By Charles B.
I’m the product of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. While my father had a bar mitzvah ceremony, and I was brought up in a primarily Jewish neighborhood, I had no formal religious upbringing or training. What I learned about Judaism, I learned from my friends who were b’nei mitzvah, and my neighbors who observed the Jewish holidays and attended synagogue. When I was 18, I left home for college, and for the next 40 years was totally divorced from any religious affiliation or practice.
While I have had a successful career, married a wonderful woman, have two grown children that I am very proud of, and have good friends, I have expressed the feeling over the last several years that there was still something missing in my life. My wife, a Presbyterian, encouraged me to explore and take the first steps to rediscover the “faith and rituals” I had experienced as a child living in a Jewish community.
I decided to take a course in introductory Judaism and Hebrew sponsored by the Conservative movement and taught by local Conservative rabbis. It is a 30-week course that is taught annually at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. Many of the students who took the course were there to convert from the outset (mostly because of marriage commitments). I did not make the decision to convert until I had almost completed the course. What I learned from this course was that the beliefs and principles that took me almost 60 years to formulate, are the tenets and practices, and the moral and spiritual compass that Judaism provides.
As importantly, this course provided me with the tools and foundation to move forward on my journey. I am now studying with a rabbi, attending services regularly, and incorporating the lessons learned from this course into daily practice. The overall experience from this course has been transforming, both intellectually and spiritually. The practice of Judaism nurtures me, and provides me with the fulfillment and guidance I have searched for.
Editor’s Note: Charles has successfully completed the Introduction to Judaism class, and will soon be taking the step of formally converting.
The Rabbi Morris Goodblatt Academy is a 30-week “Introduction to Judaism” course sponsored by rabbis of the Conservative movement in the Philadelphia region. The next cohort will begin on Wednesday, September 14, 2016. The course is designed for Jews and non-Jews, singles and couples to learn more about Judaism (history, language, culture). Interested students have the opportunity to convert to Judaism under Conservative auspices following successful completion of the course.
The Reform movement also has an Introduction to Judaism class.