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My Journey to Judaism

Christina Marie Parissi – President of Proof Studio

My About.Me Page

The number one question people ask me, even more than questions about my disability is, “What made you want to be a Jew?” I usually always answer something to the effect of, “It’s a long story,” Because, it is a long story.

I must have been about 13 when I met Etai Yosef Nahary, at summer camp. I don’t remember much about him then except his long hair, his earring, and a sticker on his wheelchair that had Hebrew letters on it. Back then, I definitely wasn’t very interested in what the sticker said, I was too busy listening to him speak in an accent that I’d come to learn was Israeli. When camp ended, he went his way I went mine. I promise nothing happened.

Five Years later…

I’m a freshman at the University of Connecticut. I am taking a test one day, the desk beside me strewn with Blue Books, other student's exams. The cover of one of them reads, Etai J. Nahary. It turns out that he lived in my dorm and in the room right above me. I think this is the appropriate time to tell you that I have never believed in coincidence.

Etai happened to be dating a friend of mine at this time. Allison was Catholic and even though he understood little of Catholic doctrine, he was very curious, so he would accompany Allison to Mass.

I was beginning to show signs of mental illness that spring, I cried constantly and was despondent, lethargic, and lost. Etai and Allison spent many nights by my bed consoling me. Often Allison would go back to her dorm and Etai would stay with me. “I don’t understand this Catholic stuff,” he said to me one night. I was a baptized Catholic but my faith had gone by the wayside since my grandmother had passed. I tried to explain the concept of Trinity to him and other things but he said to me, “There is one God, He is all there is and He needs not be split into three pieces.” So began my Jewish education. I was Etai’s shadow from then on. My next lesson was the story of the mishkan. “Wait a minute, God used to live in a tent?”

“Yes.”

“Why doesn’t God live in the tent anymore?”

“I don’t know why, babygirl, (his pet name for me, strictly platonic, I promise.) It is time for you to go to sleep though. Lila tov!

Our mealtime conversations were multilingual, Etai can speak six languages, you had to stop him and ask which one he was using. He would speak Hebrew to challenge me. When I asked what he had said. “I’m not telling, you can learn it and tell me what I said.”

That was one of our last face-to-face discussions. I announced soon after that I was leaving school; my health emotional and physical was rapidly declining.

I moved into Bet Shalom on July 9, 2001. For a while, the sight of Temple Emanuel across the street made me sad and I would cry because it made me miss Etai and our other friend Micah. It was also huge and imposing to me. It made me curious but I felt very unworthy.

I tried my best to embrace my new independence and started at Worcester State that fall. That’s when I met Melech Yosef. He was sitting on a bench outside the library, full beard, tzit tzit, and plain white kippah. I was so happy, I went up to him and said, “I like your kippah, my friend is Jewish, I’m Chrissy.” We became instant friends and my Jewish education continued. He frequented yeshiva and was a student of Kabbalah. Before long, it wasn’t just my alefbet I knew, but stories of Tzadikkim: Hillel, Akiva, The Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Schimon bar Yochai and the Rebbe Lubbavitch. Melech gave me my first siddur; he secured me a set of Zohar and gave me my first taste of a Hebrew name. He called me Seraing Ruth. He explained that Seraphim are fiery, righteous malachim and it matched my tenaciousness and curious personality. Ruth had become one of my favorite books of Tanach. In Ruth, it says, “Entreat me not to leave or turn away from you. I will go where you go and live where you live, your people shall be my people and your God my God.” Those first years of my Jewish education were full of fruitful study and respect. I must tell you that for a time, I was in love with Melech Yosef. I thought my desire to be Jewish would end when he told me that we would always be friends and he would always love me but he did not feel capable of serious relationship. Strangely my desire to be a Jew did not die. I still wanted to learn. Adonai made sense to me. I no longer had to struggle with why Jesus had a perfect body without fault or blemish and why my body was the way it was, not only did that not make sense, it made me enraged and bitter. None of that bitterness showed up when I learned or thought about Adonai. I started going to Temple Emanuel. I felt I was ready. My first service was the fifth night of Hanukah, A Friday, sadly I have forgotten the year. The first time I heard Friday night service, I wept. I knew I was supposed to be exactly where I was. From then on, I was at service every Friday, Torah Study on Saturday morning and services straight after that. I asked questions, I read books and I talked to people. I made friends and friends became my extended family. My favorite lesson about Adonai to date: Even inanimate objects have been touched by Adonai, in other words, nothing exists without God’s say so, God is literally everywhere all the time, we just forget that or refuse to see it for a variety of reasons.

In 2011, I was trying to recover from a very near fatal case of pneumonia. My doctors and parents were afraid of relapse so it was 3 months before I could go for a walk, be with me friends for long periods, or even return to temple. I confess that God was not my favorite during “person” at this time. I was confused about why a terrible cold could turn into pneumonia and nearly kill me. I also was upset that I did not have a “religious experience” while in my coma. Although I woke up and made a full recovery, my thanatophobia, the fear of death, grew to new levels and often I was afraid to go out and go to sleep. Eating was also extremely precarious during this time. I was given a regimen of choking precautions to follow in hopes of avoiding aspiration and there were more medications and treatments than I ever underwent in my life. I was anemic for months and my hair had even begun to fall out. I was very lonely and needed a reason not to be sucked into despair.

I did not have the money for JDate, I was upset, even though God and I were on the outs, and I still hoped to have a relationship with a Jewish man. This is really when I started to relearn that God is in control and even though we have free will, it is not beneficial to fight the Will of God.

“You need to go on Plenty of Fish, it’s free,” Erica, my best friend from high school said, and she helped me write my profile. I went on a few dates and had a lot of frustration…I was getting desperate, flipping through a few more profiles, and then…I found Wally.

He wasn’t Jewish but I literally looked up and told God, “beggars can’t be choosers, it’s all You…” It was all God. God did not find me the man I wanted, He found me the man I needed. You don’t have to be Jewish to be perfect and you don’t have to be perfect to be Jewish. Moreover, we are happy. He makes sure I stay healthy, physically and emotionally, we travel whenever possible, and he cooks, cleans, and even does dishes!

I have a bad mouth, I love lobster, and I eat pork once a month because my beloved likes it. My Hebrew is subpar, my house is traif, and I can’t afford kosher food. Nevertheless, Adonai makes sense to me. (Most of the time) Judaism makes sense to me more than any belief system I have explored. It has structure, it has depth, and you could live to 100 and svenstick and still only know and understand a drop of water in its vast ocean.

After much deliberation and advice from friends and family, I wish to take the name Yehudit Yechielah bat Avraham v Sarah. Yehudit represents the complete opposite of my given name, Christina is Greek meaning “Follower or Chirist,” and Yechielah means breath. When I was ill, my lungs deflated and I could not breathe on my own, the ventilation and tracheotomy I received were God’s way of breathing for me until I strong enough to breathe on my own again. He lovingly restored my health to me that I should find my beshert and be successful at college and life.

I am looking forward to growing as a Jewish woman. I have made the decision that I will wear a kippah daily. When I can afford one, I will put a mezuzah on my door. I will spend more time studying texts and find ways to improve my Hebrew. I will continue to attend Torah study and ask to lead one when I feel ready and make more of an effort to attend services. I will wait patiently until there is an adult bat mitzvah class and work tirelessly so I will be called to the bima. I will continue to educate those who wish to learn about Torah and Tanakh. I enjoy telling people Tanakh in creative ways that people can understand and relate.

Thank you to everyone who has put time, energy, compassion, and prayer into my journey to become a member of the Covenant. There are not enough words to express my gratitude and appreciation.

Judaism General

*[[:My Journal to Judaism]] - Source: Original


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