The journey of the Jewish diaspora has had an immense impact on the development of modern world politics, economics and culture. Many modern Jews can trace their roots back to distant lands far from their current home. These journeys permeate generations, passed down through treasured stories, objects and photographs. Where did your family's journey begin? What is your diaspora story? Share your journey below and include a family photograph, home video or image of a special heirloom that represents your own Story of the Jews.

Melissa Hayes

Kauneonga Lake, NY, United States

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.

My Journey
Idaho Falls, ID, United States Kauneonga Lake, NY, United States