This is what former Florida Gators basketball star Alex Tyus wants people to know: “. . . you don’t have to be born Jewish to live a Jewish life.” As recent converts, he and his wife Alli are a shining example of successful inclusiveness into the Jewish community through Hillel and Gainseville’s B’nai Israel.
“As far as the conversion process, we met with our rabbi whenever we could. Sometimes that would be two times a week, or three times a week, and we had a lot of different discussions and he taught as a lot and has been a great teacher for us. Also, once we got to know enough people in the Jewish community, we would always know if there was an event going on which was really nice for us. We also attended Shabbat services on Friday nights when we could at B’Nai Israel in Gainesville, and did whatever I could during the season. Everything worked out so well for us, and we are really happy we chose this route.”
Now Alex has accepted an offer to play on Maccabi Ashod (an Israeli basketball team), and he and Alli will be living in Israel. What kind of welcome will they get there from the Jewish community? While the Tyus’s may make headlines, many men and women living less famous lives here in the United States may not be welcomed into their new communities. However, programs like Empowering Ruth for Jews by Choice and The Mother’s Circle for non-Jewish mothers raising Jewish children, created and promoted by JOI, are helping thousands of people—Jews, non-Jews, disenfranchised Jews—to integrate into Jewish communities. As Tyus says, “Judaism helps guide how you live your life through God and through family.”
No comments yet.