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BRNechama

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Join date : 2011-12-04
Age : 38

PostSubject: Shalom!   Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:32 pm

Hello everyone! First of all, I would like to apologize, but I hesitate to give my real name here since it is a public forum. With that being said, you could probably find it if you try Laughing . I don't mean to be difficult...but after reading my intro, perhaps you'll be able to understand...

I'm a 32 y/o Black woman who first discovered Judaism when I was 14 years old. Back then, my father had books on Judaism laying around (he's just a knowledge freak...I don't think he was studying it)...and I brought my own books (a Tanakh, some books on Jewish history & conversion) around that time. After reading about the various movements, I decided that Reform was the best fit. I hadn't formally converted yet, but I was active in Hillel in college. After college I moved to Miami. This is when and where all sorts of things changed.

In FL I found a Reform congregation and converted pretty quickly. Then I discovered Aish HaTorah. I started participating in the Orthodox community and went on to pursue a conversion with them. The next year I went to Israel (on a Birthright trip; courtesy of my Reform conversion). However the Orthodox conversion was proving itself to be very elusive. It took me 6 years from my first meeting with an Orthodox rabbi until my trip to the mikveh (which actually happened outside of FL).

My experience in the Orthodox Jewish community was invaluable in regards to my growth and education as a Jew; however it was also very damaging psychologically. With that being said, I neither encourage or discourage others from converting to Judaism. All I can speak about is my own experiences. And I would not wish what I had to go through on anyone else.

For me, I love the Torah; I love the Jewish people and Israel. I believe that I am a continual work-in-process and that halacha and the wisdom of our Sages contains some crucial keys to success in our lives and also in formulating a strong connection to Hashem. But I struggled with many social issues that are present within Orthodox Judaism. I am the type of person that embraces the world...that sees the beauty in all things.

No one Jewish denomination fits me...and I'm ok with that. I had to formally leave my Orthodox shul when I started dating my non-Jewish boyfriend. I always thought that it would be impossible to share a home and life with a non-Jew. But when the non-Jew is not religious and accommodating....it removes many of the barriers.

In spite of not being an advocate for, or speaking against conversion, I love to help others. When I was going through the process, stories of encouragement and helpful advice were invaluable to me. So I'm always more than willing to offer that to others (if they want it).

Nice to meet all of you! Wave
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Bee

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Join date : 2011-09-12

PostSubject: Re: Shalom!   Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:14 am

Welcome! I like your honesty Cool Florida is one of the states my husband and I are looking at to join a community. I am in texas and in a little town, Dallas is another location several hours away which would be ideal...but we want to leave this state and away from former church affiliations. Do you know of an area you recommend? Like Tampa?
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Dena

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Age : 35

PostSubject: Re: Shalom!   Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:16 am

Thank you so much for sharing! I look forward to more posts from you. Very Happy
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BRNechama

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Age : 38

PostSubject: Re: Shalom!   Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:24 am

Jews live throughout Florida; however the only areas where it was feasible to be an Orthodox Jew were southeast FL (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach) and Jacksonville. That's because those are the only two areas with Orthodox Jewish Day Schools. (However since I left in 2008, it looks like Orlando now has one - established in 2010).

I myself am only familiar with the areas of Daytona Beach (where I went to college for 2 years), Melbourne (where my best friend lives), Ft. Myers (where my graduate school is) and of course southeast FL (I used to live in Miami, my father still lives in Ft. Lauderdale). I've never been to Tampa, but there was a man in my (Orthodox) community in Miami who commuted to Tampa for work...where he stayed 4 days a week, and then came back to Miami for Shabbos (and Yom Tov). For whatever reason, he (or his wife...who knows) were not interested in relocating the entire family to Tampa. I think that there is only one Orthodox congregationin all of Tampa (which is some sort of hybrid of a Chabad and a Young Israel congregation).

Outside of Orthodoxy, you have a lot more flexibility in terms of locations to live in. However to be such a big state, it is a shame that the only area with a large, thriving Orthodox Jewish community is the southeast. The reason why I think its a shame is because southeast FL is very much like NYC; very busy, relatively expensive in terms of cost of living, and not always the best environment for kids (due to issues with crime, the lifestyle of the non-Jewish community, and educational options). Where I live in Pennsylvania is much smaller; but much more family-friendly than southeast FL was. However I found the Jewish resources, including adult education and the Jewish community for newcomers, to be 200% better than what's available here in Pennsylvania. Wink and Smile

So would only strongly recommend southeast FL to potential converts. It's a great place to be a Jew. However it's only a so-so area to live in general (namely because of the limited economy and overall quality of life...there are a lot of social ills there). I would definitely visit a few times and secure a job first before moving though. Cool


Last edited by BRNechama on Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:54 am; edited 1 time in total
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Shalom!   Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:40 am

I really like Miami but I haven't lived there. I just recently visited Jacksonville and noticed there seems to be a pretty good size Jewish population.
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BRNechama

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Join date : 2011-12-04
Age : 38

PostSubject: Re: Shalom!   Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:53 am

Dena wrote:
I really like Miami but I haven't lived there. I just recently visited Jacksonville and noticed there seems to be a pretty good size Jewish population.

I know of two or three families who moved to Jacksonville mainly because of the rising costs of living in southeast FL. Also Jacksonville is sort-of in-between Atlanta & Miami, so it makes for a nice compromise between the two areas. Cool
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