My decision to become a religious Jew was purely intellectual. I was living a very secular life in California with my husband and our 4 young children when my husband suddenly wanted to become more observant. I strongly identified myself as a Jew, but I didn’t actually believe in anything Jewish. I started to weigh what I thought were the positive outcomes of becoming observant. If being observant meant that the family spent more quality time together, I would go along with that. Shabbat meals and activities with the whole family seemed like a real good thing.
I went to a Jewish lecture that happened to be about Loshon Hara. The speaker covered things that took me years to learn on my own. I had no idea “my” religion covered so much useful information for everyday life. I began to learn more, and everything I learned made sense and was clearly a better way to live. Making the house kosher wasn’t too much to do considering how important it was to the whole Jewish package. Putting the kids in religious schools was the next logical step. I could see how superior their education was morally and even academically. Somehow the more I did for intellectual reasons, the more I began to feel ownership spiritually.
I began taking classes here and there and learning on my own. I was thrilled to discover that having a big family was a Jewish thing and happy to discard the “zero population growth” nonsense that kept me from having more children, which I so passionately wanted. We decided to live in Israel when I was pregnant with our 5th child, and by the time our 6th child was a year old we moved to a small community in the Negev.
I’ve continued to grow and learn but I’ve always felt that I missed out by not having a religiously observant upbringing and education. I wish that I lived in an educational center where I could conveniently take classes. It helped to discover the joys of listening to lectures on my iPod, but my world changed when I found Naaleh and Rebbetizin Tzipora Heller. Rebbetzin Heller is a wonderful teacher. I now have available to me hundreds of Jewish classes taught by a gifted scholar! I am so grateful for the opportunity to be her student.
Ellen Grogin (Metar, Israel)