Wrestling Match #2: Teshuva

I want to comment on what many converts have said on their blogs: many of us feel that we’re not converts. We are already Jews. We have Jewish souls – yiddishe neshamot – how could we be otherwise?

We are returning after having been separated from our community. How that separation occurred is really irrelevant. The point is, we are now returning.

But it’s hard to express that to people who don’t have to go through this process to be recognized and affirmed by the Jewish community.

I’m a musician first, and always have been. Lately, I’ve been looking into Jewish popular music, and discovered the amazing singer Neshama Carlebach. Her song “Return Again” hit me so hard that I almost couldn’t breathe, because that feeling I’ve been describing as the pull, the feeling I couldn’t find words for – this song describes it completely and exactly. 

Return to who you are
Return to what you are
Return to where you are born and reborn again

That’s what the pull is. It’s a call for me to return. 

I feel drawn to Judaism and I can’t stop feeling the draw. I feel like I have to be a Jew. Like it’s an inevitability, an imperative, like day following night. Like my soul was at Sinai and it just took a while for me to find out that I am Jewish at my core.

But – and there’s a big “but” here – I also feel presumptuous. Less so than I did when I first contemplated conversion, because I’ve spoken with many Jewish friends from many movements and none of them find my need to become a Jew in any way presumptuous – but it’s still nervewracking to just say “I feel that I am a Jew.”

And yet I’ve always identified with Judaism. I’ve identified with Jews, with their struggle, with being both chosen and rejected, with being the social scapegoat. I was a “gifted child” and an undiagnosed autistic in the 1970s, which caused merry hell with my peers; I came out as queer when I was in my 20s; I’ve always struggled with weight, which made me a target – just a lot of other issues that put me on the scapegoat hot seat, I suppose. I attended my first seder this past Pesach, and one of the “regulars” at that seder said to me “What, you want to become even more marginalized and ostracized?” with a wink. 

But when I read about the Jewish experience I identify with it, strongly. Every time I read a book where there’s a Jewish character I understand that person’s views as if they’re mine. When I talk with Jewish friends I get where they’re coming from. I don’t have any better words for why. I just feel this pull, and it’s not going away. 

How else to explain that pull, unless I have a Jewish soul?



Filed under Conversion Process, Judaism, Teshuva, Wrestling Matches

2 responses to “Wrestling Match #2: Teshuva

  1. I love that song! I had no idea she is Jewish. It was on a favorite album that we bought in England, in fact in Glastonbury, when we visited the well. Now I will hear it all day today… Which is perfect, since today I am thinking a lot about Morning Glory Zell, who passed over last night. Born and reborn again.

    Thank you.


  2. Ah, the version I heard and know so well is by Shaina Noll, on Songs For the Inner Child.
    ► 4:03► 4:03
    May 14, 2010 – Uploaded by Chaviva McEntire
    Shaina Noll – How Could Anyone – lyrics by Henny Ekerhovd 46,486 … Asha – Return To Your Soul by AabDaaq 55,314 views · Thumbnail 6:39

    It is a wonderful album, but it’s a cover. 🙂


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