I grew up in Montréal. My family was secular Sephardic and was almost entirely detached from Judaism. We were so detached, in fact, that my father is Jewish, but my mother was not. Growing up, I had no idea what being Jewish meant, but I always felt so different from my peers in the Christian school I attended. As I got older, I felt more and more distant from my friends.
As my distress grew, circumstances united me with a traditional Sephardic family in our neighborhood. They introduced me to kashrut and Shabbat, things I had never heard about before. I was intrigued, and I was determined to learn more. The more I learned about Judaism, the more I was convinced that it was the only path for me.
So, together with my mother, (who had also always wanted to convert, since her father was also Jewish), we started the conversion process. We attended classes and I drank up every word of Torah that I heard. I met extraordinary Jews. I never dreamed that such greatness could exist! Little by little, I took the mitzvot upon myself. I was delighted to learn of the treasures that the Torah offers.
I completed my conversion process at Montréal Jewish Conversion, the official orthodox Beit Din. My experience was positive. I had a great relationship with my teachers, who taught me both the basics of Judaism and its deeper realms. I still keep in touch with many of these teachers to this day. The program had comprehensive classes which included weekly parsha, halachot for kashrut, Shabbat, holidays, fast days, as well as chasidut. Montréal Jewish Conversion also required us to spend Shabbat and chagim with different families across the city. These families, whether they are aware of it or not, have significantly
impacted me. They showed me Jewish middot. They shaped my Jewish identity. The MJC also organized Shabbatons and evenings to celebrate different holidays. These created in us a sense of belonging to the program and helped us bond with fellow converts.
Of course, the process itself was not always rosy. My paternal family, for whom this whole process was a shock, strongly opposed my becoming religious. Religious Judaism to them was a fearsome unknown. My teachers and peers were also entirely unsupportive.
Nevertheless, at the age of 18, I completed my conversion process, which ended with my immersion in a mikveh, a day I will never forget. It was as if I had Har Sinai on my head! On that day, Hashem was asking me to accept his Torah!
The day of my conversion was both an end and a beginning. It was the end of my life as a non-Jew, and the end of my conversion process. At the same time, it was the beginning of my new life as a bat Yisrael who strives at all costs to serve Hashem and to absorb His precious Torah.
Two years after my conversion, I traveled to study at a seminary in Israel. My time in Israel was magical and I decided to stay on and make aliyah. My Judaism grew stronger and I became much safer in my practice.
I would like to remind you, who were born Jewish, of the incredible present that Hashem has given you. Being Jewish is not easy, I admit that. But nothing precious is acquired easily. All that is sustainable, healthy, and worthy requires great effort. Enjoy the unimaginable gift that Hashem has given you. Embrace it and cherish it, because it is more precious than pearls…