A Jewish woman’s journey into the Church

You never know how God will work.  The story, from Fargo and the Patch:

Susan Finneman can’t remember a time she wasn’t captivated by the Christian faith.

Though such a fascination shouldn’t be cause for scandal, in her case, throughout most of her life at least, there was a slight problem: she was Jewish.

By blood, perhaps, but not in the strictest religious sense, she admits.

“My parents weren’t particularly religious,” says the Fargo woman, who grew up the youngest of three children in the Lesnick household in Providence, R.I.

“It was not a sin not to go to temple but the orthodox and strong conservatives went to temple every Friday night and Saturday morning for the Sabbath, and honestly I never did that, though we celebrated the holidays like Passover and Hanukah.”

The family considered itself conservative, a designation falling in the middle of the Jewish-faith spectrum that includes orthodox on one end and reformed on the other, but according to Susan, the way they lived out their faith more closely matched reformed.

It surprised her to learn well into adulthood that her father was a Cohen, a descendant of the Jewish high priests of ancient days. “I’d just assumed all those years that we were Israelites.”

In the end, the foundation wasn’t enough to satisfy the curious youngster.

Susan remembers celebrating Hanukah, when the family would gather to light candles for eight days. But she didn’t view it as a religious event.

“It was more a recognition that there was enough oil to keep the lamps lit in the temple for eight days when there was only enough for one,” she notes. “It was considered a miracle.”

Despite growing up in a city with a large Jewish population, the Lesnick children weren’t immune from Christian influence. Acknowledging this, their parents agreed to celebrate Christmas as well.

“We didn’t have a Christmas tree, though I desperately wanted one, and I loved the lights and all that (the season) entailed,” Susan says.

To honor at least pieces of Christian tradition, her parents placed gifts under the dining room table, which had been adorned with Christmas decorations.

But her desire to experience Christmas didn’t end with tinsel and lights. In high school, Susan loved singing Christmas songs with her school choir and was the first to volunteer to go out caroling around the neighborhood. “Back then, if you were Jewish, you didn’t do that.”

And always, tucked away in the recesses of her mind, were questions of faith she dared not utter. “I never really talked about it or admitted it to anyone. I just didn’t. But I was really interested and did a lot of reading when I could find the books.”

Read more.


  1. pagansister says:

    Whatever makes her happy—and apparently her Jewish heritage didn’t.

  2. Wonderful story! I love conversion stories. They don’t list an age to get a relative feel for how old she was when her life events happened. That would have been helpful.

  3. That is condescending to the point of insult. Have you not considered that for many people conversion is undertaken with great pain and at great cost, because they see themselves as morally bound to testify to the truth? You seem not to understand what Flannery O’Connor said, that for functioning Christians faith is not a cosy electric blanket, but the Cross.

  4. Win Nelson says:

    Thank you for her beautiful story, Deacon Greg!

  5. What a surprise. A condescending ill-informed comment!

  6. pagansister says:

    Actually RomCath and Romulus, all I meant with that comment was that I’m glad she has found the faith that fulfills her spiritual needs. Never said her decision wasn’t taken with “great pain and at great cost” etc. If she wasn’t happy in the faith of her birth, then turning to one that she found appealing as a child and still as an adult, then a conversion was the answer. However, if that is condescending and ill-informed, then it is. Have a great night! :o)

  7. Mark Greta says:

    Great story. One of my wife Greta’s best friends was a Jewish convert to Catholocism and she used Saint Edith Stein as her role model. She was the daughter of parents killed in the holocaust. The wonderful thing is that she loved her Jewish faith and help many Catholics understand the faith of our older brother. In a way, she helped many become better Catholics and this article brought a lot of this home. She also brought many other conversions in her years with the Catholic Church. Thanks for posting this as it brought back many wonderful memories.

  8. Richard M. Sawicki says:

    Seeking out the truth should always be a goal placed far above what might subjectively make us “happy”.

    I’ve not yet heard a conversion story, whether the conversion was from Judaism, Protestantism, Paganism, Atheism, or whatever, where the individual said “I became a Catholic because it ‘made me happy’ or ‘fufilled my needs’”. The reason is always “I came to see the immutable TRUTH of what the Catholic Church proposes and invites me to believe and saw that my very salvation necessitates it”.

    Many people turned away from Jesus because when He told them what they must do to attain eternal life, they found that it would make them “unhappy”.

    Now certainly it can be expected that we experience JOY at what we discover when we embrace the Catholic faith. How could it be otherwise when we realize what the deal is?

    As I once said to a Jewish friend who asked me “Why are you a Catholic”, “For three reasons: 1. The God of the Hebrews IS God, 2. He has walked among us in the person of Y’Shua ben-David, and 3. He’s made me an offer I would a fool to refuse”.

    Praise be to God for the joyous event that has happened in the life of this Daughter of Israel. She has found both her Mashiach and her Lord. Deo Gratias!

    Gaudete in Domino Semper!

  9. pagansister says:

    R.M. Sawicki: You use the word “joy”, I used the word “happy.” IMO, a person wouldn’t belong to a faith if they didn’t think that faith was the “truth”.

  10. Richard M. Sawicki says:

    There is a difference.

    Happiness is an emotion. Joy is a virtue (as well as a decision!).

    Gaudete in Domino Semper!

  11. pagansister says:

    R.M. Sawicki: According to the dictionary: Joy— gladness, pleasure, delight. Happy—glad, content. I personally don’t see much difference,

Leave a Comment