I was raised Christian and brought up in the local Methodist church that my parents joined when I was three years old. I went to church, attempted to pray, and tried my hardest to believe in the religion I was raised with, but I felt no connection.
So I went off to college, slowly starting to accept that perhaps religion was not meant for me. Then, I met my fiancée, Isabel, who was raised Jewish. I knew nothing about Judaism at the time. On our first date, I told the waitress I wanted to order the “CHallah” bread French toast. I was absolutely clueless, but very intrigued. Our first few months of dating consisted of me asking Izzy so many questions about Judaism that she eventually bought me a few books, probably so that she could have some peace and quiet. Her family was “Jew-ish,” so I insisted that we celebrate the different holidays together and attend services. My curiosity actually brought Izzy and her family a bit closer to Judaism, its practices, and its beliefs.
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the religion, and after many years of partaking in Jewish practices as an outsider, I had one more question for Izzy: How can I join? Judaism was everything I was looking for when it came to faith. I am encouraged to ask questions and challenge the ways that people interpret stories. I love that the holidays exist purely for religious connection and not for show. I feel fulfilled by the belief that the good deeds we do on Earth are not to ensure that we get to Heaven, but just to leave the world a bit better than how we found it. As a social work grad student, I believe very strongly in the idea of helping others and spreading kindness without expecting anything in return, and as it turns out, that is one of the biggest themes in Judaism.
The practice of going above and beyond to help others is actually how I chose my Hebrew name, Rivka. I liked how when she first met Abraham’s servant, she immediately offered him water (an act of kindness without expecting anything in return) and then offered to water all of his camels (going above and beyond without being asked). Rebekah’s actions resonated with me, as I feel very strongly about these values. I chose her name to serve as a reminder for myself to always help others without being asked or expecting anything in return. These are values I hope to carry with me in my personal, professional, and religious life.