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A Change of Faith

by User Not Found | Aug 11, 2017

Elaine at the Mikvah - 8-9-17When one of our Handmaker residents expressed an interest in converting to Judaism earlier this year, I was speechless. For nearly 18 months, Elaine had been attending Shabbat evening and morning services every week, came to all of the Jewish holiday services and programs, and was an active participant in our weekly Torah study sessions, so it really should not have come as so much of a surprise. But yet, it was. It is one thing to participate in Jewish services to expand your knowledge of the world around you, but it is another thing to want to change your faith, especially this late in life. I was surprised, but I was also delighted for her and for our community.

Elaine and her late husband came to live in Handmaker in November of 2015. They chose Handmaker because it was Jewish, had a wonderful reputation, kosher food and facilities where she could live in Assisted Living and her husband could stay in the skilled nursing area. Unfortunately, her husband passed away shortly after they moved in. After his passing, Elaine was so touched by how much love and support she received from staff and residents as a newly widowed person.

For more than a year, Elaine has been attending services regularly, and learning about Judaism through services, Torah Study, and other Jewish programming. Through her studies, she has learned to appreciate the Jewish ethics of repairing the world and welcoming strangers, and how the emphasis in Judaism is on collective prayer and action, not upon asking for spiritual guidance or help.  Judaism is a way of life. Everyone is expected to be kind and helpful to one another, and she has seen that in action at Handmaker.  She is amazed by how the teens that come to Handmaker for intergenerational programs treat one another and the residents. She has observed the strong sense of community amongst the Jewish people, and while she already feels somewhat a part of that by living at Handmaker and from her close friendships with many of the Jewish residents, she wanted to truly become a part of the Jewish people by converting to Judaism.

With the help of Rabbi Howard Schwartz, who leads Torah Study at Handmaker, and Rabbi Avraham Alpert, of Congregation Bet Shalom, Elaine has made that dream a reality. She has been studying diligently, reading voraciously and has amazed us all with her unwavering commitment to this goal.

On Wednesday, August 9, 2017 (the 17th of Av, 5777), Elaine met with the Bet Shalom Beit Din, consisting of Rabbi Schwartz, Rabbi Alpert and Rabbi Bennet Blum, and completed her conversion to Judaism. I had the distinct honor of accompanying her to the meeting, and to the Mikvah afterwards, along with her dear friend Carolee. Words cannot describe the beauty and emotion of this Mikvah experience. Both Carolee and I feel that being with Elaine at this moment was one of the most meaningful and memorable experiences of our lives.  

They say that the newly converted have a glow after they come out of the Mikvah, in part because they have been to Sinai and received the 10 commandments at that moment. There is no question that Elaine was glowing after her conversion, and has been walking steadily and surely on this new path that she has begun. And we are all walking right by her side.