My story is about one man’s search for buried treasure. Not the kind of treasure you can touch or see. Rather, an absolutely different kind of treasure, which is far more precious and valuable—it’s priceless.

That man is me, Shlomo Lewis.

I was raised as a secular Jew. I had anI was raised as a secular Jew excellent education; I went to a good school and university. However, unlike many of my peers, I did not become a lawyer, a doctor or an accountant. Growing up in the 1960s, I embraced the values and ideals of love, peace and some soft drugs. I felt that there was more to life than getting married and acquiring possessions. That wasn’t the life I sought—my drive was to transform the world.

Thus, I became interested in politics, taking the first step in what I thought was the way to make the world a better place.

At the same time, I was aware that there was a spiritual dimension to life. But to me, it wasn’t religion. Religion simply had too many rules and regulations. I failed to see it as a way to become a more spiritual and fulfilled person.

After some time, I started struggling with depression. I found it very difficult to hold down a job and earn a decent living. Eventually, in 1996, after living in the south of England for 15 years, I lost my job and my house and returned to my hometown of Manchester, living close to my elderly parents.

Broughton Park, the area where I was living, had a large Orthodox Jewish community. I felt I had nothing in common with them and even suspected that they looked down on me.

Time passed and things only seemed to get worse. In December 2010, I lost my job again. I was on the brink.

Then came Chanukah of 2011. It was late one afternoon and I was walking home from the doctor’s, where I had been receiving counseling for depression.

For some odd reason that I can’t explain logically, I decided to take a different route home, a route that was totally out of my way. This took me past what I now know to be the Lubavitch yeshivah.

It was late afternoon and the sun was about to set. I heard someone call out to me, “Excuse me, sir, are you Jewish?” Curious to see who was calling out to me, I crossed the road. Standing there were two young men wearing black hats and jackets, the uniform of Orthodox Jews.

They introduced themselves as students from the nearby yeshivah. “Today is Chanukah,” they said. After speaking for a few minutes about Chanukah and giving me a fresh kosher doughnut and menorah kit, they invited me to come and learn some more about Judaism in the yeshivah. Intrigued, I accepted their invitation for that Thursday.

I found the session with my young “teacher” extremely interesting and enlightening. I told myself that I would definitely come back for more.

Some time has passed since then, and I have been returning every Thursday evening, and at times even on Shabbat evenings, just to learn, pick up whatever I can, and even to observe their lively farbrengens (chassidic gatherings).

I have always been interested in spirituality. I had read books about Kabbalah, but not really understood them. At yeshivah, I studied Tanya, a chassidic classic that has made Judaism more meaningful to me.

It is not enough to just read about spirituality; rather, we have a calling and divine mandate to become more spiritual. The greatest way of connecting with the divine is the performance of mitzvahs, I learned. This was all fascinating to me.

Most of all, I have been inspired by the dedication, belief, warmth, commitment and kindness of the students, and by their devotion to the Rebbe.

I had heard of the great Lubavitcher Rebbe, but knew little about him. Now I am learning more and have come to appreciate what a truly remarkable and holy person he must have been to command such reverence and dedication from his followers.

I have found the treasure I was seeking

Looking back now, I think to myself, how has my life changed since my chance encounter with the students? In many ways—from putting on tefillin daily, lighting Shabbat candles, affixing a mezuzah on my door, and going to shul on Shabbat—I have reconnected with my Jewish soul.

I have found the treasure I was seeking for so many years—and it was right in my own backyard all along.