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Stories of Return

A Letter to the Family Members of Those Who Returned to a Torah Way of Life
No one knows how we’ve been able to survive for 2,000 years, scattered among the nations of the world. Yet today there is an undeniable connection between the Jewish people, regardless of their language, background or social status. What kept us together, separate, “chosen” for more than 2,000 years?
My Grandfather’s Shema, Even in the Barracks of Auschwitz
I know why I am here. Why I became the woman that I am. How I was guided to this incredible life. It was my grandfather’s Shema.
The Marvelous Mysterious Kosher Kitchen
Recently, I had my first experience preparing kosher food.
Pondering Jew
A Journey of Spiritual Growth
Judaism Didn't Fix My Life, I Need to Do It
I thought that when I discovered Torah Judaism 12 years ago, it would fix me.
What Happened When I Needed to Work on a Jewish Holiday
The idea of not driving or working on any Jewish holiday was not something I grew up with. Finally, in 2017, I decided that I would no longer work on any Jewish holiday. Of course, until I ran into a major roadblock …
The Path to Religion Is Bumpy and Lonely, Yet Beautiful
My husband is with me on this journey, and although we are different, we are now working together, as unique individuals with common goals.
My First Peek Into the Universe Called ‘770’
Since we were clearly visitors, people made room for us and guided us to the front so we could see through large, tinted windows.
It Took a Teen to Reconnect With My Torah Learning
Though she is 13 years my junior, after every one-hour learning session with her, I leave feeling reinvigorated, ready to dive deeper into Judaism and to take on more mitzvot.
Why, Oh Why, Oh Why? My Inquisitive Journey to Mitzvot
I decided that whatever was done in my husband’s home to yield such strength, we would do in ours. So when he said, “I want to keep kosher and Shabbat”—traditions many European Jews keep—I replied, “Show me what to do.”
My family and I stood at the foot of my great-great-grandmother Mathilde Weil's former home, installing a Stolperstein (“stumbling stone”) in her memory.
How I Became a Halachic Jew
So what about me and others like me, the “boring” converts? Should we take advantage of the fact that our secret is safe?
A Soul at Sinai: From a Life in Germany to a Life in Israel
When I joined my mother for the weekly visits to the church, I felt something wasn’t right.
Wishing I Had Been More Sensitive on the Path to Change
I let too many people who had once helped me become strangers.
A Five-Year Detour: My Path to Becoming Observant
I stumbled upon Chabad seemingly by accident shortly before I finished university.
The Road to Going Kosher
I didn’t fully understand why non-kosher meat was off-limits, but the ethics behind it—coupled with my appreciation of an animal’s suffering and my acceptance of the Torah’s laws—keeps me from going back to meat that was slaughtered in a non-kosher manner.
Family Discovery Redux: More Intrigue From My Ancestry
When I received a recent email from the widow of a distant French cousin, I had absolutely no idea how the information it contained would turn my life upside-down.
How I Found Judaism and Experienced Miracles
I vowed to never associate myself with Jews, except for my family. I kept that vow till I was 56 years old.
My Chicken Soup Journey
I grew up in a home without chicken soup—no Friday-night candles, no sweet challah, no Shabbat dinner at all.
How I Overcame a Childhood of Bland Judaism
Our definition of being Jewish just meant that we weren’t anything else.
History Revealed: Discovering My Jewish Roots
I was born into what appeared to be a typical non-Jewish American family, in a small town in Illinois. No one in my family adhered to any religious beliefs.
How to Become Religious Without Losing Yourself
About 10 years ago I fell head over heels in love with Judaism . . .
My New Kosher Kitchen
How did I get to this point? Of not only wanting to have a kosher kitchen, but actually having it koshered?
Of Kapotehs, Ladders and Crazy, Lit-up Rabbis
After years of watching these and other animated, enthusiastic rabbis, with their interesting and industrious ways of approaching holidays—and every day, for that matter—I have learned that sometimes it’s me who is missing a tune.
I Took the Road Less Traveled—and Stayed There
“You’re going to sit home ALONE instead of driving to shul to be with other Jews at Shabbat services?!” my parents demanded.
A Mother-Daughter Journey Back To Judaism
“Spiritual journey”—it's a cliché, but I don't know a better way to describe it.
From a Disco Miracle to Wigs for Sick Women
At a young age, she announced that she was going to have a home just like theirs when she grew up, with a big Shabbat table and many children...
The Beauty Queen of South Africa Finds the Beauty of Judaism
In 1973, Ellen Peters, a Protestant biracial woman, was chosen as South Africa’s beauty queen. Today, she goes by the name Ilana Skolnick, and she is an observant Jew.
From Dutch Theater to Challah Workshops
Smadar Morag used to try hard to hide her Judaism, which she considered a burden . . .
Significant Moments
This conversation, a conversation that took place over 30 years ago, stands out as a most significant moment on my way to observance.
Chasing Judaism
I am no longer chasing something out of reach. Judaism has permeated my life and integrated into who I am, how I act, the way I think and the choices I make.
Who Am I?
Conflicting emotions of a baalat teshuvah
I am beginning to understand that I do not need to abandon all of the old me, because it is a part of who I am.
My First Visit
I had limited knowledge about Chabad. I knew that they were part of the chassidic movement, which to me meant that they were probably out of touch with reality and cult-like.
Although my life appears to be headed in a great direction, I feel more and more like I am getting lost.
The Leather Jacket
I take off the jacket, replace it on its rack, and run out the door before the saleslady returns and I will have to explain to her what single mothers do to make it though the month...
A Mutation of Identity
Having a Jewish mother and a Catholic father
The fact that I belonged to two cultures and religions made me feel like something inside me was irreconcilable and wrong. This engendered a kind of existential shame. I felt like a driven leaf, without roots or branches . . .
The Ultimate Rebellion
The story of the rebellious child has actually happened. Don’t believe me? Just ask my parents...
Harvard Law School and Judaism
Negotiating Between Faith and Reason
It is hard work to reconcile—in one’s own mind and heart—belief in an omnipotent Creator with all of the information one acquires from the secular fields of wisdom. It is even more challenging to communicate that fusion to others—friends, family, colleagues—to show people that one can be both a thinking person and a religious person...
What Is Keeping Me Here?
Encountering my old friend, I saw that it wasn’t too late, that someone else could leave religious life and survive, even appear to thrive. So a new question arose in my mind: What is keeping me here?
The Holy Palate
I think the solution to elevating life lies in a box of raisins. It lies in being fully present and noticing the tiny nuances that take place in every bite of our lives . . .
Righting a Wrong
Honoring my parents
I have written before about not judging others for doing more or less than me. The words may have sounded good at the time, but now I realize that I hadn’t really internalized them...
The Four F’s in My Life
My Jewish Journey
I’m rediscovering every day that each person has his or her own journey and pace. The key, I think, is not to judge others, and to be an example of goodness...
The “B” Word
The Fear of Brainwashing
Here it came. The controversial cliché I’d been hearing so often. Flashy and scandalous, there was only one word that could end a sentence like that. A word I loathe. A word that makes me cringe and brings my blood to its boiling point. The B Word. “Brainwashed?” I asked. “Well, yes,” she conceded. “They think you’ve been brainwashed.”
Religious? Not Me!
When I hear the word "religion," I instinctively cringe. My stomach turns. My hands become clammy. My throat dry. On occasion, I have been known to break out in hives. This tends to confuse people who know me as a Torah observant Jewish woman...
Family in Flight
I should have seen it coming when he wouldn’t drive to synagogue with us anymore, or eat at our favorite non-kosher restaurants. One minute, he was just our baseball-cap-sporting patriarch, watching videos with us on Saturday afternoon while we munched on gummy candy. The next minute, he was a bearded, kippah-wearing, Torah-quoting stranger…
Three Strands of Memory
I lost consciousness of My Self. I felt myself being turned around and around in the current. I did not stand my ground, but rather I had no choice but to let go. It sounds frightening and disorienting, but it wasn't. I had lost My Self, and in that moment, my Soul stepped in as so totally whole and complete where My Self had stood...
Becoming a Jewish Princess
Even before I was born, I was being groomed for stardom. The name chosen for me was Kelly Dianne Scott. Not only did it have the distinct advantage of being as non-Jewish as possible, it was carefully structured to look symmetrical up on the marquee...
My Winding Trail Home
Like many in my generation, I went looking for truth in Buddhism, meditation, Tarot cards, and "mind-expanding" drugs. What I found left me adrift and afraid, anchored only in cynicism, an Italian boyfriend, and far too much wine...
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