My childhood memories of Judaism were from the year of my birth until I was 10 years old. When my family left Cleveland, Ohio, to come to Los Angeles, I was torn from the closeness of my Orthodox grandparents and other relatives. My parents were not observant in any form whatsoever, and as such, Judaism was not evidenced in my childhood home, in any form.

When I was in high school, I realized I was depressed, and I asked my mom to take me to a psychologist. In hindsight, it is clear that the spark of loving G‑d, which I had learned from my adoring grandparents, would not die easily. I searched in many areas to find a way to fill the emptiness inside me which I could not identify at the time.

Something inside me said that my soul would never die. It was just dormantSomehow, I graduated college. When I was 21 years old, I met someone in college who was a "born-again Christian," and noticed that he was so much happier than my parents or siblings. Much happier, in fact, than I was. But I decided to go with him to his church to prove to him how wrong his church was.

The atmosphere in the church was one of a loving family. The first day I went, the sermon touched my heart, as the subject was "If you died today, could you say your life has been fulfilled spiritually?" I yelled out, "No," and that was the beginning of my journey into Christianity. Some would say that I had stopped being Jewish, but something inside me said that my soul would never die. It was just dormant.

I will not justify or regret having become a Christian, as I learned so much. But, no matter how many spiritually uplifting and enlightening lectures I attended, I always realized I was different. Something just wasn't right. No matter how much I talked the talk and walked the walk, my inner soul was crying. I remained depressed on the inside, although on the outside, I expressed joy in my new religion and adopted spiritual

To make a long, long story short, I married a non-Jewish man and had two sons. My soul cried out to me that they are Jewish!

So I called my Orthodox aunt in Cleveland, who was active in her synagogue and president of a Hebrew School, and asked her to help give my sons Jewish names. She helped name them after my deceased grandparents. One was Shmuel, and the other Dov Ber. I had them both circumcised. The first circumcision was accidentally done in the hospital against my wishes, as I had wanted a brit. For the second, I did have the brit. I looked in the Yellow Pages, and called the numbers of some Jewish organizations, asking when the eighth day would be. The only one who responded was the Chabad in Los Angeles. I explained my financial limitations and invited them to my apartment. They came with their own dishes and wine, and performed the brit for no cost.

Then, I just haphazardly went to various churches, realizing we didn't fit in. The depression got greater as the years went on, and my inner self was crying, almost constantly.

I didn't know why.

They didn't want to go to church anymore, and I didn't force themI taught my sons from the "Old Testament," and explained to them they were Jewish, and all about our ancestors from the Old Country. I obtained a Chanukah menorah and did Chanukah with them every year. The Sabbath, I couldn't remember much of how to "keep it," but I explained to them that the Sabbath is a day of rest, different from all the other days of the week.

Eventually, they didn't want to go to church anymore, and I didn't force them. Although church attendance fizzled out, I kept up their idea of "holiness" as a parent and then as a single parent when the marriage died. In fact, when the boys asked why we couldn't afford this or that, I explained it from the Song of Solomon, where it says, "For this cause a man is reduced to a loaf of bread..."

My sons eventually graduated college and left me. I was very alone, and I did not handle the empty nest syndrome very well. I tried to go back into the church where I was first converted, but I got breast cancer. The minister's wife asked me what sin I had done to make G‑d give me the cancer. I told her then that she and I worship two different gods. My G‑d gives me strength to go through tragedies... I left the church, but was again very alone.

My dad had been long deceased, and my mom became mortally ill. I cared for her until she died. After my mother died, I decided to move to Riverside, California. The land of the Baptist and Catholic Christians. A virtual desert for Jews.

One of the friends I made here was a Catholic woman who had a husband who taught at California Baptist University. He taught Holocaust studies and they were very active in interfaith groups. After a period of time in which I told her my life story, she responded, "You are not depressed. You are sad. Your religion has been stolen from you."

I asked her what she meant.

She said it is terrible what the Christians do when they try to change Jews. Jews are beloved by G‑d and are G‑d's original family of children and are perfectly fine. In fact, she said the whole of Christianity is to try to emulate the Jews. They want to be grafted into the family of G‑d, but I do not have to be grafted in. I am in; that was my birthright—and no one should have stolen that from me.

I am in; that was my birthright—and no one should have stolen that from meShe also said that she and her husband had gone to a public Chanukah celebration in downtown Riverside put on by the Chabad rabbi and his wife, and that she and her husband met them and really, really liked them. She said I would really feel at home if I go to Chabad.

I told her no, I wouldn't because I would be a hypocrite. I am Christian, after all. A Jewish Christian...

She said, "So just don't mention your Christian beliefs, and you'll fit right in."

She even offered to come with me to the services, and sit with me. And she did. When she couldn't, her husband often showed up.

That is, until I realized that I could not live on both sides of the fence.

I began to ask questions. The rabbi explained that one man cannot die for the sins of another. Also, that the "penalty of sin is death" statement is not correct according to the Torah. In fact, he said, even though there was a death penalty for certain sins, it was rarely carried out.

I also found out that when the Messiah does come, he will not be G‑d in the flesh. He will be a human.

When I told my friend that I am no longer a Christian, she became alarmed, said I was dangerous to her, turned and walked away.

I may have lost her as a friend, but I found my Jewish soul and the hole in my heart has been filled.

When I now light the candles on the Shabbat, I also say a few words to my grandparents, may they rest in peace. I say, "See, Grandma? I remember you lighting the candles. I don't have a babushka, but I have your love."

I saw my grandma's hands kneading the dough, braiding itLast week, I decided to bake my Shabbat meal, complete with bread. I remembered how my grandmother would take some of the challah dough and make pastries from it. Using healthier ingredients for my health situation, I did it. In my mind, I saw my grandma's hands kneading the dough, braiding it, putting in fruit, adding sugar (I used Splenda) and cinnamon on top. It tasted like Grandma's cooking.

Straight from "the Old Country."

My cup surely runneth over.

This is a personal memoir, and has not been verified as an authoritative history of events.