I’m still thinking about what I would like to do with this blog and how it might be useful, but setting that aside for a moment, I do feel like it’s important to give my friends here some updates on where our family is at as far as the conversion process and the big move. I know I never like big cliffhangers that are never resolved.
Next week, our family is traveling to what we hope will be our new home community, thousands of miles away in the lower 48. We’ll be staying by a family for Shabbos within the community and visiting several different schools as well as speaking with a realtor while we’re there. I’m excited and nervous, as if our whole family were going on a first date and hoping to make our best impression as well as hoping that this will be “the one.” At the same time, there’s the feeling that we need to keep our eyes open even as we listen to our hearts.
From my years talking with converts both in person and online, I know that it’s critical to find a community that is a good fit. When I’ve talked to converts who have gone OTD (Off the Derech, that is, leaving observance) one of the most repeated explanations was that they never felt accepted and never fully integrated into an Orthodox Jewish community. Every Jewish community has its own personality and what might be a great fit for one convert could be the worst for another.
We’re looking for a community where people are growing in their Yiddishkeit, where learning is a priority for adults as well as children, and where there is warmth. Finding a diversity of backgrounds among the community is a definite plus since that tends to make it more likely that we’ll integrate well. We’re looking for schools that feel like they’ll be a good fit for our children and a welcoming atmosphere and we’re also looking for a place where the average level of observance is close to what is expected of Orthodox converts. It can be tough to fit in with a community when the level of observance you’re expected to keep is a lot different from what most families are holding by.
It’s a lot like dating again and again, I have to trust that Hashem has a perfect fit for us, somewhere, a community we’ll feel lucky to be a part of and that will feel glad that we’ve joined them as well. We’re hoping to get off on the right foot by already making introductions with the Rabbis and Principals of the schools we’re visiting and talking with them prior to our visit, letting them know our situation.
And of course, a lot of davening, because ultimately, Hashem is the one making this match, if there will be one.
In the meantime, our sponsoring Rabbi has been working with our Beis Din and that part of our process is moving forward, even without the Shabbat RV as a part of it. This means some more lonely Shabboses at home and it might possibly mean we move sooner than we’d planned. Our house is almost ready to go on the market and we’re going through our belongings, deciding what will stay and what we will let go of. In general, we will be moving as little stuff as possible since it most cases the cost of moving anything this far is more than the object is worth. Only what has strong sentimental value or would be difficult to replace will come with us.
Wherever we wind up, we will wind up with only the basics…a fresh start in a new home, Hashem willing, as new people.
It definitely is a leap of faith of sorts, selling pretty much everything we own and moving so far, but our family are working together to make this happen in a way that inspires me. I know our family is special when I see how dedicated our children are to this even though it means leaving friends and Alaska behind. I know we’ll miss the wilderness, the mountains, the glaciers, but we also all get excited looking at neighborhoods and schools online and imagining all the opportunities this new life might open up for us. Our children dream of visiting Israel and of reaching the point that they’re teaching us from what they are learning. I dream of growing in my own learning and deepening my observance of mitzvos. My husband is just excited to have daily minyans to daven with, rather than being all alone except for Shabbos. I look forward to a community where I can help out, too, something that helps me feel more connected and useful…needed as I am up here.
For balance, we’re also making sure that some of the things we love are still where we are going. We’re only looking at communities that have snow and hiking trails within a short drive and where our quirky outdoorsy-ness won’t be too unusual.
Next week, we’ll be peeking at communities and paths we could take next before we take that great leap. I know we won’t be able to know everything we might want to before we make our decision, but I’m glad we’re taking this trip together to get a taste of what might be our next home…and next big adventure.