The Skinny (as it were) - Who We Are

Heroes of IsraelImage by Templar1307 via Flickr
I have had the good fortune of making new friends on Facebook. However, perhaps it would be a good idea to properly define who I am and where I am going with all of this. My wife has her own blog, with her own viewpoints, that you can find here , so I will let her tell you her side of the story.

I was raised a hellfire and brimstone Baptist. It wasn't too comfortable, as no one wanted to answer any of my questions as a kid. But my father always had things like the Haggadah and a Machzor around, which led to some confusion.

After a nice twisted journey, when I was 18 I decided that Judaism was the path I needed to investigate. I was drawn to it. I was drawn enough that at one point I thought of going to Israel to join the IDF. Thus, I began my conversion process. That was in 1990. As a soldier, I was in the Persian Gulf War. I would not actually begin the core of my conversion and complete it until 1992 (or was it 1993? I'll have to look... ed. It was actually June 6th, 1994). My mother was not amused. She said she would rather I tell her I was gay than tell her I was Jewish. She also said I was going to hell. My father, not so very upset. He also refused to state a position in the matter.

Ironically, the mikvah from my conversion is no more. I remember it very well, and the rabbi that managed my conversion is one that I have great affinity for. He was and is a very incredible man. As for the mikvah itself, you can read quite a bit about it in the Chabad site and a book I have about the Lubavitch-Chabad movement.

I was in Manhattan when the Rebbe was in the hospital. I remember the mass of chassids lining the streets, praying and hoping for the welfare of the Rebbe. It blew me away that people could be so close to a single person. But why? What was the point? Someone back home told me that they all think the Rebbe is Moshiach (I now know this to be utterly false).

I ended up drifting for a while after returning to Georgia, and I always felt at odds when meeting Jews more observant than I, like I was the one stealing cookies or something, maybe in some manner shoving the heavy lifting onto someone else.

But in 2006, I attempted to return. By 2007, I had drifted off again. I simply didn't understand things. I was lost, so to speak, and not in a religious sense of the word. I had a son, and an ex-wife who is a complete nutjob. What I lacked was any true connection to anything remotely divine, or the context in which to put it.

It was all about me. Anyone knowledgeable in kabbalah can see where that plan falls flat.

I gained custody of my son in 2008, and later that year met Eliana. It was perfectly matched from the beginning.  We had been reading some from the chabad site, and with the recession and everything, Chabad was asking for help, so we donated. The offer was made to send a letter to the Rebbe's Ohel on our behalf, which we took up.

Let's just say that I no longer have the slightest doubt in what a letter to the Rebbe can do.

The path to pregnancy, becoming a ba'al teshuvah, along with my wife joining me, our marriage, my newest son's birth, all of it is a string of carefully orchestrated events beyond my vision.

I finally got my first pair of tefillin last year. And then I was fired in July. As I was unemployed, trying to find a new job, as well as keep the family fed and with a roof over our heads, we still tried to help others and I, of course, wore my tefillin every morning, and the lines of prayer regarding gaining our food with honor rather than disgrace really meant something.

My current job is one that I truly love. I love the software we work with, the company itself, the whole thing is one in a million. It also pays much more, which allows us to kill some of our debts from before. I don't know if my position will transfer after we make Aliyah, but it can. Since I work for an open source company, there is no limit to my abilities and contributions to this in the future.

At current, we live in a rural extension of a major city in Georgia. We have no local synagogues, don't know any Jews in our area, and even though we view ourselves primarily as Chabad, we don't know any of the chabad rabbis in that major city.

We made the decision for Aliyah based on several factors. One of them is that Israel is a land of Jews. Of course, we have the problems with the surrounding nations, but at the end of the day it helps if everything has a purpose.

Here, our taxes go to everyone else, and at the end of the day we could still end up scorned and on the street. Given the right sparks in political climate regionally and nationally, we could end up persecuted for our faith with no one to help since we are so isolated.

We have talents and abilities to further and share. Israel seems to be the most ripe and satisfying place to do this. We love our people, our faith, our land. It just makes more sense to actually be there and contribute.

There is really not much left for us here. The remainder of our families are Christian, or Pagan/Agnostic wannabes, and the only family members we truly trust or want to be around are my parents.

My father is waiting to leave the country as well. His intention is Latin America, however.

We want our sons to grow up with pride and be safe (as possible), to know that they can contribute, can be someone very special, and with the extra-familial factor you will probably hear from my wife at some later point, it will be easy to see why we want them around good people with decency and values.

I know the shortcomings, and we know Israel isn't perfect. But it is something we can help make better, and with Hashem running the show in the end, Aliyah is the only thing that truly makes sense for us, our family, and hopefully, for our homeland.
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