The Forward posted a first-person narrative this week penned by a Kentucky woman, raised Catholic, who converted to Judaism as an adult after years of wanting to “immigrate to Judaism.” Writer Lynn Marie Hulsman offers a unique perspective of someone raised very much outside of the Jewish community, surrounded by little knowledge of Jews and even anti-Semitism, yet still desperately wanted to be a member of the Jewish community. Her experiences growing up in Louisville, KY watching Woody Allen movies and “Welcome Back, Kotter” bring up an important point, that in converting to Judaism, someone is not just embracing a different faith, but a different culture.
The culture of (Ashkenazi) Judaism was extremely appealing to Hulsman, who even refers to her move to New York City as making aliyah, a term traditionally saved for one’s immigration to Israel. Seeing Judaism through her eyes can serve as a learning opportunity to Jewish communal professionals and those involved with Jews-by-choice and interfaith families, showing the perspective of someone once on the “outside” who is now on the “inside,” and what that can tell us about how Jews are viewed not just as a religion, but as a social group.
Part of creating an inclusive Jewish community is to welcome Jews-by-choice, whether they were first drawn to Judaism in order to raise their children Jewish, or because of a spiritual path they have embarked on. Empowering Ruth is a free program sponsored by the Jewish Outreach Institute that supports women Jews-by-choice through an online community and education course. It provides a safe space for further learning and sharing of experiences, and a genuine community of peer-to-peer support. We encourage all who might benefit from it to sign up—and men Jews-by-choice to join our Shofar listserve.
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