Dear Readers,

Have you ever met someone to whom you instinctively felt connected? I don’t mean someone that you grew up with, or with whom you share a long history. I mean an absolute stranger, who may have a completely different background or life’s journey, with whom you really bonded.

A couple summers ago, I met Jennifer Stark.

I was teaching a course on biblical women to a wonderfully inspired group of intelligent women, and I loved every minute of it. From the first class and the many long discussions in the ensuing ones, Jen’s eyes glowed with a sense of depth. She was so refreshingly honest and real. She was also so interested in growth and introspection, with the passion that we often find only in a baalat teshuvah (returnee to Judaism).

At the time, Jen was working on an abstract for her master’s degree. In her words, it would “explore my gradual growth from a secular Jewish woman to an Orthodox Jewish woman, informed by Judaic studies, feminist theory, and auto-ethnographic study to better understand how my experiences influence my present and future.”

When Jen e‑mailed me that she had completed her thesis, I found it fascinating. I wrote her back that I’d like to develop parts of it for the women’s site because I believe that many of our readers, like her, are intelligent women and are searching.

This week, the Torah reading describes the Jewish people’s exodus from their Egyptian bondage and their freedom to transform their lives into new people—and in particular the special faith of the Jewish women.

And so, I thought this would be a perfect week to feature Who Am I? Conflicting Thoughts of a Baalat Teshuvah, my dear friend Jen’s personal journey of her quest for continuous growth.

I hope you enjoy it!

Wishing you a wonderful week, full of liberating growth.

Chana Weisberg, Editor, TJW