A year ago, we were anxiously awaiting our meeting with the Beis Din. We were hoping and praying and adjusting to life down from Alaska. A year ago, we drove all the way to Brooklyn, NY through the night.
Now I’m planning a trip back to New York in August for work as an Orthodox Jew. It’s funny how life works like that.
In the past year, we faced challenges like my husband’s unexpected heart surgery and my son’s Autism diagnosis. We learned what it feels like to have the support and love of a Jewish community when life turns sideways. We also were able to help others when babies were born or loved ones passed. We were here for the tragedy of the destruction of our Shul’s beloved Sefer Torahs. We were here for the celebrations of holidays.
I have never had a more full year in a Jewish community and I have never felt so accepted and embraced.
We’ve learned a ton. Every week there are classes in something. Our children in Jewish schools already know more than we have ever learned in just one year. We continue to add to our library and I add in online classes. I plan on attending the Jewish Women’s retreat again this summer. We just keep trying to grow from strength to strength.
We bought a home, a place where we can begin to sink our roots down into the soil here. We’re working on projects on the house to make a it a place where we can host classes and guests and enjoy Shabbos and holiday meals. We feel, finally, at home.
And yet, in the midst of all this, there is still a vein of sadness running through all this joy.
Mr. Safek’s stepfather, one of his greatest Jewish influences, is facing another bout with kidney cancer. This man who has inspired us on our journey and so many others has lived with cancer for 16 years, continuously fighting it back. This time, though, we may be facing the end of this fight. Our hearts are heavy even as we prepare to celebrate the anniversary of our conversions.
Life in a Jewish community seems to always be a mix of joys and sorrows. There are great simchas, babies born, young couples married, nervous bar mitzvah boys and gleaming bat mitzvah girls, and adorable upshearnishs. There are also hospitalizations, the tragic death of a child gone far too soon, and loved ones passing away. There are shootings in other Synagogues that remind us how very precious and fragile what we have is. There are rockets in Israel reminding us that we can never fully relax or rest.
It all mixes together into something so rich and colorful and wonderful, even for the sorrows or perhaps because the sorrows make us more fully appreciate the joys.
I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, when she stepped from her black and white world into the wildly technicolor land of Oz. Stepping from the mikvah was stepping into a world with so much more color even as I took on a greater weight of responsibility and obligation.
I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.