I’m a Jew but I was not always a Jew. I’m not really sure what you would call what I was before. I always had a belief in God but it didn’t seem to mesh with the view of God that was always around me. I believed in a higher power and I believed in the power OF that power to create the world and mankind. I was in awe of God, but I struggled. I believed in the bible but not all of the bible.
A few years back, our family visited the Holocaust museum in Washington, DC. My wife had made mention of connecting with her roots and while this was not how we planned on doing it, we wanted to see the museum. Like many people who visit that place, or any Holocaust museum, I was overcome. Grief, heartache, and and contempt were all happening at once and the experience shook me to my core. I knew that April was a Jew and that through her, our son was also. I didn’t know much about Jews at that time and like so many others, I mistook them for a race of people. What I didn’t know was that they are a people bound by God and from them, a nation is made.
We started studying and getting rid of things like pork, shellfish, and everything else we weren’t supposed to eat. Initially it seemed like a huge adjustment but I quickly realized that when sat down to eat, I was thinking about my relationship with God. When I went to the grocery store, when I cooked, and when I ordered food. “Are your refried beans made with lard?” That is the first thing I ask when I go into a Mexican restaurant. If anyone wants to know where to get refried beans made with vegetable oil in Houston, I can hook you up. Steak house? Not if it’s cooked with butter.
The act of working towards a more kosher diet really had me studying and talking more about Judaism. Eventually I decided that I wanted to convert.
We went “shul shopping” as they say, and found Congregation Shaar Hashalom in Clear Lake, Tx. We walked inside and the first person we met was the Rabbi, a giant of a man with a white beard and a huge smile. He thrust his hand out to us and said in his strong and cheerful voice, “HI! I’m Stuart the Rabbi!” We haven’t left since.
Through the process of conversion, I truly fell more and more in love with this religion and it’s people. I found what I had always felt. It was like coming home, but to a place you never knew was your home. It was the truth I always knew in my heart. Rabbi Federow’s incredible love and knowledge were like a fire. It is hard for me to put into words the absolute joy I felt, and still feel, in discovering Judaism and finally discovering God. It all just made clear, perfect sense. I felt whole.
My amazing wife and son, who were already Jews, went through the entire process with me. They also did the mikvah with me. It was a cold and chilly morning with an over cast sky that promised rain very soon. We charged into the water right after it started to rain. IT WAS SO COLD! We had to go far enough out so that we could fully submerge ourselves. The air would get sucked right out of your lungs every time you went down and when you came up, the rain and wind didn’t help anything. We would swim/run up to the beach, huddle as a group around the Rabbi and say the prayer. Then, we would charge out again. We did this three times. On that rainy beach and in the freezing cold, I joined the People and we stood on the beach as a proud Jewish family.
Now, almost 2 years later, I still feel like Ruth.
“Do not entreat me to leave you, to return from following you, for wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. So may the Lord do to me and so may He continue, if anything but death separate me and you.”