I came to Me’ah as I came to Judaism: filled with a desire to immerse myself as much as possible in the incredible and vast sea of learning, wisdom, and spiritual wonder that Judaism evokes for me. I grew up in an intensely Catholic home, though my parents were a “mixed marriage.” My mother was very devoutly Catholic – Irish-American through and through, of recent immigrant stock – and a product of parochial schools. Yet she married – and not without some familial resistance – a 10th generation Welsh/Anglo American.
As the second son, I was – perhaps unwittingly – more or less tracked by my mother almost from birth to be the most religious of her children, encouraged at times in subtle ways, to become a priest. It was not until I was much older that I learned of a very long cultural tradition in both Catholic and Protestant families: the first born male, the “Junior” or the “Second,” takes on, along with the father’s name, the authority and the rights and duties of the family “business” such as it is; the second son goes into the parsonage or the priesthood.
So, whether by nature or nurture, I have always been deeply interested in spiritual life, and the richness of the deep culture that goes with it. In time, and as I began to come of age during the Vietnam era, I found it harder and harder to accept a lot of the Catholic doctrine I was being taught. So I lapsed, as a Catholic, though I never lost my curiosity and interest in spirituality. (Or my respect for a lot of what Catholicism stands for and teaches).
Later on, I met and fell in love with a woman who was very Jewish, for whom Jewishness matters deeply, and thus began a multi-year period of further exploration, negotiations, of a kind, but from the beginning, an acceptance by me that any children of a marriage with her would be raised Jewish. This took some time for me to accept fully. While dating I attended seders and High Holiday services with Carol and her family. We later took a conversion class at Kehillath Israel for mixed faith couples about to marry, which I found absolutely amazing. One of the requirements for that class was that the couple has a “sponsoring rabbi” with whom the couple is required to meet at least four times during the course of the class. I asked Rabbi Gold of Harvard Hillel who accepted me as his mentee. (We lived at the time in Cambridge and later Somerville, so we would attend Rabbi Gold’s High Holiday services). Each session with him was an astonishing gift, a treasure, a brief sojourn into an amazing world of insight and wonder. I do not know how else but with such purple prose to begin to describe it. It was quite simply extraordinary and unforgettable.
And so, from there to marriage to, several years later and on the eve of the birth of our daughter, conversion and marriage in a Jewish ceremony. It was then just a matter of time before I came to Me’ah. Friends had spoken highly of the program, so I knew I would love it. And it has so not disappointed. What an amazing collection of exceptional teachers and guides. How lucky we are to have access to such a vast reservoir of knowledge and wisdom. The entire course has been a joy, a nearly endless cascade of insight, learning and exposure to some of the treasures that stretch out endlessly, it seems, to the horizon and beyond.
I have loved the class. The teachers have been extraordinary. I only regret that I have had so many other demands on my time. I have tried to keep up with readings for each class. But even when this effort came up a bit short at times, the classes themselves were exceptional. And, I took notes, and I have the materials, and – even more importantly – I have been infused by these gifted teachers with the desire to keep immersing myself, as time and my quotidian demands permit, in ongoing learning.
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