M y mother hid her non-Jewish background even before she converted. When she was 12, she slept over at the home of the one Jewish girl in her public school class, Lena, and was instantly enchanted by Judaism — even though Lena and her family were nonreligious. Lena shared with my mother whatever she knew about Judaism (which wasn’t much), and from then on, my mother devoured anything connected to Judaism, much to the puzzlement and chagrin of her family.

Lena told my mother that in her Conservative synagogue, if someone converted, people who were more traditional wouldn’t recognize the conversion as valid. “If you convert,” Lena informed my mother, “you’ll never be accepted as a real Jew.” Neither of them knew back then that there was a mechanism for halachic conversion that would be recognized by all Jewish communities.

My mother’s first real exposure to Jews happened when she went to college and joined the campus Hillel house. She didn’t tell anyone that she wasn’t Jewish, and no one questioned her background. On the contrary, people tried to be mekarev her, thinking that she was simply another assimilated Jew. They convinced her to spend some time in a frum community, where she enrolled in a summer learning program. Eventually, she confided in the rabbanim that she wasn’t Jewish. They were shocked, and didn’t believe her at first. She actually had to prove to them that she wasn’t Jewish, after which they made the requisite efforts to dissuade her from converting. Eventually, when they saw how serious she was, they helped her undergo an Orthodox conversion process.

Being the daughter of a giyores didn’t affect me much. Having begun to explore Judaism as an adolescent, and having converted at the young age of 19, my mother was able to integrate seamlessly into the frum community. My siblings and I attended mainstream yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs and grew up as rank-and-file members of the community. I married a regular frum bochur and we began raising a regular frum family together.

I worked at various jobs over the years, one of which was a short-lived position managing the office of a certain chesed organization. That job was a nightmare, because of Karen, the head of the organization. Although my job as office manager was a relatively senior position, Karen treated me like her personal servant and made my life miserable at every turn. If not for Karen, my job would have been a dream job, as I loved the exhilaration of making a concrete difference in people’s lives. I threw myself into my work, going above and beyond my job description. I treated everyone who worked with me with friendship and respect, and was loved in return by all — except Karen.

In addition to my regular duties, I developed a new program for the organization that became a great source of pride to Karen and the other senior staff. But the only feedback I received from Karen was when she told me at an end-of-year meeting, “You know, Shiffy, you haven’t really done anything this year except work on that program.”

That comment left me speechless. But what really stupefied me was when Karen started casually schmoozing with me one day about a number of geirim she knew. I have no idea why she chose that topic; she certainly knew nothing about my mother. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 671)