You'll enjoy reading it.
Some days are just good. Good for the soul, good for the world, good for the Jews. Tuesday was one of those days.
Rabbi Gutterman and I participated in a beit din and mikveh for a young woman in our congregation with whom I had been working towards conversion for the last couple of years. She's an incredibly thoughtful person who felt moved to convert because she's married to a Jewish man, and they want to raise children with two Jewish parents. This is not unusual. According to Anita Diamant, ninety percent of converts to Judaism have a Jewish partner. But though her marriage inspired her to convert, it was clear to us during her beit din that she is meant to be Jewish all on her own. At the end of her beit din, our third witness, Rabbi Ruth Adar, said simply, "I see a Jewish soul." That's when you know that the journey towards conversion is complete. It's not mastery of liturgy or Torah or Hebrew that makes a person feel ready to convert. It's an internal shift that is visible to the people witnessing the transformation.
What made her ceremony Tuesday morning particularly moving was that she was not immersing in the mikveh alone. She was taking her baby girl with her, so that they could both reemerge as Jews. According to Reform Jewish law, her baby was Jewish already because her father is Jewish, but these parents wanted to start their Jewish journey together on the same day, in the same sacred moment of immersion. As it says in Yevamot 47B, "As soon as the convert immerses and emerges, he is a Jew in every respect."
I have hardly ever seen anything as beautiful as that moment on Tuesday morning: two parents in the mikveh holding their naked little girl, committing her to a Jewish life by immersing her in holy waters. And they had to be brave! It's not easy to willingly submerge your baby underwater, for even just a couple of seconds. She came up crying from the shock of the water, but somehow that seems fitting too. The Jewish path, meaningful and joyful as it is, is not easy. She went through something surprising and maybe a little scary, and her parents were there to guide and cradle her through it. Like I said, some days are just good.
It is a blessing to the Jewish community whenever someone converts to Judaism. I feel honored each and every time I get to witness that moment, and I learn something valuable from every person. We are a stronger and brighter people because of the many souls who feel called to join us on our winding path. This Shabbat, I will send out extra songs and blessings to the newest Jewish family in our congregation, with gratitude for their decision to enrich not only our own congregation, but the entire Jewish people.
NOTE TO BAY AREA RESIDENTS: The Anita Diamant statistic that 90% of converts have a Jewish partner is not true here. In fact, it is probably no longer true in America. Here in the bay area many more single people and non-Jewish couples are converting.