Friday, May 2, 2008


Sometimes we choose communities, sometimes communities choose us.

Through my experience I have been taking a class called public art that considers expression and art within communities.

This class has helped me appreciate community in itself. Why it is important to have communities and how powerful communities can be by providing individuals with a supportive network to achieve their dreams. Also, we got to discuss the complexities of communities. For example, when one is purposefully trying to create “art” projects to develop and strengthen communities, it is not always so simple because of the incredible diversity within communities and the tension between the artist and the community.

This class helped me to reflect on myself as an artist working and experiencing different communities. Public art can be defined in so many ways and even a student like me can be a creator of public art.

We also talked about viewing the artist as playing different roles in the creation of the piece which was a very refreshing perspective. For example, taking the artist out of the picture as much as possible or having the artist reflect on the role that history, culture, and time period play on themselves and the community. I could see myself as the artist of this project only because I brought this very unexpected, new part to the lives of many people in this community and to myself and the reaction I received was on the part of an entire community and in the words of a community rather than that of individuals even though it was individuals I was speaking to or hearing about. The strength of this community to reject or embrace something is very powerful and the difference I felt with the change in situation from rejection to acceptance was also very intense.

I really feel I have learned to open my eyes more and understand the passion people hold within and importance community plays in our lives. I hope I can continue to learn and grow through this experience.



Being introduced into the Jewish community because of Adam has led me to appreciate what those who were hurt by our relationship care for so much. But now that I have chosen to become a member of this community, I realize I must know Judaism on my own and develop my love for it separate from Adam. I recently have gotten to know some of the small Jewish community here in Troy. Everyone has been very kind and honest and helpful in this process. One Shabbos I was in Troy and called up a family that I found online to see if they knew if there were services. They were very kind and invited me to come to Shabbos dinner and lunch at their home. A few days ago I met the rabbi from the campus Hillel and spoke to him for almost 2 hours. He was very kind and is trying to help me find a place to live where I can keep Kosher and told me I can call him anytime if I want to schedule a class so I can learn more about Judaism. I truly feel really blessed and excited for what God has in store for me and for the community and for everyone.

The Story--Part V Pesach Holiday and the Seder Experience

On April 19th, I had my first Seder Experience. Adam and I flew down to Chicago to be with his family...with entire family including grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles for the Pesach and in particular for the Seders which include a huge meal with lots of people and stories and food. There are two seders and our first one was a little smaller (only about 16 people) which the 2nd one had 22 guests. We sang and prayed and went to synagogue every morning and afternoon. I met new people and in fact found out that one of the members of their synagogue knows my mother's doctor in Texas. I felt so connected! People pulled me aside to ask me about my experience and how I came to deciding to convert. One person I met empathized with me saying that her family is not very observant and when she decided to become so they were all very shocked. We played games, talked about important issues in the world, and discussed our dreams and visions in life. I am very happy I got to be a part of this experience.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Story--Part IV Introduction into the community

Now that I'm converting I'm starting to interact with Jewish people in an interesting way. Suddenly, I'm not just Adam's non-Jewish girlfriend but I am Jewish (well almost) but that's how I am treated.

Something I remained amazed with, after choosing to convert, was the immediate change in everyone who had originally so strongly disapproved of our relationship. Everyone of Adam's family and friends were accepting and embracing.

I started taking classes and studying Judaism and Hebrew regularly as part of the process and started realizing how study is an integral part of Judaism and would be so even after the conversion was done. The first holiday was a lot of fun. Adam and I spent it in Michigan and dressed up as the “dude” from the Big Lebowski. While at first, I took on the rules with the intention of making exceptions for myself, like for example turning off the lights on Shabbos to save energy, I started to begin to realize how special experiencing Shabbos as a community with following all the rules could be and another integral part of the rules is discussing how you can save energy and make life a little easier on Shabbos without breaking any rules. Like timers to turn lights off. Energy efficient bulbs and so on.

Keeping Kosher, too, I originally started to take on while assuming I would be making exceptions. For example, I figured I could still eat at vegetarian restaurants but now I am even coming to question doing this. There is something special about making something outside of oneself more important that just ones own desires. And having a community to support one another and share ones faith with is really an amazing experience.

The Story--Part III Making Peace and Understanding Aug 2007-Dec 2007

Fall 07, after a year of our relationship, Adam moved to Michigan for a Phd program in Statistics. The plan was for me to visit him four times during the semester and he me as well. The University of Michigan would be my first experience of Hillel, a university campus Jewish community. Also, being very long distance, this gave me much time for reflection and prayer.

Why is our relationship unaccepted? Why, having fallen in love with someone for the first time in my life, is it such a terrible thing to those closest to Adam and even a bit for Adam himself? Why does God have me meet this boy and, after years of wanting to be a nun, have me fall for him? For what purpose is our relationship? What does God want from me?

All the while, my visits to Adam and my experiences with the Jewish community in Michigan were going remarkably well. I loved Adam’s friends, I loved the services, and while I still felt a little out of place, my “acceptance” into the community felt more genuine and I was able to be more comfortable and talked to more people (that were not Adam) about Judaism. I even managed to befriend other Jewish students who Adam didn't know. I started to really like Judaism. Before, I wasn’t happy about it, possibly because Adam wasn’t happy with it either. It felt exclusionary, closed, sometimes insincere. But now, it seemed more real, more exciting and strong. Adam was happier and becoming more observant because of his more structured and secure life habits that Hillel brought and I was able to see this happiness and experience this community along with him. I realized I thought Judaism was great. Just like everything it has its ups and downs but I truly saw goodness and genuineness and a striving to be better. It was done then. I decided Judaism was what God wanted for me having given me Adam and having showed me the importance and beauty of this way of serving him.

work in progress

The Story--Part II Face to Face May 2007

For months, Adam and I tried to reconcile our religions. He came to church with me while I went to shul with him on Shabbos. Both of us always managed to feel like an outsider. But most especially me since after shul there would always be a little gathering with some food to eat and I would manage to sit next to someone who would ask me about the Jewish community in Troy… “ummm…I am not Jewish,” I would say awkwardly. While I was impressed with the friendliness of the community, I felt pretty awkward and uncomfortable and almost afraid of being unaccepted. Adam would take me to Conservative and Reform shuls to try and make things easier for me since they had more English included in the services as opposed to Orthodox where the majority of prayers are in Hebrew and where we could sit side by side so he could show me where we were. Even at Shabbos meals, which we would spend with Adam’s friends who were accepting of us, I was insecure, uncomfortable, and quiet. This experience for me was obviously one that affected my relationships with all Jewish people that I met, it was really very sad. One Shabbos, Adam and I were uninvited to a meal by his good friend because of my non-Jewishness. This was very disappointing and upsetting. However, while many people were concerned for Adam's decision to date someone non-Jewish everyone was very cordial and polite to me.

For Purim, a Jewish holiday, we were invited to Adam’s rabbi’s house to celebrate. This was very sweet of them and fun especially because we got to wear costumes!

His rabbi told Adam that he should show me how beautiful Judaism is so that I would consider conversion. I appreciated his understanding of our situation and way of embracing me into their home. However, for his rabbi and for many people closest to Adam, our relationship was unacceptable.

The Story--Part I Breaking into the community

Breaking the news to friends and family that he was dating a Catholic girl was a painful process for Adam. While some of his friends were excited for us and very curious to meet this girl Adam had fallen for 4 years back, others were much less thrilled. The news came as a shock to Adam’s family and his more observant Jewish friends. Adam is in love, that’s great…but with someone who wasn’t Jewish, that’s terrible. Strong disapproval came from many angles and not taking it personally was a challenge for me. After all, they hadn’t even met me. It was clear that our relationship and the decisions we’d have to make would be challenging for us and affect the Jewish community and the often-mentioned idea of Jewish identity.