Since last October our daughter Emily has been studying Judaism at Sixth and I Synagogue in Washington, DC. Initially she began the classes to learn more about her future husband's religion, but rather quickly became fascinated and decided to convert.
Until she went to college church was a big part of Emily's life, whether she liked it or not. Going to church on Sundays is just what I do, so naturally Bill and Emily would go with me. As a baby she was baptized a Methodist and when we moved to Maine we all slipped easily into the UCC (Congregational) church. For awhile I think she even had fun going to church (good chance to see her friends, play on the elevator, run wild around fellowship hall)...but all that came to a screeching halt in 8th grade when we had to beg and bribe her to roll out of bed on Sunday mornings. It didn't matter that our church had an active youth group, opportunities for mission trips, and a good youth choir-she just didn't want to go.
We mamaged to strike a compromise...she would sing in the choir (directed by me, of course) but not have to attend regular services. I came to depend on her sweet voice, capable of singing either soprano or alto depending on what I needed, yet I struggled with the knowledge that she did not want to be there. In high school Bill and I persuaded her to be a part of the confirmation class, with the caveat that she could make up her own mind when it came time to decide whether or not to become an official member of the church. Not surprisingly she chose not to be confirmed.
As I look back now I can see that this is a normal progression and rebellion for many children, particularly for those who have a parent working in the church. Unfortunately, for a time I took it personally and was even embarrassed in my role as Music Director. But as my own theology and spiritual direction have changed and grown I have come to accept and have faith that Emily has her own path to follow.
I was surprised and even thrilled at her interest in Judaism. In my own quest to learn more about the religion I find I am impressed with its emphasis on education, history and the importance of family ties. I hope that in the not-too-distant future Bill and I can attend a Passover Seder with Emily and Jeff.
At the end of the conversion process, which included a bet din with 3 rabbis (all women) and a ritual bath (the mikveh), Jeff, his dad Marty and I were invited to be part of a welcoming ceremony. Emily received her Hebrew name (Binah) and the rabbis blessed her. We were invited to give our blessing as well, and I bungled mine big-time. Yes, I got choked up and could not get the words out (preview of the wedding?) and so now, dear Emily, here is my blessing for you.
For my daughter:
Since you were small I have known that there is a part of you searching for that which is beyond our everyday existence. I am grateful that you have found something which will sustain and honor that desire. It is your path and one that is full of richness, tradition and meaning. May your spiritual journey be a source of joy and comfort, and always know that you have my blessing.