Six months into my conversion, I met my future husband, then a graduate student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, at a housewarming party for some rabbinical students in Washington Heights. Here, at least, I felt like the consummate insider-Dominican and (almost) Jewish in a neighborhood that had long been home to both groups.
After nearly a year of studying, the rabbi thought I was ready to convert. But first I had to survive Israel.
My husband's supportive mother sent me to a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) school. Orthodox Jewish boys dated for marriage, and we couldn't wed until I was "kosher." In Israel I realized that I was becoming part of a family. Like any family, there is bickering and infighting. Sometimes we can be dysfunctional in the way we tear each other down. But we can also be amazing in the support systems we create: cooking meals for new mothers, sitting shiva (the weeklong ritual of mourning the dead) with friends, and partying at glorious weddings not to be missed.
Two months later I returned to New York to dip in the mikveh (ritual religious bath). A beit din (rabbinical court) of three rabbis asked me questions before shepherding me into the little pool. Fresh from the mikveh and clasped in a bear hug by my friend Devora, I was sure that, though I had been born to a non-Jewish mother, I had always had a Jewish soul.
Am I still a stranger in a strange land? As I pack my husband's lunch before he heads for rabbinical school, I wonder how many other Dominican Jewish rebbetzins (rabbis wives) are out there. But I've never felt less alone in my life. The story goes that converts, too, were present at Mount Sinai for the giving of the Torah, but we were lost along the way and have had to find our way home.
And where is home?
Ruth, the most famous convert of all, put it best: "Your people will be my people, and your God, my God."
You said it, sister!
Aliza Hausman, a Latina Orthodox Jewish convert, freelance writer, blogger and educator, blogs daily at Memoirs of a Jewminicana. She is currently working on a memoir. This article first appeared in The Jewish Writing Project.