I stand in front of the mikveh with my rabbi’s arm around me. He has brought me here in my final moments as a non-Jew to give me a bracha, a blessing with which to begin my new Jewish life. I’ve just emerged from my meeting with the beit din, the assembly of three rabbis who have listened to my story and decided that I am ready to join the Jewish people, but first, my rabbi wishes me a life filled with the beauty and love of Torah, of Judaism and my fellow Jews.
Without realizing it, I begin to cry. I’ve wanted to be Jewish for so long, since I was twelve years old, more than half my life, but a part of me never believed it would actually happen. And yet, here I am. The magnitude of this moment seems too great to put into words.
I head to the preparation room to ready myself for my immersion, trying to stay calm as I look into the mirror before picking up the phone to call Leah, my mikveh attendant, to let her know I am ready. These are my last moments as a non-Jew, I think to myself. I take one last look at myself in the mirror, a smile of anticipation lighting up my face. Taking a deep breath, I call Leah, then head into the mikveh.
I step into the water, embracing its warmth. It feels protective. Cleansing. I turn the spout that brings in the mayyim hayyim (living water), feeling the reassuring pressure of the water flow against my leg, telling me that the waters are now kosher. Turning the spout off, I walk slowly into the center of the pool. I take a deep breath. I immerse. “Kasher (kosher),” I hear Leah say. I come up for the first time, and recite the blessing for immersion. I take another breath, immerse for a second time. “Kasher.” My voice trembles slightly as I recite the Shema (a prayer that is a central component of morning and evening services) and the rabbis of my beit din answer me with the second line of the prayer. I take another breath, going under for the final time. “Kasher.”
I am Jewish. I come up, and my voice rings out loud and clear as I sing the Shehecheyanu with all my heart:
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.”
The words have never been sweeter. After fourteen years of waiting, searching, hoping and dreaming, I am finally, finally Jewish.Maya Bery has the best job in the world: being a school library teacher. A new convert to Judaism, she is often found in the kitchen trying new recipes (Sephardic cuisine is a favorite), or curled up with a really great book. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences.