Mazal Tov, Chana! Welcome (Back) to the Jewish People!

Mazal Tov, Chana! Welcome (Back) to the Jewish People!

My husband grew up with a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. But for his whole life he identified as a Jew. His mother had even helped to set up the Reform temple in their city, where Josh was an active member.

When Josh and a friend ended up at an Orthodox hesder yeshiva at the age of 20, he underwent a conversion there. But when the yeshiva’s secretary asked him which religion he’d converted from, he answered, “I converted from Judaism.”
“You converted from Judaism to Judaism? That’s not possible!” .
But, in Josh’s heart, it was possible. And it still is, in the hearts of thousands of candidates for conversion.
This morning I had the honor of participating in the Beit Din of one of these special converts, for whom becoming halachically Jewish feels less like conversion and more like finally coming home.
Chana spent many Shabbat meals at our home this year, and she became like a part of our family. When I would walk her out after the meal, Chana would often cry with emotion, that’s how moved she was to have experienced Shabbat, a Jewish family together, the holiness, the magic. It touched her sensitive soul. Deeply.
Chana had made aliya from the Ukraine 5 years ago with her Jewish grandmother, her father’s mother, with whom she has always been extremely close.
Her grandmother, whom I met this morning at the Beit Din, was born in Romania in 1939, on the 17th day of World War II. As a very young child, her family, fleeing the Nazis, escaped to Soviet Kyrgyzstan, and later in her life, she moved to the Ukraine.
Before making aliya, Chana and her grandmother were taken under the wing of the local Chabad rabbi, with whom they spent holiday and Shabbat meals and learned about Judaism, reigniting, for Chana’s grandmother, the spark of observance which even decades of Soviet rule hadn’t succeeded in completely snuffing out .
When the rabbis announced that Chana had been approved for conversion, she (and I) wept as she recited the Jewish principles of faith and Shema Yisrael.
The rabbis of the beit din, also, seemed to be especially moved to encounter Chana as well as her grandmother, who over her 84 years had survived two holocausts, the Nazi genocide as well as the spiritual holocaust waged by the Soviet Union against what had once been the world’s largest Jewish community. They obliterated Jewish observance and belief in Hashem for millions of Soviet Jews. The majority, like Chana’s father, intermarried, leaving countless children, like Chana, who are neither here nor there. Sort of Jewish but sort of not.
So welcome back Chana, to your tradition, to your God, to your people. Mazal tov!


  1. Mazal tov and welcome home to Chana!

  2. This is a very touching real life story. The feeling of “neither here nor there”…

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