There is something people don’t know about me. Including people who have met me, know me, and support me, people as influential as rosh yeshivas, moguls and billionaires, Jewish leaders in the World Jewish Congress, AJC, WZO, and ADL, chief rabbis, a certain Hasidic rebbe, and others.
I lay tefillin, belong to a Chabad Shul where I have active leadership positions, donate money to Jewish causes, etc, and my mother is not Jewish. She was born to Methodist parents who immigrated from Germany to a state in the south east of the United States. My mother (and my father), because of me, lights Shabbas candles, has mezuzahs, loves and visits Israel, and is very defensive of the Jewish people.
If my haredi Jewish community knew my mother isn’t Jewish and never converted, if the man whose mikveh I use every day, if all the minyans I’ve made knew my mother wasn’t Jewish, I would be treated and viewed differently. If all the reform Jews who I’ve entered into debates with knew my own background, it would be tough. Of all the Shavei yisrael converts I’ve assisted and encouraged and helped move to Israel…. of those who have traveled with me to Sephardic Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Bosnia, and Iraq, as well as Hasidic Poland, Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. Of the missions in Azerbaijan to help Jews begin to lay tefillin and observe kashrut.
I cried the first time I saw an Orthodox service- ordinary, but sincere people pouring forth their hearts in whispered praise and pleas, the way their teachers and teachers’ teachers had for centuries. My father’s side descends from famous Rebs and ravs in Eastern Europe, as well as Lithuania. My ancestry tree is full of amazing frum yidden who led the Jewish people. I will never forget, at 7:00 AM, poring over the daf hayomi, the first time I found mesorah, and to a world of promise and awe- a world in which my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will touch divinity and, with reverence and passion, lovingly kiss their sefarim.