053 | Into the waters: Joining the ancestors, an interview with the AJU Mikvah

#tbt Throwback Thursday, way back to when I wasn’t technically Jewish (2 days ago). Full experience, of course, I’m still soaking in and will write about more later.

Into the Waters: a pre-mikvah interview. Photo of the AJU Mikveh, stock image of man underwater, and Gay Goy Doing Jewish logo
Into the Waters: a pre-mikvah interview. Photo of the AJU Mikveh, stock image of man underwater, and Gay Goy Doing Jewish logo

Tuesday, October 6, 2020: I go to the mikvah today to become Jewish. Here are my thoughts the night before. Questions from the AJU Mikveh and Muriel Dance.

1.  Your appointment for bet din and mikveh were cancelled because of COVID;  how did you use the time until you could come before the Bet Din?
Covid delays were an unexpected gift on my journey. These things are never about me; my focus was on the medical and economic suffering happening, and being impacted by that shutdown myself I was able to be incredibly active with my community, Nefesh. I joined the staff and got into regular planning that exposed me to Jewish thought and terms that would have taken a lot longer to absorb otherwise. It got me through a full calendar year, too; originally I was set to mikvah 9 months into my learning, but the delay permitted me to experience another Passover and my first Shavuot, Tisha B’av, and even some minor holidays (Hebrew Valentines, anyone?).

2.  What changes in your own sense of identity are occurring since Bet Din?
I’m able to say “I’m Jewish” with slightly less hesitation, but it still doesn’t feel real yet. The Bet Din doesn’t completely, either; it was marvelous and beautiful and I loved it, but it was virtual and like everything else this year, it’s hard to track experiences, time, and any real changes from behind pixels when the real world feels so isolated and discombobulated and inequitable and violent. I think once we reemerge and reconnect with one another then the full spectrum of normal emotions will hit me, and I’m so excited for that and for harnessing that to affect some kind of change for the better.

Bobby’s Beit Din, the Jewish rabbinical court that decides your candidacy for entry into the Jewish people

3.  What more changes, if any, do you expect after Mikveh?
To be slightly more on that path of realization and self-actualization as a newish Jewish. It’s much more than a ceremonial dunk; when I just take a regular swim in the cold Pacific I feel revitalized and reconnected with the divine (nature, g-d, or something), so doing what I’m about to do in the waters of an ancient tradition—and in a room where 10,000 others have also converted—is pretty epic.

4.  Learning is a mitzvah.  How do you plan to continue to learn?
Jewish learning is one of my favorite aspects: History, Hebrew, and Torah! I completed my second class, Intro 2.0, in May and next week, right after my mikvah, we start another cycle at AJU with the Hebrew heroes R Adam and R Morris. You only need one course to convert; this will be my third, and I adore it and how they present it with such charm and eagerness. I need to greatly expand my Hebrew and I’m curious about conversational Hebrew, too, and part of that will be a long learning trip to Israel once it’s safe again. I’m considering aliyah and honestly (shameless plug) feel a strong desire to find a NJB who perhaps grew up Jewish. Experiencing family and at-home Jewish life is something an education can’t really provide. Maybe I’ll get that elsewhere, or visit a family Israel or somewhere unexpected; or maybe I’ll marry into it (/end shameless plug, apply within!).

5.  How do you imagine your Jewish self a year from now?
You never know what a year holds; I hesitate to even begin to think about next year after everything that happened this year (and didn’t happen but was supposed to). It was a year ago today (Gregorian) that I wrote this at Down to the River, the tashlich event Nefesh co-hosted on the LA river. I was swirling in the days of awe and really starting to feel my Jewish identity develop in such a warm, magical way. I missed this mark by a day (Gregorian, hard to give up!) and by a few weeks on the Hebrew calendar, but that delay added accidental strata to a story that now would make me a different person without them.

Next year I’ll be Jewish, that’s all I can promise; but that means I’ll do my best to harness my strengths and creativity to serve and to channel some much-needed justice into this wild, random assortment of borders and cultures we call America—and the world.

What I wrote October 5, 2019, during the days of awe at a Tashlich event. I went into the mikvah a year and a day later.

5 Times TV Shows Took a Dip in the MikvehHey Alma, July 2019