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Dreamscapes: Become a Jew

Elisheva Appel

There were some blank spaces in our family history. My mother always referred vaguely to a family secret, but I never took it too seriously

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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Name: “Sondra”

Dream: Become a Jew 

Location: Boro Park 

 

With a father in the service, we were stationed at different Air Force bases around the world, but home was always our little town of Mebane, North Carolina — blink while you drive through and you’ll miss it. To earn spending money, I picked tobacco every summer and drove a school bus while still in high school.

There were some blank spaces in our family history. My mother always referred vaguely to a family secret, but I never took it too seriously. When I got older, I learned from my aunt that although we were all blond and blue-eyed like our Grandpa David Daniel Dixon, we had the dark complexion of Grandma Delores, whose family had emigrated from Spain. There were other peculiarities, too, like the Hebrew-looking letters on my great-grandmother’s tombstone and my mother’s memories of soaking and salting chickens, and checking eggs for blood.

My siblings and I were raised in the Baptist Church, but even as a child, I was hungry for answers and drove my Sunday school teachers crazy with questions. Why don’t we keep the dietary laws of the Bible? Why is Sunday our day of rest? “Sondra, just have faith and believe,” they told me.

I’d never met a Jew, and all I knew about them was the bit I’d heard about the Holocaust. I was taught that Jews had been replaced by Christians as the Chosen People. In my nai ïveté, I never realized that current events were thick with events happening in Israel to real, live Jews.

The only Jews I did know were those of the Bible. I lived with those Bible stories; I wanted to walk the land with Abraham and Jacob. I could never understand why those stiff-necked Jews wouldn’t listen to G-d. Subconsciously, I was pining for the real thing.

 

In my late thirties, I began to explore, hopping between different branches of Christianity. Ironically, it was my affiliation with Messianics that started me on my quest to learn alef-beis. Their non-Jewish “rabbi” taught me Yigdal, but when I learned the translation, I was amazed: “You say ‘He has no semblance of a body’ but you’re worshipping a man?!”

I left, taking my “faithful” King James Bible with me. I went to the Chabad shul, where my Messianic pastor had learned to read the Torah. Here I was, 40 years old, and I’d never seen a Jew before. “I no longer believe in the Christians’ creed,” I told the Chabad rabbi. “Please, tell me about the Messiah and his role!” His answers left me so angry with the empty doctrines I’d been taught.

Around this time, I met the first Jew to show up in my community, a very assimilated fellow who knew nothing besides Shema — but he did show me a siddur. “Wow! Someone should translate this!” I told him, not knowing that the folks at ArtScroll had just done that.

I taught myself to read Hebrew in three months. Chabad doesn’t perform conversions; they were only willing to teach me the Noahide laws. I wanted the real deal, so I came each Shabbos to hear the parshah.

I decided I wasn’t going to let another Shavuos pass without receiving the Torah myself, so in January of that year, I left my job, my cat, and everything I owned, and moved to Monsey, where I’d heard there was a nice Jewish community. “I don’t care if I have to live in the car,” I told myself, “I want to be a Jew before Shavuos!” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 592)

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