Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Aliyah Essay

I'm considering using this as my shidduch (matchmaking) resume. This is the essay I wrote for my Nefesh b'Nefesh/Jewish Agency application for aliyah. Enjoy!

This is a doozy. Where do I begin? I was born and bred a Midwestern girl in a Midwestern tradition of Christianity. I spent most of my childhood in the Bible Belt of Southern Missouri, denying the faith as young as 10 years old. We moved to Nebraska when I was entering middle school and despite my best efforts to fit in by the time I was done with high school I was a religious question mark. I created my own religion, with my own tenets, and I lost a lot of friends over it. My freshman year of college, during one of those deep metaphysical conversations freshman have about the meaning of life a friend quipped that I should pick up a book on Judaism, him seeing that my own made-up sense of religion was, in fact, best aligned with Judaism. I bought Anita Diamant’s “Choosing a Jewish Life” from a used bookstore, quickly discovered there were two synagogues in town (a Reform and Conservative), and that I had a friend who had a friend who was Jewish. After a few years of hammering out what I knew was awakening in me through university classes and blogging, I stepped foot in a synagogue and never looked back -- I was home. I completed my Reform conversion in April 2006, moved to Washington D.C. and quickly dove into the Torah, reading every parshah every week for an entire year. I moved to Chicago in 2007 and found myself moving in a different direction than the mega-church-style Lakeview Reform community and stepped into a Conservative synagogue into a “breakaway” young adult minyan. And then? Then I went out and bought two skirts (the first I’d owned probably since high school) and made my way to an Orthodox synagogue a few weeks before Passover in 2008. Imagine carrying around a load of bricks, and you’re not sure why you’re carrying them and then suddenly you go someplace and realize, “Oh, right, these belong here!” Well, stepping into that synagogue was what that felt like. I vowed to have an Orthodox conversion, and the moment I got to Connecticut to pursue my master’s in Judaic Studies, I found a synagogue, found a rabbi, and by January 1, 2010, I completed my RCA Beth Din conversion in New York City.

Sof sof!

And now? Well, after being married for 16 months (May 2010-September 2011) and asking for a get just weeks before Rosh Hashanah in 2011 and moving halfway across the country to Colorado to clear my head, I’ve realized that I’m happier and healthier than I’ve been in my entire life. But the things I don’t have in Colorado are numerous: the Orthodox dating world is nonexistent and guys from the coasts don’t want to date someone who doesn’t live closer, I have a fairly nonexistent social life, and I have no family here. The people I consider family live in Israel. The R-----------s, who watched me pre-conversion, post-conversion, through my marriage, and held my hand through my divorce, live in Ra'anana. They’re my family. Friends I’ve met on Twitter and through my blog reside in Israel and make me long for the place that, whenever I visit, I feel so at home. I have a bracelet with the coordinates of Jerusalem that I had made because wherever I go, my heart is in Jerusalem.

I always told people the only reason I don’t live in Israel is because of the weather. I’m a sucker for snow, and I hate hot weather. But, I guess, I’m feeling the nudge now. I’m single, unattached to any place, and now is probably a good of time as any to make the leap. I miss my friends, I miss my family, I miss knowing that I’m at home. I know it will not be easy -- believe me, I know that. But very little in my life has been easy. What I know is that with people at my side who genuinely care about my well-being, anything is possible. And, of course, there’s always the obligation to live in Israel, to dwell in the land, to be a part of something amazing, beautiful, and brilliant. To watch the children of Israel return, with hopes and dreams in tow.