvah.
I’ve always been inquisitive, and my persistent questions weren’t welcomed in Sunday school. I was left wanting more and feeling at odds with what was taught in church.
Leaving home for college was the opportunity to set out on my own – in the traditional sense and in that I had autonomy to determine what religion was right for me. I enrolled in a course on Judaism, and after just a couple classes I saw that my way of thinking and the principles I lived by were Jewish all along.
And so my second path began.
This new chapter in life was set more in stone after I was set up on a date with Ben, who happens to be Jewish and is now my husband. In the early stages of dating, Ben brought me to services at Shir Tikvah, where I heard others talk about their conversions. I was finally becoming part of a Jewish community and felt conversion was the next step for me.
Deciding to leave one path and start another involves a lot of contemplation about the past. Perhaps it makes sense, then, that after my mikvah I began to think more about the future. How would I live a Jewish life? How would Ben and I raise Jewish children?
I decided it was important to me to have as much of a Jewish experience as possible – to feel like a fully vested member of my synagogue and the Jewish community in general. I also recognized the importance of being able to relate to my future children’s experience as Jews.
And so, at age 27, I am becoming a Bat Mitzvah alongside six other amazing classmates, all of whom have taken their own paths to our B’nei Mitzvah on June 2 at Shir Tikvah. Some were born and raised Jewish, others have converted in adulthood. All have chosen to participate in the B’nei Mitzvah program, and I think it’s safe to say that all are glad they did. We’ve been studying for the last two years together – debating midrash, learning Hebrew and trope, and encouraging each other along the way.
The experience has helped me develop answers to the questions I contemplated while converting. Becoming a Bat Mitzvah has played a part in teaching me about what it means to live a Jewish life and what the B’nei Mitzvah process is like for youth who are raised Jewish. It’s connected me more with my faith and our traditions.
My path might have changed course in young adulthood, but I feel as though I was always meant to reach this point. I will proudly and humbly read from Torah, feeling blessed to have the support of my family, friends and fellow classmates. I’ll be cognizant of the past and traditions of this simcha, and will look toward my future as a Jewish woman on the path I’ve chosen.