by Caroline Potter
I always found something special and appealing about Jewish culture and community. In my late teens and early 20’s, it came to my more immediate attention that people did convert to Judaism, and I made this decision myself in September 2012.
My own religious background is Presbyterian/Episcopalian. I attended an Episcopal grade school and summer camp and was confirmed at a Presbyterian church where my parents are still members. As an English major and a lover of Milton and Tennyson, I will always respect the beauty of Christianity’s sacred myths and teachings. But as a thinking adult, I became disenchanted with Christianity’s basic tenets.
Many Christians believe that all people must accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, which I find wholly dismissive of other faiths. I believe God wants us to love and serve Him in all the ways people have found to do so, and that we love and serve Him through our actions here in the world and through the way we treat each other. I recognize very good and ethical people can be agnostic or atheist, effectively “serving God” according to my definition, but without believing in God at all. I myself am wired for a religious orientation and a spiritual striving. I crave a religious community, and one that allows for questioning, debate, and respect for other faiths.
The single most powerful moment in my Jewish journey of the past two years was surely Yom Kippur. How better to appreciate life than to recognize, rehearse and stand face to face with death?
The fasting, repenting and community prayer unite everyone who is gathered. We stop, and take stock of the gift of life. We strike our hearts to get the right words and feelings in. For a moment, we encounter so clearly what matters in life and what does not – our health, our relationships, our friends and family, our honest work in the world for good – all these take on new meaning because we recognize that all are fleeting.
My favorite poet, Galway Kinnell, once said in an interview, regarding his own work and poetic vision: “Mortality makes everything worth more to us. You can no longer just fool around… We need a deeper sense of the preciousness of our time here as conscious beings.” For me, this is what Yom Kippur is all about. Choosing a Jewish life is part of how I’m developing a deeper sense of the preciousness of my time here.
I immersed for my conversion at Mayyim Hayyim on August 1st, 2014. My mother, father, brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and friends were there to support me, along with all the Mayyim Hayyim staff. It was a magical day to feel the presence of my loved ones and to have a photo of all of us smiling.
Caroline Potter is an English teacher in Boston has been a volunteer at Mayyim Hayyim for the last two summers. She lives in Brookline and is a member of Temple Sinai.