The final process of converting to Judaism is to meet with the beit din (a rabbinic “court” of three learned Jews, usually clergy, who meet with a candidate for conversion). During the beit din, the council asks questions of the person converting to assess his or her sincerity. When I went through the process two years ago, I was asked two important questions that are very relevant to what is going on in the world today.
Would I honor the Jewish faith, and how did I plan to share and spread the word of the Jewish practices? The answer was yes, I was ready to honor it, and would eventually do so by opening a kosher bakery.
I was also asked, if I was prepared to take on what it meant to be a Jew; in terms of the racism and ignorance I would encounter from others. At the time, I thought the question was so silly. I mean, I’m black; racism and ignorance was nothing new to me. I was incredulous to the idea that that I could experience much more intolerance and prejudice than I already knew. I now realize this was a naive thought.
In 2016, the weight of the both questions, came back again and again. Much has changed in the last two years. Racism is still a broad problem. But so is anti-Semitism. Our local JCC recently received a bomb threat. I now understood on a deeper level, what it means to be Jewish. It means not only do I need to care for myself, but that I need to become proactive and spread love and acceptance; even if others weren’t willing to do the same.
A dear friend of mine, Andrea, felt the same way. She and her family randomly went to theNorthwest Islamic Community Center to bring flowers and a card to show the Muslim community that they were not alone and that we were stronger together.
I was so inspired by what Andrea and her family did. They had no idea what would happen, whether or not they would be welcomed, but they took a chance. They were 100 percent welcomed. They were hugged and thanked, invited to stay to watch the prayer service, and offered cupcakes. Her fearlessness was awe-inspiring.
After speaking to Andrea about her amazing enlightening experience, we asked ourselves, “What if everyone did that?” “What if there was a way to break through the ignorance that fueled the hate and insecurity?”
We brainstormed with our rabbi, Rabbi Weininger of Adath Jeshurun Congregation, and members of the Northwest Islamic Community Center about a way to put our ideas into action. We decided to hold free events where everyone was invited, where we would be able to meet and learn about one another. I came up with the name, “Love Your Neighbor”. We decided it captured our goal of building bridges across communities. We want to offer a way for people from all walks of life, creed, and cultures to come together in a safe environment to learn about our differences, bond over our similarities, and set good examples for our children.
I’m happy to say that our first free family- friendly event is scheduled for February 4th, 6PM at Adath Jeshurun Congregation, in Minnetonka, MN. Rabbi Weininger has opened the Havdalah service (a brief ceremony separating Shabbat and the week) to anyone who would like to attend and learn more about the Jewish faith. We will have ice breaker games to learn more about the Muslim and Jewish faiths and each other, crafts for the kids, and desserts provided by Bella Nava Creations.
Rabbi Weininger said it best “I think the exciting collaboration between Adath and NWICC, between clergy and lay leaders, between Jews and Muslims of sharing our similarities and differences to build relationships is a great start to shaping our futures—hopefully it can be a model for our kids and for other communities, to hold ourselves responsible for shaping the world as we want it to be.”
photo: left to right, Rabbi Weininger, Sadia Tarannum, & Rabbi Kravitz