At the end of the conversation, the bet din signed legal documents for my conversion including the Certificate of Admission which records that I "declared [my] intention and desire to enter the Covenant of Israel." It continues, "Upon questioning him we found him to be sincere in his intentions and adequately conversant with the doctrines and laws of our holy Faith." Then, along with Sharon as my sponsoring rabbi, I signed my Declaration of Faith, which spells out my commitment to Judaism and to raising a Jewish family. The forms are a personal declaration but also legal documents, and as such they now sit in my "legal" folder in a filing cabinet, along side parking tickets and my apartment lease.

When I came out of the bet din, Sara's dad and uncle were waiting for me. They had surprised me with their visit and though I didn't want the day to be an elaborate celebration, their presence was another reminder of the family and community I was joining. We talked about the bet din and I endured a couple more jokes about my circumcision. Then it was my turn to enter the mikveh.

Rabbi Kummer led me to the waiting room and we reviewed the process: I was to take a shower to make sure I was clean, wash off any deodorants, conditioners, or hair gels, remove any belly button lint, and wrap myself in a clean white sheet, left for me in the waiting room. I should take as much time as I liked and then call Rabbi Reinstein, who, as the only male member of my bet din, would oversee my immersion.

She shut the door and I stood for a second, alone in the small waiting room outside the bathroom.

I took off my clothes, hung them in the closet, and went into the bathroom. Now alone, I began to feel nervous. The bet din was the conceptual and legal confirmation of my conversion, but the mikveh was the symbolic and spiritual confirmation--the defining moment. I did some half-hearted push-ups to try to relieve stress. No luck. I surveyed the sink area: toothbrush, q-tips, alcohol, nail clippers. I got in the shower and washed well. I finished toweling off, made sure that there were no loose hairs on my body, then wrapped myself in the white sheet I had been given, and sat down next to the phone.

I picked up the receiver and told Rabbi Reinstein I was ready. A moment later there was a knock from inside the mikveh and he opened the door. The mikveh room was small, about ten by ten and the mikveh itself was sunken, with stairs leading into a five-by-five pool, about five feet in its deepest part. I took off my sheet and descended the seven stairs into the pool. I unscrewed the cap on the pipe leading outside and connected the two pools. The inside pool was made "living water" by this act.

"Baruch ata adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam, asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al ha-tivilah (Blessed are You O lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us by His commandments and commanded us concerning immersion)," I said, after I had immersed myself and lifted my feet and floated without any part of my body touching the walls or the floor of the mikveh.

I followed this blessing with the Shehechiyanu, the traditional blessing Jews say upon experiencing something new. "Baruch ata, Adonai Eloheinu, melech ha-olam, shehechiyanu v'kimanu v'higiyanu laz-man hazeh (Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us and permitted us to reach this season). Witnesses to my conversion, including Sara's family, stood outside the mikveh to listen to the blessings. After each blessing a chorus of "Amens" could be heard beyond the door.

I went back to the bathroom, folded the sheet, set it on the chair, and dressed. As I left the mikveh, Sara's family, along with Rabbis Sharon, Reinstein, and Kummer sang "mazel tov" to me. Sharon had poured a cup of wine in the kiddish cup Sara's dad had given me to commemorate the conversion, and as Sara and I stood together I said the blessing over the wine, my first blessing as a Jew and my first mitzvah, or good deed.

Standing in the circle and passing the kiddush cup around, I knew this was just the first of many significant moments in my Jewish life. My wedding was just a few weeks away, soon followed by my first High Holidays as a Jew. These would be the first of my Jewish memories, memories that will come increasingly to define me. The bet din had asked me to describe my journey, but my journey is still being formed--in every song, blessing, holiday, and milestone.

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