This is an article written by a congregant of mine, Gina Galaviz Eisenberg, and I couldn’t be prouder.
Sept. 1, 2015, also known as 17 Elul 5775 in the Hebrew calendar, is an important date for my family.
I became a Jew.
Conversion is a private journey that is different for everyone. For me, it began in March 2014 when my husband and I decided to raise our three children, a toddler daughter and infant twin sons, as Jews. My husband is Jewish and I was very curious and wanted to learn more about the religion I had chosen for my precious babies.
I began attending Shabbat services on Friday evenings at Temple Beth-El. I experienced Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Passover Seder. I joined the Temple Beth-El Sisterhood to learn more about the mitzvot (God’s commandments) these wonderful women perform for our San Antonio community. The underlying goal of mitzvot is to “repair the world.”
On our first day of the Introduction to Judaism class, we told our classmates why we were committed to spending every Saturday morning together for the next six months. There were many reasons, but the underlying one we shared is that we wanted a relationship with God and that search had brought us to Judaism.
We all experienced some sort of rejection from our immediate families but, as we became Jewish, we came to respect their feelings, even though they did not respect our decision to convert. A funny thing happened on the way to conversion: I found tolerance of others. I realized that God gave me such wonderful gifts and I should thank God for that — not ask for things.
I learned to be proactive and not reactive in making the world a better place, not just because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s a mitzvah.
The question put to me at the first meeting with the rabbi will likely stay with me for the rest of my life: “Jews have historically been the target of persecution. How do you feel about becoming a member of such a minority group?”
I never really gave it much thought until now.
Becoming a Jew is about family and it’s why Shabbat has become an important part of family life. It became the topic of my conversion project.
I created personalized Shabbat prayer books and a Shabbat box, everything needed to create the excitement of Shabbat for our little ones. For now, it means lighting the candles, blessing the children, the wine and Challah (bread) and reading books about Shabbat and placing coins in the Tzedakah box (for charitable giving) and deciding where it will go.
As they grow up, we will discuss issues of the day and future goals. Most importantly, the Eisenberg family Shabbat will include Jews and non-Jews and hopefully, slowly, we will teach folks that we are like everyone else.
Conversion is just the beginning of my Jewish journey. Judaism requires action. We are defined by our actions more than our intentions.
I am so proud and honored to say I am a Jew.
Gina Galaviz Eisenberg is a former television journalist and owner of the Eisenberg Group, a public relations firm.