I was not born Jewish, although my father, a church-going Mormon like my mother, would often make comments about some Jewish ancestry.
My father told me as a child to seek my own faith, even though he had raised me and baptized me in the LDS faith. I looked around at different churches, and never really found where I fit in. I had always dreamed of being an Opera Singer, and my dream came true when I attended Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ. During that time, I struck up a conversation with a Hasidic woman on a subway, who sensitively noticed some tears in my eyes that were caused by a store I worked at closing leading to my being laid off from a job I liked. I felt something strong after talking to this woman, even though we did not discuss religion. When I got home, I looked up Hasidic Judaism on the internet, and I felt I had finally found a theology that spoke to me. Even when I was a child, I always loved the Old Testament more than the New, and once, as a teenage girl, I found a recipe for Hamantashen that became my regular annual Christmas pastry to give to my neighbors!
Even though I felt I believed in Judaism, I did not know it was possible to convert to Judaism. I eventually wound up in a hospital, and my roommate in the hospital room and I were discussing which celebrities were Jewish. She eventually mentioned that Sammy Davis, Jr., was Jewish. I asked how could that be? She said “he converted”. Once I found that out, I decided I would not rest until I could become a Jew. I found friendship in the various Hasidic communities, and I had a profound spiritual experience one January day at the tomb of the Grand Rabbi of Satmar, which is a site of one of the largest Jewish pilgrimages in the Western Hemisphere.
Eventually, I managed to convert, thank God, in Queens, NY. I am now married to a rabbi and have four beautiful Jewish children, kein ayin hara, so far. It gives me pride (even though they have a Jewish grandmother from my husband’s side), that their Jewish story begins with me in a mikvah in Queens, NY, and a kind Hasidic stranger who showed me with her natural compassion the “Torah of kindness on her tongue” (Proverbs 31) for me to pass on to my future Jewish generations.