Her Jewish Journey

My Jewish Journey, by Lita P.

I am sure we all have interesting stories to tell but I will try to keep mine as brief and to the point as possible.

I was born 78 years ago in Brooklyn, New York. We lived in a mostly Jewish neighborhood, not religious but somewhat traditional.  My neighbors did not attend Shul on Shabbat but did so on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Into this mix came MY family. I think that the only time my father went to Shul was for a family bar mitzvah. When I asked my mother if I could attend the local chedar she said no. This was the extent of my Jewish education.

When I was old enough I secretly started to attend Rosh Hashanah services on the next street. The machitzah was a tall curtain and as I did not have an assigned seat the women would chase me from seat to seat. I had no idea of what I was seeing, hearing or doing there, but I continued to go for several years. And then I just stopped going.

When I was 19 we moved away and when I was 20 I met the man who was to become my husband.  We fell in love and 10 days later he proposed and I said yes. He came from an orthodox home and never asked me if I would also keep one. I was most anxious to be part of a Jewish family. With his help and the help of his mother and sister I learned all that I needed to know about being a Jewish wife. My husband always attended Orthodox synagogues and when my children were old enough I would attend services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, using the books that my father-in-law had given me. I prayed in English and always seemed to know the right place. My daughter attended Hebrew school for 5 years and my son went to a Jewish day school until he was a sophomore in high school. Life was good.

In 1995 my husband and I retired and we went to live in Phoenix, Arizona. We joined Temple Beth Joseph and I began to attend services on Shabbat in order to become a member of the community. I went to a class one night weekly and on Shabbat afternoon the rabbi taught a perkei avot class for the women. Two years later we joined the Young Israel. There I made many friends, and became very active. Shortly 5 young Kolel families came to Phoenix and became part of our congregation. I started to learn with the Rabbis and their wives and the more I learned the more I wanted to know. They encouraged me to learn to read Hebrew and a few years later the board of directors of the Young Israel recommended that I receive an Aishes Chayil award presented in New York. I was chosen as one of 20 women from the entire United States.  I was finally in touch with my own Jewishness.

My husband passed away in 2001after 47 years of marriage and I came to Laguna Woods to be near my daughter and her family. I have attended services in the orthodox congregation, Temple Judea, Cong. Eilat, Temple Beth El,and the Reform Temple. The reasons for these changes were never religious but mostly social.  I continue to read many prayers in English so that I can hear and understand what I am saying. I feel very comfortable in any orthodox or conservative community.

Each Rosh Hashanah I remind myself of that young child that I was in Brooklyn. She was searching for something but didn’t know what it was. Well, I have found what, I was looking for. My children, grand children my family comfort me But it is my personal relationship with Hashem. that completes me. Is this the last stop in my religious journey.?.

I found that my last place of worship at chabad gave me a home.

I have learned that being Jewish is not where you pray as much as knowing your jewishness in your heart.

P.S.Now at Heritage Pointe my journey continues.