Today I visited the local mikvah (ritual bath) and had a little ceremony with my rabbi and two other rabbis. This is normally something done by people converting to Judaism; however, one may choose to do it anytime for a variety of reasons.
My mother is Jewish, and therefore I am Jewish by birth. But I wasn’t raised Jewish and never had a bat mitzvah, etc. I always longed for that piece of my life and felt a void as I was growing up. I met the Fuhrmans (dear family friends and neighbors) when I was 17 and that’s really when my education began. I went to services with them, had Shabbat dinners with them, and they taught me so much. When I went away to college, I became close with a few of my professors who were Jewish, and I often went to synagogue with them. I also knew in my heart I wanted to marry a Jewish man and raise my children in a Jewish home.
When Dan and I got engaged, the rabbi we selected to marry us (back in New Orleans)wanted me to have a mikvah. I just couldn’t wrap my head around that one. I felt as if he didn’t consider me “Jewish enough” to marry Dan. I ultimately refused to have the mikvah for a myriad of reasons, mostly because the idea of it made me extremely uncomfortable (I was a lot more modest before I had kids—you have to get naked to go to the mikvah) and I also felt as if he was passing judgement on me. I felt that if I was making the decision to identify as a Jew, to lead a Jewish life and create a Jewish home, then those things should be enough. And on some level he must have agreed, because he married us.
Since then, it hasn’t felt like enough, though. Perhaps it was the arrival of my children, or maybe joining the temple here in KC…I don’t really know. I can’t really blame the rabbi for it because he married us despite my refusal to have the mikvah over seven years ago. I guess it’s been a feeling growing inside of me, nagging at me; a feeling coming from within—of not being worthy. I guess I just feel like calling oneself a Jew isn’t something to be taken lightly. It’s not a coat you just throw on. You have to earn it and wear it proudly. The number of Jews in the world is dwindling rapidly, and the Holocaust didn’t help…I feel a powerful responsibility to learn for myself, teach my children, and be a positive Jewish presence in the world.
Today I went to the mikvah to shed my clothes and my insecurities. I let the water wash away all of my negative feelings and worries. I went there to begin anew. I met with the rabbis before and after, and they gave me a group hug.
Today and every day, I am a Jew.